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Tesla Roadster 3.0 Update Improves Range to 400 Miles

It might have once seemed like Elon Musk was content to quietly shoo the Tesla Roadster behind the curtain so as to not detract from the success of the Model S sedan, but Roadster owners are about to get the last laugh. Following up on an earlier Roadster 2.5 update (pictured) that brought new features and a revised look, this new 3.0 update is a major mechanical retrofit upgrade that will increase the Roadster's range to greater than 400 miles.

Dubbed the Tesla Roadster 3.0, the upgrade package is no mere software update. The first improvement is to the Tesla Roadster's lithium-ion battery, which will be swapped out for a new battery cell with 31 percent more energy storage than in the original unit. In the same package, the new battery will boast 70 kWh of power compared to the outgoing battery's 56 kWh. While still shy of the 85 kWh in the range-topping Tesla Model S 85, the Tesla Roadster is also considerably lighter than the larger sedan.

There's also a new retrofit aerodynamics kit (not pictured here), which cuts the Roadster's drag coefficient down from 0.36 to 0.31—a 15 percent improvement. In addition to improved ability to cut through the air, the Tesla Roadster 3.0 will also move across the ground more easily. Rolling resistance it set to improve 20 percent from a rolling resistance coefficient of 11 kg per ton to 8.9 kg per ton, thanks to new tires. Other improvements like modified wheel bearings could also aid in further shaving rolling resistance.

We'll see just how much better the Roadster 3.0 is than the original Tesla Roadster when the automaker puts on a public demonstration in early January with a non-stop drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles (approximately 381 miles). It would be a seriously impressive feat to so drastically improve the operational range of the Roadster to more than 400 miles, especially given that the original version from 2008 had a 244-mile range. The Model S 85, by comparison, has a range of 265 miles.

Tesla hasn't yet announced how much the Roadster 3.0 upgrade will cost when it begins taking appointments in spring 2015, or how many of the 2,500 Roadsters sold it expects to upgrade. No new major range improvement is expected for the Model S in the near future, but this Tesla Roadster 3.0 is as good evidence as any that Tesla is not one to let any of its projects collect dust on the shelf.