Photo of the second generation Roadster courtesy of Tesla

Can Musk Meet The 2025 Roadster Release Deadline?

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Who doesn’t love a roadster? The top down. The feel of the breeze on your cheeks. The aromas of loam, salt, flowers in bloom. The visceral awareness of the countryside flitting by you.

But that’s not exactly the image of a roadster that Elon Musk is creating in his recent flurry of tweets about the Tesla Roadster. Instead, the Tesla CEO is referring to the high-performance car that originally established Tesla as an all-electric vehicle company and the next version of it more than a decade later.

The problem is that this second-generation vehicle is 5 years late and counting.

Yet Musk recently affirmed that the new-and-improved Tesla Roadster release is scheduled for late 2024, with a delivery date in the subsequent months.

According to information Musk posted on X/Twitter, the updated Roadster will be a combined effort of Tesla and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). “We radically increased the design goals for the new Tesla Roadster,” Musk wrote as part of a series of posts Tuesday night. “There will never be another car like this, if you could even call it a car.”

The Original Tesla Roadster

Musk enthusiastically positioned the original Roadster among the vehicles the company would use to pave the way for an EV “for the masses.”

Musk wanted a sleek looking, fast electric sports car, so in its earliest years, Tesla built the Roadster. On July 19, 2006, Tesla rolled out the Roadster at an invitation-only event at an airport hangar in Santa Monica, California. In 2007, Tesla experienced cost overruns on its first EV, the Roadster, and by the end of the year had had three CEOs, including co-founder Eberhard. Musk, who by that point had invested $55 million in Tesla, appointed himself CEO in October 2008, saying, “That’s part of the reason I decided to take over as CEO. I have so many chips on the table. I need to steer the boat completely.”

Not only was the Roadster a sleek sports car, it could go 250 miles on a single charge, it could accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds, and it was silent. Designed to use commodity, 18650 form-factor, Li-ion cells, the Tesla Roadster battery drew on the progress that had been made in Li-ion batteries over the past 15 years. The car was based on the chassis of the Lotus Elise, and Car and Driver exclaimed that the vehicle was “not just a car, but one of the strongest automotive statements on the road.”

The first Roadster was scheduled to be delivered in 2006. However, production was delayed and the first 100 vehicles were delivered almost 2 years later. In 2008, Tesla Motors launched the Roadster, the first high-end electric car, at a cost of $109,000.

The Tesla Roadster battery pack consisted of about 6,800 of 18650 cells, and the entire pack had a mass of about 450 kg. Architecturally, the battery pack was comprised of 11 battery modules (sometimes referred to as “Sheets”), a main control and logic PCB (printed circuit board), and a 12V DC-DC power supply. Each of the 11 modules carried a monitoring PCB (with its own microprocessor) that communicated with the rest of the vehicle microcontrollers, broadcasting the voltage and temperature measurements of its module over a standard CAN bus.

Tesla sold around 2,500 Roadsters between 2008 and 2011, helping to make possible the second vehicle in the Tesla line: the Model S. By December 2012, it was no longer in production.

The Second-Generation Roadster

Fast forward, and Musk promoted a new, next-generation Roadster concept at an event in 2017 and again in 2018 through a series of tweets. “SpaceX option package for new Tesla Roadster will include ~10 small rocket thrusters arranged seamlessly around car,” one tweet read. The engines were described as being able to improve speed and braking and may “even allow a Tesla to fly.”

Over the years, Musk leveraged the second-generation Roadster to fund other endeavors, such as when cash flow was stagnant — the production ramp-up of the Model 3 is an example of how Roadster hype was very successful.

Six years ago this month, Musk launched his original cherry red Roadster into orbit on a SpaceX rocket. The Model 3 followed.

Remember Tesla’s 2022 Giga Rodeo? The frenzy was to celebrate the opening of Giga Austin, but Musk used the event as an opportunity to offer an update on the Roadster. At that time, the understanding was that the Roadster would follow Cybertruck production in 2023.

Tesla claims it will offer the base model for $200,000 and a limited-edition Founders Series for $50,000 more. Tesla opened up Roadster reservations in April 2022, and some interested buyers paid as much as $250,000 for one of the 1,000 “Foundation Edition” models. Now it’s $50,000 to reserve your own Roadster.

Like other Tesla products, the project has had some forward momentum followed by stagnation and missed production deadlines.

This week, Musk intimated that the Roadster’s design work is complete. This second-generation vehicle is expected to offer upgrades such as two small rear seats, elevated driving range, and even higher levels of performance. The 200-kWh battery is reported to provide up to 620 miles of range. A lightweight removable glass roof will reportedly store in the trunk for an open-air driving experience.

In the roller coaster that is the company’s production forecasting, Tesla’s most recent quarterly shareholder update, the company said the new Roadster is still “in development” with no pilot production line built and no chosen location for production.

Is the Competition Setting the Pace for the Second-Generation Roadster’s Production?

The announcement about possible Roadster release came about the same time as BYD’s own new performance electric vehicle garnered a lot of media interest at the Geneva Auto Show. The Yangwang U9 is a 1.68 million yuan ($233,400) elite vehicle which accelerates to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) in 2.36 seconds. It features 1,300 horsepower, scissor-like doors, and a 0-60 mph time of around two seconds.

“I think it has a shot at being the most mind-blowing product demo of all time,” Musk wrote of the Roadster, adding that it will reach 60 miles per hour in less than a second, “and that is the least interesting part.”

BYD says its car, which will only go on sale in China, will be powered by 4 independent electric motors, one at each wheel, offering true torque vectoring for enhanced control. BYD set the U9 cost at just slightly more than the 2017 price estimate for the Roadster. BYD also sold more EVs than Tesla in Q4 2023 and promises to deliver the U9 by the end of 2024. Tesla’s market share in China declined in January to 6.1%, while BYD’s share stood at 29.2%, according to data from the China Passenger Car Association.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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