By on October 7, 2009

Beam me up! (courtesy: Wikimedia)

I’m anything but a Trekkie, but a recent drive in the Tesla Roadster made me think of the Starship Enterprise. To be more precise, the Enterprise a second after warp speed has been deployed. Imagine for a moment that your brain is Captain Kirk and the “gas” pedal is Scotty. When Scotty receives the warp factor order and flips the fast switch, something very weird and very breathtaking happens. On the Starship, as in the Tesla.

Electric power corrupts... electrically.

Time and time again, when I’d mash the Tesla’s accelerator, I couldn’t help but curse. As in, “holy *&@!, this is incredible”. That is what happens when you have linear, quiet, shiftless acceleration from zero to sixty in yes, three point bloody nine seconds. Quicker than any Porsche, and as quick as anybody who has not driven a formula car recently can imagine. And with far less drama than I’ve ever experienced in a sports car. You want to go faster, and then, suddenly, you’re faster — faster than you probably wanted.

Doesn’t this kind of power corrupt? During a 20-minute drive through and around Frankfurt, it did, inasmuch as I couldn’t help dishing out gobs of pure speed whenever there was an opening in traffic. And watching motorcycles struggle to catch up was only half the fun. It feels almost unspeakably awesome to have almost unlimited acceleration at your disposal, especially when it’s in an unflashy, inconspicuous small car. A car of which a pedestrian at a traffic light once asked “is it just a quiet car, or is it what I think it is?” When you’re in a Tesla, nobody insinuates you’re a toff, or a wanker, or yuppie scum. You’re in a superfast sports car, and everything is just fine. Has there ever been anything like it?

Did I say sports car? Well… let’s discuss that. The layout is sportscarish, what with two tight-but-comfortable seats, Lotus-low entry and egress, and a cabon-fiber cladded trunk that may be large and wide enough for your golf kit but not much else. Continuing the case for the Tesla’s sportscar-dom by virtue of inconvenience is the top of the windshield’s habit of blocking your line of vision if you’re over six feet tall.

Fit and finish is old-school sports car too: the inside is simple and pretty, but by no means is this the interior of a 100k car. You’ll find no jewellish instruments and no foolish luxury condiments such as an air scarf. No toys, in other words, except the car itself.

Golf, anyone? (Wikimedia)A toy, exactly, but, again, is it a sports car? Well, first there’s the steering. What Tesla gives you is a very small, unassisted wheel that doesn’t agree with your arm muscles at low speeds and feels wooden at higher ones. Does Tesla have this feature to discourage hoonage? If so: guys, it works. Then, there is the heavy battery pack which, in contrast to some other EVs, is not flat beneath the floor, but behind you, at around the level of your shoulders. The sum effect is that the Tesla feels solid and substantial but not particularly maneuverable. I didn’t take it to the ‘ring, butI can assume from the way it feels that this Roadster would feel not at all at home there.

On the other hand, ride comfort is suprisingly good. Tramway track crossings are taken in stride and long undulations, of the kind that make many a car feel bouncy on the autobahn, didn’t bother me at all. (Wind noise is present all the time, though).

Does it matter that the Tesla is not as direct, as communicative, as quick handling a car as its Lotus donator is? I’d say, no. Because what you do with this car is point and squirt — albeit with a monster squirt gun.

In other words, you need to employ a totally different driving style than you would in Porsche, for instance. You step on it, reach warp speed, let the regenerative brakes do their thing and get down to a comfortable speed before entering a curve, and then take off again.

Are you catching my, well, drift? This is a modern-day muscle car. It follows a simple formula: put a super-powerful engine in a small package, and watch people pay a hefty premium.

OK — it’s unsophisticated, and if you ask the competitors in the electric vehicle field, the guys who are busy designing some miracle car for 2012, they’ll tell you the Tesla is impossible. Laptop batteries! A Lotus chassis they simply loaded to the brink with Lithium! But really: as much as some people care, plenty of people don’t. And come to think of it, neither do I when the drive is so good. Not the reason to buy this car (TTAC/Martin Schwoerer)

Also, many people probably care about how long the batteries will last; what happens to your faulty batteries if Tesla’s financing dies; whether these newfangled Lithium-Ion batteries are really safe; whether its range of 50-200 miles is acceptable. (I wouldn’t suffer from range anxiety for the simple reason that anybody with the money to buy one would in addition own another car for the occasional long-distance drive). These issues are in flux, and a matter of discussion to take place outside the context of a test drive. Another qualm might be the price, to which I say: it’s an early-adopter’s toy, for crying out loud — these things are always expensive.

But for me, the real significance of the Tesla is this. For the first time in decades, Americans are offering a car that by way of brute force, cheekiness, acute understanding of new technology, and clever access to financing, has turned into something desirable for people everywhere. America is no longer the laughing stock of the automotive world. Folks, you might not like the Tesla, you might think it’s some kind of Silicon Valley scam, but if it was made in my country, I’d be mighty proud.

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75 Comments on “Review: Tesla Roadster...”

  • avatar

    Silent accelerative power is kind of like an epiphany, isn’t it?

    You feel like it’s the invisible hand of God pushing you along, after years or decades of listening to the enefficiencies and noise of a reciprocating engine….

