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The "Fuel-less" Car: Tesla Motor's Electric Roadster

This week, we’ve been concentrating on fuel, to coincide with the launch of The Green right here on the Sundance Channel. Gasoline is out, and biodiesel, ethanol and straight veggie oil (or waste veggie oil) are in, but these certainly aren’t the only options. There are a few other technologies on the horizon that have the potential to change the way we drive in a big way. Today we’ll take a look at electric cars, concentrating on just one: Tesla Motor’s sexy, sleek new roadster.

We gave the Tesla a brief mention earlier this month [www.sundance.tv], but it’s worthy of a full post. Designed to turn heads with its looks and back it up with performance that defies ‘eco-friendly’ logic, it stands to revolutionize the way we drive. Let’s talk performance: 0 – 60 in about 4 seconds (that’s comparable to a Lamborghini Murcielago); 250 miles per charge; the equivalent of 135 miles per gallon and about one penny per mile (depending on the cost of electricity). To put it mildly: this sucker can really move; combine it with aesthetics that more closely resemble James Bond than Green Acres, make a high-speed machine that just drips with sex appeal.

The Roadster certainly isn’t all speed and no environmental benefits. It’s 100% electric, so that means it can boast zero emissions, while driving, at least, so it doesn’t even have a tailpipe. That translates roughly to one-tenth of the pollution and is six times as efficient as the best sports car. It runs on a lithium ion battery pack (that’s right – the same kind that’s in most cell phones and laptops) rather than lead-acid or nickel metal hydride (used on older electric cars) that are heavier and more difficult to dispose of. Like gas-electric hybrids, it takes advantage of regenerative braking to charge the batteries on the road; once you run it dry, it can charge up overnight in your garage and be ready to roll for another 250 miles. Perhaps the best part: depending on where you get your electricity, it’s possible not to generate any carbon emissions at all while using the car (see the posts on getting green electricity [www.sundance.tv] and the importance of your carbon footprint [www.sundance.tv] for more).

This isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky, cross-your-fingers concept car, either. The first production run of the Roadster is scheduled for release later this year, and has already sold out. Tesla is accepting reservations for the 2008 model year on a first-come, first-serve basis, and though they aren’t for everyone (the two seats and $100,000 price tag makes for a fairly exclusive demographic), we love what they represent and the potential the idea has to change our dirty transportation ways; there are even whisperings [www.treehugger.com] from Tesla about more practical, less expensive electric cars designed to be less flashy and more practical. Just about anything you’d want to know about the Roadster can be found on their website [www.teslamotors.com], including more pictures and images, performance and environmental specs, and more.