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Electric sportscar which delivers a clean conscience, but at a price
18 August 2008

What is it?

It’s the future of performance cars. Possibly. This is our first chance to drive an almost-finished version of the all-electric Tesla Roadster on UK roads.

If you don’t already know, Tesla has created a silent-running zero emissions sports car that’s based on a heavily reworked version of the Lotus Elise. It’s the first of what the company hopes will be a full line-up of futuristic battery-powered vehicles.

The difference here is that Tesla’s made big performance promises that could, if the Roadster can deliver, completely change the way we think about electric cars.

And it can do this instantly, from zero rpm, where the electric drive system serves up its maximum 275lb ft shove immediately. As the thrust is seamless (there’s only one gear) the Tesla feels even faster than its four-second 0-60mph time suggests.


At first it is incredibly eerie charging around at these speeds with no engine noise.

But you get used to it surprisingly quickly – the novelty never of silent ‘motoring’ never wears off and it’s a constant reminder that you’re driving a pollution-free car. In the city, though, you do worry about unaware pedestrians wandering out in front of you.

The Tesla’s mid-mounted batteries and power inverter weigh a whopping 450kg and - although Tesla’s engineers used carbon fibre in the body to bring weight down – the Roadster doesn’t handle as well as a Lotus. It weighs around 330kg more than the Elise, for a start.

But it’s still very impressive and will be a revelation compared with overweight sports cars in the US market it’s aimed at.

Tesla has maintained Lotus’ suspension at the front but had to completely rework the rear geometry.

The Roadster’s a bit too soft at the back, and the body control can be poor – it thumps over potholes – but the damper and rebound rates are adjustable.


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The standard Roadsters we drove were set-up to understeer, to avoid snapping into a spin with the added mass at the back.

The brakes also require a serious shove to work really well, but deceleration when you lift off the throttle is so noticeable that you don’t often need to use them.

Should I buy one?

If this is the future of sports cars, then car enthusiasts can rejoice. The Tesla Roadster is fantastic fun. And you’ll never have to visit a petrol station again.

Inevitably though, as with any new technology, there are downsides. The Tesla takes 14 hours to recharge from a normal mains supply; less if you have a higher-voltage circuit fitted in your house.

The batteries only last at full efficiency for 50,000 miles and will be dead after 100,000 - currently they cost thousands to replace.

Then there’s the price of the Tesla in the first place, and the fact that it’ll only be made in tiny numbers…

Forget these drawbacks, though. The Roadster is groundbreaking. It’s the first profit-making electric sports car that has a useable range and thrilling driving dynamics. It’s better than some of the conventional opposition.

And - as with laptops and mobile phones - when the technology behind the Tesla matures, improves, and becomes more affordable, it will become relevant to the rest of us. Mark this car down as a milestone.

Will Powell

Join the debate


20 August 2008

For some strange reason, I actually quite fancy one, but not for £90+ grand.


20 August 2008

yeah, far to much, but i am sure so called green celebritys will buy them....

20 August 2008

At last Chris Martin can buy himself a sports car and sleep at night. And all those 'caring' Hollywood stars can replace the Prius, (whilst keeping quiet about all the good stuff in their air conditioned, underground motor houses).

20 August 2008

Tesla Roadster: 4.5 stars. Forum contributors: 0.5 stars.

Is this all you can say about such an important car? Of course the price is high: anything ground-breaking has to be at first to make a profit. And those of us on average money rely on the rich to buy this kind of thing so that there are finances to develop further.

And the upshot? A few years down the track, Joe Public can afford useable, practical, green, even quick and fun technology. What a car!

20 August 2008

Does anyone know how much pollution is generated by recharging an electric car such as this through the mains? I'm using the term pollution in a vague manner because pollutants will be different depending on which type of power station is feeding the power.

Maybe Tesla could make the car more marketable by throwing in free aftermarket accessories such as your very own wind turbine or solar cells to plug the car into (is this the future of things to come?...).

I'm sorry, but the day a Ferrari goes electric is the day I will ask to be sectioned.

20 August 2008

There are two problems with electric cars: The price, and the attitude towards them. Both of these will change for the better, I'm convinced. I have been fortunate to drive the Tesla, and thought it was fantastic. One day I'll own something like it purely for it's outrageous and eery acceleration, and when I feel the need for some oily smells and intake roar I'll jump into my good old M5!

20 August 2008

I like it, and I somehow think a certain Clarkson may quite like it, too. It could change the world's perceptions of the electric car. We all know the Electric Car is back, and here to stay, and I think it's a bit like the mobile phone too. Firstly, they were really expensive, and nowadays you can get a basic one for around £15. Wow. This also proves that electric cars can be cool. Unlike a certain Noddy Car, which goes by the name of the G-Wiz. Can't wait to see what else Tesla have in store, and I hope they get to Europe and the UK quick!! (After the prices have come down a bit!)

21 August 2008

[quote Greg1]Maybe Tesla could make the car more marketable by throwing in free aftermarket accessories such as your very own wind turbine or solar cells to plug the car into (is this the future of things to come?...).[/quote]

You make a valid point here Greg1, and if those celebrating the future of motoring here can't imagine the effect on the national grid of us all having electric cars, then I despair.

The acceleration sounds impressive, but no noise and no gears doesn't.

22 August 2008

Impressive technology with sky high novelty value.

But no noise and no gears? Just press and go...............silently.

I'd get bored...................I really would.

22 August 2008

I agree with the 2 Pauls on this.

The Tesla could be amazing but I like a decent noise from my sports cars.


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