Last August, I posted about the rumors swirling that the Tesla Model S would look the Aston Martin Rapide concept. Then in October, a “rendered speculation” was created that led many to believe the car might look otherwise. But the rendering seemed to deviate from what Tesla spokesmen claimed would be a large four-door hatchback sedan. Also I found it doubtful that the company would build a car with an obvious Asian sportscar influence in the design.
But the Model S peaking out from under the tarp in Tesla’s official teaser photo very much resembles the Aston Martin Rapide. Right down to the fender side vents. Obviously, the Model S will look slightly different when it finally unveiled. But until then, this is probably the best estimate of what the 4-door electric sedan will look like:
Tesla recently announced its Roadster Sport edition. To be succinct, the Sport powers from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds (.2 seconds faster than the base model), has a sweet HEMI muscle car like orange and black paint job, Yokohama performance tires, custom suspension, and blacked out rims.
So how do you get more juice out of an electric motor? You can’t add performance headers and intakes or any fun widgets like turbo and superchargers. So Tesla hand wound the wires that wrap around the stator to create more power. The stator is the stationary part of an electric generator or electric motor. The non-stationary part on an electric motor is the rotor. Here is a picture of a traditional rotor (left) and stator (right):
The stator is an electromagnet (see left), meaning when an electric current passes through it, the rotor is magnetically attracted to spin in a certain direction. So if you hand spin the wires into the stator, you can pack more wires in, allowing more electrical current to pulse through each segment. The more powerful current sequentially magnetizes each segment and spins the attracted rotor faster. Also, I’m not an electrical engineer so you can correct me in the comments section.
The Tesla Roadster is powered by a 3-phase, 4-pole electric motor, producing a maximum net power of 248 hp (185kW). The Sport Model, with its higher density, hand wound stator produces a maximum of 288 hp (215 kW). Both motors are designed for rotational speeds of up to 14,000rpm, and the regular motor delivers an efficiency of typically 90%, or 80% at peak power. Couple this with Tesla’s new Powertrain 1.5, and you have one of the meanest electric machines ever produced.
Tesla Motors introduces Roadster Sport
SAN CARLOS, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Tesla Motors Inc. began taking orders today for the Roadster Sport, a high-performance sports car based on the world’s leading all-electric, zero-emission vehicle.
The Roadster Sport does 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, compared with 3.9 seconds for the standard Roadster. It comes with a hand-wound stator and increased winding density for lower resistance and higher peak torque. In addition to Yokohama’s Ultra High Performance tires, the Roadster Sport has improved suspension with adjustable dampers and anti-roll bars that will be tuned to the driver’s preference.
The Roadster Sport starts at $128,500 in the United States and €112,000 (excluding VAT) in Europe. Deliveries begin in late June.
“This car can beat nearly anything in its price class – yet it is twice as efficient as compact hybrid sedans,” said Michael van der Sande, Tesla’s senior vice president of global sales, service and marketing. “If you refuse to compromise on performance or the environment, the Roadster Sport is your only option.”
The Roadster Sport is the first derivative of Tesla’s proprietary, patented powertrain. San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla plans to begin producing the all-electric, zero-emssion Model S five-passenger sedan in 2011.
Tesla has delivered more than 150 Roadsters to customers, and about 1,100 people are on the waiting list. Customers who haven’t taken delivery may upgrade to the Roadster Sport.
“The Roadster Sport embodies Tesla’s spirit of continuous improvement,” said CEO, Chairman and Product Architect Elon Musk. “The Roadster has been a great success, but no one at this company remains satisfied with the status quo.
After the unfortunate Top Gear review of the Tesla Roadster, I thought I would provide a more in-depth and encouraging review hosted by Emile Bouret of OnCars.com. This three part review is very informative and really covers all the bases, as Emile describes the Tesla Roadster’s design, experience, and performance. You can watch the videos in high quality at OnCars.com, but it was a bit hard to navigate, some of the links sent me to a Maxima review instead of the next part. So I embedded them below.
2009 Tesla Roadster Part 1: Design
This goes over the exterior of the Tesla Roadster. While the car is based on a lengthened Lotus chassis, the two cars only share the same windshield. The car’s large front intake provides an aggressive look, and more than enough air for the cooling system.
