Tesla Roadster 2.0: Elon Musk delivers 250mph 'hardcore smackdown' to supercar elite
In what will surely go down as one of the greatest 'one more thing' surprises in technology and automotive history, Elon Musk made a surprise announcement at the launch of the Tesla Semi truck - a new Tesla Roadster will launch in 2020, and it will be the quickest car ever made.
The sleek new sports car was driven out of the back of a Tesla Semi at the Los Angeles event on Thursday night (November 16), and was met by whoops and cheers from the audience not seen outside of a Steve Jobs-orchestrated iPhone launch.
Due in 2020 but with pre-orders open now, the new Tesla Roadster comes a decade after the original served as a proof-of-concept for Tesla and Musk - that electric cars were not only possible, but could be a commercial success. Although the first Roadster struggled to become the latter, it earned Tesla the money and reputation to build the luxury Model S and Model X, and mass-market Model 3 electric cars.
Straying dangerously close to pie-in-the-sky concept car rather than production car status, Musk claims the new Roadster will be the quickest car ever made, with a 0-60mph time of 1.9 seconds, a 0-100mph time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of "above 250mph".
To further whet the Teslarati appetite, the car has a claimed range of 620 miles from its 200kWh battery pack, double the size of Tesla's largest battery to date. With such a range, Musk said the car can be driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back, at highway speed, without recharging.
Of all the figures Musk mentioned, the car's torque is to be plotted furthest off the scale. Musk said the car produces 10,000 Newton meters of torque, which is frankly absurd. The Bugatti Chiron - a 1,500 horsepower, $3m hypercar with a top speed currently limited to 261mph - produces 1,600Nm, making the Roadster over six times as powerful.
"These numbers sound nutty, but they're real," Musk said with a shrug, adding how the Roadster is a "hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars."
While record-breaking numbers grab headlines, it isn't yet known how the Roadster will handle in the corners. Large batteries are heavy, and despite Tesla putting them in the floor of its cars (lowering the center of gravity to below that of most rivals), such a high-performance car will need to show off in the corners as much as it does in a straight line. The concept car's Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires - used by the likes of Ferrari and McLaren - at least suggest Tesla is headed in the right direction, but to truly upset the supercar establishment will take serious effort and resources.
The car is also practical, with storage and two small seats in the back for children - and like the original Roadster, the car has a removable glass roof panel which can be stored in the trunk.
Two electric motors deliver power to the rear wheels and a third powers the front axle. This means the car is capable of torque steering - also known as torque vectoring - where power can be shifted between the inside and outside wheel while cornering to improve handling. The hybrid Acura/Honda NSX and Porsche 918 Spyder supercars do this by powering each of the front wheels with a separate motor. It is interesting how Tesla has opted to split power across the rear axle instead.
The car, drivable but seemingly still a concept at this stage, features new, body-hugging seats, a steeply raked dashboard and center console with touch screen, and a topless and bottomless steering wheel like that from a fighter jet.
Reservations for the Roadster, which is due in 2020, are open now. The base configuration costs $200,000 and requires a $45,000 deposit, while a limited-edition 'Founders Series' requires the full $250,000 cost to be paid up-front. If all 1,000 examples of this model sell out, Tesla will have earned itself a $250m cash injection.
The 2020 release date should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, as Tesla has a poor record for meeting deadlines. The Model S, Model X and now the Model 3 have all fallen victim to manufacturing delays, and the company is currently going through what Musk describes as "production hell" to satisfy the 3's half-million-order waiting list.