Tesla next-gen Roadster: Cost and specs for the 'rocket'-using supercar

The futuristic car is about to hit the roads.

The second-generation Tesla Roadster is set to smash records when it launches, but that may not be for a while. The highly-anticipated supercar is expected to follow on from Tesla's first vehicle back in 2008, but it may take until 2022 before fans can go for a ride in the all-electric car.

While we wait for it to hit the open road, there are compelling clues pointing to:

  • Exactly when the second-generation Tesla Roadster will be released
  • How much the second-generation Tesla Roadster will cost

The Roadster was a rather surprising inclusion in an event in November 2017 at the Tesla Design Studio, which at the time was expected to reveal the Tesla Semi electric truck. Musk’s plans for the Roadster include breaking a number of new records, including acceleration times of 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, 0 to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and a quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds.

The supercar will offer a top speed of over 250 mph, aided by 10,000 Newton meters of wheel torque from its all-wheel-drive configuration. While that may sound like a tall order, one of the few people to drive the Roadster — test driver Emile Bouret — described the figures as “conservative,” and said the car is a “proper weapon.”

On September 12, 2019, Musk gave further details about how the Roadster will form the basis of the new product line. The “Plaid powertrain” set to provide this incredible performance will enter production in around a year’s time, launching on the Model S, Model X and Roadster. The Model 3 and Model Y will miss this boost, as they form the lower end of the product lineup. Musk explained that “the only thing beyond Ludicrous is Plaid,” continuing his love of cult sci-fi movie Spaceballs that emerged while promoting The Boring Company. Ludicrous is the name of the current high-performance mode in the company’s vehicles, while Plaid has been previewed at hands-on events with the Roadster.

On September 8, 2019, a photo emerged on Reddit with the Roadster alongside the Semi truck and Model Y, completing the 2020 lineup:

Perhaps one of the most surprising additions to the Roadster is the SpaceX options package. This will place around 10 small rocket thrusters around the car and behind the license plate, adding a composite overwrapped pressure vessel on the rear seat that will hold compressed air refueled by spare battery power. The result will be better braking, acceleration, and handling. Musk has even suggested the car could show a hover test as early as the end of next year.

The car has been spotted in prototype form regularly since its unveiling. It’s been spotted in gorgeous cherry red, while a September appearance showed the car in an incredible white design, reminiscent of the Stormtroopers from Star Wars:

These appearances have shown little of the interior, but rare snapshots show a giant curved central touchscreen as well as a weirdly-shaped steering wheel. The wheel was demonstrated at the company’s annual investor conference in the summer. In a now-public snapshot, the console is set to visualize “Plaid Mode,” yet another Spaceballs reference, which is supposed to be one step up from the “Ludicrous Mode” included with the Model S, X and 3.

Other users have taken matters into their own hands by photoshopping the car into a variety of colors, including a dazzling blue, toxic green, midnight silver, and even the shade of green chosen by the Australian government to make cigarette packages less appealing. Unfortunately, with Tesla scaling back its color options where it can, these exotic choices may remain a fantasy.

Here’s what we know:

When Will Tesla Roadster Be Released?

The Tesla Roadster release date is somewhat vague, but Musk promised at the Tesla Design Studio event that it would hit the roads in 2020.

Musk has since changed his plans for this. During an appearance in May 2020 on The Joe Rogan Experience, Musk described the Roadster as a "dessert," explaining that it would have to wait until Tesla had finished a slew of other projects first. This included building Giga Berlin, speeding up the production at Giga Shanghai, ramping up Model Y production, producing the Semi truck, and releasing the Cybertruck. With the Cybertruck expected to launch in late 2021, that would suggest a 2022 launch is more likely at this stage.

Musk also suggested that the car would be delayed as Tesla needed to complete work on other technologies first:

"Some of the things for Roadster, the tri-motor Plaid powertrain, we're going to have that in Model S. So that's one of the ingredients that's needed for Roadster, is the Plaid powertrain, more advanced battery pack, that kind of thing."

How Much Will Tesla Roadster Cost?

The Tesla Roadster is expected to retail for $200,000 as a base price, dependent on a $50,000 reservation. A special “Founders Series” model, limited to just 1,000 cars, will cost $250,000 with the reservation dependent on full payment.

Tesla has plans for even more upgrades from these base models. Musk shared a “SpaceX Options Package” in June, which will use 10 small rocket thrusters arranged around the car to improve acceleration, top speed, braking and cornering. It will use high-pressure air in a composite over-wrapped pressure vessel bottle, with the air immediately replenished by the vehicle when power draw allows. SpaceX is qualifying the bottles for its NASA crewed missions, set to send astronauts to the International Space Station in April 2019. Pricing is yet to be determined for this feature, but it won’t cost just money: the bottle will take up the two “kid seats” in the rear.

What Is the Battery Range for Tesla Roadster?

With a battery pack of 200 kilowatt-hours, the Tesla Roadster is set to travel a staggering 620 miles on a single charge. That’s more than double range found on the Tesla Model 3 long-range edition, which offers 310 miles. Musk has teased further refinements, as the current Roadster battery is just two Model S P100 packs strapped together, which allows for Tesla to double the modules without packaging and other components. Musk claims that the company could make efficiency savings of 10 or 20 percent on the 4.5-inch rise in height simply from the bigger packs.

Tesla Roadster at Gigafactory.

Stephen Roth/Instagram

A video shared by Tesla in December shows the car is no slouch, either. The company took members of the public for rides in the Roadster, capturing their reactions as the car pulled away at high speed:

What Will Be the Tesla Roadster Seating Capacity?

The Tesla Roadster will have four seats. The rear two seats will be smaller than the front two, and Musk has previously referred to them as “kid seats.” The language echoes that used for the Model S seven-seater option, which places two small seats in the back of the car for children. Prototype models show just two doors on the car. Recent footage shows the rear seats are rather small. Perhaps not best for four full-sized adults.

How Will the Tesla Roadster Be Manufactured?

Little is known about how and where the next-gen Roadster will be manufactured. Given its price, which should be significantly higher than Model S and X, Tesla is unlikely to produce the Roadster in mass quantities, meaning fewer than 1,000 per week. It has a higher price than the $108,000 asking price for the original 2008 Roadster, which had a production run of only 500 in its first year.

Musk claimed in the June 2019 earnings call that Tesla is not likely going to build more than 10,000 next-gen Roadsters per year. Taken together, it seems more realistic to expect limited quantities of its successor.

What has Elon Musk Said About Tesla Roadster?

There’s some evidence to think that Musk and Tesla think of the Roadster as a kind of victory lap to mark the success of their bigger project to create a viable mass-market electric car. Prior to the reveal, Musk said in July 2016 that he “would love to do the next roadster, but that’s gotta be dessert.” That implies it hard to follow the successful ramp of up the “Model 3 production”, though in the meanwhile he has still dropped some early specs:

He also hinted at its impressive specs:

At the car’s reveal, Musk said the vehicle is a “hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” aimed at making gas-powered vehicles feel like “a steam engine with a side of quiche.” He also noted that “this is the base model!” and that “we’re gonna talk about things beyond base maybe next year sometime.”

During his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience in May 2020, Musk explained the team is "going to do some things that are kind of unfair," with plans to "take some things from rocket world and put them on a car."

While Musk appears excited about the next Roadster, his attention has also been focused on his old Roadster, which SpaceX sent into orbit using a Falcon Heavy in February 2018.

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