The cars we loved.
For most people the electric car was the stuff of nerds. That was before the Tesla Roadster made it’s public debut in 2007. Rumors of an American electric car company had been circulating as early as 2004 when test mules of the Telsa two seat Roadster were caught by automotive photo journalist. The first official peak came at a VIP event in an airport hanger in Santa Monica, CA. Not long after Elon Musk was proudly showing off his new Tesla Roadster at the San Francisco Auto Show.
By making the cars public premiere in San Francisco as opposed to car centric LA underscored the great technical achievement that the Roadster represented. If the car’s sleek lines looked familiar, it was because they were basically Lotus Elise. The gliders as they were called were complete cars sans a drivetrain which Tesla supplied (a patented one of their own design). The appearance of the Roadster followed the Lotus Elise closely inside and out with the exception of a few air ducts in vents originally intended to cool Lotus’ 1.8 liter petrol engine.
The big technical achievement in the roadster came via it’s advance pulprotution and use of lithium-ion battery cells, the first ever application in a production all electric car. There were over 6000 laptop computer batteries that made up the power cells, enough to give the Roadster a range of over 200 miles on a single charge. The Roadster’s quick charge unit allows for full charge that was almost twice as fast of other charging systems.
While the Roadster’s range and technology was impressive, it was after all a sports car and it’s performance did not disappoint. It’s single speed transmission provided instant power for neck snapping runs to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.
The lightweight steel chassis and carbon fiber body panels helped keep weight low making the 248 hp Roadster just as fast as a anything from Italy in it’s price range. Even more impressive, the Roadster allowed motorheads a certain degree of performance indulgence without the guilt of tail pipe emissions of any kind. For a bit over $100k, you could have supercar performance and efficiency that would shame a Toyota Prius.
That proposition made the Roadster popular with car guy celebrities like Jay Leno as well as the wealthy earth huggers of Hollywood. Tesla had no trouble selling all the cars it produced (about 2,400 in 31 countries). Tesla quit taking orders only after it’s contract with Lotus to supply gliders had expired.
The electric car was cool and the Tesla Roadster was the shot of glamour the struggling industry needed. It was even immortalized as a Hot Wheels toy. Not long after, other sporty and more practical electric cars followed like the Fisker S, Tesla’s own Model S sports sedan and some type of electric car from everyone who wanted to be a player in the new green world of motoring. Much of the technology in the Roadster would become the foundation of new Tesla models.
A new Roadster is being planned for release in 2018. Instead of being based on Lotus mechanicals, the next Roadster will be riding on a shortened version of the current Model S chassis. Hopefully, Tesla will be able to sell new Roadster in all 50 states no no obstacles from the greedy dealer associations who are trying to put a stop to the company’s business model of selling directly to consumers.