    I got a similar epiphany the first time I drove a Prius and gently took off under electric only mode. Obviously on a lesser scale, acceleration-wise.

  • avatar

    In addition to your list of questions, I’d add recharge time. How long does it take to go from zero to 100% charge? 110 or 220VAC?


  • avatar

    Was this in conjunction with the IAA? If it was, could anybody take a test drive, or were you considered “automotive press”?

  • avatar

    If motorcycles were struggling to keep up, they probably weren’t trying or you were out racing cruisers.

    pretty much any modern 600+cc, if they tried, does a 0-60 in the low to mid 3’s and the quarter in the mid to high 10’s stock. It has roughly the same street range as the tesla (my bike is about 150-180 miles before fillup).

    I know one Mag had the kawasaki zx-14 from 2-3 years ago at 0-100 in 4.95….

    Spend enough time with the power and you will get used to it :)

    The bigger difference IMHO (that I imagine) is having tons of torque always available. This is something that (normal) bikes CANNOT match.

    I have been looking at the zero-s on and off (completely electric bike, about 60-80 mile range) but I am not sure how well it would handle turns since it is fully electric & always has tons of torque. It also doesn’t have gears and the top speed is just 55mph. You do get 0-50 in I think 5 seconds though…IIRC

  • avatar

    How silent is the electric motor? Had a ride in GM’s EV1 once. It was quick compared to other cars at the time. But it was not silent with the pedal to the floor. Maybe if GM had gone with RWD…

    Maybe I’d be a convert with some seat time. But how can the drive be so good if the steering and handling are poor? I cut gas engine cars no slack when all they’re good for is quick acceleration. Why make an exception for the Tesla?

    I’d love to have some reliability stats on these, but will there be enough owners? Unless they sell 10,000+, probably not.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Thanks Martin. Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter taught that creative destruction is essential for healthy economies. New technologies replace old. New business models throw too-big-to-fail businesses aside. But no one associated with the antiquated businesses wants to see it go down and for workers to lose jobs. Others are simply sentimental or just want the world to be predictable. Or maybe we are anxious because we can’t yet see what the future will bring. Whatever the reason, we resist change.

    This review helps us see that as the Big 3 are in their final death throes there is hope for a young and vital new automotive industry in America. Are EVs the future? There are a lot of kinks that still need to be worked out. Will Tesla emerge as a major player? Possible but not likely. Nonetheless, this is an important glimpse of what lies ahead.

  • avatar

    +1 Robstar, on the faux “quicker than motos” biz.

    Frequently on this site when there’s a *really* quick car reviewed (benz with big motor, custom viper, etc) the writer gets all carried away and drops the breathless “quicker than motorcycle! sportbikes struggling to keep up! all for only 10x as much!”

    Then somebody points out that “yeah, well, you’re right, bikes are quicker, but you’re gonna die.”

    People, PLEASE. Fatality rates aside, if we’re just talking pure acceleration figures and power to weight ratios (and this article in particular is talking about 0-60 times) whatever the hell you’re reviewing, no matter how great**, is not as quick 0-60 as a 600cc sportbike, let alone a literbike, m’kay?

    And while cornering properly may well be a (potentially fatal) issue with two wheeled vehicles, getting them to accelerate insanely fast, assuming you can drive a stick, isn’t.

    **Veyron and similar 1000hp “cars” excluded.

  • avatar

    “nobody insinuates you’re a toff, or a wanker, or yuppie scum. You’re in a superfast sports car”

    Aren’t those statements mutually exclusive?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Good write-up, Martin. As a kid growing up in Austria, electric vehicles were our first and primary modes of transportation: trams, trains and electric trolley buses. Loved the quiet humming power. Electric cars: it’s like, what took so long? But they’re coming, and I welcome them to the fray.

  • avatar

    I had a ride in one a couple of years ago on a winding tributary to skyline in the peninsula. From the vantage point of passenger, the handling felt extremely competent, and the thing didn’t seem to lean at all. And yes, the acceleration was impressive. But judging from your account, I mean, immense acceleration is nice and all, but even if money were absolutely no object, I’d rather have a Cayman. (See my account of Skip Barber.)

  • avatar

    How much cheaper would a Tesla Roadster be if its 0-60 time was 6.5 instead of 3.9?

  • avatar

    I assume the 20-minute drive time was their idea, not yours. Someone should try driving it sportily, for a longer time, in the winter with the lights and heater on, and then tell the world how far it went before it ran out of juice. That sound we might hear will be the wind noise of air rushing out of a balloon.

    Let’s never forget that four months ago, Washington gave $465 million of your and my money, as part of the government’s strained effort to strike a forward-leaning pose while providing glitzy cover for its failing “investments” in the auto industry. Until proven otherwise, I consider the Tesla as one element of a massive, PR-driven political fraud to push mountains of public cash down a Green sinkhole.

  • avatar

    @William C Montgomery

    This review helps us see that as the Big 3 are in their final death throes there is hope for a young and vital new automotive industry in America. Are EVs the future? There are a lot of kinks that still need to be worked out. Will Tesla emerge as a major player? Possible but not likely. Nonetheless, this is an important glimpse of what lies ahead.

