Will The Tesla Roadster Ever Materialize?

Will The Tesla Roadster Ever Materialize?

Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, confidently announced in 2017 that an all-new second-generation Tesla Roadster—a sports car for the lineup—would arrive for the 2020 model year. The sleek four-seater, which looked remarkably conventional considering it was from the eccentric electric automaker, promised extraordinary performance. During the press conference, Elon claimed the vehicle could sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in just 1.9 seconds, cover the quarter mile in 8.8 seconds, and deliver a top speed of over 250 mph. Those figures, if accurate, would make the upcoming Tesla Roadster one of the highest-performing vehicles on the road.



Seven years later, the second-generation Tesla Roadster is still nothing more than a promise. However, Elon Musk has brought the vehicle back under the spotlight with even more extraordinary claims about its performance before its (again promised) launch in 2025. A month ago, he asserted that the Roadster could blast from 0-60 mph in under one second—nearly twice as fast as his original claim. Recent reports from Automotive News and Jalopnik say the sports car will include technology from SpaceX, another company owned by Musk, have rockets… and may even fly.

The claims from Tesla’s boss have whipped the media into a frenzy, leaving consumers confused—and for good reason.

Launching a passenger car from 0-60 mph in less than one second requires incredible power and tenacious grip (assuming powered wheels are used for propulsion). The math—acceleration is an equation between mass and propulsion— reveals some dubious numbers. According to Jalopnik, a vehicle hitting 60 mph in less than one second would have to accelerate with a force equal to at least 2.8 times the force of gravity (most vehicles accelerate with no more than 0.3 g’s worth of gravity), which would make most non-astronaut drivers and occupants dizzy and sick. (Drop a bowling ball out of a skyscraper window, and it accelerates to 60 mph in 2.73 seconds, courtesy of the earth’s gravity.) To date, there have been no street-legal production vehicles even close—the Tesla Model S Plaid, one of the quickest vehicles on the road, is twice as slow under ideal conditions. In other words, the odds that the Tesla Roadster will crack the 60-mph benchmark acceleration run in <.99 seconds is low.



Fitting rockets to the Tesla Roadster would add considerable thrust. From an engineering standpoint, this makes sense as it reduces the motors’ workload and lessens the required grip. Rumors say that Musk will use ten cold gas rocket thrusters, each firing compressed air. While using inert nitrogen or compressed atmospheric air is less destructive than miniature versions of fuel-burning rockets (exhaust temperatures exceeding 5800° F. degrees), the air is still expelled from the nozzles on the rear of the vehicle at more than 1,500 mph! The practicality of offering a rocket-assisted vehicle on public roads with other cars, cyclists, and pedestrians is nothing short of preposterous.

No automaker has ever offered a commercially viable flying car to the public. There are physics issues (a flying vehicle needs lift-inducing wings or rotor blades), skill concerns (will Tesla offer flying lessons?), and legal hurdles (will the FAA license the Tesla Roadster as an aircraft?). And all those problems assume the public is comfortable having novice-owned 5,000-pound cars flying overhead—they won’t be.

Elon Musk and Tesla produce an array of industry-shaking automobiles—citing the recent Cybertruck as a primary example—but the forever-gestating Tesla Roadster is becoming less of a mainstream sports car with each passing day. Most automotive experts say that Musk will eventually deliver the two-seater. Still, it will be prohibitively expensive, very low volume, and may not even be street legal—consider it a well-orchestrated publicity stunt.

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