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Proves that you can have fun at the wheel without producing so much as a puff of CO2
Autocar
18 February 2008

What is it?

The world’s first pure-electric production sports car is a clever amalgam of Japanese-made lithium-ion batteries (6831 of them in all), Lotus lightweight engineering, and Silicon Valley audacity.

While the $98,950 Tesla Roadster lacks the sheer speed needed to pass the true supercar litmus, it’s an entertaining plaything for daily commuting and environmental profiling.

Ambitious performance goals —acceleration to 60mph in less than 4.0 seconds, a 125mph top speed, more than 200 miles of range, and a full recharge in less than four hours — are still in flux and series production is just beginning, but this car is striving to make the green age interesting for keen drivers.

What's it like?

Thanks to a torque curve that starts high and remains so for half of its rev range, the Tesla Roadster tickles your innards with a carnival ride’s giddiness.

In the two-speed prototype I tested, there was enough urge to chirp the tires and step the tail sideways from rest. That will surely change when the beta edition arrives, which gets a single-speed gearbox and 30-or-so percent more torque to take up the slack, but Tesla is committed to providing a sprinter, not a plodder.

Agility and grip pale in comparison to the donor Lotus Elise because of 30 percent more weight and handling tuned for understeer, but the Roadster is a willing partner on curve-blessed roads. While it’s no supercar, this greenie does show the cut and thrust of a bonafide sports tourer.

That said, traditionalists will miss clutch and shifter work and the angry hum of an electric motor is no replacement for whirring camshafts and snorting pipes.

A concerted effort to reshape the bucket seats, lower the door sills, and upgrade the interior lining with carpet and carbon fiber have yielded an attractive, pleasing-to-use, and reasonably comfortable cockpit.

Aside from the toupee top, the exterior is pretty dashing too.

Should I buy one?

Unless you possess Hollywood glam and a California residence, purchasing a Tesla Roadster will be difficult. The 600 units planned for the 2008 model year are already committed.

In spite of the fact that 2009 prices haven’t been determined and the service organisation hasn’t spread beyond the San Carlos, California, home base, the deposits keep coming.

Tesla currently has no plans to market Roadsters outside the US more concrete than a definite will to enter Europe once it's found its feet in the States.

However, this little car is an imaginative, significant, and well-executed enough prospect for its market to come to it. If the Roadster’s electrical systems prove reliable and durable, the world will probably beat a path to Tesla’s door. And why shouldn't they for the world's first genuine, carbon-neutral sports car?

Don Sherman

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Comments
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NiallOswald 25 January 2009

Re: Tesla Roadster

Guess you didn't see this then: http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/12/22/bbc_top_gear_tesla/

Also, how far do you think a petrol car with a nominal 300 mile 'real world' range would get being thrashed on the TG track? I seem to remember from an older episode where they were reviewing a 5-series diesel that single figure MPG is not uncommon!

55 miles from 35kWh is equivalent (in CO2 terms) to a petrol car doing ~35mpg whilst being thrashed. Shabby? I think not.

Why are you surprised that it takes that long to charge? A standard UK mains socket can supply just over 3kW of electrical power. The Tesla has a 40kWh battery capacity. Dividing 40 by 3 is hardly rocket science...

buzz123 25 January 2009

Re: Tesla Roadster

Looks great and I was hoping this latest entrant into the electric car conversion industry was going to make good. After all, the more suppliers the better for the consumer.

What a shame it didn't get there. The top gear road test found it had a range of 55 miles, took 16 hours to charge from a standard power socket which is on par with its EV conversion competitors. But during the test the engine overheated and the brakes stopped working. It also costs heaps more than the standard lotus elise to buy.

OK, sometimes it takes a while to get your act together. But unfortunately there are heaps of competitors out there also producing electric conversions to standard cars such as Porches who do have their product sorted. Now we find Tesla is now laying off staff and running out of money (they have had to ask the government for a bailout).

What a shame. What a shame.

giulivo 8 March 2017

I'm glad they did not listen

buzz123 wrote:

Looks great and I was hoping this latest entrant into the electric car conversion industry was going to make good. After all, the more suppliers the better for the consumer.

What a shame it didn't get there. The top gear road test found it had a range of 55 miles, took 16 hours to charge from a standard power socket which is on par with its EV conversion competitors. But during the test the engine overheated and the brakes stopped working. It also costs heaps more than the standard lotus elise to buy.

OK, sometimes it takes a while to get your act together. But unfortunately there are heaps of competitors out there also producing electric conversions to standard cars such as Porches who do have their product sorted. Now we find Tesla is now laying off staff and running out of money (they have had to ask the government for a bailout).

What a shame. What a shame.

Darth Balls 21 February 2008

Re: Tesla Roadster

I'd love to drive a Tesla, sounds like one of the most interesting cars in years. The first drive story makes it sound like a lot of fun - and it is based on the number 1 fun car, the Elise.

Imagine being king of the traffic light drag race and doing your bit to reduce urban pollution at the same time. Great stuff.

Buy one and move to the Scottish Highlands and you'll be in environmentally guilt free motoring heaven what with all the great roads and the hydro-electric power up there. ;-)