    It seems the old-school auto industry is in the twilight of its life. Consider the behaviors: nostalgia for the past (retro, anyone), focus on meeting needs low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (the big three, at least, don’t exhibit behaviors above “Safety”), and focus on current self-preservation over planning for the future. Senility, anyone?

    I can’t guess if it will be Tesla, or even electric, but cars and their manufacturers are going to be very different 10-20 years from now.

  • avatar

    You mentioned the small size of the steering wheel; from the interior photo it looks to me as though it couldn’t be much bigger without your left hand hitting the door pull.

  • avatar

    in the winter with the lights and heater on

    Two thoughts. 1. In many parts of the country it doesn’t really get cold. 2. How many 911s, Vets, Vipers etc. do you see driving around in the dead of winter?

  • avatar

    A friend of mine in Dallas just went for a ride in a Tesla and described the acceleration exactly as you did… eery and incredible.

  • avatar

    I agree with tparkit. Green sinkhole – great.

    Wranglers are good at off-roading.
    Minivans are good at hauling people and stuff.
    Pickups/SUV’s are good at towing/hauling.

    This thing is good at – suck-your-eyeballs-through-the-headrest speed for 50 miles? Sounds more like a toy than a car.

    The review was good, but I just disagree with this about the range – These issues are in flux, and a matter of discussion to take place outside the context of a test drive.

    With electric cars, it’s all about the range and recharge times. Good thing this is just a toy then.

    • 0 avatar

      I drive a Tesla Roadster Sport about 70 miles most days. I plug it in to a 220V, 50 amp circuit and charge it in about an hour — 1 1/2. In standard charge mode it will go about 185 miles. In long range charge mode it will go 220, no sweat. I’ve driven it 165 miles and charged it in around 3 hours.

      I commute in it every day, rain snow or shine, in the Colorado hills on (partly) dirt roads. Leaving my house, I drop 2,000 feet in 6 miles with more than 40 turns. Yeeehah!

  • avatar

    “Thrust” is a drug. If you want to differentiate your product to people, you may as well go with the automotive drug of choice. Tesla are right to provide it.

    I hope they succeed.

    As usual Martin Schwoerer, thanks for your writing.

  • avatar

    suck-your-eyeballs-through-the-headrest speed for 50 miles?

    How often do you drive more than 50 miles in a day? I drive 8 miles a day. The median for the US is 22.9. Even driving like a hoon it will meet the needs of the vast, vast majority of drives – from a range perspective.

  • avatar

    Shame about the weight distribution – killing the best part of the Elise in exchange for straight line acceleration – I think I’d take a Corvette instead.

    It is a start, but just that. The Model S actually looks like a real vehicle.

    @jmo – the problem is you can never go over the mile limit. It is not like there is an infrastructure to change out batteries on longer trips like gas tanks for your grill. Of course you will just end up renting a car for those weekend trips, but it is sort of annoying.

    I would not be surprised if a car share company didn’t offer electric-conversions within a couple of years.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Matt: it was on the first press day of the IAA and I was press. There was a surprisingly nonchalant Tesla PR guy sitting next to me, who chatted on his iPhone while I pushed the pedals to the metal. No pressure whatsoever to take it slow or turn back soon.

    Range: official is, I think, 50-200 miles. If I can get a loaner from their new Munich office, I will report accordingly. I didn’t write about this because I dislike reviews that repeat PR data only.

    Robstar: as chance will have it, I drove a Vectrix a day before the Tesla. Very impressive linear acceleration and torque, but not nearly as breathtaking as the Tesla. You got me on the motorcycle bit though, and obviously a really fast bike can out-accelerate a car any normal day. (But they didn’t…)

  • avatar

    And then the battery went dead and I walked home.

  • avatar

    jmo wrote:
    “How often do you drive more than 50 miles in a day?”

    Do you mean presently, or if I had a Tesla Roadster in my garage?

  • avatar

    I’d be impressed with the Tesla Roadster if it wasn’t just a ripoff of the tzero.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    David: I drove Capt Mike’s 911 today, which is a tremendous, exhilarating drive. On a track, surely better than a Tesla, so I agree with your Cayman preference. But superquick while relaxed — one might say, civilized — transportation has a charm of its own.

  • avatar

    Interesting technical exercise, but at 100 large, I’m unconvinced.

    And if the interior on this car is anything like the Lotus it’s based on, not only am I unconvinced – I’m uncomfortable.

    I can think of a lot of cars I’d rather have for this money.

  • avatar

    Martin Schwoerer :
    October 7th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Range: official is, I think, 50-200 miles.

    Isn’t that kinda like the weatherman on the 10:00 news predicting anywhere from 2 to 20 inches of snow?

  • avatar

    Great review and to read it here, ironic even, considering the Tesla Death Watch series. You know, as a first production electric sports car, you have to admit, they did a pretty fair job. If they can stay in business, future models should get better and cheaper.

  • avatar

    “Quicker than any Porsche”

    I think you should check your figures. At over $100k, comparing to the 911 turbo is fair game. The Porsche even has an automatic transmission option (for those who want to win the race but have less fun).

