04 August 2007
Together in electric dreams
Mark Holland

The Daily Telegraph, and therefore the rest of the mainstream media, has finally caught up with Transport Blog.

We checked out these new super funky electric sports cars, like, months ago when they and the fashionably green were still droning on about hybrids. Hybrids are surely the worst of both worlds. An inevitable stop gap maybe, but even so. Carrying two engines around simply doubles the wieght and complexity of the entire machine whilst the driver’s smugness level rises, undeservedly, exponentially.

Proper electric cars can be entirely re-engineered. They don’t need the bulky engine, gearbox and drivertrain and can instead use compact motors right down at the wheels. These motors are then only connected to the centre for power and control by cables. Cables! Especially clever is the way the motors can double up as generators when the vehicle is slowing down and pump energy back into the battery which extends the range of the car between charges.

From today’s paper:

In a low-key industrial estate in San Carlos, south of San Francisco, a quiet revolution is under way. After four years’ work, Tesla Motors is now weeks away from the launch of the Roadster - the world’s first production electric sports car; a vehicle the company fully expects to transform the industry. The man masterminding the launch is Elon Musk, the chairman of Tesla Motors, the first new American car company in decades, and one that will put a fleet of zero-emissions electric sports vehicles on the road this summer. Tesla’s Roadster is a high-performance two-seater, faster than a Ferrari yet twice as green as a Prius, Toyota’s petrol-electric hybrid. It runs on 6,831 lithium-iron batteries, identical to those in a laptop computer.

‘So you can look over at the Prius and go, “What are you doing in that gas-guzzling hog?”

Note also that we were ahead here:

Yet the Roadster is also designed to beat any fuel-based sports car, including a Ferrari or a Porsche, in a car-to-car showdown. With a top speed of 135mph, it accelerates from 0 to 60 in a fraction under four seconds. Its zero-emissions policy also extends to noise: as Vespremi turns the ignition and eases the red Roadster off the forecourt and out into the Californian sun, there is nothing but a low electrical hum. ‘A sort of Blade Runner soundtrack,’ Vespremi says. There is no engine noise - because there is no engine. (People have found this so eerie that one engineer suggested programming in various boy-racer sound effects, like mobile ringtones.)

When I’m an internet thousandaire a la Elon Musk - killer apps sought, we’ll name our first rocket after you! - I’ll buy one.

  1. What makes a battery car possible is the rise of the two-car family.  As long as one of your cars can travel hundreds of miles, and carry children, dogs and clutter (and bicyles - mustn’t forget them), the other can be a juiced-up milk float.

    Posted by dearieme on  04 August 2007 at 06:53 pm

  2. Technolgy helps of course. I think it’s almost a given that any electric car will have a small generator lying at the bottom of the void that used to contain the internal combusting beast in case it’s out of range of socket. Either that or you’re on the continent without an adaptor!

    Posted by Mark Holland on  04 August 2007 at 06:59 pm

  3. How can anyone not want something called a “Tesla Roadster”? And keep those boy racer sound effects: this calls for Ride of the Valkyries (embarrassing when stuck in traffic mind you, if you can’t turn it off).

    Posted by James Hamilton on  04 August 2007 at 07:17 pm

  4. Don’t worry about the absence of noise.  We used to fix that on our bikes with a cardboard contraption that struck the spokes.

    Posted by dearieme on  04 August 2007 at 11:36 pm

  5. The crowning glory on any $100,000 super car: a cut off bit of Corn Flakes packet. Cool!

    Posted by Mark Holland on  05 August 2007 at 12:02 am

  6. Yeah, the Tesla-Kellog’s Roadster.  Not for the flakey.

    Posted by dearieme on  05 August 2007 at 06:45 pm

  7. I think the thing that worries me the most about the Tesla Roadster is all the lithium-ion (not iron…) batteries.  Lithium-ion batteries have gotten safer, but, as witness recent laptop recalls, they can still “explode” if they suffer from internal shorts due to manufacturing defects, physical shock, or high temperature.  If just one battery goes off, that can set neighboring batteries off.

    Posted by Sam on  07 August 2007 at 07:18 am

  8. If it’s silent but deadly perhaps it should be called a Bradley in honour of Bradley Hardacre, the inventor of the original Silent But Deadly.


    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  07 August 2007 at 12:31 pm

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