Tesla Roadster Sport: The First 3000 Miles

Alan Webb, Roadster Owner, 23 mars 2010

This blog post is a follow up to last week's post "How We Went Out for a Pizza and Came Home with a Roadster"

The Tesla snowmobile

On December 4th our Roadster was ready, but were we? We live in the hills nine miles from and 1800 feet above downtown Boulder. It had been snowing all week. There were cars in the ditch on our road. My m-coupe is moth-balled for the winter. How could we get our Tesla home?

Oh, well. We worked our way down the hill in our 4x4, just to sign the papers and at least have a look at the thing. Gorgeous. Black car, black leather, black wheels -- mounted with Yokohama extreme performance summer tires. Very sticky in the dry, not bad in the wet, and slide-sideways-off-the-crown-of-the-road-standing-still dangerous on snow and ice. Everybody commiserated with us when we said just to leave it on the floor as a display and we'd come get it when the snow melted. Understand, this was our Tesla sitting there ready to go and we had never yet driven one even ten feet.

Just about then a pretty good sized delivery truck pulled in alongside the showroom, and the Sales Manager said, “Hey, you know what's on that truck? A set of snow tires I ordered for a customer, and an extra set I ordered just in case. You want them?” Want them? Does peanut butter want jelly?

That was Friday night. Saturday morning, Pete at the Tire Source (best tire store in Colorado) mounted the snows and we finally got to drive the world's first super-fast, super-fun electric sports car.

Whooo and wheee!

Our daily driver

From our house to our stable in Golden is 27 miles - 54 miles round-trip nearly every day. Two days a week, add 35 miles to that distance for my wife's trip to her weightlifting trainer. Add in the occasional errand run, or evening out and you get 3,000 miles in the first ten weeks.

Here's what it is like:

The Tesla has three charging and driving modes; Range for distance and less power, Performance for more power and less distance, and Standard for every day. Hooked to the 50 Amp/220v line in our garage, it greets us with 187 miles of range in Standard mode each morning. Say we drive it to Golden and get back around 1 p.m. We plug it in and it is fully charged again by 2:30 when Jane goes to lift weights.

She plugs it in when she gets back at 4:30, and it's fully charged again if we go out to dinner at 6:30.

When you take your foot of the accelerator, the motor slows the car and acts as a generator. So, the 1800 feet down hill in 6 1/2 miles that starts our trip puts a lot of juice back in. Driving through downtown at 30, 35 and 40 with regenerative slowing for lights and traffic is very efficient, hardly using any juice.

Once past the city limit, we pick up Route 93 along the Flatirons and foothills of the Rockies. It winds and changes elevation a lot, has several lights, and most people drive the 55 mph road a little over 60. The car is wonderfully stable, flat-handling and comfortable, and just goes where you point it with slight turns of the (no power) steering.

Here and there we get to blast away from a light, or shoot past slower traffic up a hill. That's when the massive, instant torque always brings a grin. Shot from guns. You're doing 40 and then you're doing 70. And all you moved was your right foot a couple of inches - downright startling, and our other cars are a BMW m-coupe and a souped-up Mini Cooper S so we don't startle all that easily. We look forward to driving it every day. It is always pleasant and often exhilarating.

The handling is surprisingly neutral considering all that weight in the back, though I've only driven on snow tires on dirty or snowy roads so I haven't pushed it yet. Turn-in feels good, though not as quick or positive as the BMW. It will push some on tight curves. The brakes are better than they feel, stopping the car with minimum fuss. I cannot say at this point that it is totally intuitive. It will take some learning. But if you look at the g-force and slalom stats in the car magazines you'll see that it does what you'd expect from a sports car. Autocross in March with real tires should tell me more about all this.

You can fit some small stuff in the trunk or under the passenger's knees so you can do minor errands on the way home, but don't go for a twenty-bag grocery shopping spree. It is not easy to get in and out of, but my wife's 6-foot cousin says it's easier than his Lotus Elise, and I say it's only a tad harder than my m-coupe. If you want easy access, buy a van.

The Roadster adventure continues - Ice dancing

The Tesla Gallery in Boulder sponsored a day of ice driving on the lake in Georgetown.

It's about 165 miles round trip from my house, with a lot of high speed highway and major elevation changes – thousands of feet. So, it was a demanding test of Range Mode. Worked fine. Had about 60 miles left when we got home.

It's always fun driving on ice. My son and I have autocrossed on that lake a couple of times, winning a couple of years ago with a Mini Cooper – using the emergency brake to make turns while keeping the front wheels pulling hard. Can't do that in a Tesla, but you can use the power to break the rear end loose, and you can learn a lot about the anti-lock brakes. It's not the best ice car, but for a rear wheel driver it's fine. And, it was fun seeing 16 Tesla Roadsters all in one place.

This car does what Tesla says it will. I've been driving sports cars all my driving life, auto-crossing for nine years, and I am surprised that after only two years work, they have built a major sports car. By the end of April, I'll write about how the Tesla does at an autocross. In the meantime, big kudos to this company for the lead it is taking in electric cars, and for the first-class people making it happen. We're glad to be a part of it.