The Tesla Roadster

You may have heard of Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley start up that has designed an electric sports car that delivers stunning numbers. While the doomed GM EV1 had a range of just 60 miles per charge (or 120 miles with the second generation, NiMH battery version) and performed like a typical Saturn grocery-getter, the Tesla Roadster has a range of up to 250 miles per charge, with a 0-60 of roughly 4 seconds and a top speed in the 130’s (although you wouldn’t get 250 miles on a charge going that fast).

 When I first heard of this, I was delighted, and then a bit skeptical. In my research of alternative fuel cars, the one lesson I have taken away is that all of them have a drawback. Nobody’s worked out a 100% great replacement for gas-powered cars (not that gas-powered cars are 100% great, either). Naturally, there are some huge downsides to the Tesla.

 Downside number one: the cost will be between $80k and $100k for the car. Only the rich will be able to get this little toy. Yes, it’s a sports car, one designed largely by Lotus and former Lotus folks. But it’s no supercar, and I doubt it will really warrant the price tag. The bigger problem is: how do you take on the Big Three and change the world when your main product is a rarified, low-selling specialty vehicle? They say they are going to create a more affordable electric sedan, too, but will Tesla Motors survive long enough to pull that off? Their idea is to change the way people view electric cars. But how can that be done when most people will never even see one?

 Downside number two: More expense, in the form of a crapload of batteries. The Tesla Roadster uses 6,381 Lithium Ion cells. That’s great in that Lithium Ion batteries are lighter weight and can be recycled, unlike regular car batteries or NiMH batteries. But they have a shorter lifespan and are wickedly expensive. Anyone with a laptop or cellphone knows that when those batteries age, they lose their max charge too…meaning your range would drop over time until you replaced the batteries. I heard a marketing guy for Tesla on the radio today, and he said the batteries have a lifespan of 3-5 years or 125k miles. The cost to replace those batteries? $20,000.

 Marketing guy argued that by the time you replaced the batteries, they would be cheaper. But how much cheaper? I don’t think it will drop to any reasonable amount in less than 20 years. So you’re going to be dropping the price of a small new car every 3 years, just to keep this thing going. Once again, putting it firmly out of the grasp of most people.

 Tesla Motors thinks it is going to change the way people think about electric cars. I think they’ve shot that chance in the foot, because they won’t be reaching many people.

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~ by mattbear on July 28, 2006.

5 Responses to “The Tesla Roadster”

  1. As long as cost is no object, I’ll also bring up the Tango. This is another fully-electric two-seater, but one major difference is that it’s only 39″ wide. That means it can legally lane-split like a motorcycle can. It also has amazing performance, and even corners well, contrary to the first visual impression.

    The T600 kit that you can currently buy is over $100K as well. But George Clooney likes em!

  2. What a backward strategy. Rich people, ie the people who can afford to buy a car from Tesla, don’t care about rising gas prices. They can afford it, and if they can afford this car, they can afford some other nice car with brand recognition. I can only see someone buying this car out of guilt, but I think it does zero to advance the development and acceptance of alternative fuel vehicles.

    There needs to be a Tesla Motors company that produces affordable cars for Joe Sixpack. You do that, you’re gonna make some money.

  3. Good lord, I had no idea they were charging that much for the Tango! That is obscene!

    Clooney will probably buy a Tesla, too. And maybe Tom Hanks, he really seemed thrilled about the EV1. Beyond a few political activist stars, I see Tesla’s future as grim, indeed.

  4. So Clooney is thinking about running for office? I know he’s pretty politically active, but with his party past I can’t see him going far.

  5. […] on their site, but the current deposit for one hangs out in the $100,000 neighborhood. I’ve explained before why I feel this is a bad approach for electric car companies, but they seem to be paying me no […]

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