Electric car turns heads
The sexy new pin-up model for electric motoring shatters the image of slow, plodding boxes with no grunt, writesMARKHINCHLIFFE
THE Tesla Roadster is the poster car for electric motoring. It looks great and is quiet, powerful and electrifyingly quick. Other plug-in electric cars will get to Australian showrooms first, but most are plodding, quirky looking, slow to recharge and have limited range.
Something like a Mitsubishi iMiEV, which should be Australia’s first mass-market electric car, is a polar opposite to the Tesla.
It’s a city-only boxy runabout, not a Ferraristyle go-fast car.
Which is why I went to Queensland Raceway to have a go at the only Tesla in Australia.
There is no roar as I floor the accelerator in the quiet electric future car, but there is still plenty of V8-style acceleration. The tiny vehicle whips up to 100km/h in an impressive 4.2 seconds on a wet track with two people aboard.
Down the back straight the Tesla winds out to an indicated 110mph (177km/h), not far short of its limited top speed of 200km/h. And that’s what makes the Tesla different. It is based on a Lotus Elise, one of the world’s great two-seat driving cars, and genuinely goes like a Ferrari. It can be recharged in 3.5 hours and its range is about 390km, depending on how hard it is driven.
When I hop into the car the computer screen says the effective range is 285km. But after fewer than 12 laps and some hard 0-100km/h tests, the screen displays the message: ‘‘Motor getting hot. Power reduced.’’ Range is then reduced to about 100km.
My times gradually get worse because of fading brakes, reduced power and a nervous passenger, Eric ‘‘the human handbrake’’ Erickson. He represents Internode, the internet service provider that imported the vehicle for display work in Australia.
Erickson says the Roadster is not designed as a track car, but an everyday sports car.
‘‘It is designed to give other makers a bit of a fright — while they are still thinking about their electric cars, this one is already available and turning heads,’’ he says.
The Tesla is certainly is a head-turner, looking as futuristic as the DeLorean in Back to the Future.
Though it has no flux capacitor, it is named after a unit of magnetic flux density which in turn is named after Serbian physicist and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla.
The Roadster costs about $160,000 and currently sells only in the US, UK, Germany and France. It is a product of Tesla Motors in California, though it is built in the UK by Lotus using Elise parts, a light carbon-fibre body and a battery pack built from laptop computer cells.
But Tesla is also working on a four-door sedan, the Model S, which is expected to reach the market in 2012 and will include technology shared with Mercedes-Benz.
The S will cost half as much as the Roadster but will come with almost 500km of range, a 45-minute recharge time and a 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds.