Edmunds First-Drive & Video - Electric Tesla Roadster

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Feb 11, 2008.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    This Electric Sports Car Is the Real Thing

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    The Tesla Roadster is truly a sports car, more for fun than for going to the store.

    By John O'Dell, Senior Editor
    Date posted: 02-10-2008

    Lotus suspension and steering - 6,831 laptop batteries - 248 hp, 211 lb-ft of torque - 3.5-hour recharge time

    He was tall, looked fit in his spandex bicycling gear and — the reason we were a bit nervous — he was glaring at the little silver roadster with distaste.

    Had we inadvertently forced him off the road on one of our passes while photographing the electric-powered 2008 Tesla Roadster?

    No. His problem, it turns out, is that the car is "too quiet."

    The Tesla, clean and silent but for the hiss of tires on asphalt and the whine of the electric motor's cooling fan, disturbed him because he didn't hear it coming as we scooted by him on a twisty section of Skyline Boulevard in the mountains above Tesla's headquarters in San Carlos, California.

    Yin and Yang

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    Not a single panel of the Tesla's largely carbon-fiber body is shared with the Lotus Elise on which it is based.

    "Mostly, we get a lot of support," says Aaron Platshon, the Tesla Roadster's marketing manager, shaking his head in bemusement as the grump pedaled away. "But sometimes you just can't please people."

    It's like that these days at Tesla, the five-year-old car company that's under the microscope as it prepares to roll out the first production models of the 2008 Tesla Roadster.

    Tesla managed to develop a high-performance, battery-powered electric car when many had pronounced the battery-electric vehicle an unworkable bit of wishful thinking. Super, everybody says.

    But then it postponed the production launch twice because transmissions were breaking, and fired co-founder Martin Eberhard and a score of top engineers. Doom, everybody says.

    It's raised $105 million from private backers and venture capitalists — with another $40 million about to roll in. All well and good.

    But it spent $43 million in its first four years. Disaster looms!


    Heavy Load

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    Carbon-fiber tub provides minimal trunk space. Most territory under the rear lid is taken up by the 4-foot-wide power electronics module and 1,000-pound battery pack.

    Now Tesla has parceled out test-drives in several of its preproduction prototypes to a select handful of auto journalists. So what happens?

    Now the reviews are just as concerned with the corporate enterprise as with the car, and they dwell on financing and the future, along with torque and traction.

    Sometimes you just can't please people.

    The reason is pretty simple, though. As Tesla approaches the official delivery of its first production car on March 17, the company carries with it the hopes and dreams of those who believe there is a future for battery-powered electric vehicles. And just as there is desire for its success, there's even greater fear of a failure that would drain the EV movement of the energy that's been built up around Tesla and its roadster.

    Good thing electric cars have lots of torque, because Tesla's got a big load to carry.

    No Vaporware Here

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    Even an electric car needs a radiator. But there's no engine under the vented hood, just condensers and cooling fans. Even the hood support and hinge mechanism are carbon fiber.

    The vehicle Tesla is starting with is not a family car. With a price tag starting at $98,950 and a maximum range of 220 miles (more like 180 miles if you like to goose it every once in awhile and down around 150 if you regard speed limit signs as mere suggestions), the 2008 Tesla Roadster makes most sense as a second, third or fourth (or fifth) car for weekends and the occasional short commute.

    Tesla executives like to talk about the Roadster as the electric replacement for the Porsche 911s that belong to its wealthy clients. We think it will more likely be an addition to collections that already hold a Porsche 911, an exciting and unique addition to a list that includes Ferraris and Cobras and others of the fast and furious and/or expensive and exotic persuasion.

    Yet the 2008 Tesla Roadster is, indeed, an authentic sports car. Nimble, sure-footed, fast, responsive and fun — lots of fun — to drive.

    Doubters can doubt and scoffers scoff, but we ran Prototype 20, the silver one, up and down the coastal mountains, through tight esses and hairpins and up steeply climbing straightaways with the accelerator pedal pinned to the floor.

    When we climbed out of the snug cabin after five hours, we were persuaded; Tesla's got a real car.

    Silent Running

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    Cockpit is snug, but leather-covered seats are an inch wider than those of the Lotus Elise.

    The Roadster starts like any other; you just turn the key. There's a faint click, and a panel of warning lights blinks on and off as you sit there, waiting to feel the vibe from the idling engine. Then you realize there isn't going to be any vibration, and that the silence means the electric motor is patiently waiting for instructions.

    There's a gear selector in the narrow, carbon-fiber center console, but these early Roadsters have 1st gear locked out, a temporary fix for this soon-to-be discarded two-speed transmission's inability to handle the Tesla's prodigious bottom-end torque. "Just put it in 2nd," says Platshon, the assigned co-pilot for our initial drive.