    For straight-line acceleration, several M-badged BMWs and AMG-badged Mercedes might give the Tesla a run for their money even while carrying 4 people in relative comfort. Then there are the E55 and M5 station wagons!

  • avatar

    I like this car (at my distance) because it fulfills its claims as a high-performance sports car. For that, you pay.

    Other EVs, like the Volt, are attempting to enter the economy car market with near-luxury prices. To me that’s a no-go, even for many early adopters. Economic return on investment matters a lot for an economy car. Not so for a sports car, and that’s why they are selling (albeit in small numbers).

    The Model S will be one of the most beautiful cars out there, and with a lower price point and home-grown chassis (I think). Can’t wait for that one.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Sunnyvale: the Stig would have said it is quicker than the GT3, if he was inclined to talk

  • avatar

    I drive 8-32 miles a day, I have a garage with 220V, and I live in Los Angeles. I plan to buy a Nissan Leaf when they come out, with its 100ish mile anticipated range, and will only have to charge it every few days to every week. Compared to that, a Tesla would need to be charged less, would be more fun…and there are many, many more people with money to burn here in CA than there are Teslas available for purchase.

  • avatar

    @Martin Schwoerer: Hrm, I kinda always thought Elon Musk was a toff wanker yuppie-scum. :D

    @William C Montgomery: +1 internets on the Schumpeter ref!
    The big guys would never get it together enough to Hewlett-Packard this thing together in a shed.

    Model S Ponzi Scheme or no, GM would’ve instead spent the money on chrome-plated trucknutz for Maximum Bob’s vanity mirror.

  • avatar

    It even sounds like the USS Enterprise (or lasers from the 80s). Here’s a youtube video from a French video magazine where they record an acceleration run of a Tesla. Note the speed is in MPH:

    For the sport bike comparisons, please note the review was not conducted in the US, where an 18 year old can buy a Yamaha R1 with no motorcycle license.

    The car IS a toy…Most sports cars and supercars are. It’s an emotional purchase, not a practical one. You don’t see anyone driving a million dollar, 1001hp, 252mph, Carrera-size, Beetle-shaped car that gets 0-14 mpg to Burning Man.

  • avatar

    Wikipedia says that Tesla reported an operating profit in July for the first time. Of course, they’re not a public company, so who really knows…but if they can make a profit, and continue to improve upon what they’ve built and create viable, better electric cars, then it would be a triumph indeed on their part. Certainly not the roadster, and probably not the S…but who knows, the next Tesla could be the Model T of electric cars. Especially if the S achieves what they are aiming for…a viable, attractive electric family car at $50k.

  • avatar

    The range numbers have to be a range because lithium ion batteries start losing capacity the minute they come off the assembly line. Even Tesla concedes that the range of the Roadster will become unacceptable to most owners after two to three years. The entire battery pack will then need to be replaced.

  • avatar

    The theme in this place is: Gm sucks – don’t change anything. Anytime anything new is created it’s seen as an evil impingement on some perceived freedom.

    This thing gets about 220 miles on a charge, is really fast, and really expensive. They took off the shelve parts – added their own software – and created a monster. I say three cheers. And may the devil take the hindmost. (whatever that means).

  • avatar

    This thing gets about 220 miles on a charge, is really fast, and really expensive. They took off the shelve parts – added their own software – and created a monster. I say three cheers.

    I’d agree with you, except two things really bother me about Tesla.

    First, people at Tesla act like they invented something new. They did not. There is little new about the Roadster. They ripped off the tzero concept and still refuse to give any credit to AC Propulsion.

    Second, Tesla got free money from the government to build cars. In my view, that’s a disgrace. We are spending hundreds of millions to subsidize a company that caters to the rich.

    Yes, it is just a loan. But that is the shame of it. If Tesla tanks, we taxpayers are out all the money. If Tesla succeeds, its investors profit. Not us. We just get our money back — 50 years from now. No sane investor would ever do that deal. Only an insane government.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if I’ll ever warm up to silent acceleration.

    Is there any way to make this thing sound like a TIE fighter from Star Wars?

  • avatar

    Second, Tesla got free money from the government to build cars. In my view, that’s a disgrace.

    Boeing would have never been able to get the 707 off the ground if it wasn’t government subsidies in the form of initial orders for the KC-135.

    NASA and Boeing often work closely on projects with Gov’t funded research often vital to Boeing’s production of civilian aircraft.

    We are spending hundreds of millions to subsidize a company that caters to the rich.

    When the 707 was rolled out by Pan Am in October or 1958, it was certainly the province of the rich or at least very upper middle class.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    First, people at Tesla act like they invented something new.

    They did invent something new. The first freeway-capable, fully functioning EV to be sold outright to the North American public. Why haven’t 700 tzeros been sold to the public? Have you ever seen a tzero in the wild?

    There’s a lot more to this game than just technological innovation.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    This thing gets about 220 miles on a charge, is really fast…

    I think you meant to say, “This thing gets about 220 miles on a charge or is really fast.”

  • avatar

    They did invent something new. The first freeway-capable, fully functioning EV to be sold outright to the North American public.

