This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 19, 2008

Tesla Motors Starts Production of its Electric-Only Roadster

Photo of the Tesla Roadster, a sleek open-roof roadster with a high tail and a low, short front end.

Built in England by Lotus Cars, the all-electric Tesla Roadster was inspired by the design of the Lotus Elise.
Credit: Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors started limited production of its all-electric 2008 Tesla Roadster on March 17. The rear-wheel-drive two-seater sports car combines a lithium-ion battery pack with a 185-kilowatt (248 horsepower) electric motor, packaging it all in an aluminum chassis wrapped in a carbon-fiber body that yields a curb weight of about 2,690 pounds. The car has a top speed of 125 miles per hour (mph) and a range of about 220 miles, and its worst-case recharging time, for a drained battery, is about 3.5 hours. Tesla claims that the battery will last through 100,000 miles of driving. According to the company, the car achieves the equivalent of 135 miles per gallon and costs only 2 cents per mile to drive, counting only the fuel costs, of course. The company set a base price of $98,000 on its 2008 models, all of which have been sold, and it is accepting deposits on its 2009 models, but has not yet set a price on them. See the Tesla press release.

Tesla has faced its share of problems in the production of the Tesla Roadster. The company had to delay its production due to problems with its two-speed transmission and ultimately decided to build its initial models using a transmission that is essentially locked into second gear. That creates some disappointment for performance enthusiasts, because the two-speed transmission promised to accelerate the car from zero to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds, on par with the top supercars, but the interim transmission will slow that time to 5.7 seconds. Tesla now plans to drop the two-speed transmission altogether and will instead employ a new powertrain with a single reduction gear. The cars being built today will be upgraded for free when the new powertrain becomes available later this year. Because of the transmission issues, Tesla expects to only produce about 600 vehicles for the 2008 model year, but plans to ramp up production to 2,000 cars per year in the near future. See the Tesla press release on the transmission issues.