    Depress the accelerator pedal and there's a slight whine as the motor starts spinning, then the tires grab and you're rolling in an eerie rush of wind and the whine of the electric motor. The unassisted steering is heavy at low speeds, but the effort lightens up appreciably as the pace picks up.

    On the highway, the Roadster starts earning its keep. There's no aural cue from behind you as you push the pedal toward the floor, but wind rush, tire hum and electric whine increase and the mounting G-forces push you firmly back into the leather-covered bucket seat as the Tesla takes off.

    Clueless

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    Tesla commissioned its own body design, although the look is marred by lots of cutlines.

    It's then that one drawback of electric power hits home. With no gears to change and no internal-combustion engine to provide clues as to the speed you're carrying, it is easy to plunge into Deadman's Curve moving (as the song says) way too fast.

    Fortunately, the Roadster's chassis, suspension and steering work with the Yokohama tires (175/55R16s up front and 225/45R17s in back) to deliver the handling of a real sports car. In fact, the Tesla Roadster is a real sports car, a derivative of the Lotus Elise with a longer wheelbase, lower chassis sills, softer suspension and unique bodywork.

    With 248 horsepower and between 205 pound-feet and 211 lb-ft of torque available from zero rpm to 6,000 rpm, this 2,690-pound roadster accelerates steadily and even quickly as we drive up the steep roads that wind through the redwood trees. Put foot to floor and the Tesla goes and goes and goes (no gears to shift, remember) until the electronics shut down your progress at 120 mph or the battery pack runs out of juice.

    Our test car was outfitted with the jury-rigged tranny Tesla is using so it can get cars into production pending the introduction of a new single-speed transmission and reconfigured motor — a system the company is calling powertrain 1.5.

    With the taller 2nd gear our only option, we didn't get the 3.8-second 0-60-mph acceleration that some people have reported, or the 4.4 seconds that Tesla's own testers have recorded. But with a full charge early in the day, the pace felt close to the 5.7 seconds the company says the initial one-speed production models will achieve.

    No Energizer Bunny

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    Lotus-engineered chassis, suspension and steering impart road-hugging performance.

    We drove the Tesla Roadster hard all morning, and by the time we got back to flat ground for our official instrumented acceleration run, we had only about an eighth of a charge and nine miles of range left in the battery pack. At this point, the Tesla's electronics are programmed to kick into a torque-limiting, energy-saving mode when the batteries have been drained significantly.

    Fortunately we were able to add a bit of juice with an hour's stopover in Tesla's shop, hooked up to the 70-amp, 240-volt home-charger unit that comes with each car (installation extra). But we still had only 23 miles on the range meter and a severe case of torque restriction when we headed out to the lightly traveled highway that serves as Tesla's unofficial test track for acceleration runs.

    Add damp street surfaces and a slight uphill grade and the best 0-60 we were able to record was 6.0 seconds. We learned again that the quickest your electric sports car will be is in the first few minutes after you leave the garage. It just gets slower after that until you return home again.

    It's the Electrons

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    When it's time to worry about range, the Tesla will tell you.

    What makes it all work is an amazing agglomeration of onboard computers, clever and sophisticated power management programming, a battery pack and a proprietary electric motor and transaxle.

    The magic lies in the battery pack. There are 6,831 lithium-ion batteries, each about a third bigger than the AA cells you use in your digital camera. They're linked together in a unique package that incorporates liquid cooling, safety fuses and fancy power control programming to eliminate worries about what battery engineers like to call "thermal events." The batteries feed 410 volts to the Roadster's air-cooled AC induction motor, which redlines at 13,000 rpm.

    Tesla won't release details of power plant 1.5, which it expects to begin installing later this year at the Lotus factory in England where the cars are built. It will retrofit the first-generation cars with the interim transmission at no cost to the owners.

    In any case, Tesla insists that the 1.5 package will enable the one-speed car to meet the Roadster's original performance target of 0-60-mph acceleration in 4.7 seconds.

    We asked one of our own engineers to do a little number-crunching based on the few facts Tesla would supply, and we estimate that the new system will be rated at somewhere around 320 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque — a not-insubstantial boost of 30 percent.

    Moving Forward

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    We drove the Tesla along the hidden roads on the top oif the San Francisco Peninsula.

    Where Tesla goes from here is up to the market, and the company's ability to successfully transition from entrepreneurial startup to efficient, profit-making car manufacturer.