    That’s my point. They didn’t invent that. What did they invent? Have you looked at Tesla’s patent portfolio?

    You are right that they built a business to put the Tesla Roadster on the road. But that’s not much of an accomplishment. Give me the $200 million they spent, and I could do a lot better.

    I should admit my bias against Tesla. I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for 17 years and know a lot of the people here. Elon Musk has stabbed many of them in the back, including one of the most capable and honest people that I have met. I have nothing but contempt for the man.

  • avatar

    Tesla’s website white paper on batteries indicates the charge energy is equivalent to about 8 liters of gasoline. That is about 280 megajoules of energy from, in one case, 6 kg of gasoline, and in the other case, from a couple hundred +/- kg of batteries. For some small light aerodynamic gasser, I’d expect to hear range claims of 60 to 120 miles from an 8 liter gas tank. Maybe the high side 200 mile Tesla estimate comes from motor efficiency. Bet it doesn’t include heating in winter climates, which is pretty much free from gassers.

    To sell these things, you need to sell with the caveat that it is a short range vehicle. Nothing wrong with that. You’ll be able to sell plenty before you come up against a growth limit from lack of range and long ‘refill’ times. And during that time, maybe there will be a transformative breakthrough in storage technology.

    For once, GM did it right with an honest disclosure – a claimed 40 miles out of the Volt. Provided they can do it, of course.

  • avatar

    <i.But that’s not much of an accomplishment.

    That’s at least half of it. It’s all well and good to have a great idea but it often takes an entirely different skill set to bring that idea to market.

    The other day Dr. Chales Kao was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics as he was “the first to promote the idea that the attenuation in optical fibers could be reduced below 20 decibels per kilometer (dB/km), allowing fibers to be a practical medium for communication.”. Yes, he had the idea and he has a Nobel prize but it took countless companies to develope and roll out the fiber optic communications network.

  • avatar

    Woo! Sounds like great fun! Only problem is (as demonstrated by Top Gear) they are VERY easy to break. When reliability gets better (and the price comes down) it would sound like a much more serious proposition for the ‘hoons’.

  • avatar

    @ SunnyvaleCA

    “Quicker than any Porsche”

    I think you should check your figures. At over $100k, comparing to the 911 turbo is fair game. The Porsche even has an automatic transmission option (for those who want to win the race but have less fun).

    i’m going to back you up on this, because at 3.9 sec 0-60 the tesla would NOT be faster then: the 2006+ 911 turbo with manual does 0-60 in exactly the same 3.9 sec. however if you buy the 911 turbo with the lame Tiptronic S automatic transmission then it will go from 0-60 in 3.7sec that is faster then the tesla.

    also the 2008+ Porsche GT2 goes from 0-60 in 3.4sec. again faster then the tesla.

    and the 2004+ GT2 does 0-60 in 3.9sec. the same as the tesla.

    the 2010 porsche GT3 RS does 0-60 in 3.8 sec.

    the 2003 Porsche Carrera GT does 0-60 in 3.9 sec.

    so there are 5 porsche’s that the tesla is not faster then.

    there are more then that even but you start getting into the super rare, like the
    1987 Porsche 959 Sport that does 0-60 in 3.7sec

  • avatar

    Is it too much to ask for TTAC to place the price of the car as tested right next to the name of the car so I don’t have to search for it?

  • avatar

    Just to inject a real-world data point into this discussion. My Tesla recently passed 10,000 miles, and after 10 months of ownership, I’ve been incredibly pleased with the car. I didn’t expect it to become my daily driver, as I regularly do the 160mi (260km) roundtrip between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, but it has. The official range of the Roadster (on the EPA driving cycle) is 244 miles; I regularly get 180+ miles on a charge, and can easily stretch that to 200+ by driving a bit slower.

    In 10,000 miles, I’ve had only one significant problem with the car; in an apparent manufacturing fluke, a bolt in the battery pack worked itself loose, which pinched a wire and caused a fault, but it was quickly and easily fixed.

    I have the 3-hour fast charger at home, though only on a couple occasions have I needed the full-speed charge. Usually I have it dialed down to half-power, which puts less stress on the batteries. My Roadster’s full charge capacity has decreased about 2% in nearly a year, and I’ve only dipped into the lowest 10% twice (and that barely). At this rate, the pack should be good for 5-7 years, and then I’ll swap it out for a higher capacity one.

    So, to summarize: it really works, and I’m not giving it back. I wish Tesla all the best with the Model S, and think they’ll do very well.

  • avatar

    I wish people that have never driven (or probably even seen) a Tesla would keep their speculative bad-mouthing comments to themselves. If you have no experience of something please SHUT UP with your “this is shit and it’ll never work” derogatory comments !! It really is very tedious.

    Discovering electro-thrust is truly a real life Eureka style moment. If you are a petrol head, trust me, it will be the biggest auto-related eye opener you will ever have. Period. It is truly awesome, fantastic and at the same time a bit surreal as there is so little aural drama when accelerating. So much so, I put my V6 350Z up for sale and now ride a bike while I save up for a brand new electric car :)

    Google “Tesla test drive monaco” for my lap around the Grand Prix circuit at the supercar show last year (unfortunately only slowly round the circuit as the road was open to public still…)

  • avatar
    Martin B

    Is that a radiator in the front? What needs cooling?

