Tesla Motors’ announcement that it is delaying production of its electric Roadster sports car until early 2008 to deal with quality-control issues has generated a lot of news coverage. (The car had been set to go into production later this year.) Less attention was paid to the Silicon Valley car company’s other news: EPA-approved testing shows that the Roadster will go 245 miles on a single charge in combined city/highway driving. (If you’re just zooming around town the range is 255 miles while a road trip will take you 235 miles before you need to plug in.) Tesla originally promised the Roadster would have a 250-mile range and then downgraded that estimate earlier this year to around 200 miles. If the new numbers hold up in extended real-life driving, it’s a significant milestone in the development of electric cars. The last production electric car, General Motors’ (GM) EV1 had a top range of about 140 miles. The ability to go 235-255 miles on a charge gives the Roadster a range competitive with fossil-fuel powered cars. (Of course, the nearly $100,000 two-seater is not competitive on price and you’ll be lucky to fit a bag or two of groceries in the trunk.)
According to Tesla’s blog, road tests also found that the car went 267 miles when driven "conservatively" around the Silicon Valley suburb of San Carlos; 230 miles on a grip to Lake Tahoe with two people and luggage; 186 miles when driven "aggressively" on the highway; and 165 miles in a "worst-case scenario" that consisted of "impatient commuting, aggressive stops and starts, high speeds" with the air conditioning blasting.
When Green Wombat interviewed Tesla founder Martin Eberhard in June, he commented on the extraordinary challenges of building an electric car company from the ground up. "Every single little problem that we’re dealing now is doable, but there’s lots of them," says Eberhard. "Starting a car company is hard. We have an exotic car, with an entirely new drive train, and we’re putting together a supply chain from both automotive and non-automotive sources around the world. And we have all kinds of regulatory requirements."