Tesla Roadster All-Electric Sports Car (REVIEW 2008-2012)

Written By: EightySix

How the Tesla Roadster Changed the Game

Tesla Roadster

At the start of the twenty-first century, the world was moving away from its dependence on gasoline. The hulking, guzzling SUV became the symbol of environmental disrespect and economic irresponsibility. Electric cars were finally becoming a priority.

The 1990s saw the brief emergence of all-electric vehicles like the Honda EV Plus and the Nissan Altra. The under-powered, short-range econo-boxes also featured potentially volatile batteries. The electric car was turning out just as everyone feared. Internal-combustion gear-heads were nodding smugly.

And Then Came Tesla

In 2008, Tesla blew open the doors with its Roadster. It was a legitimate super-car that needed not a drop of gas. Built on a Lotus Elise frame and powered by a 185 kilowatt air-cooled engine, the two seater snapped to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds. 200 pound-feet of torque were constant and instantly available.

Its most impressive statistic may have been its 244 mile range. The Roadster set the world distance record for a production electric car during the 2009 Global Green Challenge in Australia by traveling 311 miles on one charge. In 2010, it won the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally, marking the first time the race was ever won by a pure electric vehicle.

At $109,000, it wasn't cheap. And it couldn't fit your family. But it did make a dramatic statement of what an electric car could be.

Tesla Roadster All-Electric Vehicle (Click on Images to Expand)

Elon Musk Did It Again

Tesla is one of the many projects of pioneer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. Born in South Africa, Musk moved to Canada at age 17 where he studied at Queens University. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania where he received a BS in economics and a BA in physics. He moved to Stanford University in 1995, but quit after two days to pursue his own dreams.

Musk achieved successes in software and online financial services, including building Paypal. Its $1.5 billion sale to eBay earned him $165 million. He reinvested that money into SpaceX, which built the first privately funded liquid-fuelled vehicle to put a satellite into orbit and the first commercially owned vehicle to dock at the International Space Station.

He co-founded SolarCity, a major provider of solar power systems to the United States. His passion for clean power also brought him to build Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, California.

Lapping the Competition

In 2009, Mitsubishi introduced its i-MiEV. The next year came the Nissan Leaf. Neither vehicle could go further than about 100 miles or reach 60 miles per hour in under ten seconds. Those models and subsequent efforts by Smart, Chevrolet and others failed to thrill consumers, coming off as gizmo-like gadget cars more suited to a golf path. The Tesla Roadster alone delivered the wow-factor and provided driving excitement.

Stomping onto the scene with a super-car rather than limping in with a subcompact was a wise move for Tesla. It made the world want an electric car at a visceral level. Environmentally-conscious go-carts appeal to a certain minority of car buyers. To the majority, cars are about power, image and freedom. A slow, petite city-car on a ninety mile electric leash does nothing to a buyer's heart.

In 2012, Tesla followed the Roadster with the Model S sedan. The Model X crossover utility vehicle is expected to hit the market in 2015. In 2017, the company hopes to launch the compact Model 3 and sell it for around $30,000. With these four vehicles, Tesla will satisfy most tastes and needs. Rather than beginning with a practical commuter car, Tesla will bring it in after shocking the world with its speedster.

Upgrades and Improvements

In 2010, Tesla began production on the Roadster Sport with a 215 kilowatt engine, which went from zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds. The 2010 models also featured various refinements buyers expected from a car costing over $100,000. The new version came with an "executive interior" featuring carbon fiber and premium leather. A central-mounted video display delivered data about range, regenerative braking and efficiency. A manually-adjustable custom-tuned suspension was also included. A number of sound-deadening measures made the near silent car even quieter.

In 2014 Elon Musk made an offer other car makers couldn't: a new battery for old roadsters that would increase the range to 400 miles. This is an easy switch with an electric car. Imagine a similar thing happening to your Ferrari.

No Going Back

The rocket is out of the box. Electric cars can be clean, efficient and a party to drive. Tesla guarantees it.