  • avatar

    There are a variety of Tesla owner forums where they discuss the range issues, which I found out when I was feeling curious about the car one day. One of the clearest accounts I’ve found regarding the use of the car in longer range driving is here:

    Granted from Tesla’s blog, but this fellow drove from Silicon Valley to Yosemite and back, planning out short stops at RV campgrounds, convention centers, and other places along the way that had outdoor electrical outlets. He drove somewhat conservatively if I remember correctly (the range drops off quickly at more than 55MPH, like conventional cars), but much of the driving was in mountains, and I don’t think he was babying the accelerator in those areas.

    The round trip was about 400 miles. He could get some charge simply from plugging in at the lodge he stayed overnight at, and got a good chunk at the RV park while taking a little walk and reading a book, since they had 240 available.

    Obviously not a good car if you need to drive cross country frequently, but if people have all these ‘concerns’ regarding the practicality of electric vehicles, there are plenty of facts and solutions to be found out there – you’re not going to just be walking home unless you’re negligent, which happens to plenty of people in ICE driven cars as it is. The main advantage being you can bring someone a container of gas – although the Tesla Model S is supposedly going to have battery units that can be swapped out on the fly to extend the range, I think…

    I still distrust Tesla as a company for a number of reasons, and I would never buy the Roadster due to its impracticality, but I have to admit the Model S, with it’s hatchback, extended cargo area (as well as under-hood boot), swappable battery backs, great looks, and 6 second 0-60 time is pretty damn appealing.

  • avatar

    “Even Tesla concedes that the range of the Roadster will become unacceptable to most owners after two to three years.”

    Absolutely false. Tesla claims they’ll last seven years (they used to claim five). A *laptop*’s battery won’t last that long, but there’s a big difference: the Roadster refrigerates its cells rather than letting them bake next to a CPU. It also does a lot more intricate charge monitoring and balancing, and doesn’t charge/discharge them as deeply.

  • avatar

    Oh, and I have to second the comments about, “if you’ve never been in a Roadster, why are you commenting?”. I’ve ridden in one, and let me tell you… It’s a car designed to do one thing, and it does it well: plaster a smile on your face for any trip under 150 miles or so. It’s not a pickup. It’s not an SUV. It’s not a cross-country-econobox. It’s a smile generator for those 95% of drives that are 150 miles or less.

    It can do longer, but for ~200 miles, you have to slow down, and for more than 200 miles, you need to stop at a charger or high power socket and spend a couple hours napping, shopping, catching a movie, or whatnot. I.e., you’re wedging it into a role it’s not designed for, like trying to haul bricks and plywood with an econobox sedan or trying to hypermile a Hummer. But if you want a car that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face for those 150-mile-or-less trips, the Roadster does its job perfectly.

  • avatar

    Speaking of RV parks…I told Darryl Sirry (something like that)The sales director at Tesla, that there already exists an electrical charging network of RV parks, as there is in EVERY country.

    All you have to do is reconfigure the satnav to link battery miles available and locations of RV parks and your car will tell you when to come off the road for a break and a charge…RV parks all have showers and toilets, many have pools and restaurants and most are in lovely locations.

    MUCH better than your regular shitty freeway/motorway stop I would wager!!

    In the US and Europe, RV parks (camping grounds) all have access to high amperage/voltage supplies as well.

    So please don’t give me the “it will never catch on as you can’t go very far” crap !!!!

  • avatar

    Sutski: I’ve actually started a company to do just that — Celadon Applications. Our product not only shows chargers, RV parks, and other places with power (including places that are commonly helpful in emergencies, such as fire departments), but it also has a high precision physics-and-behavior based range calculator tied in. And the calculator can also be used to time starting/stopping/power bands of generators in PHEVs, as well as to warn you if you can’t reach your destination and to offer to call a tow truck to meet you where you’ll run out or to show you a phone book of businesses in the area you can try calling for a bit of emergency power. Our tech is patent-pending. The frontend is Google Maps-based, so it should be familiar and easy to use for most people.

    So next time you talk to anyone in a company making EVs, if you want that feature, drop our name. :) We’d be glad to give them a demo.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    KarenRei: your company sounds very interesting; do you know Protoscar, the Swiss company that developed the Lampo prototype car as a technology demonstrator? Geodata for EVs is one of their strengths, too.

  • avatar

    What would happen if you got stuck in a terrible snowstorm (a blizzard, to be exact) on the (NJ) Garden State Parkway and it was stop and go traffic (mostly stop)for lotsa miles and the temperature started dropping rapidly and you had your heater and defroster on full blast trying to keep warm and the windshild clear….in a Tesla?

    This happened to us in my cheap, plastic coated SL1 Saturn a few years back. We finally did get to our destination (Pleasantville, NY) about 6 hours late, still warm as toast and a quarter tank of gas. Would somebody please tell me what would have happened in a Tesla?

    I’m not kidding, I’d like to know.

