Upgrades to the Tesla Roadster’s battery pack have improved the range of the all-electric two-door from around 370km to 650km, says company CEO Elon Musk.
The changes mean good news for owners of the Lotus Elise-based car, including the few in New Zealand who in theory could drive the 650km from Auckland to Wellington on the one charge.
US-based Musk has tweeted that the Roadster upgrade will “enable non-stop travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco – almost 400-mile range”, or 650km.
The so-called Roadster Package 3.0 includes software updates and a new battery cell that boosts energy by 31 per cent over the original. Also helping to increase the range are “computational methods” that have improved aerodynamics by 15 per cent, and new tyres and wheel bearings that reduce rolling resistance.
Production of the Roadster was discontinued as Musk focused more on the Model S sedan, also on the road here in the hands of Auckland electric-car advocate Steve West.
Musk followed up his first tweet with: “Should mention that a battery pack upgrade is not coming soon for the Model S, but it obviously ‘will’ happen long-term.” West’s Model S has a range on paper of 500km and takes four hours to charge, using a special three-phase power source.
The battery-electric Roadster was the first Tesla, hitting the US market in 2008 after Musk had earlier struck a deal with Britain’s Lotus to supply Elise bodies. But it was later deleted from the range while Musk’s people worked on upgrades.
For now the range includes the Model S 60, 85 and P85D versions. It is expected to be joined by the Model X SUV later this year, and the Model 3 small sedan in 2017.
Musk announced early last year that he and his team were working on upgrades for the Roadster. He said: “The Roadster had an old generation battery. We’ll upgrade it to a new generation battery pack and it should have a range of about 400 miles (650km), which will allow you to drive from LA to San Francisco non-stop.”
The old model did 0-100km/h in less than four seconds and had a range on paper of more than 370km. The new updates and the expansion of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ charging network in the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific gives the Roadster a new lease on life.
The ‘Supercharger’ stations are not available in NZ. There are 151 outlets in the US, 122 in Europe, and 61 in Asia-Pacific, including the one station in Sydney.
Each station enables Teslas to be 50 per cent charged in 20 minutes, 80 per cent in 40 minutes and fully charged in 75 minutes. Tesla says charging the final 20 per cent takes almost the same time as an 80 per cent charge.
Why? Because the charging current needs to slow down to top off battery cells. “It’s somewhat like turning down a tap in order to fill a glass of water to the top without spilling”, says Tesla.