Roadster 3.0: Tesla Upgrades its First Commercial Model

The Tesla Roadster 3.0, according to a Christmas Twitter announcement by CEO Elon Musk, is looking forward to an upgrade in the new year.

According to the CEO’s Christmas Day tweet and The Verge, Tesla is giving its new version of the electric car a welcome update. The headlining figure in all of these newsflashes is a new range of 400 miles per charge for the Roadster 3.0. The battery could take the upgraded Roadster 3.0 from San Francisco to Los Angeles “on a single charge,” says The Verge. That upgrade nearly doubles the mileage-per-charge of the Model S, which currently boasts a battery with a range of about 265 miles. Ars Technica ran a more ecstatic headline, calling the upgrade “truly crazy.”

Original Tesla Roadster Model

The original Tesla Roadster model. Credit:

Tesla Roadster 3.0: Paying Back Early Believers

The Verge paints this upgrade as a thank you, seven years in the making, to early believers and early buyers. The company launched its first commercial vehicle, in 2008. Roughly 2,500 to 2,600 investors took to the adventurous new product before it had proved itself as a worthwhile deal. The price tag for that early investment was by no means slim: Ars Technica estimates that the 2008 Roadster cost approximately $109,000. The Roadster’s battery, without the new and much-hyped update, currently delivers drivers a 244-mile range.

The Roadster gave the company both a commercial and a practical testing ground for its innovative products. The amount of data collected helped create the younger Model S, which The Verge dubs the company’s flagship model. Now it seems the relationship between these two models is flipping, as the younger model is now informing and enabling the update for its older relative.

Promises Following Promises for the Roadster and Model S

On the company’s blog, the more detailed announcement for the battery upgrades begins: “Battery technology has continued a steady improvement in recent years, as has our experience in optimizing total vehicle efficiency through Model S development. We have long been excited to apply our learning back to our first vehicle, and are thrilled to do just that with the prototype Roadster 3.0 package.”

The hype cycle is revving its engine again already, though, with the company’s more recent Model S. Even though it already boasts an impressive 265-mile range, the Model S has been promised an enhancement similar to that of the Roadster. The upgrade was teased all the way from June to December, but the Tweet in which Musk made the “long-term” promise to extend the update to the Model S has since been deleted from his account. However, Tesla’s blog introduces the Roadster 3.0 upgrade post with a vague promise of a similar “major range upgrade…expected in the near term” for the Model S battery pack.

Tesla Model S

The 2012 Tesla Model S. Credit:

Tesla’s Staying on the Forefront

Tesla continually emphasizes its top-of-the-field efficiency, point by point, in recalling its 2008 launch. On its blog post, the company summarizes its growth:

“The original Roadster battery was the very first lithium ion battery put into production in any vehicle. It was state of the art in 2008, but cell technology has improved substantially since then. We have identified a new cell that has 31 percent more energy than the original Roadster cell. Using this new cell we have created a battery pack that delivers roughly 70kWh in the same package as the original battery.”

On top of the improved battery performance, the Roadster 3.0 will get a boost in range coming from its redesigned aerodynamics and low rolling resistance.

Testing the Roadster 3.0 on Real Roads

Tesla will be demonstrating its promised range with a “real world” test drive in “the early weeks of 2015,” according to the company. “There is a set of speeds and driving conditions,” says the blog, “where we can confidently drive the Roadster 3.0 over 400 miles.”

Even if the Roadster 3.0 isn’t the company’s “flagship” model, it may become the companies renewed demonstration of its ability to push boundaries for efficiency. The feedback system between the two models, the Model S and the Roadster, could very well echo itself all over again. If the Roadster upgrade proves successful, then it could guide another upgrade for the Model S.

While the Model S’s upgrade may be in the undefined future, the sport car’s progress toward commercial reinvention is already in motion. “Appointments for upgrading Roadsters will be taken this spring once the new battery pack finishes safety validation,” according to Tesla. “We are confident that this will not be the last update the Roadster will receive in the many years to come.”

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