July 21, 2006 It looks kinda like a Lotus Elise, tops 130 mph, has a range of 250 miles on a single charge, and is capable of 0-60 mph in about four seconds. Those are impressive figures and put it in the supercar acceleration class but the biggest thing the new electric Tesla Roadster which was unveiled overnight has going for it is cred. The kinda cred that comes when names like Elon Musk (PayPal founder and Tesla Chairman), Jeff Skoll (eBay), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) invest and when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calls past for a photo session. The kind of cred that earned it the headline such as “Electric sports car ready to challenge Porsche?” in C/NET and lots of ink in highly credible magazines such as Newsweek, Red Herring, Business Week and Wired before anyone knew anything about their product other than that it was an electric sports car. The superstar team seems to have lived up to the hype though as the Tesla Roadster is impressive (see details inside). Deliveries of the Tesla Roadster are expected to begin mid-2007 and though no price has yet been announced for the vehicle, the indications are that it’ll run somewhere between the US$80,000 of the Tango and the US$120,000 of the Hybrid Technologies Mullen GT and somewhat less than the US$580,000 of the Venturi Fetish.
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 using the purpose built system at home and the mobile kit enables the Tesla Roadster to be topped up on the road, but at a significantly slower rate.
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 and the family resemblance is uncanny – it’s basically exactly what you’d expect if you asked Lotus to build you an electric car so we suspect it’ll handle like a dream, and it’s real world performance will be sensational given the way an electric motor gets the power on the road. 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 safe when the performance electric car is being charged at home or on the road. Their goal is 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. The electric 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.