Tesla 2020 Roadster: speed, power, range (and heft)

17 November 2017

Tesla 2020 Roadster blah

Tesla is going back to its roots with a new Roadster, a long-awaited replacement for the compact electric sports car that propelled the firm into the limelight in 2008.

Small, cramped and expensive but quick off the mark and boasting a 200-mile range, the first Tesla Roadster demonstrated that electric cars could be both exciting and potentially profitable products.

The old Roadster ceased production when the Model S arrived in 2012, and Tesla hasn’t got any better at naming cars since its demise. Like the original Lotus-based two-seater, the new Roadster isn’t really a roadster at all but a targa, with a small removable roof panel rather than the full folding top required to properly claim the name. The lift-out panel in the new Roadster is made of glass, apparently.

Tesla 2020 Roadster open and closed

What Tesla has got pretty good at over the past decade is ramping up hype and gathering in mountains of cash deposits for new cars long before they can actually be bought. The new Roadster isn’t due to ship until 2020 but you can pre-order one by slapping down $50,000 (about £38,000). Once production starts the base price is set to be $200,000 (about £150,000, though UK prices will probably be higher).

The roof opens up above the front seats only – despite quite a steep rake at the back the new Roadster will be a 2+2, with space for children at least.

Thanks to the typical Tesla “skateboard” hardware layout, which places batteries and motors low down under the floor, the new Roadster ought to provide reasonable luggage space too, presumably offering both front and rear storage and making it more practical than the only other 2+2 plug-in sports car I can think of, the BMW i8.

Tesla 2020 Roadster cabin

The Roadster will boast a 200kWh battery – twice the capacity of the biggest Model S power pack – yielding a predicted range of 620 miles (or about 1,000km) between charges. That’s LA to San Francisco and back at highway speed without recharging, according to Tesla chief Elon Musk. It might not quite make Land’s End to John O’Groats in one go, but it should gobble up London to Edinburgh with plenty of range to spare.

When a Roadster does stop for electricity, it may take a while to fill up. A 7kW domestic wallbox, for example, would need about 30 hours to deliver 200kWh of energy for a full charge, though the likelihood of arriving empty will be low. Tesla’s high-power Superchargers shovel electrons at a much quicker pace and should be capable of adding about 170 miles of range in 30 minutes, just as they do with today’s Tesla models.

Tesla 2020 Roadster front

The downside to such a large battery will be weight. Tesla’s best batteries to date have had an energy density of 170Wh/kg, meaning a 200kWh pack could weigh as much as 1.2 tonnes all on its own. Once the rest of the chassis, bodywork, interior and drive motors have been added on top the Roadster will be no lightweight.

What it loses in lightness it will aim to make up for in sheer grunt. With all-wheel-drive courtesy of one motor at the front and two at the back, delivering a claimed 10,000Nm of torque, plus active torque vectoring to assist handling, the Roadster promises to be rocket-ship quick.

Tesla 2020 Roadster rear view

People interested in mashing their braincase against a head restraint will welcome zero to 60mph in 1.9 seconds and a top speed above 250mph.

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