Tesla’s 400km/h smackdown

Roadster 2 claims 10,000Nm, 0-97km/h in 1.9sec and a 990km range. Is this even possible?

ANDY ENRIGHT

CUSTOMERS DEPOSITED AT LEAST US$50,000 TO GET A PASSENGER RIDE AT THE ROADSTER 2 UNVEIL.

CAR PROVED CAPABLE OF SPINNING UP ALL FOUR OF ITS MICHELIN CUP TYRES

WEIGHT WOULD APPEAR TO BE THE ROADSTER 2’S ACHILLES HEEL. DESPITE MANY CARBONFIBRE ELEMENTS, TESLA WILL LIKELY STRUGGLE TO NUDGE IT BELOW 1800KG AERO A KEY FACTOR IN ACHIEVING MUSK’S OUTLANDISH PERFORMANCE CLAIMS. ACTIVE REAR SPOILER, HUGE DIFFUSER, AND FLAT UNDERTRAY ALL HELP IN THIS REGARD WHEN IT dropped, the announcement of Tesla’s Roadster 2 caught everybody on the hop. As Elon Musk unveiled the company’s much-anticipated semi-truck project, the rear doors opened and out rolled the Roadster, the successor to the car that established Tesla’s bona fides back in 2008. “It turns out there was some cargo in the truck. We thought we’d bring it out,” Musk hammed, before introducing the Roadster as “the fastest production car ever made, period.”

That may be up for debate.

What’s not is the scale of Tesla’s ambition here. “This is the base model,” explained Tesla’s frontman. “We’ll talk about things beyond base maybe next year sometime.” The figures, at first viewing, appear beyond feasible.

Zero to 160km/h will take 4.2 seconds. By comparison, the $2.8m Koenigsegg Agera R gets to that benchmark in a yawning 5.4 seconds. Tesla aims to bring the Roadster to market for around a tenth of that price.

Musk quoted a torque figure of 10,000Nm, which sounds beyond ludicrous, but that figure was quoted at the wheels and, thanks to the torque-multiplying effects of a transmission and at least one differential, that number is pretty academic, the usual standard for torque figures being at the engine.

By way of comparison, a Dodge Challenger SRT Demon delivers more than that to the wheels in first gear.

Tesla pitched a 2020 production date for the Roadster, although such is the company’s production backlog that it’d be unwise to bank on an early order arriving within 36 months. Although the company was sketchy on details, instead trumpeting a series of records for what is essentially a concept, some of the facts pointed to a step-change in Tesla’s thinking.

Powered by a 200kWh battery pack – twice the capacity of the power pack in the current flagship Model S P100D, and almost four times the grunt of the original

Roadster – the Roadster 2 is claimed to cover the quarter mile in 8.8 seconds and run on to a top speed in excess of 400km/h. In order to do this, the car not only requires excellent aerodynamics and a small frontal area, both of which look a given, but it should also mark a return to the multispeed transmission setup of the 2008 Tesla Roadster, subsequent models being fitted with a one-speed direct drive.

The weight of the battery pack will also be an issue, given that the Model S P100D’s cells tip the scales at 540kg. Nevertheless, doubling the capacity of the previous flagship should make that 620-mile (992km) range feasible in steady-state driving.

A sophisticated torquevectoring system also looks likely, given that the Roadster utilises not two but three electric motors; one for the front axle and one for each of the rear wheels.

With characteristic restraint, Musk claimed that “driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”

The two-door, four-seat targa’s styling appears a welcome return to form after the divisive Model X and, given the massive oversubscription for Model 3, demand is sure to be strong for the 1000-unit batch of Founders Series models which demand a full US$250,000 deposit. After that, regular production cars will start at US$200,000, with a US$50,000 deposit required to reserve one. Given that Tesla recorded a US$619m loss in its previous quarterly earnings report, a US$250m cash windfall for the Founders Series plus subsequent Roadster deposits should certainly bolster shortterm cashflow, even if those monies accrue as additional debt. It’ll also raise more than

“Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine...”

CHIRON ROADSTER 2

2.4s 0-97km/h (60mph) 1.9s 9.4s 0-400m 8.8s 417km/h Top Speed 400km/h 658km Range 998km from US$2.85m Price from US$200,000 YEARBOOK 2017

Tesla’s 2010 IPO but will do little to silence grumblings that Tesla is effectively crowdfunding the vehicle’s development.

Nevertheless, Musk is confident that the tech behind the Roadster 2 will prove the tipping point where electric cars finally gain ascendancy over the internal combustion engine. “The point of doing this is to give a smackdown to gasoline cars,” he said. In recent times, Tesla has been long on claims but painfully short on delivery. Back in 2011, Musk confirmed that the second-gen Roadster would appear in 2014.

With numbers like those generated by the Tesla Roadster 2, devotees of the brand don’t care that it’s at least six years behind the curve. But the fastest performance car ever made? At present ‘the fastest performance car if made’ would appear to be a more accurate claim.

MAXIMUM PLAID

What’s beyond ludicrous speed? If you’re a fan of 1987 nerdcore movie Spaceballs, you’ll know that the answer is Plaid speed. You’ll need to switch the Roadster 2 into Plaid Mode to deliver its fiercest acceleration – and most savage power draw – whereupon the huge nav screen assumes the colour scheme of a pair of golfer’s slacks.

PRODUCTION HELL

Of the 450,000 punters who have stumped up Model 3 deposits, few yet have their cars. October’s deliveries amounted to 145 cars, a number “less than anticipated due to production bottlenecks” and significantly down on the 10,000 cars-per-month target.

The Fremont production line is operating at one-tenth of its potential speed, with a Wall Street Times report claiming that a number of processes such as spot welding are having to be completed by hand. Having been seen camping on the roof of his troubled Gigafactory, Musk is acutely aware that while Tesla’s market capitalisation is stratospheric, its cash flow is worryingly ters low. Over the past year, Tesla has been burning cash at the rate of US$8000 per minute, with current reserves set to dry up by August 6th. What’s more, markets are getting antsy about any further stock dilution to free up cash. With interest debt currently standing at $4500 per car, the company needs to build meaningful supplies of Model 3. Tesla’s chief attraction as a stock has been its lack of legacy costs, but debt is emerging as Tesla’s own take on the same issue. A downgrade from its current S&P B- credit rating to CCC status could be the catalyst to spark a dumping of stocks by nervy investors.