Tesla Motors has begun production of a 100% plug-in electric car. The Tesla Roadster is not what most people think of when they hear the term “electric car”. The Roadster goes from 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds. Its peak torque begins at 0 rpm and stays strong at 13,000 rpm, which is very different from gasoline engines that have little torque at a low rpm. It has a top speed of 125 mph. It can travel about 220 miles per battery charge. Charging the battery takes about 3.5 hours. Useful battery life is estimated to be about 100,000 miles.
The Tesla Roadster costs about $100,000, which puts it out of reach for all but a select few. However, the company is expected to introduce a 4 door, 5 passenger sports sedan in 2010 with a price tag around $60,000, making it competitive with high-end Mercedes and BMWs. Tesla believes that over time the technology will improve to the point where a car like the sedan could be sold for as little as $30,000.
Tesla Motors isn’t the only company introducing plug-in electric cars. Mitsubishi said that is will launch its MiEV plug-in electric in Japan next year. The compact car has a top speed of about 80 mph and can travel about 100 miles on a single charge. The price is expected to be about $30,000.
General Motors is gearing up to introduce a plug-in hybrid – the Chevy Volt, which can travel up to 40 miles on a single charge. The Volt will also come with a small gasoline engine that engages to charge the battery when it runs down. Since 80% percent of American commuters drive less than 40 miles each day, a Volt driver might need only to fill up his tank with gasoline a few times a year.
Plug-in electrics might be one of the long-term solutions to our transportation needs, or they might just be a transitory technology on the road to fuel-cell electrics, which are powered by hydrogen and can be refueled like gasoline cars to support traveling long distances. Regardless, it’s great to see the market responding so vigorously to the problems we are facing with rising oil prices.