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Tesla Motors unveiled their uber-chic Roadster, a powerful electric vehicle that looks, feels and drives like many other high-end sports cars Wednesday night. 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.
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. (cont'd after jump)
Check out the exclusive video of the unveiling that features interviews with Tesla Motors CEO Martin Eberhard and the company's chairman Elon Musk, as well as footage of the car in motion from both inside and outside the cockpit - after the jump!
Check out the rest of my report, a gallery of LIVE and OFFICIAL pics, and Tesla's press release with full specs after the jump.
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. Paine filmed the promo video for the Roadster that was projected onto the walls. 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.
TESLA MOTORS HOSTS WORLD DEBUT OF TESLA ROADSTER
OFFERING PERFORMANCE, STYLE & EFFICIENCY- WITH A CONSCIENCE
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)
[UPDATED TO FIX TYPOS]