    There are tons of hurdles, including the likelihood of increased competition from other, bigger companies — such as General Motors and its Chevrolet Volt — that have seen in the 2008 Tesla Roadster both proof of concept and a potential rival in a new market segment for battery-electric cars.

    Tesla itself has been remarkably candid about the whole process, posting all kinds of information on its Web site (although this hasn't prevented it from making clumsy decisions nevertheless). On the drawing board is a plan for a Tesla sedan, priced at around $50,000, that is supposed to broaden the company's appeal. And insiders also talk about an even more affordable compact, an electric city car for the commuter crowd.

    So far, Tesla has presold about 900 examples of the Tesla Roadster, 600 of the 2008 model and 300 of the 2009 models. The company says it has plans to build and sell a total of 1,600 of the 2009 models before starting on anything else. The company also is contemplating going public, a rite of passage that lets the initial investors cash out and can make it easier to raise operating capital.

    The big telltale, though, will be whether Tesla can maintain and increase enthusiasm for the Tesla Roadster. We'll see if Tesla has sold the first 900, or the only 900.

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    First Impressions: The first electric car in modern production that looks good and can hold its own in the performance arena.

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  2. Shamrock

    Shamrock I can in end the world in a Holocaust OT Supporter

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    so those batteries are better for the environment?
     
  3. Hemorrhoid Rage

    Hemorrhoid Rage Those who would give up essential liberty to purch

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    thank god. The middle east will be jealous of the African civilizations when we stop buying gas.
     
  4. Charles

    Charles Andalucia, mi tierra

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    correct, you are trishield
     
  5. Hemorrhoid Rage

    Hemorrhoid Rage Those who would give up essential liberty to purch

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    who gives a shit - anything to get off oil
     
  6. Shamrock

    Shamrock I can in end the world in a Holocaust OT Supporter

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    needs more hydrogen
     
  7. Shamrock

    Shamrock I can in end the world in a Holocaust OT Supporter

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    so now we will rely on china and japan for batteries :bowdown:
     
  8. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    may possibly want
     
  9. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    on second thought, do not want

    want Fisker Karma instead
     
  10. 1JZSC

    1JZSC OT Supporter

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    DO WANT! :eek3:
     
  11. Standard Owl

    Standard Owl BBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

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    wanted to want, but

    "the quickest your electric sports car will be is in the first few minutes after you leave the garage. It just gets slower after that until you return home again."

    do not want :wtc:
     
  12. S_rangeBrew

    S_rangeBrew Member Since 2001. My account got screwed up.

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    Electric motors have fantastic torque. As battery technology get's better, car's like this will lay waste to the internal combustion engine.
     
  13. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    Just like battery powered RC cars demolish gas powered ones :rofl:
     
  14. skolen

    skolen Guest

    No EV-1 no care.
     
  15. S_rangeBrew

    S_rangeBrew Member Since 2001. My account got screwed up.

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    Do they? I would assume battery powered RC cars would be inferior, just like full-size battery powered cars are???????
     
  16. Doc Brown

    Doc Brown Don't make me make you my hobby

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    As soon as they get nano-capacitors in gear, the laptop batteries will be a thing of the past.
     
  17. AlbinoMuntjac

    AlbinoMuntjac New Member

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    Finally someone mentions the recharge time. All the magazines that I've seen lately have been blowing their collective load over this car yet they all fail to mention how long it takes to recharge the fucker.
     
  18. Doc Brown

    Doc Brown Don't make me make you my hobby

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    Batteries made from nano-caps will be able to recharge in as little as 5-10 minutes.
    First, because caps recharge so fast anyway. And secondly, you could run banks of them in series/parallel and just hit them hard with high voltage.
     
  19. High Voltage

    High Voltage Guest

    :rofl: i would rather just buy gas then blow 100k on one of those. how long till the savings start kicking in?? :rofl:
     
  20. 1JZSC

    1JZSC OT Supporter

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    it still does, i think he was being sarcastic ( i hope :hsugh:)
     
  21. uCallmeBobby

    uCallmeBobby (_!_)

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    um, this is a 2-seat roadster. Not exactly your replacement for a Civic.
     
  22. danonboost

    danonboost I invite you

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    Over promise and under deliver! Go Tesla.
     
  23. Doc Brown

    Doc Brown Don't make me make you my hobby

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    Whatever became of the Mini Cooper prototype with the separate motors at each wheel?
    I think that car ran quicker than a 5.7 for 0-60 iirc.
     
  24. Mjolnir

    Mjolnir WHM6D > *

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    Okay, fucknaut, how long until you start seeing monetary savings over a C6 Z06?
     
  25. aznwaterboy

    aznwaterboy New Member

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    3.5-hour recharge time
     

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