2009 Tesla Roadster Part 2: Interior & User Experience
Don’t let the title fool you, this is actually really interesting. Emile sits inside the Tesla Roadster and starts the car, which is a very unique, Playstation like experience. He also notes that if a law is passed to make electric cars louder, it should amplify the jet turbine sound of the regenerative braking. I don’t really understand how a car can be too quiet and thus a safety concern, especially when most modern family sedans are nearly silent from over 10 feet away.
2009 Tesla Roadster Part 3: Performance
What can be said that hasn’t been said already. 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, instant full torque, and zero emissions.
I was browsing AutoBlogGreen today and I found out that Top Gear had done a piece on the Tesla Roadster. This was something I had been waiting for for a very long time, because I love the British show and couldn’t wait for their take on the famous electric supercar. Performance wise, the car, fitted with Tesla’s Powertrain 1.5, definitely impressed Jeremy Clarkson, likening the car to broadband motoring in a world of dial-up. However, that was before the car’s battery died after 50 miles of driving. Then they were not impressed by the 16 odd hours it would take them to charge it back up. So they got another Tesla Roadster, which Jeremy managed to overheat (overheated motor, he said, which is odd because the electric motor is just air-cooled for its nominal cooling requirement). To add insult to injury, somehow, the brakes broke on the first one while it was sitting in the garage. So this led the show’s hosts to deem the car impractical for today’s world of driving. Here is the Top Gear: Tesla Roadster Youtube video, which will probably go down soon:
[EDIT: If you want to see Tesla's side of the story, scroll down to the first comment of this article, by Rachel Konrad, Senior Communications Manager of Tesla Motors. Top Gear's piece ended up being somewhat of a PR disaster regarding Tesla's reliability, and hearing another side to the story is helpful. I won't make a judgment on what happened because I wasn't there and I can only write about what was in the video.]
The other host on the show, James May, sparked my curiosity at the end, talking about finding an alternative to the battery electric car and future of motoring. So I found the James’ segment on the Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen electric car. I have never been a fan of hydrogen cars, because they are about as technologically advanced as spaceships and don’t seem like they will be practical economically. Some say the car, right now, would be priced at $10,000,000. Plus, hydrogen is something Shell can sell you, so of course they will push this on us. But I was impressed by the FCX Clarity Hydrogen, which is really basically just an electric car with a hydrogen powered generator that will extend the range to around 300 miles. So it utilizes the superior efficiency of an electric motor while eliminating the bulk and range limits of batteries. Also according to the video, hydrogen is about at cheap as gas and the car’s only byproduct is water. Don’t be fooled though, the hydrogen car is very far down the road. Here is the Top Gear: Honda FCX Clarity Hydrogen segment:
Sources: YouTube, Autobloggreen
Electric cars require cooling systems. Not nearly to the extent that a combustion engine vehicle does, but lithium ion batteries get hot. Put your laptop on your lap for an hour and you might start cooking your own thighs. So you can imagine, thousands of lithium ion batteries will require a significant amount of cooling. There are 6,831 lithium-ion batteries in the Tesla Roadster, each about a third bigger than a typical AA battery. They’re linked together in a unique package that incorporates liquid cooling, safety fuses, and sensors that prevent the cells from experiencing what battery engineers like to call “thermal events.” The batteries feed 410 volts to the Roadster’s air-cooled AC induction motor. Here is the AC cooling system, for the cabin and battery pack:
Martin Eberhard, former CEO of Tesla Motors, is making the claim that the current cooling pump is working overtime, a lot of overtime. In, fact Eberhard stated that the pump for his Tesla Roadster seemed to be on all of the time, which is completely unnecessary after the car has been parked for an hour or so. Now the ESS cooling system is crucial to the life of the battery, but this is ridiculous. So, Martin Eberhard, being the electrical engineer that he is, installed one of those electric meters you see on the sides of houses ahead of his car’s charging station. Then he charged the car up fully, unplugged it for four days, then measured how much power it took to recharge the battery after the car sat, fully charged and cool, for four days. Doing some math, he found the car consumed 1,278 kWh per year, from just sitting there. That is enough to power two big refrigerators. Not only is this significant on your electrical bill, but this drastically reduces the lifespan of the pump. Eberhard explains in his blog post:
The second question is the life expectancy of the pump. I expect that Tesla used an automotive-grade pump from a good supplier. I am also sure that no other car leaves a pump running 24/7. Consider a typical car designed to run for 200,000 miles at an average speed of 30 mph. Such a car is designed to run for 200,000 / 30 = 6,666 hours. Let’s say the designers want some room for error, and design the water pump for that car to operate for 10,000 hours without failure. 10,000 hours life expectancy would be a good-quality automotive pump.
