another electric car story...
.'Wicked fast' electric car set to roll
By Matt Wald The New York Times
Published: July 18, 2006
WASHINGTON In a new approach to making the electric car a mass-market product, a California company will introduce a model Wednesday that is very specialized, very expensive and very, very fast.
Tesla Motors, a four-year-old Silicon Valley start-up, has raised $60 million and spent $25 million developing a two- seat Roadster that will sell for between $85,000 and $100,000. It goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in four seconds, "wicked fast," said the company chairman, Martin Eberhard. Because it is an electric vehicle, the driver does not have to shift into second gear until the car hits 65, he said.
At the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group that is not normally a fan of fast cars, Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program, called the car "a remarkable potential breakthrough" because it does not use oil and can be powered by clean sources of electricity.
The Roadster comes 10 years after the introduction of another two-seat electric that was hailed as a breakthrough in technology, General Motors' EV-1. But while many environmentalists had high hopes for it, GM took back the cars as the three-year leases expired and canceled the program, saying that its limited range, less than 100 miles, or 160 kilometers, made it unmarketable.
In contrast, the Roadster is supposed to go about 250 miles without recharging. It uses lithium-ion batteries, the kind found in laptop computers, and carries about three times as much energy as the EV-1 did. Its battery pack weighs about 900 pounds, or 400 kilograms.
The car comes with a home charging kit that connects to a 240-volt circuit and charges the battery from dead to fully charged in three and a half hours. The car can also be charged on a regular 110-volt outlet, but it takes longer.
The EV-1's original battery pack weighed more than 1,100 pounds. (The EV-1 was never sold, but was leased on terms comparable to what it cost to lease a vehicle worth about $35,000).
Whereas the EV-1 had 26 batteries wired together, the Roadster has 6,831, arranged in what Eberhard called a "complex network." The voltage of the batteries is added together, as if they were wired serially, like flashlight batteries. But if one fails, only the computer running the car will notice, he said.
The EV-1 was no slouch, going from zero to 60 in about nine seconds, using a 102-kilowatt, or about 137-horsepower, drivetrain. The Roadster has 185 kilowatts, or 248 horsepower.
The previous round of electric vehicles was built in anticipation of a "zero- emission vehicle" quota to be imposed by the state of California. But the state dropped the mandate.
The Roadster's advantage is that it avoids gasoline at $3 a gallon. At the average national retail price for electricity, and fuel economy of 200 watt- hours per mile, the Roadster will travel 150 miles on the price of a gallon of unleaded regular.
But saving money presumably won't be the prime motivation of most potential buyers, because to earn back the $65,000 price difference over a two-seater like the Mazda Miata would require more than 700,000 miles of driving.
Eberhard says the way to get a new product into the mass market is to sell it to rich people. "Cellphones, refrigerators, color TVs, they didn't start off by making a low-end product for masses," he said. "They were relatively expensive, for people who could afford it."
The companies that sold those products at first, he said, did so "not because they were stupid and they thought the real market was at the high end of the market," but because that was how to get production started.
His company and others that have tried electric cars are too small to produce them by the tens of thousands anyway, he said.
The company will start taking orders on Wednesday and hopes to begin deliveries in the middle of next year, Eberhard said. He said he hoped to sell 4,000 to 5,000 in the next three years.