Today is the 10-year anniversary of the official debut of the Tesla Roadster, Tesla’s very first vehicle, which also effectively launched the automaker out of ‘stealth mode’. The vehicle debuted on July 19, 2006 at the Santa Monica Airport with more than 350 people attending the event.
The Roadster was the first phase of Elon Musk’s ‘Secret Master Plan’ for Tesla. The automaker is now in the last phase of that plan and Musk is reportedly about to unveil a second part outlining the company’s future.
But while we wait for the second part of the plan, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to remember the Roadster on its 10-year anniversary.
Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel recently recalled the launch of the Roadster at the 2016 Tesla Shareholders meeting:
“It was a very pivotal event in the company’s history. It was the time when we went out of stealth mode. Before this, nobody never heard of Tesla, we didn’t have a single media article. We had never taken any customer deposit, we had no customer, we had no sales team.
But this event was awesome. We had two prototypes. We had that yellow mule and then we built two working prototypes for this event. It was a red car and a black car. We had this kind of concept at the time where we’d have an event to give customers test drives and then we’d start taking reservations – and do it all in some giant big party at an airport.”
Straubel recalls convincing hundreds of customers to place a reservation for the vehicle despite the prototypes “hardly holding together” during the event:
“Those two cars were basically destroyed by the end of the night. That was most of our durability testing and we actually had to drive them behind a curtain to pump ice water in parts of the powertrain in order to keep them from overheating for more test drives.”
Here Elon Musk talked to journalists at the event:
It’s interesting to see how the message hasn’t changed much in the last decade.
Elon was the also first customer to receive the Roadster on February 1, 2008. A month after Tesla handed him the keys, he wrote about his experience with the car:
“It has been a blast driving my Tesla Roadster every day for the past several weeks, using it as my daily driver from Bel Air to Hawthorne. I really think this is the most fun car I’ve ever owned, beating out the McLaren F1 and my 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo.
Reaction from driving the car around Los Angeles has been great. It’s thumbs up wherever I go – something that never happens when I’m driving the Porsche. A big advantage of the Roadster is that I can show up to an event like Global Green or Conservation International in a hot sports car and actually get a better reaction than if I drove a Prius! The Roadster has twice the energy efficiency of that gas hog. :)”
Tesla ended up delivering over 2,000 Roadsters between 2008 and 2012. Most recently, Tesla started offering battery pack upgrades at cost to current owners to thank them for their early support of the company.
The automaker is also reportedly working on a next generation Roadster to launch by the end of the decade.
Here’s a few pictures of the Roadster 2.5 via Tesla and further down, you can read the original press release of the Roadster debut:
Here’s the official press release for the launch of the Roadster:
TESLA MOTORS HOSTS WORLD DEBUT OF TESLA ROADSTER OFFERING PERFORMANCE, STYLE & EFFICIENCY- WITH A CONSCIENCE Silicon Valley Manufacturer Unveils Sleek, Clean and Fast Performance Electric Vehicle Before Crowd of Well-Wishers
SAN CARLOS, Calif. – (July 19, 2006) – The first performance electric car manufactured by Tesla Motors, the high-performance, zero-emissions Tesla Roadster, was unveiled before a throng of well-wishers, car buffs, and potential customers Wednesday evening during Tesla’s “Signature One Hundred” event at Barker Hangar.
More than 350 invited guests spent the evening learning about the new sports car, speaking with Tesla Motors executives, and going for rides along the tarmac at the Santa Monica Airport, adjacent to the event. Many signed up to be among the first to take delivery of the Tesla Roadster, becoming Signature One Hundred Members.
Celebrities in attendance included actor Ed Begley Jr., producer Richard Donner, businessman Michael Eisner, PayPal founder (and Tesla Motors Chairman) Elon Musk, Participant Productions’ Founder and CEO Jeff Skoll, also of eBay fame, and actor Bradley Whitford, who starred in “The West Wing.”
“We’re thrilled to have the support of top people from so many different industries,” said Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla Motors. “High-tech, CleanTech, entertainment, automotive, you name it. It’s gratifying to have others realize the significance or what Tesla Motors is doing.”
The electric-powered Tesla Roadster boasts a top speed of more than 130 mph and a range of 250 miles on a single charge, a combination heretofore unseen in a mass-produced electric vehicle. Its extended range is due to its state-of-the-art lithium-ion Energy Storage System. The Tesla Roadster is capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in about four seconds.