Now, let’s run that same pump 24/7 instead of the couple of hours per day it would run in our typical car. Running 24/7, that pump will pass 10,000 hours in only 13 months. That’s all – end of life. Just to make it through Tesla’s 3-year warranty, that pump would need to last 26,280 hours without failure. To last just 5 years, the pump would need to run 43,800 hours. Hopefully, Tesla installed a pump rated for at least 50,000 hours of operation without failure, implying an MTBF of at least 70,000 hours, assuming an exponential failure distribution. Does any automotive parts manufacturer even make such a pump?
Tesla also told Eberhard that the new Drivetrain 1.5, that they guarantee to retrofit all the purchased Tesla Roadsters with, will not make any changes to the pump. However, in a recent article from TIME, Elon Musk responded to Eberhard’s cooling pump complaints and also shed some light on the nature of their tumultuous business relationship:
Eberhard, the ousted cofounder, says Musk interfered with the design of the roadster, demanding changes that were costly and led to delays. These included installing electronic door latches, building a lightweight carbon-fiber body and lowering the doorsill by two inches. “It cost us $1.5 million to lower that doorsill,” Eberhard says. “We would have been better off to have a simpler car shipping a year earlier.” Musk says his design changes were not the cause of delays. Eberhard says that despite Tesla’s green-tech credentials, the roadster has a coolant pump that operates even when the car is parked, wasting as much electricity as two refrigerators. Musk says that will be fixed next month. Eberhard also gripes that Musk controls the board of directors, whose members include his brother Kimbal Musk. “I’m very unhappy about what’s happened to my company” under Elon, says Eberhard, who still owns about 3 percent of Tesla. “I think he’s a terrible CEO.” Elon Musk responds that “Martin is the worst individual I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with.” -TIME, An Electric Car Loses Its Juice
While Eberhard does have a legitimate complaint, keep in mind he probably takes some pleasure in publicly criticizing Elon Musk’s Roadster. But in the end, both sides just want to see the Roadster improved, and hopefully the issue can be fixed fairly easily and cheaply.
:25- “The jury is still out on whether electric cars can ever really be practical”
The EV1 and Toyota Rav-4 EV showed us that electric cars could be completely viable alternatives over 10 years ago, using lead-acid batteries.
:58- “This (Tesla Roadster) is the first, all electric sports car…”
C’mon Lesley, you’re better than that. Forget the Venturi Fetish, Hybrid Technology’s LiV Rush, the Wrightspeed, and the Tzero; the Tesla Roadster was the first electric sports car. Why? Because an intern at CBS Googled it.
2:50-Enter Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of GM
Is it me or could this man talk me out of driving a Ferrari off the lot for 10 grand. He is a terrible spokesman. He just sounds like he would rather be playing with his helicopters, his countless sports cars, and his Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet in German Luftwaffe colors (image right). It sounds like hes doing this because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed by Tesla, not because he believes in the product.
4:13- “GM is already touting the car even though don’t yet have a working prototype.”
Really, not even a working prototype? GM had EV1′s with 160 mile ranges before they canceled the program. What happened?
4:25- “The real trick on the car, is software. The car needs to know where home plate is.” -Lutz
Oh, thats the holdup. The hold up is developing a completely unnecessary amenity that will tell the car how close you are to home. Use GPS, hook it up to the gasoline activation system, done deal. Why are they even working on this? If the charge is low, the gasoline extender should just come on regardless of where you are, for safety’s sake. This is like delaying a trip to Mars because they can’t decide what color to paint the ship.
5:55- “People say, I hope you enjoy the billions you got from the oil companies, you swine” -Lutz
Well, do you?
8:45- Ethanol and hydrogen all had problems, won’t that happen with the electric car?
Ray Lane- “It could.”
Come on man, your selling electric cars. You should have a practiced response to this. New, cheap, clean, and renewable sources of electricity are being built every day. Electric cars can run off electricity that is available everywhere. The infrastructure is already here, as well as the technology; electric cars are the only vehicles that can someday have absolutely no carbon emissions. You cannot compare it to ethanol and hydrogen. Those were fake solutions to begin with. Why? Because the oil companies want to sell ethanol and hydrogen.
10:20- Yeah, but they (silicon valley) have no experience in the car business…-Lutz
Grasping for straws…