  • avatar


    The Tesla battery has enough juice to run the HVAC full-blast for about 15 hours straight. With the hardtop on you’re pretty well insulated; top that off with seat heaters and recirculation, and I doubt you’d need continuous full power to the HVAC. The battery pack is large enough that it retains heat well; that’s why it has to be liquid-cooled: it wouldn’t have a temperature problem in your blizzard scenario.

    So your answer is, you’d end up bragging to your friends about how well your Tesla survived a blizzard. ;-)

  • avatar

    Folks, you might not like the Tesla, you might think it’s some kind of Silicon Valley scam, but if it was made in my country, I’d be mighty proud.

    Thanks Martin. This is the first time I’ve read an article on TTAC by someone who groks the Tesla.

  • avatar

    Thanks, that was a fair answer. And you were the only one that seemed to be willing to offer one.
    But still, I do have my doubts…..
    In my scenario, the Tesla is being DRIVEN through wet, heavy snowdrifts, and I assume using a considerable amount of battery energy just negotiating (plowing?) through the grimy slop. Ice and snow are building up in the wheel wells,adding considerable weight to the car, and sorry but the HVAC and headlights are 100% ON..(It’s pitch black, snowing hard, and 7PM in winter). Some drivers are running out of gas causing further delays. Things are not good and getting worse. Crawling traffic continues up that long, snaking hill to the George Washington Bridge and then slowly moving onto the Cross Bronx Expressway across the Hudson. Finally we are heading North, the traffic clears and are able to slide and slog through the heavy snowdrifts at 25 MPH max. We finally arrive in Pleasantville, 8 hours late, but still ready for fast bathroom visit, a (cold) dinner, some (stiff) drinks, and none the worse for wear. We remove our baggage (about 50 pounds) from this “iced over sad sack” called a ’94 Saturn.

    The next morning we scraped off the windshield, all piled in and drove downtown for breakfast. Later that day I gassed up for the next-morning trip back to greater Washington, DC where this trip originated. The frumpy old Saturn never missed a beat.

    But….. My earlier scenario was unfair…. I should have mentioned…the trip to Pleasantville, NY started in early morning from a small town about 50 miles south of Washington, DC and we started hitting the heavy snow mid-morning on the New Jersey Tpke where we slowed to a crawl for most of the day. We visited one Turnpike Rest Stop that afternoon for the “usual things” plus a gas tank top-off.

    $100,000(?) Tesla??? I DOUBT IT!
    $12,OOO Saturn??? NOT A PROBLEM!

  • avatar

    bigbadbill: I think the only two advantages the Saturn might have in your real-life scenario are FWD and greater ground clearance … neither of which are relevant to the electric versus gas propulsion issue. No low, RWD sports car would be your transport of choice in a blizzard.

  • avatar


    I wouldn’t want to slog my way through a heavy snowstorm in a Miata or S2000 either, just as I wouldn’t take a Suburban out on a racetrack and expect to be competitive.

    Still, lots of folks happily drive Miatas, S2000s and Suburbans just about everyday. Different cars are good at different things.

    Toyota made an electric RAV4 for a while. That would do pretty good in all buy the very deepest snow. The range wasn’t great, but that was ten years ago and batteries are already much better and continue to improve all the time. There is good reason to expect that a 300 mile range 4-wheel drive electric SUV could be made at a fairly reasonable price within 10 years.

  • avatar

    I think (maybe) you’re missing my point. Any “normal” gasoline (or diesel) powered (internal combustion) vehicle would probably have made the trip (barring an abnormal breakdown, accident or an empty fuel tank) through my “real” blizzard scenario from Washington, DC to Pleasantville, NY without a hitch. I just happened to be in a Saturn.
    You guys are just making “educated guesses” when it comes to the Tesla performance under subnormal (read “awful”) conditions. You really don’t know what would have happened with the Tesla unless “you been there, done that”. Remember…as bad as the weather was, 99+% of the drivers on the road made it home that night…sooner or later). Sure, there were a few idiot drivers that got stuck in snowbanks and huddled in their cars ’till help arrived.
    I guess my point is that if I were driving my Tesla, (and knowing its limitations) I would have turned off the Jersey Pike at the first hint of “blizzard conditions”, got a $150.00 motel room (if available!), and plugged my car in (somewhere) for the night. The next morning, after breakfast ($50.00 for two), I suppose we would have packed up, unplugged the cord and been on our way…one day late for our Pleasantville party….
    Naw…you can have your Tesla! :-)

  • avatar


    I understand where you are coming from, and I respect your opinion, but I’m gonna have to disagree. If I was stuck in a bad snow in a Miata or S2000 with that sort of drive ahead of me, I would be checking into a motel and planning to try again the next day.

    Give me the Tesla Model S, or any equivalent regular sized non-sports car, and I’ll gladly make that trip, regardless that my ride is electric.

    I agree the Tesla Roadster would not get you there, but only because it’s a sports car, not because it’s electric.


  • avatar


    Why do you say that the Model S would get you there, but the Roadster wouldn’t? I’m not sure I follow your logic.

