Elon Musk has progressed the Tesla brand from a niche business for the few into an electric vehicle empire that has consistently broken the train of thought when it comes to the everyday usage of plug-in cars.
Before the revolutionary Model 3 was released to the masses, the then Silicon valley start-up was experimenting with what they could produce with just an electric powertrain. With a love for sports cars himself, Elon Musk began developing the Tesla Roadster.
The goal with the Tesla Roadster was to emulate the emotion and driving experience of a lightweight sports car whilst showcasing the innovation and creativity that tesla had been developing with their electric drivetrains.
As Tesla has announced a new generation of the Roadster due for release in 2022, let’s look back at the original Tesla Roadster and all the things that made it perhaps the most special car that Tesla has designed so far.
It Was The First Tesla
In 2003, Tesla Inc. was founded by two American entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, the company was named after Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. The majority of the funding for the venture came from Elon Musk, who would go on to become CEO.
Then in 2008, Tesla released their first car. The completely electric Tesla Roadster was groundbreaking. It could achieve up to 245 miles on a single charge, which at the time was a range unprecedented for any production electric car. Performance figures were comparable to that of most lightweight gas-powered sports cars. the Roadster could see off the 0-60MPH sprint in just 3.7 seconds and could go on to reach a top speed of 125 miles per hour.
The lightweight car body was made of carbon fiber and was based on the chassis of the already popular Lotus Elise. The Roadster set the theme for Tesla, producing no running emissions at all as it did not use any form of an internal combustion engine. Despite its sportiness and nimble handling, Tesla found that the Roadster reached efficiency ratings equivalent to gas mileage of 135 miles per gallon.
The vehicle’s electric powertrain was made up of lithium-ion cells, the same kind used in laptop batteries, these could be recharged from a standard electric outlet, as it was a while away from the supercharger infrastructure they have today. Despite the government discount, the Roadster ended up costing $109,000, so it was a long way from the affordability Tesla has achieved today.
Why The Tesla Roadster Was So Special
Despite only having a single-speed transmission, the Tesla Roadster provides a truly spirited drive. With all the power going to the rear wheels and extremely sharp and nimble handling it was a really special package. All this meant that the Roadster became the first electric vehicle to win the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally.
As well as this, the Roadster was awarded a number of awards for innovation and overall design. It was truly a push of the boundaries for all things automotive and showcased the extent of Tesla’s research and development network. It was the world’s first truly green supercar and the first electric car you can use every day.
For a car that was released over 14 years ago, it was truly ahead of its time. the first electric vehicle to travel more than 200 miles on a single charge. During its production run from 2008 until 2012, Tesla sold just 2,450 examples, one going into the garage of eco-advocate Leonardo DiCaprio. Although the technology used in the original Roadster is undoubtedly modern, it may appear quite ancient to those who have become familiar with current Tesla models.
The Roadster itself was for the first time an electric car with a usable and livable range accompanied by genuinely thrilling dynamics whilst being offered as a commercial proposition that could be purchased. At the time, most electric cars announced by manufacturers were no more than a concept, a PR stunt that would never see the light of production.
A drop-top sports convertible, with an electric powertrain providing instant torque to the rear wheels, it was a recipe the world had never seen before. While the Roadster shares lots of common mechanical components with the Lotus Elise on which it is based, the body panels and drivetrain are fully Tesla.
The subsequent success of future Tesla models makes the Roadster all the more intriguing and special. Not only is it a very interesting car to drive, but it’s the earliest Tesla and one of the earliest production electric cars.
With such a legendary legacy and taking such a significant point in the history of electric cars, the Tesla Roadster goes down as one of the most special and collectible pieces in automotive history. With such small production numbers they are already fetching a premium, and with time it’s no doubt that they will continue to appreciate.
Electric cars seem to be the way of the future, but is owning a Tesla in 2019 the trendsetting idea that we’ve been lead to believe it is?
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