Tesla wants to build an electric supercar

2010 tag heuer tesla roadster picturesAs the first Model S electric cars trickle off its California assembly line, Tesla Motors is already thinking about bigger and better things. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg that he wants to bring an electric supercar to production.

“We will do an electric supercar at some point,” Musk said. “It was going to happen right after the Model X, but it is more important to the world that we do a more affordable electric car. Hopefully, we will get to an electric supercar in four to five years.”

Musk’s supercar would not be Tesla’s first performance vehicle. The company started out making the Roadster (pictured), an electric sports car based on the Lotus Elise. A Roadster Sport did 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 125 mph. The Roadster went out of production last year.

To reach supercar levels of performance, Tesla will need to do better. A Ferrari 458 Italia will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, and keep pulling all the way to 202 mph. Electric motors make all of their power at zero rpm, which gets a car off the line quickly, but a supercar needs to be fast as well as quick.

The Roadster Sport sold for roughly $120,000. A new 458 will set its owner back at least $226,000.

Another challenge for Tesla’s engineers will be handling. If Tesla evenly distributes the supercar’s batteries in the floor, as it did with the Model S, the supercar will have a very low center of gravity. However, a battery pack weighs more than a gasoline engine. That, combined with low rolling resistance tires, made the Roadster less than satisfying to drive through corners.

Performance aside, the Tesla supercar would probably be the most spacious of its kind. Since it wouldn’t have an engine or transmission tunnel, such a car would have plenty of cabin space; most supercars are very cramped, and are hard to get in and out of. A comfortable supercar would be a nice change of pace, but the Tesla will be a bit of a joke if its only virtue is leg room.

Before any supercars can get built, Tesla has another model in the pipeline. The first is the aforementioned Model X, a crossover with roof-hinged “Falcon Wing” doors and a projected 0 to 60 mph time of “under 5 seconds.” Tesla says it will deliver the first cars in 2014.

Tesla also plans to deliver 5,000 Model S sedans by the end of the year, and to produce a total of 20,000 of the EVs in 2013.

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