How the Tesla Roadster Works

Tesla Roadster Motor and Other Features

The Roadster motor.
The Roadster motor.
Image © 2006 Tesla Motors, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Roadster has just three gears. The Roadster has just three gears.
The Roadster has just three gears.
Image © 2006 Tesla Motors, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Roaster cockpit. The Roaster cockpit.
The Roaster cockpit.
Image © 2006 Tesla Motors, Inc. All rights reserved.

The heart of the Tesla Roadster is its 3-phase, 4-pole electric induction motor, which weighs just 70 pounds. Tesla's claims and independent testing show that the Roadster can reach 60 mph in about four seconds and its speed will top out somewhere around 130 mph. But the Roadster's performance isn't just about speed and acceleration. The unique properties of an electric motor give it a huge advantage over a combustion engine in terms of torque, force that tends to rotate or turn things, and power band, the range of operating speeds under which the engine operates efficiently. The Roadster can generate large amounts of torque even at very low RPM, and the motor can always turn out major horsepower. It can reach over 13,000 RPM, something very few large combustion engines can do. The Tesla Web site includes the following: "A favorite trick here at Tesla Motors is to invite a passenger along and ask him to turn on the radio. At the precise moment we ask, we accelerate. Our passenger simply can't sit forward enough to reach the dials" [ref].

That kind of motor response eliminates the need for a complicated transmission, so the Roadster has just three gears -- two forward gears and one reverse gear. Shifting is manual, but there's no clutch. That also means there's no stalling or "jerk" when you shift between gears.

The Tesla Roadster can go a lot faster than previous electric cars, but perhaps more importantly, it can go a lot farther. The Roadster's estimated range is 250 miles on a single charge, at least 100 miles more than General Motors' EV1, which could go almost 150 miles under optimal conditions.

Most of the hype surrounding the Roadster is about its status as an electric vehicle. But while earlier electric cars tended to be cramped and lacking in features, the Tesla Roadster looks and feels like a sports car. In addition to basics like heated seats, a stereo with CD player, ABS brakes and dual airbags, the Roadster has a few unique features:

  • A unique PIN to start the car and prevent hot-wiring
  • A Homelink transceiver you can program to control radio-frequency controlled devices such as your community gate and garage door
  • A dock connector for your iPod
  • Electrically-controlled door handles (there's no mechanical lock, which makes it more difficult to break into the car)

Since it's a convertible, the Roadster comes standard with a soft top. Options include a hard top as well as features like a full leather interior and a satellite navigation system.