Tesla Launches 400-Mile-per-Charge Roadster 3.0

On Dec. 26, Tesla previewed its next generation of Sports Roadster that will feature up to a 50% improvement in charge range. Tesla claims that design refinements and a 31% increase in energy storage will allow the Roadster 3.0 to drive easily from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a single charge. Tesla has not set a release date or pricing at this time.

After hitting a high of $286.04 per share in the first week of September, Tesla’s stock price plunged to under $200 as cheap gasoline threatened to wipe out the electric car industry. A Tesla owners’ community website in November acknowledged that dealers were liquidating demo modelss and discounting inventory to move stranded units off showroom floors.

Previewing a car without pricing or a ship date is an unusual strategy in the auto industry, and speaks to the risks that Tesla may now face as crude oil prices could continue to fall. But the technical specs for the Roadster 3.0 are impressive.

The Lotus-designed Tesla Roadster has sold about 2,500 units since it went on sale in 2008. But as recently as July, Tesla said the car would not hit the roads until 2017. Needing some good publicity, Tesla announced that it was able to achieve the dramatically improved range due to a number of sophisticated technical improvements in the vehicle’s generational update.

The Roadster 3.0 supposedly will offer a patented new cell technology that increases the battery capacity of the original Roadster from 53kWh to 70kWh in the same package as the original battery.

Tesla also claims to have refined the aerodynamic lines of the Roadster to reduce the coefficient for drag by 15%. The more efficient shape is complimented with a new tire that reduces the rolling resistance coefficient by 20% improvement.

Two days earlier, Tesla Chairman Elon Musk tweeted that the full size Model S coup would get a next generation battery pack upgrade, but that the update would be delayed until some time in the future. The failure of the Roadster 3.0 announcement to confirm that the new, higher capacity battery packs are compatible with Tesla’s national recharging network has created concerns that the Model S delay may mean the charging network may need an expensive retrofit .

Tesla has already made major investments to roll out its North American Supercharger network.  The system of 148 stations currently can charge all existing Tesla vehicles in 30 minutes. The company claims 100% network recharge coverage on both the West and East Coasts. Tesla also claims that 80% of the US and Canadian populations are now covered by recharging stations, and promises 98% population coverage for the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2015.

Tesla Motors, Inc. stock on the NASDAQ (TSLA) closed the week at $227.55, up $5.28 for a 2.38% gain.


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