• Jul 20th 2006 at 3:55AM
  • 79
Last night Tesla Motors unveiled their uber-chic Roadster, a powerful electric vehicle that looks, feels and drives like many other high-end sports cars. The main difference is the noise. Powered by a 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor, the Roadster can go 130 mph and does 0-60 in about 4 seconds, all completely silent.

Tonight was the grand unveiling of the Roadster in a decorated airport hangar in Santa Monica, CA. I don't ride in many sports cars, and I certainly have never been in one that zips across an airport's tarmac without so much as a whisper. But tonight I got a quick ride in the Roadster and all I could hear from the passenger's seat (not even Gov. Schwarzenegger, who flew in for a brief look at the car, was allowed to drive it) was wind noise. And myself saying "Wow" under my breath.

Click on any image to enlarge.

Check out the rest of Sebastian's report, a gallery of LIVE and OFFICIAL pics, and Tesla's press release with full specs after the jump.

[Source: Tesla Motors - check out the site now!]

The car is low to the ground, and smooth in all possible ways. But this vehicle isn't just a sports car. It's also a green car. There are zero tailpipe emissions. There isn't even a tailpipe. Tesla Motors is working to provide purchasers with a photovoltaic panel that will turn the driving experience into an actual net producer of energy, according to Tesla Motors chairman Elon Musk.

Tonight's unveiling was also an invitation to purchase the Roadster when it is released in mid-2007 (for about $80,000-$120,000). The company is offering the first 100 Tesla Roadsters as Signature models. Musk said that the people who buy the Signature cars will not only be getting an incredible sports car, but will be helping to pay the R&D costs for future Tesla Motor vehicles. And that's what tonight was really about: the future. Gadget, an L.A.-based mechanic who converts ICE cars to EV and was seen in the movie "Who Killed The Electric Car?", and that film's director Chris Paine, were right behind me in line for the test ride. Earlier in the evening, Tesla Motors CEO Martin Eberhard said that, "An electric sports car was the way to fundamentally change the way we drive in the USA." Gadget and Paine agreed – although Gadget is convinced his conversion process is going to be more effective than $100,000 sports cars in getting EVs onto the streets – and after seeing what is possible with an EV, I have to admit there is pretty much endless possibility out there in electric motor land.

Lastly, there have been a lot of rumors floating around about the Roadster's specs, and tonight Tesla Motors finally let us know exactly what the deal is. Some of the rumors are true: the car can go 250 miles or so on a single charge (thanks in part to regenerative breaking that charges the AC motor) and will have all of the crash test ratings and safety features (airbags, GPS) when it is released. You can read the entire spec sheet and press release after the jump and at the Tesla Motor's website.

Silicon Valley Manufacturer Unveils Sleek, Clean and Fast
Performance Electric Vehicle Before Crowd of Well-Wishers

SAN CARLOS, Calif. – (July 19, 2006) – The first performance electric car manufactured by Tesla Motors, the high-performance, zero-emissions Tesla Roadster, was unveiled before a throng of well-wishers, car buffs, and potential customers Wednesday evening during Tesla's "Signature One Hundred" event at Barker Hangar.

More than 350 invited guests spent the evening learning about the new sports car, speaking with Tesla Motors executives, and going for rides along the tarmac at the Santa Monica Airport, adjacent to the event. Many signed up to be among the first to take delivery of the Tesla Roadster, becoming Signature One Hundred Members.

Celebrities in attendance included actor Ed Begley Jr., producer Richard Donner, businessman Michael Eisner, PayPal founder (and Tesla Motors Chairman) Elon Musk, Participant Productions' Founder and CEO Jeff Skoll, also of eBay fame, and actor Bradley Whitford, who starred in "The West Wing."

"We're thrilled to have the support of top people from so many different industries," said Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors. "High-tech, CleanTech, entertainment, automotive, you name it. It's gratifying to have others realize the significance or what Tesla Motors is doing."

The electric-powered Tesla Roadster boasts a top speed of more than 130 mph and a range of 250 miles on a single charge, a combination heretofore unseen in a mass-produced electric vehicle. Its extended range is due to its state-of-the-art lithium-ion Energy Storage System. The Tesla Roadster is capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in about four seconds.

"The Tesla Roadster delivers sports car performance without using any gasoline," said Eberhard. "This is what we hoped to achieve when we started the company three years ago, to build a car with zero emissions that people would love to drive."

Using a unique two-speed manual transmission, the Tesla Roadster's power comes from a 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor coupled with the Power Electronics Module (PEM) which provides multiple functionality of inverting direct current to 3-phase alternating current, the charging system, and the regenerative braking system.

