Tesla Roadster Preview Cars

19 Фев 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Tesla Roadster Preview Cars отключены
Tesla Roadster Electric Cars

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Note: this first take of the Tesla Roadster is based on our drive of a US-spec car and is brought to you as part of CNET Australia ‘s Earth Day coverage. Tesla has yet to announce any plans to import the Roadster into Australia or, even, build it in right-hand drive.

Every automotive journalist who drives a Tesla comes away impressed with the car’s power, and we can say the same after taking the car out on a quick drive near the company’s Menlo Park store don’t call it a showroom or dealership in California.

Upside

In Performance mode, the car exhibits powerful and smooth torque delivery, even at speed. With this little open top roadster cruising at 105km/h on a freeway, we mashed the accelerator (don’t call it a gas pedal) and got a powerful push in the back that sent the car quickly up to 145km/h. The Tesla’s push is unique among sports cars though. Where other high-steppers, such as the BMW M3, makes you feel a kick in the back with every gear shift, the Tesla delivers a strong, steady push when you put your foot down on the pedal. That’s because the Tesla we drove featured Powertrain 1.5, that replaces the two-speed gearbox from the previous model with a single-speed unit.

Yes, Tesla patterns itself after tech companies, so the powertrain gets a version designation.

In this Tesla, as in other electric cars we’ve driven, the act of driving is … simple: move the shifter from Neutral to Drive, and you’re moving forward. Push the accelerator if you want to go faster and hit the brakes if you want to stop. The only real difference, besides the fact that the Tesla goes a lot faster than other electric cars, is that taking your foot off the accelerator at speeds less than 65km/h makes the car slow down as if you were applying light pressure on the brakes. That’s the regenerative powertrain in operation, using the car’s momentum to generate electricity for the battery pack.

The Tesla also has regenerative brakes, but you don’t need to use them too much, with the side benefit of less frequent brake maintenance.

Aside from Performance mode there are a few other modes, such as Standard and Range, selectable via a little touchscreen that’s rather inconveniently placed down by the driver’s left knee. Being an electric car, the Tesla’s driving range will fluctuate drastically depending on driving style. These different modes set potential energy-wasting characteristics, such as acceleration and speed, so a car in Range mode won’t offer near the amount of excitement as in Performance mode, but should reach its officially rated range of 365km.

Naturally Tesla’s representatives insist on putting the car into Performance mode during journalist drives.

As for the car’s handling, well, you can thank Lotus for its precise steering and excellent road-holding capabilities. Lotus builds the chassis for these cars essentially a Lotus Elise and then ships them to Tesla’s plant, where the powertrain is added.

Downside


It’s not all milk and honey though. For one, the brakes feel a little light, like they wouldn’t provide the kind of slowing power you’d want on a track or in an emergency. And two, the suspension feels softer than you would get in a Lotus Elise, as if Tesla specified a more comfortable ride for the car’s well-heeled clientele.

Tesla Roadster Electric Cars

The Tesla is about 320kg heavier than a Lotus Elise, and you feel that weight while cornering. Much of the weight gain is thanks to the 450kg Lithium-ion battery that sits behind the passenger compartment. Tesla strips out extra weight elsewhere around the car, though, most notably in having the body panels made from carbon fibre, as opposed to the fibreglass panels on the Lotus.

Although the Tesla’s US$109,000 (AU$153,000) price tag may seem high, it’s the cheapest car in the US with an all-carbon fibre body. Tesla also brags that the Roadster is a lot cheaper than a Ferrari, but with similar performance. Well, in the land of Freedom Fries, a Chevy Corvette or Nissan GT-R is substantially cheaper than the Tesla. However, where you will come out ahead in a Tesla is in maintenance and running costs.

Charging it up overnight costs pennies, compared with the ever-fluctuating prices for petrol, and there are fewer moving parts in the Tesla.

The electric motor, about the size of a watermelon, doesn’t have injectors, camshafts, pistons or gaskets, some of many things that can go bad on a petrol or diesel engine car. The day we were at the Tesla store, a few cars were in for maintenance, but all that was required for that was a firmware update.

One of the most fascinating things about the car is that as battery technology improves, the entire battery pack could be replaced more easily than you could replace the engine in a car. And new battery technology is likely to be lighter and have greater power density. That means substantially changed performance characteristics for the car, such as more range, better acceleration, and a higher top speed.

Outlook

It might be pricey and limited to sale in the US and Europe, but the Roadster is an exciting glimpse into our, potentially, electric car future. Battery technology sure has come a long way since GM’s ill-fated EV1.

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