July 2nd, 2009
10:15 AM GMT
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LONDON, England - When I was offered the chance to drive a Tesla Roadster electric car around the streets of London, my first thought was why would I enjoy a souped-up golf cart? It was nothing like that.

The Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car with good handling and acceleration.
The Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car with good handling and acceleration.

I am not an auto enthusiast (I drive a Vauxhall Zafira after all) but in this job I have the great privilege of driving (or being driven in) some great cars.

Last year, I took a Rolls Royce Phantom around the grounds of the company’s plant; Charlie Morgan took me for a spin through the Malvern Hills in one of his family-built cars; and now I have taken a trip in both seats of a Tesla Roadster.

There was no golf cart in site. This little sports car can move, and while we could not test the claim of zero to 60 miles an hour in under six seconds (the newest model claims under four seconds) on London’s back streets, it did handle well (I had to keep avoiding a Aston Martin and a Lamborghini parked on two of the corners) and the acceleration was smooth.

It can apparently go for more than 200 miles before having to be plugged in, though others who have taken it for a test drive say that drops if it’s aggressively driven.

Of course, it’s an electric car, so you lose some of the pleasures of a sports car. There are no gears, so no clutch, and of course you can't gun the engine at a red light.

I also realized quickly that I gauge my driving by the whine of the engine, so you have to lose that habit quickly. Finally, and maybe most crucially, people don’t know you’re there!

I saw a lady with a pram walking in the road, and she had no idea there was a little red sports car coming up on her. My Tesla minder said he hoped regulators did not mandate that electric cars add an artificial noise; drivers just had to re educate themselves. I begged to differ. Watch Jim Boulden's test drive

It is the first non-subsidized commercially sold electric car approved for driving on all roads (some little electric cars can’t go on motor ways for instance, others are just demonstration vehicles, built in collaboration with governments).

Tesla’s current CEO and principal owner, the young internet millionaire Elon Musk, said the California-based firm had delivered around 550 Roadsters, mostly to customers there.

He was on hand at the London showroom when the first two cars arrived for the European launch party.

Musk said the company decided that the first electric car launched had to be the $100,000 sports car, to dispel any thoughts that an electric car couldn’t compete with a petrol engine.

He insisted that the company would already be profitable but for investing in his much bigger ambition. A just-announced near half billion dollar loan from the U.S. government would largely be used to build the next car – a sedan (currently called the Model S).

It’s expected to cost half the price of the Roadster and travel up to 300 miles on a full charge (it can be plugged in for a top up that takes only 45 minutes, says Tesla).

Musk said this next generation would be the world’s first mass-produced electric car.

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soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    While this is encouraging news for reducing petrol emissions, it will not solve the true pollution problem – heat pollution. Any expenditure of energy, either creating electricity or using it, results in heat. The laws of physics cannot be avoided.

    Creating windmills, solar panels, electric motors and using them all result in heat being released into the environment. The true problem is that there are far too many people creating and using energy. Reduce the world population by 50% and a lot of the problem disappears.

    July 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  2. Manuel Vilhena

    Great article. An electrical car with 300 miles of autonomy and just needs 45 minutes to fill the “tank”. How much does it cost? 50.000 dollars? Still expensive, but maybe more affordable on its daily costs.

    Great entrepreneur. Elon Musk.

    July 3, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  3. Kendle

    "Reduce the world population by 50% and a lot of the problem disappears." – James Smith

    N. Korea feels the same way my man.

    July 3, 2009 at 11:08 pm |
  4. Alex Amaya

    ha ha ha ha true.

    James your approach on heat is ridiculous, so our ancestors by lighting candles, contributed to climate change..don´t think so. Maybe in 1,000 years when our machines are 100% efficient, but the very computer you use, is surely less than 50% -i am no expert- efficient...what are we going to do, dump all electronics and be back to the cave ages? nonsense...
    N. Korea feels the same way my man.

    “Reduce the world population by 50% and a lot of the problem disappears.” – James Smith

    July 4, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  5. jen

    Transportation does indeed play a huge role in the climate change. There will be an estimated 2 billion cars globally in 2020. In next 10 years, world will consume 1/4 of all oil consumed through its entire history. Humans Need to Dramatically Reduce CO2 Emissions to Stabilize the Climate. Some scientists now say 350 ppm is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. Direct share* transport Greenhouse gas CeOm2i emissions rose more rapidly in transportation than any other sector – up 120% between 1970 and 2004. There was a great repot posted at http://www.wesrch.com that supports these facts. To read the full report click here (http://energy.wesrch.com/pdfTR1SVV000UEBO)

    July 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  6. Steve Lusardi

    James is incorrect. Energy consumed and not output as physical work results in heat, not the consumption of energy alone. Please read the first law of thermodynamics again James. So, efficiency of energy consumption is everything.

