Elec­tric car turns heads

The sexy new pin-up model for elec­tric motoring shat­ters the im­age of slow, plod­ding boxes with no grunt, writesMARKHINCHLIFFE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

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.

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