• Dec 15, 2008
Click above to view the video after the jump

Jeremy Clarkson finally got his chance to thrash a Tesla Roadster on the Top Gear test track during the most recent episode and things definitely went better than his time with the G-Wiz. Clarkson pitted the Tesla against its chassis progenitor, the Lotus Elise and the results were... mixed. The Roadster, with the new drivetrain 1.5 featuring the final version of the single speed gearbox and torquier motor, ran away from the Elise in a drag race. However, when it came to going around corners, the extra 1,000 lbs of lithium ion batteries didn't help. As good as the Tesla handles, weight is always the enemy and the Lotus easily beat the Roadster around the corners. On the straights though, the electric torque won the day, for a while anyway.

As we all know, the range of electric cars depends on driving style and the EPA cycle doesn't evaluate a car like the Roadster the way it's meant to be driven. When we tested the Roadster last January, we estimated the range on our drive to be about 120-130 miles. Clarkson managed to exceed the G-Wiz's 40 mile range, but not by much. He got a mere 55 miles before the battery was flat. See it all in the video after the jump.


[Source: YouTube]



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  • 57 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      A lot you have commented on the suitability of the Tesla Roadster as a track car. In fact while the Top Gear crew thrashed the Roadster on the track it was never designed for this purpose. I addressed this whole issue including the motor overheating about a year on AutoblogGreen. http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/12/29/would-the-tesla-roadster-be-a-suitable-track-car/
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't think it really failed miserably. The 55 mile thing was expected given what we saw in the other track episodes about fuel efficiency (ie the ferrari getting like 1-2 mpg and the prius getting 14 as mentioned when driven on the track). The overheating thing had more to do with the air-cooled motor than anything else, and it only happens if you flog it at top speed for long amounts of time (obviously what Clarkson would do) and the car automatically slows down before you can damage the motor; would have been nice if they mentioned that. But they still did 55 miles of track driving so it's not like the car completely failed that the start. The lap time was also fairly good. Only thing not really expected was the brakes breaking (don't really know what that meant, maybe just the brakes were cooked), but people mention that happens also with normal gas cars. Tesla could have avoided some of this if they were more prepared (ie more cars, dedicated charging, etc).

      For EV racing, it will require battery swapping as some other posts on EV racing has shown. Charging times make charging unviable even with rapid charging. EVs aren't really viable as track cars, except maybe for drag races (where there's enough time to top off in between runs).

      Yes, Tesla says it's a sports car, as many of you guys point out, but they made it very clear it's not a track car. Even Autoblog and Autobloggreen did pieces where they publicly said that:
      http://www.autoblog.com/2008/01/28/tesla-considering-a-track-ready-version-of-the-roadster/
      http://www.autobloggreen.com/2007/12/29/would-the-tesla-roadster-be-a-suitable-track-car/
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes Tesla failed and failed miserably. This is being sold as a sports car and if you drive it the way it's meant to be driven you won't get much driving out of it at all. Tesla is nothing more than a plaything for the wealthy and demonstrates what General Motors knew all those years ago when they "Killed the Electric Car": Pure electric cars are not viable for the mass market. Period. They never were, and they aren't now. It's going to be a long, long time before electric cars will be affordable and have the kind of range needed for the mass market and before that happens it's more likely we'll be driving with hydrogen which is currently also not viable for the mass market.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Actually ls2ls7, the 1.5 does not have a liquid cooled motor. It has enhanced air-cooling allowing it to produce more torque than the original motor. However, it still has limits as TG found.
        • 6 Years Ago
        This is a drivetrain 1.5 car, it has a water-cooled motor.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @LS2

        Water cooling was an idea thrown around for powertrain 1.5 but Tesla ended up just reducing internal resistance to achieve their thermal/power goals. Water cooling will probably be implemented in future models, assuming Tesla has a future.

      • 6 Years Ago
      What's the point of going 0-60 in 3.9 seconds at the track if you have to push it home?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I get 120-180 miles driving aggressive--but not absurd like they did. That's on an 80% charge, so add 20% to that.

        Clearly batteries are not going to work right now if you want to drive at 120 MPH for a sustained period of time. If you want top speed for a sustained period buy a Corvette/Ferrari/Lambo.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The difference is that you can buy gasoline on the go. You can't charge your Tesla if you aren't home. Tesla fails.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Short memories...

        Series 11, episode 1: Ferrari 599. One gallon of fuel, choked after 1.7 miles.

        Proper gallons are 4.25 liters. That gives it an equivalent range of 39 miles. Just in case you're having trouble with your "math", that's 29% worse than the Tesla. Ferrari 599s also cost more than Teslas.

        Now run along children. This is a Web site for grown-ups.
        • 6 Years Ago
        umm most track cars are trailered home anyway, you know cause they're not street legal, and I'd assume most tracks might have a convenience outlet somewhere that you could plug into if you happened to not watch the guage let alone notice your continuously going slower, plus 55 mi is like 220 1/4mi :D
        • 6 Years Ago
        Senile adults maybe.

        If a Ferrari runs out of fuel, its 5 minutes to refill it with premium. Something you can do anytime, anywhere.

        How long did they say the Tesla took to recharge?

        You can't track this car more than 10 miles from your home without spending the night in an Elise-sized vehicle. Or bringing along your petrol-powered camper.

        Try plugging that into your calculator and sticking it where the environmenatally-friendly solar power doesn't shine. :D

        mmstowes
        • 6 Years Ago
        For the size of that battery, that's pretty unacceptable. Then again, unlike George Clooney, I actually would in fact bat an eyelash at spending $100K on a two-seater toaster. I realize the car was beat on by the TG crew, but 55 miles for a battery that size requiring that amount of cooling? I dunno...
      • 6 Years Ago
      The future of mass motoring is electric. Let's just get used to that, then we can move on.

      In current form, pure electrics suffer from prolonged recharge periods. The future of electric cars will lie in modular hot-swappable battery packs, which could be replaced (for a fee, with your battery core) at a charging station. Whereas you fill up with petrol at a petrol station (or Hydrogen, or diesel, or unicorns and rainbows), you would instead pull into a center where your spent battery module is removed for recharge, and you get a fresh unit swapped in.

      Obviously, regulations and guidelines for the quality and charge would have to be drawn up, and the packs would have to be uniform across manufacturer and model lines, but I can see how this would work, and work well.

      In the same episode of Top Gear, none other than Jay Leno is interviewed, where he emphasizes that electric cars will effectively be the salvation of our petrol-fueled dream machines -- the more people swap hydrocarbons for electrons, the more petroleum supply is left available for our gas-burners.

      Argue the virtue thereof if you wish, but it sounds good to me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My Honda S2000 race car gets about the same milage and range on the track with a stock engine and gas tank, about 65 miles on 13 gallons. When you think about it that isn't bad for the Tesla.

      I think what they (Tesla) has managed to achieve with a very small team in a very short period of time with a comparatively small budget is rather astounding. It's a real electric car, practical, economical, fun to drive and affordable.

      It's got some bugs like you would expect from a 1.0 product based on entirely new and completely unproved technology. I tip my hat to Tesla for doing what Nobody else in the auto industry has been able to accomplish in about the same time as a traditional car company takes to revamp a model and for less than 10% the money that Detroit needs to just stay in business for the next month.

      I'd buy one. I suggest Washington give $14B to Tesla rather than flush it down the drain in Detroit.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I remember watching them film the Clarity segment just around the block from me. Sent in a tip to AB when it was happening too (including photos), but seems like no one checks that email addy. ;)
      • 6 Years Ago
      At least with a v8, v10 or v12, you get to drive it after a three minute fill up, and never tire of it sound of it. You got to be a total non motorhead or a movie star to want one of these cars, or not have to drive to work. Leave the slot cars for the kids. I am staying with pistons, the more the better, this only shows that this car can go fast for a short while, a rocket motor straped on the back of that car would work just as well only cheaper.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Tesla is in it's infancy. They've worked through huge technological obstacles to get it this far and they're not going to stop until it's gone through many, many more revisions.

      Wank about it now if that makes you feel good. It's just a matter of time until they get it right.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Tesla's biggest hurdles are not technological, but managerial and political.

        I'm amazed that they're still in business (at least, as I write this), but do they have a chance to become America's first full-line electric car manufacturer?

        Only if they beat GM to it...
      • 6 Years Ago
      well the average amercian drives 40 miles a day so the tesla will work for the average person (that pays $100,000 for a car?)
        • 6 Years Ago
        In that case, it would - keep in mind, a Prius being driven balls-to-the-wall on the Top Gear track got, what, 17 miles per imperial gallon, or 14 miles per US gallon? About 1/3 or 1/4 of what it would normally get.

        So, assuming the same from the Tesla... that'd mean that the Tesla would get 165-220 miles per charge.
      • 6 Years Ago
      For a first gen electic car, it's track time was damn good.
      As time progress's the car will get better mileage and more reliable.
        • 6 Years Ago
        First gen electric car? That was in 1890 or so...
      • 6 Years Ago
      after the the video was over, i clicked on the first video with alex gizela :)
      • 6 Years Ago
      I am in favor of Tesla on this one, the Top Gear review shows that in fact it's a sports car, it's lap times prove it, BUT the car is not intended to LIVE at the track. I'd say %99.99 of drivers EVER take a car on a track or even a drag strip.
      The car is perfect for somebody who can afford a premium sports car, you can take it out for the entire day and treat it like you would any other car. it's possible to even go on road trips if you stay at a place that allows you to plug it in at night.

      I think that most Porsche gt3 owners would really enjoy a day with this car.
      I'm surprised how many people are sour on the Tesla Roadster,
      I think a lot of people have unrealistic expectations of how they'd
      really use their own sports car.
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