    July 8, 2009 at 5:01 am |
  7. d

    Well, I don't know that a $50000 all electric sedan is anything to get excited about. I certainly can't afford one and my income is probably in the 90th percentile (in the US, probably higher worldwide). Makes me wonder what a new set of batteries will cost a few years down the road. Battery disposal is already a problem with AA cells being banned from the lanfill, what will you do with several hundred weight of batteries and what will it cost, Another $50K likely. I predict a glut of all electric cars on the used market in 5 years that won't go around the block without needing another charge. They'll have to scrap them because noone will want to invest that much money in a used car. Somehow people think an electric car is a panacea for all that ails us as far as cars go, but I stand in dread of the idea of an electric car involved in a collision, especially one that breaks open one of those lithium batteries and even more especially if those broken batteries get exposed to water (such as rain). Do you know what happens when water and lithium come together?

    July 10, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  8. James Petree

    Steve is correct. Also heat emissions themselves are not the risk when it comes to climate change, the real risks are greenhouse gases which trap the suns (and our own) heat within the atmosphere. If we weren't increasing these gases the worlds temperature wouldn't be rising at the current rates as more heat would be able to escape the earths surface. I will agree with James to some extent though, we do need to look at controlling world population. Look at the problems that are already occurring (climate change, environmental stress, steadily increasing commodities prices due to supply constraints, etc). Even if we could stop population growth now, with the expected increases in standards of living (especially in the developing nations) the increased demands on resources and the wastes produced are only going to continue to get worse. Think about it, the US has 20% of its oil/energy. Now bring China and India up to these standards (~33% of the worlds population) and the problem just explodes.

    July 13, 2009 at 2:58 am |
  9. Randy

    We need to act and act fast that's the bottom line. Starting nailing the leadership and stop listening to BS. We have the internet so a lot is possible that we could not do even 20 years ago!!!

    July 13, 2009 at 10:10 am |
  10. Roger

    He people,

    no worries about the price; everything is expensive at the start. 40 years ago a colour television was a luxury, than a video-player was luxury, then a computer, then a laptop, then an LCD tv. Now, those are more common then people that actually read books for fun...

    Bring it to the masses and everything becomes at least 50-70% cheaper! In the case of electric cars... that is agood thing.

    July 14, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  11. Bert

    The whole idea is to try and improve. If this means improvement by reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses then great. People do not always realise that improvement is a slow progression. I love the environment and also realise that there will be an incremental improvement of power generation away from pollution creating methods like coal fired power stations to more environmentaly friendly types like wind power generation. An extra is that it provides opportunities for new industries to spring up. Want to make money? Think of how to recycle the waste batteries instead of moaning about them. Someone will think of an efficient way and make loads of money out of this. Always incremental improvements.........

    July 18, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  12. Jonnyboy

    so you're suggesting we cut the world's population in half? Wow what great logic you moron. Why did you even waste the time to write that. Oh and sweet wheels

    July 19, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  13. harry

    50% population reduction, may sound dramatic, but if familes were reduced in size ( a la China policy) then there will be a gradual reduction in population growth over time. We can't just keep multiplying and consuming our planets resources without dire consequences in a fairly short period.

    The personal choice of how many children one has must change, It will go by the wayside like so many good things of the past cheap oil, natural foods (no GM), free education, no personal income tax, etc.

    Our leaders will have to try to actually make decisions and lead for a change, rather than just try to remain popular.

    July 21, 2009 at 12:07 am |
  14. Ty

    Population reductions in the wetern world will happen, it is happening. Europe could loose half in the next 40 years considering birthrates in the 1.1-1.3 per female range. China will also be in dire straights as its population plunges due to the one child policy and it's cultural preference for boys. Birthrates in the urbanizing 3d world are droping as well. Overpolulation at this point is much ado about nothing. The big problem will be, who is going to pay your government pension, social security when there is only two or three workers per retiree??

    July 25, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  15. Brian

    Jonnyboy. I can guarantee the population will drop 50%. It is just a question of, will humans do it or Mother Nature says enough is enough.
    May I suggest you educate yourself on the subject, see below

    Ty, I agree with you. Whenever I mention the same issue, people ask, well how are you going to achieve it. The answer is EDUCATION.

    This discussion has been well documented.
    Isaac ASIMOV – Article – Is Anyone Listening?

    The above problem plus PEAK OIL means it is essential that we go down the electric car route. Batteries are the main problem.

    This may be a solution

    July 27, 2009 at 3:15 am |
  16. Rob

    That is not a bad looking car at all. Judging from the picture, it looks like any other sporty little model car. Not exactly a prius-type body shape. I could go for a model like that.


    August 27, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  17. Melanie Long

    electric motors would sometimes overheat if they are not properly ventilated:-`

    August 13, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  18. Bethany Bennett

    electric motors are great if you just do some proper maintennance on them~;*

    October 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
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