The first performance electric car manufactured by Tesla Motors, the high-performance, zero-emissions Tesla Roadster, was unveiled before a throng of well-wishers, car buffs, and potential customers Wednesday evening during Tesla’s “Signature One Hundred” event at Barker Hangar.
More than 350 invited guests spent the evening learning about the new sports car, speaking with Tesla Motors executives, and going for rides along the tarmac at the Santa Monica Airport, adjacent to the event. Many signed up to be among the first to take delivery of the Tesla Roadster, becoming Signature One Hundred Members.
Celebrities in attendance included actor Ed Begley Jr., producer Richard Donner, businessman Michael Eisner, PayPal founder (and Tesla Motors Chairman) Elon Musk, Participant Productions'' Founder and CEO Jeff Skoll, also of eBay fame, and producer and car collector Joel Silver. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped by prior to the evening''s activities to learn more about Tesla Motors and the Roadster.
"We''re thrilled to have the support of top people from so many different industries," said Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors. "High-tech, CleanTech, entertainment, automotive, you name it. It''s gratifying to have others realize the significance or what Tesla Motors is doing."
The electric-powered Tesla Roadster boasts a top speed of more than 130 mph and a range of 250 miles on a single charge, a combination heretofore unseen in a mass-produced electric vehicle. Its extended range is due to its state-of-the-art lithium-ion Energy Storage System. The Tesla Roadster is capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in about four seconds.
"The Tesla Roadster delivers sports car performance without using any gasoline," said Eberhard. "This is what we hoped to achieve when we started the company three years ago, to build a car with zero emissions that people would love to drive."
Using a unique two-speed manual transmission, the Tesla Roadster''s power comes from a 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor coupled with the Power Electronics Module (PEM) which provides multiple functionality of inverting direct current to 3-phase alternating current, the charging system, and the regenerative braking system.
The Roadster''s Energy Storage System (ESS) provides power to the entire vehicle, including the motor. Its durable, tamper-resistant enclosure includes: 6,831 lithium-ion cells; a network of microprocessors for maintaining charge balance and temperature among the batteries; a cooling system; and an independent safety system designed to disconnect power outside the enclosure under a variety of detectable safety situations.
The Tesla Roadster comes complete with its Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE), a home-based charging system. An optional mobile charging kit, for re-charging while away from the EVSE, also features this automatic disconnect system. Charging the Tesla Roadster takes approximately 3.5 hours.
The Tesla Roadster is capable of driving up to 250 miles (EPA Highway) on a single charge, a range roughly triple that of previous mass-produced electric vehicles, like General Motors'' EV1.
"It didn''t make sense to sell a car that couldn''t go 90 miles on a charge. You''d spend more time charging the old EVs than driving them," said Eberhard. "Lithium-ion technology, which has been proven in many different applications, has allowed us to achieve exactly what we thought it would in terms of power, range and efficiency."
The body design of the Tesla Roadster, which included a collaborative effort by the company''s employees, has been headed by Barney Hatt, Principal Designer at the Lotus Design Studio in England. The result is a sleek, stylish sports car that will appeal to enthusiasts and environmentalists the world over.
Tesla designers and engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure that not only is the Tesla Roadster safe to drive, but also when charging the performance electric car, at home or on the road. Their goal is to not only meet, but to surpass the rigorous standards of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, or FMVSS, as implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Tesla co-founders Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who serves as Vice President, Engineering, have brought together a team of automotive industry veterans plus Silicon Valley electronics and Internet engineers to bring the Tesla Roadster to life.
Research and Development for Tesla Motors is based at the Corporate Headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. Engines are manufactured at Tesla''s facility in Taiwan, and assembly takes place at Tesla''s plant in England.
Eberhard and Tarpenning provided the early funding for the company, and were joined in 2003 by Musk, CEO of SpaceX, who is the major investor in the company and serves as Chairman of Tesla Motors.
Musk worked with Eberhard and Tarpenning to attract more investors and approach Venture Capital firms, and in June 2006, Tesla Motors announced that the company had secured and additional $40 million in financing led by Musk and VantagePoint Venture Partners, one of the largest CleanTech investors in the Silicon Valley.
Deliveries of the Tesla Roadster are expected to begin next summer.