- The sub-two-second 0-60 mph speed of the new Tesla Roadster is for the base version of the car.
- Future versions of the car could be faster.
- At some point, all that speed can get to be uncomfortable.
It was a joyous, raucous moment, a little something extra special on a night in Los Angeles that saw the arrival of the Tesla Semi.
CEO Elon Musk reviewed the blistering specs — 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds, top speed of over 250 mph, more than 600 miles on a charge from the Roadster’s 200 kWh battery pack — but he was quick to note that the performance numbers are for the base version of the car, which will sell for about $US200,000 and arrive in 2020.
For perspective, all Teslas are quite quick. It’s the combination of battery size and software engineering that serves up the speed. You need the highest-end P100D Model S sedan, for example, to outrun a gas-powered supercar in the 0-60 mph dash.
The old Roadster, in its final iteration before going out of production, turned in a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds. That might sound like nothing compared to the new car. But I drove the old Roadster on several occasions and sampled that speed. It was anything but wimpy.
Anything around three seconds in the 0-60 mph is pretty extreme. Below that and you’re talking neck-snapping velocities. Below two seconds and you’re verging on the uncomfortable. You need to prepare yourself. And even then you’re not ready.
How Tesla gets its cars to be so quick
Speed is effectively just physics and maths. If you have X amount of available power and can channel it to the wheels of a vehicle without anything blowing up, it comes down to the weight of your platform and air resistance (there are other structural and dynamic factors, but they’re well understood in the world of fast, fast cars).
If a base Tesla new Roadster can break the two-second barrier, thereby becoming the fastest production car on the planet, a stripped-down car could go faster, chopping tenths of seconds off that time. At that point, the Roadster would be in the territory occupied by Formula One race cars.
Additionally, larger battery packs and different drivetrain engineering could send the electric power to the wheels more effectively. So more speed. But the Roadster has a way to go before it challenges the fastest dragster, so-called “top fuel” beasts that can do 0-100 mph in under a second.
The problem at that velocity is that the driver is pulling enough G-force to be effectively smashed. There’s a point at which the force of the speed will damage your body. And I should point out that in everyday driving, it’s hard to find places where you can legally punch it from 0-60 mph without being disciplined enough to not keep going. After three seconds, the highway patrol could be on your tail.
Of course, with an Autopilot Tesla Roadster, that wouldn’t be as much of a problem. No driver.
For what it’s worth, gas-powered cars have broken the two-second barrier before. But for now, Tesla is the only carmaker who can claim the title.
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