Elon Musk got on Twitter last night (or early this morning) to announced a Christmas present for Tesla Roadster owners. The Tesla sports car, with a new upgrade, can travel 400 miles without recharging. As Musk noted in the tweet, that’s enough to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco without taking a break to charge.
Roadster upgrade will enable non-stop travel from LA to SF — almost 400 mile range. Details tmrw. Merry Christmas!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 25, 2014
In a follow-up post published today on the Tesla Motors blog, Tesla explains that this is simply the result of sharing with the Roadster what the Model S battery has developed into. Tesla was also careful to point out that this is not the result of upgrades that will work their way up to the Model S, Model X, Model 3, etc. The first, summary line of the blog reads: “The Roadster 3.0 package applies what we’ve learned in Model S to Roadster. No new Model S battery pack or major range upgrade is expected in the near term.”
The battery in battery-electric vehicles is the essence of electric vehicles’ fall from grace early in the 20th century and its rise again this century. At the stage batteries were at for decades, electric cars simply couldn’t have long range and be affordable. That has quickly been changing, thanks especially to lithium-ion batteries. Tesla, since its first car (the Roadster) to today, has even seen (and helped to bring about) a massive improvement in the technology. The Roadster is just being brought up to today’s level of battery development.
However, Tesla is also improving the Roadster’s range and efficiency with aerodynamics and better tires. Here are the three key improvements summarized by Tesla:
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% 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.
The original Roadster had a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.36. Using modern computational methods we expect to make a 15% improvement, dropping the total Cd down to 0.31 with a retrofit aero kit.
3. Rolling Resistance
The original Roadster tires have a rolling resistance coefficient (Crr) of 11.0 kg/ton. New tires that we will use on the Roadster 3.0 have a Crr of roughly 8.9 kg/ton, about a 20% improvement. We are also making improvements in the wheel bearings and residual brake drag that further reduce overall rolling resistance of the car.
Overall, this comes to a 40–50% improvement in range, Tesla writes. However, Roadster 3.0, as Tesla is calling it, won’t be the final frontier of the Roadster. It is confident it will be providing more updates to its first, breakthrough vehicle.
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