Tesla’s first production car wasn’t the Model S, it was the Roadster. Based on a Lotus Elise, the Tesla Roadster used the British-built aluminum chassis and skin from the Elise and crammed as many laptop-style batteries wherever Tesla’s engineers could. Range was barely 200 miles, it was heavy, and didn’t inspire confidence with its compromised handling.
But, it produced enough talk among the industry and enthusiasts that it helped propel Tesla to the forefront of electric car design. Since then, every other manufacturer has been doing its best to catch up. Now, according to the man in charge, and our celebrity crush, Elon Musk, has proclaimed the Roadster will be back.
Asked by a fan on Twitter if the rumored Roadster revival will happen, Musk responded, “Some years away, but yes.” This confirmation isn’t so much a shockwave as Musk as hinted at the Roadster’s return for some time, but it does reaffirm that Tesla is in it for the long haul, and has plans beyond the Model S, Model X, and Model 3.
Tesla produced the Roadster from 2008 until 2012, although Tesla still offers updates and upgrades for the Roadster to this day. The first production cars were able to go about 200 miles on a charge, while the later units with upgraded battery packs and motor management software were able to stretch the range.
For many, the Roadster was galvanized in many of the automotive enthusiast’s minds when the BBC’s “Top Gear” skewered the Roadster and its all-electric drivetrain. The “review” produced a lengthy libel lawsuit that spanned years, and was resolved in 2011 when Britain’s High Court decided that the lawsuit should be thrown out and ordered Tesla to pay the BBC’s legal costs of over $100,000.
However, while many saw this legal battle as diminishing Tesla’s stock, it propelled the company to an international stage. Besides the confirmation, Musk didn’t elaborate on what the new Roadster will look like, whether it will use the same Lotus-based architecture, or what battery pack will power the sportscar. But if we were to hazard a guess, Tesla will likely use a version of the Model 3’s architecture — given that it’s smaller than the Model S — has two doors, a higher range than the previous Roadster’s 230 miles per charge, and likely feature a design that’s more in line with the rest of Tesla’s lineup.