Tesla S Sedan
Tesla Roadster
Tesla S sedan (top); Tesla Roadster. Click image to enlarge

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By Jim Kerr; photos courtesy Tesla Motors

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What will drive the future? Will it be hybrid vehicles? Fuel cell cars? Electric cars? No individual or car company has a crystal ball that will show them which technologies will lead the way. GM is betting big on their Volt electric car. Honda thinks hybrids and improved small conventional engines will be the answer for the next decade or two. BMW, Ford and many other companies have been working on fuel cell cars.

Daimler AG, manufacturer of Mercedes and Smart automobiles is placing their latest investments into the electric car. On May 19, Daimler AG acquired nearly 10 percent of Tesla Motors Inc. Haven’t heard of Tesla? You will!

Tesla is the only company that builds highway-capable electric cars, and only electric cars. Based in California’s Silicon Valley, they are building the Tesla Roadster, which is currently on sale in the United States and will be available in Canada in the fall of 2009. The Tesla Roadster price starts at $140,000, which may seem high, but for a limited production supercar those prices are often near the bottom of the price range.

Did I say supercar? You bet. With 0 to 60 mph acceleration in about 3.9 seconds, this car is a rocket ship, and it tops out at a computer-limited 125 mph, all without using any gasoline. Now some may say that any car with a top speed of only 125 mph can’t be a supercar, but in reality, where on earth could you or want to drive faster than that except on a race track? The Tesla Roadster is a road-going production electric car with exceptional performance, handling (much of it built in cooperation with Lotus) and a range of over 350 kilometres.

To accomplish this feat, Tesla engineers took nothing for granted when designing the car. The motor is small – about the size of a large watermelon – and weighs a little over 53 kilograms but puts out 248 horsepower at 5000 to 8000 rpm. Maximum motor speed is 14,000 rpm! It is also efficient, with 92 per cent efficiency average and 85 per cent efficient at peak power. There is no shortage of torque either: 276-foot pound torque from 0 to 4,500 rpm, which is what gives the Tesla roadster such awesome acceleration.

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