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Tesla tweaks its super-electric Roadster

Customer feedback: American electric car company Tesla Motors says owner suggestions contributed to improvements on its latest model.

Tesla Roadster enters 2.5 phase as electric model program with Toyota kicks off

16 Jul 2010

TESLA Motors has upgraded its all-electric Roadster model, now dubbed the 2.5, ahead of its launch in Australia next month.

Details of the upgraded sportscar, which includes revised styling, improved refinement and extra equipment, have emerged as shares in Tesla Motors continue to fluctuate above and below its initial public offering (IPO) price of $17 a share, and as the US electric car company delivers its first electric prototypes to new alliance partner Toyota.

Official details on the Toyota vehicles have not been released, although overseas reports indicate they are based on the RAV4 and Lexus RX SUVs.

The Lotus Elise-based Tesla Roadster, meanwhile, makes a number of incremental changes in 2.5 form over the current 2.0 model, such as a new front fascia (with diffusing vents) and a rear diffuser, both of which are said to reflect the design of future models.

There are also new forged light alloy wheels (16/17-inch front/rear) available in either silver or black, improved cabin refinement with extra sound dampening material added in the wheel arches, new seats with extra bolstering and a lumbar support system, and an optional seven-inch touch-screen display for use with satellite-navigation and a reversing camera.

New “power control hardware” has also been introduced to enable “spirited driving in exceptionally hot climates” – an important prerequisite for the two-seater rear-drive sportscar’s launch in Australia.

“Although development of the Model S is our main focus, this shows that we still care a great deal about improving the Tesla Roadster,” said Tesla co-founder and chief executive Elon Musk, who in recent days has also written publicly that his personal finances and affairs were being exaggerated as a protracted divorce case continues with estranged wife Justine Musk, who is seeking 10 per cent of her husband’s stake the company.

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“These improvements are a direct result of customer feedback and come only a year after release of Roadster 2.0, showing an exceptionally rapid pace of innovation. Where feasible, we will also offer existing customers the ability to purchase the upgrades now available in version 2.5." This ability to upgrade will be important for the small number of Australian customers who have already purchased a Roadster through Tesla’s London sales outlet or from the company direct after right-hand drive production commenced earlier this year.

The main ingredients of the Roadster remain unchanged, with the base model drawing from a bank of lithium-ion batteries and using a 375-volt electric motor to produce a maximum 215kW of power from 5000 to 6000rpm (redline 14,000rpm) and 370Nm of torque from 0-5400rpm. A Sport version is also available, offering 400Nm from 0-5100rpm.

Expected to be priced in Australia from more than $200,000, the lightweight 1238kg sportscar can accelerate from 0-60mph (97km/h) in a claimed 3.9 seconds (Sport: 3.7 seconds), on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 125mph (201km/h).

Tesla claims the driving range is 236 miles (380km) and that a full recharge takes about 3.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet.

The company says that the enhancements in the Roadster 2.5 are a direct result of accumulated customer feedback, with the Tesla-owned global retail network – which before long will include a store in Sydney – and the small nature of its operations enabling its engineers to receive and process responses from owners.

It does, however, have grand plans for expansion. As GoAuto has reported, Tesla is set to produce the Model S sedan from 2012 and a number of other models based on the same platform, including an SUV, cabriolet and a commercial van.

The company is also working with Daimler on the all-electric version of its Smart ForTwo, among other vehicles, and has confirmed that it has been working closely with Toyota, which earlier this month finalised a $US50 million stake in Tesla.

A Bloomberg report out of Tokyo last week said the Toyota program had kicked off with two prototype vehicles, citing a source familiar with the matter as confirming that these models were based on the RAV4 and Lexus RX SUVs.

The report said Toyota is also working on an all-electric Corolla using Tesla technology, although the weight of the battery pack is said to be better suited to the crossover models.

While the Japanese auto giant is studying Tesla technology, it has other battery programs in place that could materialise on future production models.

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