Jul 19, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
The Roadster is a worthy successor to the General Motors EV1, and a great follow-up to the movie, "Who Killed the Electric Car." Tesla Motors, which has its launch tonight in Santa Monica, shows what kind of "high-end" cars the auto-makers, with far greater resources, could be building. Furthermore, Tesla aims to produce successive generations of vehicles, each costing $20-$30K less. Then pure electric vehicles with 200+ mile range will become affordable. And presumably, many of us will trade in our PHEVs! Following is an article giving many of the particulars; go to http://www.teslamotors.com starting tomorrow for technical specs and many news clips.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/19/business/19electric.html The New York Times July 19, 2006 Zero to 60 in 4 Seconds, Totally From Revving Batteries By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON, July 18 - In a new approach to making the electric car a mass-market product, a California company will unveil on Wednesday a model that is very specialized, very expensive and very, very fast.
Tesla Motors, a four-year-old Silicon Valley start-up, has raised $60 million and spent about $25 million developing a two-seat Roadster that will sell for $85,000 to $100,000.
It goes from zero to 60 miles an hour in four seconds, "wicked fast," said the company's chairman, Martin Eberhard. Because it is an electric, the driver does not have to shift into second gear until the car hits 65, he said.
The Roadster comes 10 years after the introduction of another two-seat electric car that was hailed as a breakthrough in technology, the EV-1 made by General Motors. While many environmentalists had hoped that would be the vanguard of a new trend, G.M. withdrew that car as the three-year leases expired, saying that its limited range - less than 100 miles - made it unmarketable.
The recent movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" argues that G.M. and California conspired to kill a vehicle that would have been popular. The EV-1 was leased on a basis comparable to a vehicle in the mid-$30,000 range.
In contrast to the EV-1, the Roadster is supposed to go about 250 miles on a single charge. It uses lithium-ion batteries, the kind most commonly found in laptops, and carries about three times the energy the EV-1 did, although the battery pack weighs only about 900 pounds; the original EV-1 battery pack weighed more than 1,100 pounds.
And where the EV-1 had 26 batteries wired together, the Roadster has 6,831, arranged in what Mr. Eberhard called a complex network. The voltage of the batteries is added together, as if they were wired serially, like flashlight batteries. If one fails, only the computer running the car will notice, he said, and the effect on total energy storage would be like "dropping a couple of marbles in the gas tank of your car."
The car comes with a kit that connects to a 240-volt circuit and charges the batteries from dead to fully charged in three and a half hours. It can also be charged on a normal 110-volt household outlet, but that takes longer.
At the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that is not normally a fan of fast cars, Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program, called the roadster "a remarkable potential breakthrough" because it does not use oil and can be powered by clean sources of electricity.
The last round of electric vehicles was built in anticipation of a "zero emission vehicle" quota to be imposed by California, but the state dropped the mandate.
The Roadster's advantage is that it avoids gasoline at $3 a gallon. At the national average retail price for electricity and fuel economy of 200 watt-hours per mile, it will go 150 miles on the price of a gallon of unleaded regular.
Still, saving money presumably won't be the prime motivation of most potential buyers, since to earn back the $65,000 premium over a two-seater like, say, the Mazda Miata, would require more than 700,000 miles of driving.
According to Mr. Eberhard, the way to get a new product into the mass market is to sell it to rich people.
"Cellphones, refrigerators, color TV's, they didn't start off by making a low-end product for masses," he said. "They were relatively expensive, for people who could afford it." The companies that sold those products at first, he said, did so "not because they were stupid and they thought the real market was at the high end of the market," but because that was how to get production started. His company and others that have tried electric cars, he said, are too small to produce by the tens of thousands anyway.
The company will start taking orders on Wednesday and hopes to begin deliveries in the middle of next year, he said. It hopes to sell 4,000 to 5,000 over three years and then move on to a larger, more mainstream vehicle.