“The Tesla Roadster delivers sports car performance without using any gasoline,” said Eberhard. “This is what we hoped to achieve when we started the company three years ago, to build a car with zero emissions that people would love to drive.”
Using a unique two-speed manual transmission, the Tesla Roadster’s power comes from a 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor coupled with the Power Electronics Module (PEM) which provides multiple functionality of inverting direct current to 3-phase alternating current, the charging system, and the regenerative braking system.
The Roadster’s Energy Storage System (ESS) provides power to the entire vehicle, including the motor. Its durable, tamper-resistant enclosure includes: 6,831 lithium-ion cells; a network of microprocessors for maintaining charge balance and temperature among the batteries; a cooling system; and an independent safety system designed to disconnect power outside the enclosure under a variety of detectable safety situations.
The Tesla Roadster comes complete with its Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE), a home-based charging system. An optional mobile charging kit, for re-charging while away from the EVSE, also features this automatic disconnect system. Charging the Tesla Roadster takes approximately 3.5 hours.
The Tesla Roadster is capable of driving up to 250 miles (EPA Highway) on a single charge, a range roughly triple that of previous mass-produced electric vehicles, like General Motors’ EV1.
“It didn’t make sense to sell a car that couldn’t go 90 miles on a charge. You’d spend more time charging the old EVs than driving them,” said Eberhard. “Lithium-ion technology, which has been proven in many different applications, has allowed us to achieve exactly what we thought it would in terms of power, range and efficiency.”
The body design of the Tesla Roadster, which included a collaborative effort by the company’s employees, has been headed by Barney Hatt, Principal Designer at the Lotus Design Studio in England. The result is a sleek, stylish sports car that will appeal to enthusiasts and environmentalists the world over.
Tesla designers and engineers have gone to great lengths to ensure that not only is the Tesla Roadster safe to drive, but also when charging the performance electric car, at home or on the road. Their goal is to not only meet, but to surpass the rigorous standards of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, or FMVSS, as implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Tesla co-founders Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who serves as Vice President, Engineering, have brought together a team of automotive industry veterans plus Silicon Valley electronics and Internet engineers to bring the Tesla Roadster to life.
Research and Development for Tesla Motors is based at the Corporate Headquarters in San Carlos, Calif. Engines are manufactured at Tesla’s facility in Taiwan, and assembly takes place at Tesla’s plant in England.
Eberhard and Tarpenning provided the early funding for the company, and were joined in 2003 by Musk, CEO of SpaceX, who is the major investor in the company and serves as Chairman of Tesla Motors.
Musk worked with Eberhard and Tarpenning to attract more investors and approach Venture Capital firms, and in June 2006, Tesla Motors announced that the company had secured and additional $40 million in financing led by Musk and VantagePoint Venture Partners, one of the largest CleanTech investors in the Silicon Valley.
Deliveries of the Tesla Roadster are expected to begin next summer.
About Tesla Motors Tesla Motors was founded in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning to create efficient electric cars for people who love to drive. The Chairman of Tesla Motors, a privately held company, is Elon Musk, who has lead or co-led all three rounds of investment resulting in $60 million in funding. Mr. Musk has been instrumental in both corporate and product development at Tesla Motors.
The company currently employs 70 people, including teams in California, the U.K. and Taiwan. The background and experience of Tesla’s employees mirrors the vehicle itself, drawing from diverse expertise in the electronics, automotive and Internet industries.
Tesla Motors creates vehicles that conform to all U.S. safety, environmental and durability standards. Tesla’s cars include modern safety equipment such as airbags, front crumple zones, side impact protection, and 2½ mph bumpers. Tesla will sell cars in the U.S. only when they pass the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS).
For more information, visit www.teslamotors.com
Motor: * 3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor * 13,500 rpm maximum * Max Net Power: 185 kW * Max Torque: 180 lb-ft * Top speed: over 130 mph
Performance * 0-60 mph: around four seconds * 0-100 mph: under 11 seconds * Range: 200-250 miles per charge (estimated) * Home-based charging system (EVSE) with integral safety features
Transmission: * 2 forward speeds + reverse (by reversing the motor) * 1st gear: 4.20:1 * 2nd gear: 2.17:1 * Reverse by reversing the motor (speed electronically limited) * Final drive: 3.41:1
Exterior: * Body: Carbon fiber * Unique headlamp assemblies using proprietary HID low-beam and halogen high-beam lamp units * LED taillights, marker lights and direction indicator lights * Length: 155.4 / 3946 (in/mm)
Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.