So we pulled out of San Pedro in the mid-afternoon to make sure we'd make it to Santa Monica Airport in time for the start of the Tesla Motors press intro. Rumors had flown back and forth as to whether or not the Tesla Roadster was simply a rebodied, rebadged Elise with an electric powertrain. The answer to that is slightly tricky — it is and it isn't. Click through for the full report.
The entire powertrain of the car only weighs 160 pounds. That includes the electric motor (to be built in Taiwan), the two-speed gearbox, built in Britain by a supplier the Teslas declined to name (umm...er, could it be...Ricardo?), and the diff.
The Tesla Roadster looks especially sexy in that red that Chrysler seems to use on all of the press cars they hand us.
The extruded and bonded aluminum chassis, built by Norsk Hydro in Scandanavia (once the target of a daring commando raid to curtail Nazi heavy-water production during WWII), is based on that of the Elise, using the 900-pound, water-cooled and heat-regulated lithium-ion battery pack — in classic Lotus style — as a stressed member. The wheelbase is two inches longer, and it weighs a bit more than an Elise, tipping the scales at 2500 lbs in the preproduction cars we saw. They're hoping to shave an additional hundred pounds from the production version. The sills are two inches lower than its Lotus half-sibling, although ingress and egress were still slightly problematic for Los Jalopnik in attendance, Dan Neil and some guy who played a destructo android from the future in a film trilogy of little note and splits his time between Sacto and LA. He had a bit part in Cars too, playing an H1.
Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me, water cools the battery.
Yes, Arnold took up temporary residence in the house, and the rumor of the evening is that he'd bought one. We were standing outside after showing up early (the traffic between Pedro and Santa Monica is ridiculously unpredictable) when all of a sudden we heard a huge hubbub behind us. When we turned and saw a row of black SUVs, we wondered what was up. All of a sudden, there he was, right in front of us. We extended our hand and said, "Governor, it's nice to meet you."
"It's nice to meet you, too," the former Kindergarten Cop replied. We resisted the urge to pull a Road House and exclaim, "We thought you'd be taller!"
Mr. Olympia's Wild Ride.
After Ahnuld had left the building, the Teslas got down to brass tacks, explaining the car's genesis. Yes, it is built in Hethel by Lotus. Sure, it tops out at 130, but it's got a 250-mile range based on the EPA's freeway test. Regenerative braking? Check. But one parameter they haven't tested is how much the regen actually adds to the car's (presumably-shortened) range while cruising in traffic (a number we're really interested to know). Regardless the magic pair of double decimal-delineated digits remains the 4.0-second 0-60 time. Even judging from our brief test ride, we'll proclaim that this thing will slay on the backroads.
When was the last time you saw a photo of Dan Neil of the LA Times (far right) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (far left) on either side of an electric sports car? We're guessing never. Jalopnik Exclusive?
The torque is unbelievable. And eerie. The power just comes on right now and does not abate. It's absolutely batty; unlike anything we've experienced. We think our kidneys may still be embedded in the seatback. And it sticks. Hoons, your EV has arrived. Yes, you do practically trade bodily fluids with your motoring companion, but there was plenty of legroom (although we're 5'11, we've got a positive ape index — 30" inseam with a 34" sleeve — but we'd say leggy types won't have any complaints in that department).
Chairman Elon Musk, who founded PayPal and got a lot of heavy hitters on board to raise $60 mil in venture capital for the project, has signed SiliValley luminaries like Google's Sergey Brin for orders. Essentially, this is a geek-chic semi-supercar interim step. It'll take a full load of juice in 3 1/2 hours from a garage-mounted charger, but more interestingly, while travelling, it can be topped up from an ordinary 110 socket using Tesla's mobile kit (albeit much more slowly). One of the major problems with GM's EV1 was that it was married to its charging unit. Tesla, using technology licensed from AC Propulsion, has rather cleverly mitigated this problem, although the dedicated charging unit remains the fastest way to top up the car.
The price for what may be the first real step toward a viable mass-market electric car? $100k. No goofy lease. Given Silicon Valley's penchant for pie-in-the-skyness, and having lived through the tech boom and bust in the Bay, we know how easy it is for a well-funded company to fail. According to rumor, however, Tesla's only burned through $25 million of its VC and has produced ten preproduction cars. Musk claims they started in the segment they did to produce a profitable vehicle that will lead to more development, and according to the Wired article, their $50k sedan project is due around 2008. We were skeptical of the Tesla project when we first heard about it. We're believers now. With any luck, we'll have a road test for you later this year. Finally, an electric car that car geeks can truly get stoked on. Because, let's face it — driving a Tango kind of makes you look like a dork. Unless you're already George Clooney. To be sure, electric cars are still, and will be for a long time to come, a niche market. But we think Tesla's got a good shot at broadening said niche. It's the first electric car that boys who aren't card-carrying members of the A/V Club will want to post on their bedroom walls.
Tesla Electric Car Pics Leaked! [Internal]