The Roadster's Energy Storage System (ESS) provides power to the entire vehicle, including the motor. Its durable, tamper-resistant enclosure includes: 6,831 lithium-ion cells; a network of microprocessors for maintaining charge balance and temperature among the batteries; a cooling system; and an independent safety system designed to disconnect power outside the enclosure under a variety of detectable safety situations.

The Tesla Roadster comes complete with its Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE), a home-based charging system. An optional mobile charging kit, for re-charging while away from the EVSE, also features this automatic disconnect system. Charging the Tesla Roadster takes approximately 3.5 hours.

The Tesla Roadster is capable of driving up to 250 miles (EPA Highway) on a single charge, a range roughly triple that of previous mass-produced electric vehicles, like General Motors' EV1.

"It didn't make sense to sell a car that couldn't go 90 miles on a charge. You'd spend more time charging the old EVs than driving them," said Eberhard. "Lithium-ion technology, which has been proven in many different applications, has allowed us to achieve exactly what we thought it would in terms of power, range and efficiency."

The body design of the Tesla Roadster, which included a collaborative effort by the company's employees, has been headed by Barney Hatt, Principal Designer at the Lotus Design Studio in England. The result is a sleek, stylish sports car that will appeal to enthusiasts and environmentalists the world over.

Tesla designers and engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure that not only is the Tesla Roadster safe to drive, but also when charging the performance electric car, at home or on the road. Their goal is to not only meet, but to surpass the rigorous standards of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, or FMVSS, as implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Tesla co-founders Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who serves as Vice President, Engineering, have brought together a team of automotive industry veterans plus Silicon Valley electronics and Internet engineers to bring the Tesla Roadster to life.

Research and Development for Tesla Motors is based at the Corporate Headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. Engines are manufactured at Tesla's facility in Taiwan, and assembly takes place at Tesla's plant in England.

Eberhard and Tarpenning provided the early funding for the company, and were joined in 2003 by Musk, CEO of SpaceX, who is the major investor in the company and serves as Chairman of Tesla Motors.

Musk worked with Eberhard and Tarpenning to attract more investors and approach Venture Capital firms, and in June 2006, Tesla Motors announced that the company had secured and additional $40 million in financing led by Musk and VantagePoint Venture Partners, one of the largest CleanTech investors in the Silicon Valley.

Deliveries of the Tesla Roadster are expected to begin next summer.

About Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors was founded in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning to create efficient electric cars for people who love to drive. The Chairman of Tesla Motors, a privately held company, is Elon Musk, who has lead or co-led all three rounds of investment resulting in $60 million in funding. Mr. Musk has been instrumental in both corporate and product development at Tesla Motors.

The company currently employs 70 people, including teams in California, the U.K. and Taiwan. The background and experience of Tesla's employees mirrors the vehicle itself, drawing from diverse expertise in the electronics, automotive and Internet industries.

Tesla Motors creates vehicles that conform to all U.S. safety, environmental and durability standards. Tesla's cars include modern safety equipment such as airbags, front crumple zones, side impact protection, and 2½ mph bumpers. Tesla will sell cars in the U.S. only when they pass the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS).

For more information, visit www.teslamotors.com

* 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor
* 13,500 rpm maximum
* Max Net Power: 185 kW
* Max Torque: 180 lb-ft
* Top speed: over 130 mph

* 0-60 mph: around four seconds
* 0-100 mph: under 11 seconds
* Range: 200-250 miles per charge (estimated)
* Home-based charging system (EVSE) with integral safety features

* 2 forward speeds + reverse (by reversing the motor)
* 1st gear: 4.20:1
* 2nd gear: 2.17:1
* Reverse by reversing the motor (speed electronically limited)
* Final drive: 3.41:1

* Body: Carbon fiber
* Unique headlamp assemblies using proprietary HID low-beam and halogen high-beam lamp units
* LED taillights, marker lights and direction indicator lights
* Length: 155.4 / 3946 (in/mm)


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      It must weigh under 1800 pounds, as the engine only produces around 200 horsepower. A quarter mile of 11 seconds with only two gears means this thing is light weight. That's where it's speed comes from. Not because the batteries are particularly powerful (although they are), but that it's light.

      Also, I wonder if it utilizes brake friction recharging. I doubt it, and thinknig about how much it takes to charge it (3.5 hours with 220 V), it probably wouldn't help much.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Its great that you are covering inventions that are inspired by the great Nikola Tesla.

      I wanted to draw readers attention to a company that is carrying out research into Tesla Technology and its applications.

