THE FACTS: TESLA ELECTRIC CAR
RANGE: 236 miles
0-60MPH: 3.9 secs
TOP SPEED: 125 mph
CO2 G/KM: 0
THE demise of the combustion engine is not something I long for, yet burning through loads of cash on planet-warming fossil fuels is becoming as popular as smoking.
The idea that the future of motoring is silent is anathema to anyone who enjoys the engine note of a six-litre V12. How on earth will driving be fun when we’re all pootling about in thinly warmed- over milk floats, living out the rest of our globally-warmed years driving cars that are the motoring equivalent of broccoli?
Which is why being one of the first behind the wheel of Tesla’s electric Roadster caused quite some excitement. I’m driving a left hooker, though Tesla Motors has just announced production of the right-hand-drive version.
It offers astonishing performance thanks to its lightweight carbon fibre body and tiny 52kg engine. Sure, that’s offset by some seriously heavy batteries – the battery pack alone weighs 450kg – but the car is surprisingly responsive, and it’s faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo. The Tesla can reach 60mph in just 3.9 seconds, and thanks to the unique nature of electric power, it has all of its power from the get go.
Rather than an obnoxious tire-smoking roar, one glides away from the kerb with a gentle whirr. For a moment I consider a royal wave to awe-struck pedestrians. Instead I floor the accelerator to see what happens. I’m unprepared for how instantly I am propelled forward. Not bad for a car as energy efficient as a Toyota Prius.
Such silent acceleration is really quite eerie. People everywhere stop to look. It can’t be the Lotus-like styling, presumably it’s because one second the road was clear and the next I arrived in the periphery of their vision in silence. The Roadster just materialises onto the consciousness of pedestrians. So much so that I am hyper-aware of their safety in a way that I would not be had I been in a grumbling petrol-engined sportscar. But maybe that’s a good thing. Electric cars could make pedestrians safer, as well as the air cleaner. The Tesla seems less selfish, more you too than screw you.
It sits very low, so I’m acutely aware of the fumes other cars emit, but I feel smug knowing that the Tesla doesn’t even have an exhaust pipe. In traffic, there’s no exhausting gear-shifting and pedal-juggling that is the daily reality of a more conventional supercar commute, and the Tesla won’t stall if you lose concentration.
Tesla claims a range of more than 200 miles per charge and a complete charge in 3.5 hours. I can’t test this because it’s so popular amongst the press that we have it for just two hours.
Inside it feels solid. Tesla has really upped the quality from its Lotus donor. The interior, though sparse, looks and feels surprisingly stylish. At £86,950 the Tesla Roadster isn’t cheap, though from then on it should cost no more than 1.5p per mile to run, as there’s no congestion charge to pay, free parking in most London boroughs and free charging at certain sites. What’s more, there’s a 100 per cent tax write down for UK companies that purchase one.
Potential customers can test-drive the car at Tesla’s Knightsbridge showroom and I strongly advise you to do so. It is unlike any car I have driven. On the open road the Tesla is really at its best. All you can hear is the wind and I feel like I'm flying. Maybe it’s a supercar for a stressed generation. Whatever it is, if this is the future of motoring, sign me up.