  • avatar

    I admit..I’m not sure why the Miata or S2000 would’nt…shouldn’t….couldn’t.. successfully make this “trip from hell” (with a decent driver behind the wheel). I just don’t know enough about these cars. But just because they are “sports cars”, I’m not exactly sure why they could not have made it. But certainly you know the limitations of these cars better than I do and so I accept your information.
    Maybe I’m just a “Doubting Thomas” (my middle name) but laptops (on battery power) come to mind. I never have been able to get what the marketing guys claim for the energy density of laptop batteries. They always seemed to crap out much earlier then what they tell you in the specs. Maybe this is an unfair comparison…I dunno. I’ll wind up saying that the jury is still out on the Tesla (as far as I’m concerned)’till I see a few of them easily surviving a few years of Central New York State winters (Say, the Herkimer County area) :-)

  • avatar

    On the battery issue, the answer is fairly simple.

    The two worst things you can do to a lithium-ion battery is keep it fully charged, or to keep it hot. Typical laptop batteries are usually both at once, when the computer is used while sitting on the charger. That’s why they don’t last very long.

    The Tesla limits the charge level of the battery pack to about 15% – 85% of the batteries’ true capacity, with occasional excursions to 5% – 95% in “Range” mode. The battery pack is also liquid-cooled, which keeps it at approximately room temperature at all times. This extends the useful life of the batteries to 5-7 years. This is not just theoretical: after nearly a year and over 10k miles, my Tesla’s battery pack retains 98%+ of its original capacity.

    Note that Apple and other computer companies have begun to incorporate some of these ideas into their laptops; Apple’s new MacBook Pros have internal batteries with an expected 5-year lifespan.

  • avatar

    BBB wrote:

    I admit..I’m not sure why the Miata or S2000 would’nt…shouldn’t….couldn’t.. successfully make this “trip from hell” (with a decent driver behind the wheel). I just don’t know enough about these cars. But just because they are “sports cars”, I’m not exactly sure why they could not have made it.

    Those sports cars, Tesla Roadster included, are much lower to the ground and rear-wheel drive–both of which tend to be impediments in blizzards with deep snow. Maybe the snow you dealt with that day wasn’t as deep as what we’re used to in Canada, but we tend to pick vehicles with greater ground clearance and four-wheel drive (or at least front-wheel drive) when the going gets tough. It’s often not a matter of couldn’t or wouldn’t … but it can definitely be a matter of shouldn’t.

  • avatar

    I see your point. But the Tesla is so light, it would just ride up on top of the snow like Legolas in Lord of the Rings :-)

    I don’t know whether the Model S is planned to have a 4-wheel-drive option, which might require a second front-mounted motor, or what its ground clearance is. But if the snow is deep enough to stop a Roadster, it’s probably not perfectly safe for a Saturn either..

  • avatar

    BigBadBill, if you’re rich and smart enough to buy a Tesla, under the scenario you mention you are in Palm Beach for the winter and have not a care in the world.

    But one thing nobody seems to have pointed out is that if we assume the HVAC system will keep running (as our Tesla owner friend BenW states), the Tesla should be the best car in the world to run in this stalled traffic scenario.

    Why? Because the Tesla only consumes power when it’s moving. There is no concept of “idling” in an electric vehicle. You might even find the Tesla has significantly above average range in a situation like that, with the motor not running much of the time, and it not being asked to accelerate or run fast.

    Unfortunately, I doubt that BenW will have data on this subject, because as a Tesla owner he is too intelligent to live in a miserable, cold climate!


    [The author loathes the cold and wishes Global Warming would hurry up and do its job.]

  • avatar

    Ha. Well, I do live in Santa Barbara, CA, where we don’t deal with snow too often. :)

    The Tesla’s maximum efficiency is achieved at around 20mph; below that, drivetrain friction wastes more energy per mile; above that, air resistance wastes more energy per mile. If you were patient enough to stay at that speed, you could drive the Roadster 400 miles on a charge. But it’s true that it doesn’t waste any energy “idling” at a standstill. (Nor does a Prius, for that matter.)

    An anecdote: my Tesla has only had one significant problem since I’ve owned it, which was that in a manufacturing fluke, a wire became pinched in the battery pack and triggered an internal fault. This happened at night, on a completely full battery, and the car had to be flatbedded 70 miles to the service center. In order to bleed off charge (it’s healthiest for the battery not to be fully charged), I turned on the HVAC and told the tow truck driver to let it run for several hours. I would have just left the headlights on, but the Roadster battery could power the headlights for an entire month. :)

  • avatar


    I used to hang out in Santa Barbara in the late 1950’s…nice town.

    Tesla: It seems we might be getting our moneys worth for this unique vehicle.

    Still, I’d like to see 3 years of daily driving in Herkimer County, NY. (winter AND summer). I did just that in a Dodge Omni stick-shift and a Pougeot engine. (and 4 studded snow tires in the winter). The “Spring Thaw” (melting ice loaded with huge doses of road salt) was unbelievable. My Dodge seemed to hold up better than the Honda Civics of that era. They began rusting away after the first winter ’till they literally fell apart in a few years.

  • avatar

    The benefit to having a Tesla in a situation like a blizzard, is if the snow really does come down to the point where you are stopped till the plows get you out – you won’t die of asphixiation from the fuel in your Saturn coming through the tail pipe and into the cab.

    Much better to be safe and alive, and in a TESLA.

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