As well, the choice of initial market cannot be viewed as merely a happy spin-off of the fact the CEO Eberhard is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who did very well in two ventures he helped found here. California happens to be very receptive to environment-friendly technologies, as witness the existence of 100 refilling stations for hydrogen hybrid vehicles in the state. No doubt, the choice of the two-seater Elise chassis was made with an eye to all those prestige-conscious Valley millionaires and Hollywood celebrities. The likes of George Clooney and George Haysbert have made sure they are among the first to drive one.
Yet a fifth factor behind the sparkling success of this niche offering is that the Tesla Roadster is available now. Other promising advances in low- or no-emission vehicles, like the Honda Hybrid or the ZapX Electric Crossover (another Lotus design), remain in prototype with production runs promised for 2008 if that.
The Roadster packs 6,831 Lithium Ion batteries, each measuring 1.0 by 2.6 inches, that can be fully charged in 3.5 hours by a custom 70-amp, 220 volt charger Tesla installs in your garage. The battery pack carries a five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
All this juice goes to power a single three-phase, 248-hp motor that redlines at 13,500 RPM. Gear reduction and torque multiplication are provided by a two-speed, solenoid-based manual transmission.
To performance-conscious owners, all these add up to pulse-quickening acceleration (0 to 60 in four seconds flat) and top speed of 130 MPH. Range between charges is over 200 miles, significantly better than the 150 miles attained by the GM EV1 electric car.
While retaining the low-drag profile, fire-engine-red tint and sporty look of the Elise, concessions to comfort have been made. The cockpit has been made roomier at the cost of raising curb weight by 500 pounds. And to heighten sex appeal, the body is made entirely of carbon fiber (really CF-reinforced plastic) just like Formula One cars and high-performance cars have been constructed since the 1980's.
For the rest, the Tesla comes standard with ABS, air conditioning and federally mandated airbags, of course.
All in all, the combination of instant maximum torque, breathtaking acceleration, roadster speed on the highway, Lotus styling and handling, low cost-per-mile and zero greenhouse gas emissions make the Tesla 2008 Roadster well-nigh irresistible.