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Driven: Tesla Roadster!

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Voelcker in Tesla Roadster

Voelcker in Tesla Roadster

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“Thrust. Pure, seamless, unstoppable, rocket-to-the-moon thrust. That’s what the 2009 Tesla Roadster is all about.”

So declares editor-in-chief John Voelcker, who just drove the Roadster this past week. His Bottom Line review of this thrilling all-electric sports car posts today on

That Voelcker was able to spend a few hours with the Roadster is in itself a feat. Previously’s exposure has been limited to spins around the block or ride-alongs with company staff; pushed-back production dates, looming gearbox issues, and a very limited number of prototypes certainly haven’t helped either.

Finally, the $109,000 Roadster is in production, with 20 cars a week being delivered, and the backlog of 1,000-plus orders is falling. And with dealerships in the works in Chicago, DC, Miami, New York, and Seattle, plus London and Munich, routine maintenance or repairs will no longer be so daunting.

With its expensive lithium-ion battery pack, the Roadster has one of the longest claimed ranges of any production electric car to date: up to 244 miles. Does this hold in real-world driving? Quite possibly, but this time we weren’t exactly doing an economy run. The system indicated 202 miles of range at the start of his drive, but 58 miles later it had fallen to 110 miles remaining—“underscoring that aggressive driving will drain the batteries in the 2009 Tesla Roadster much quicker than steady-speed cruising,” explains Voelcker, who says a bit more about 'range vs. vroom' in this post.

2009 Tesla Roadster

2009 Tesla Roadster

Enlarge Photo

Of course, as part of that aggressive driving he does admit to hitting triple-digit speeds at one point, driving mostly on twisty, hilly roads, and confesses [insert grin] that he “used the sheer, raw, relentless power over and over again, just for the hell of it.” Brimming with EV enthusiasm, Voelcker declares: “Forget rev bands, shift points, heel-and-toeing. They’re so last century. The Tesla Roadster will make you a convert to electric power. You just have to drive it.”

We also learned that while the Tesla Roadster might be one of the most exclusive cars in the world, it might not always seem that way around Silicon Valley. “While I was parked on a switchback to take pics, a dark green Tesla (probably one of the Founder's Series) came whizzing by in the other direction,” mused Voelcker. “Only in the foothills above Silicon Valley would two Teslas pass each other.”

In addition to the new Bottom Line review on the Roadster, you’ll find specs, photos, and related news all here at

And—we’ll be in Southern California Thursday as Tesla pulls the wraps off its long-anticipated Model S sedan. Stay tuned.

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Comments (10)
  1. "Tesla"

    Looks great..... but $109,000? That's really expensive just to be green. Who, beside Ed Begley Jr. can afford one of these?
    And can someone compare the 'green' factor/footprint between an all electric vehicle, a hybrid and a normal internal combustion car. Electric vehicles are coal, nuclear, or hydro-electric powered right? Power plants have emissions don't they?
    Oh I get it. As long as the emissions don't come out of the cars tail-pipe it's ok.

  2. "driving electric is usually greener, but what are you comparing?"

    @Steve: See here for an article that addresses the issue ...

  3. "Thanks"

    Thanks for the link; excellent post on your site.
    Most disturbing is the map that identifies worldwide emissions from producing electricity.
    BTW -- I'm really happy with my Escape Hybrid and it's up to 48.3 mpg.

  4. "Fail"

    They tested 2 Tesla Roadsters on Top Gear, the 1st 1 ran completely out of battery power after just 55 Miles traveled and the 2nd was broke down with brake problems. I am old fashioned anyway and still enjoy a Manual Gearbox in my Sports Cars! The Mainstream Media seems to miss out on the fact that the power has to be generated somewhere for these electric vehicles!

  5. "Top Gear test"

    What Jim "fails" to mention is that in a previous episode TG ran several exotic super cars at full tilt around the same race track and recorded their fuel consumption - it was between 1 and 5 mpg. That means on average these cars would have made it between 15 and 75 miles on a full tank of gas at the track. Claiming that a 55 mile track range is an EV shortcoming is ignorant. Don't even bother with the "long tailpipe" argument; it has been thoroughly and repeatedly disproved.

  6. "Efficiency & Top Gear Test"

    I've done those kind of calculations for people so many times it's annoying. I'm sure everyone realizes that there are still the indirect emissions & isn't ignoring it (just by how it is brought up so many times in comments on EVs I know this). I wish there was a widely known website that had all the numbers already.
    By my calculations on 100% coal (worst case obviously, using 2lbsCO2/kWh for coal) a RAV4EV has carbon footprint = 33mpg car, on US avg grid = 49mpg, on my California utility = 99mpg. For reference, the most efficient RAV4 of the same year gets 27mpg combined (pre-2008 rating).
    You can figure this out for your own utility using the EPA kWh/100mile figure (which is around 30 combined for the RAV4-EV, pre-2008 EPA rating, found in and the below link and some simple math.
    As you can see even in the worst case an EV isn't that bad of a choice, especially considering it also eliminates direct emissions. Depending on your location though, a hybrid might make a lot more sense environmentally (especially factoring the sulfur & mercury emissions of coal for those in coal heavy places) until your utility switches to cleaner sources.
    Top gear was driving the car (track testing) a couple times more aggressively than in this test. If you have ever been to track events, you know you easily get less than half the mileage you normally get in real world everyday driving. On the Top Gear track where they are doing also high speed runs, you can take the mileage down to less than 1/5 of the normal rating. See the Ferrari 599 which only got 1.7mpg on the track while being rated more than 10mpg.
    Besides, Top Gear never ran out of juice, they just "guesstimated" that they would end up with 55 miles if they did.
    The issue with brakes was a brake pump that was fixed immediately but I agree that was a part where it shouldn't have screwed up regardless.

  7. "corrections: Efficiency & Top Gear Test"

    Sorry for double posting, but for my utility it's actually 90mpg not 99mpg, I was just saying the numbers from the top of my head. And another number needed for calculations that I forgot to add is the standard 19.6 lbs of CO2 emitted per gallon of gasoline burned (diesel is 22.4 lbs).

  8. "Used Car Dealers"

    The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric sports car produced by the electric car firm Tesla Motors and is the first car produced by the company. Its nice electric car.

  9. "I want one"

    John - Can you say envy? How long until the general public can test drive one?

  10. "Smart Car? "

    Smart car until you get tboned, then..not so smart.

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