The global site of the UK's leading magazine for automation, motion engineering and power transmission
29 May, 2024

Twitter link

210km/h electric sportscar will be built in the UK

01 July, 2006

210km/h electric sportscar will be built in the UK

A battery-powered sportscar that can reach 60mph (96km/h) in four seconds, hit a top speed of more than 130mph (210km/h) and travel for 250 miles (402km) on one charge, is being built in the UK for a Californian company, Tesla Motors.

The Tesla Roadster (shown above, with California`s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the passenger seat) is due to go on sale in the US next year for around $90,000. It is being assembled in Norfolk by Lotus using components sourced from around the world. For instance, the car`s 185kW three-phase, four-pole induction motor (shown below) is being built by Tesla in Taiwan. The motor, with a brazed copper and steel rotor, has a top speed of 13,500 rpm and can deliver 244Nm of torque. Its efficiency is said to be 95%, compared to 20% for a typical internal combustion engine.

The rear-wheel-drive Roadster — which looks similar to Lotus` Elise — has a two-speed, electrically-actuated manual gearbox, and incorporates regenerative braking. There is no clutch. Torque adjustments and speed matching for gear changes are done by software. Because of the motor`s ability to run in either direction, there is no need for the extra weight of a reverse gear — a simple switching arrangement is used. An air-cooled power electronics module acts as an inverter to drive the motor and controls charging at up to 70A, 240V.

The Roadster`s 6,831 water-cooled lithium-ion cells can be recharged in 3.5 hours. Its running costs are estimated at 1-2 cents/mile - or less when a planned solar panel charger becomes available.

Tesla Motors is planning further electric cars, including a four-door saloon which it hopes to start selling in 2008 for less than $50,000.

Tesla, which was set up three years ago, has attracted $40m of funding from backers including Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, as well as personalities involved in setting up eBay and PayPal.

A former Lotus engineer, Malcolm Powell, is overseeing Tesla`s manufacturing. Several other former Lotus employees have joined Tesla and the Norfolk company is reported to have demanded a no-poaching agreement before agreeing to build the Roadster.

Another UK company, Lichfield-based Zytek, is building an electric version of DaimlerChrysler`s Smart car, which was unveiled at the recent London Motor Show. Zytek has designed the drivetrain based on a 55kW brushless DC motor that delivers 120Nm peak torque. The drivetrain, including motor, gearbox, inverter and control electronics, weighs 70kg. The electric Smart, powered by a liquid sodium nickel chloride battery, will have a range of 116km (72 miles) and an electronically limited top speed of 113km/h (70mph). Running costs, at €0.02/km, are a third of the petrol-driven equivalent. Up to 200 electric Smarts are being built for trials with corporate customers in the UK.

  • To view a digital copy of the latest issue of Drives & Controls, click here.

    To visit the digital library of past issues, click here

    To subscribe to the magazine, click here



"Do you think that robots create or destroy jobs?"



Most Read Articles