It was billed as the silver bullet of the electric car industry. An elegant sports car that could reach 0-60mph in stomach-churning 3.7 seconds and cost in the region of £3.50 to charge.
But since it entered the UK market, the Tesla Roadster has received mixed reviews. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are both fans, yet full-time electric car sceptic Jeremy Clarkson claims the sleek Roadster Sport is ‘as much use as a bag of muddy spinach.’
So when The Engineer was given the opportunity to test drive the Roadster Sport, we jumped at the chance to take it for a spin around the streets of Kensington and find out exactly why the car had caused so much controversy. Coincidentally, the car we borrowed was vibrant green – pretty much the colour of fresh spinach.
With no Congestion Charge and free parking, the benefits of driving an electric vehicle in London are increasing. But these aren’t the reasons that you would fork out £101,900 for the Roadster Sport.
That would be for the smooth torque, the 211 mile range, the light-weight carbon fibre body and, most of all, for the electrifying acceleration you get when you press your foot to the pedal to reach a maximum speed of 125 mph.
The Sport weighs around 1,200kg, and you feel that weight while cornering. A third of that mass is made up by the 6831 lithium-ion batteries in the back of the car, all of which need to be constantly cooled.
The handling is also affected by the choice of tyres which are low-rolling-resistance, giving less grip and a harder ride. But all of this seems to matter less, when you think of the 288hp performance – astonishing from the motor the size of a grapefruit.
You would almost forget you’re driving an electric car if it wasn’t for the eerie silence during cruises. At high speeds, the noise of the tyres and the sound of the Sport cutting though the wind are the only audible warning to cyclists, pedestrians and cars.
Its ‘zero-emission’ credentials are another divisive point. Unfortunately, charging a Tesla Roadster from a 13-amp plug takes around 16 hours. And unless you’re getting that electricity from a renewable source, the Tesla can never truly be ‘zero-emissions’.
But it’s a step in the right direction. With time and refinement, Tesla will improve their design, ready for an infrastructure that can provide a greener source of electricity. Overall, the Tesla represents an electrifying concept that could one day open the door for truly zero-emissions cars. You see, Jeremy, the thing about muddy spinach is that you can wash it.