      Alternative technology pioneers Life Technology™ have reverse engineered Nikola Tesla's famous Teslascope and have produced a minature version known as The Hyperdimensional Oscillator™

      The Hyperdimensional Oscillator™ is a transducer, capable of converting the high frequency of cosmic rays to an energy field which can interface with the human mind.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Post 30:

      Is that a Geo Metro you're describing?
      • 9 Years Ago
      #31: Are Geo Metros electric?
      • 9 Years Ago


      • 9 Years Ago
      With regards to the 130mph topspeed; heck, that's essentially the same as the lotus elise from which the car is based! However, the Telsa accelerates more quickly :)

      I don't see these becoming common anytime soon do to the cost, but it should sell relatively well. I see its main customers being those that could afford $$$ sports cars in the first place. So I see it as being a low-volume niche vehicle.

      And heck, with all those Hollywood types that have been driving slow hybrids, I'm sure a few will pick up a few of these as they'll actually be able to feel good about driving quickly! Plus, you could tell them it puts out even less emissions than a hybrid.... we won't talk about the power plant emissions though.
      • 9 Years Ago
      aaron - read the article. A range of 250 miles on a single battery charge is a major improvement for electric vehicles, which in the past have been limited to around 100 miles.

      that being said, there are a lot of proprietary battery technologies being developed that could help improve future electric vehicles, most notably in terms of charge time. Toshiba, Altair Nanotech, and A123 are all developing fast charge lithium batteries. (Some or all of these are lithium polymer systems, as opposed to traditional liquid electrolyte. I'm not sure groups are doing what).

      ALSO, having the decency and common sense to include a two-speed transmission so the car can get past 100mph is another kind act by the folks at Tesla.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Since first time i heard about this project i was very thrilled by an idea of having an electric sports car. Now when it is shown at the premiere i was completly blown away.
      Like the performance, i can bet that it will be popular among street racers with such an acceleration.
      Can't wait to read independent review.

      Exceptionally well done job Tesla Motors.
      • 9 Years Ago
      No offense, but I think some of you folks need to read the Tesla web site and other on-line resources more thoroughly before you post questions that are already answered.

      As seen elsewhere on the web: car weighs 2500 lbs right now, hoping to get the weight down a little more. Horsepower calculates at just under 250.

      This is not a converted Elise, but has some Elise components and a similar chassis structure. Most parts are unique.

      To Riker (posts #25 and 26): one of the stated purposes IS to help the environment -- 135 equivalent miles per gallon, from power sources which can include solar, wind, etc.

      To Jim (#34): there's nothing wrong with an electric commuter car, but those exist (such as the Think), and they do nothing to shift the public's perception that electric cars are boring transportation modules for eco-weenies. One of the Tesla Roadster's purposes is to break that stereotype.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The reason why this car is fast: it does one thing that no ICE vehicle can do- deliver 100% of its power at 0RPM.
      That's 250hp @zero RPM (if you're not impressed with this statistic you should Google something called ELIICA, a Japanese large sedan class prototype with 800hp and yes that's at zero RPM as well Stats:0-100mph/7sec -top speed 242mph) Anyway, it all equates to very fast acceleration. I'm sure the Tesla anti-slip launch electronics are doing their best to keep this thing from doing a dragster style burnout at a full throttle start. And as far as top speed of 130mph, you can bet that it's electronically governed.
      • 9 Years Ago
      One thing that will not help the adoption of electric vehicles is that the US federal income tax credit for driving an electric vehicle ends on December 31, 2006.

      Hopefully the Congress will extend the credit, but I don't know if there's any effort to do so. (Contact your Congress-man or Congress-woman)
      • 9 Years Ago
      Every gas head keeps pointing to the issue of battery life as being the killer on this car. There are lithium ion batteries going on 5 years of daily service in EV vehicles. Hydrogen power, forget it. Gas efficiency, we are reaching the limit. Electricity is the only renewable energy source. This car is just another step towards the extinction of the gas powered vehicle. With any new technology, we always have the outrageous price and exotic look that few can afford. But behind the showmanship of the tesla, there are thousands quietly working away at converting regular vehicles into non polluting ev's. Battery technology has come a long way since the 1890's
      when the first electric vehicle were made. By using pre assembled Li-ion battery packs, conversions to ev or kit assemblies are becoming easier and within the reach of anyone who can afford 15-20k. As manufacturers seize the opportunities of offering ready designed ev conversions for specific makes of vehicles, prices will drop. It just a matter of time. I am currently converting a Porsche 944 with the help of some local expertise. It is intimidating to be sure, but once the basic electric engineering is done, the rest is just plain fun. Sorry guys, but those of you who doubt the future of electric vehicles are lost in a cloud of blue smoke.
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