Tesla Roadster - Development

Development

See also: Tesla motors#History and financing

The Roadster was developed by Tesla Motors to mass produce AC Propulsion's tzero concept car. The production idea was conceived by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning who incorporated Tesla Motors in Delaware on July 1, 2003, to pursue the idea commercially. South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk took an active role within the company starting in 2004, including investing US$7.5 million, overseeing Roadster product design from the beginning, and greatly expanding Tesla's long-term strategic sales goals to include developing mainstream vehicles after the sports car. Musk became Tesla's Chairman of the Board in April 2004 and had helped recruit JB Straubel as chief technology officer in March 2004. Musk received the Global Green 2006 product design award for the design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev, and he received the 2007 Index Design award for the design of the Tesla Roadster.

Frontal and rear views of the 2008 Tesla Roadster

Before Tesla had developed the Roadster's proprietary powertrain, the company licensed AC Propulsion's EV Power System design and Reductive Charging patent which covers integration of the charging electronics with the inverter, thus reducing mass, complexity, and cost. Tesla then designed and built its own power electronics, motor, and other drivetrain components that incorporated this licensed technology from AC Propulsion. Given the extensive redevelopment of the vehicle, Tesla Motors no longer licenses any proprietary technology from AC Propulsion. The Roadster's powertrain is unique.

On 11 July 2005, Tesla and British sports car maker Lotus entered an agreement about products and services based on the Lotus Elise, where Lotus provided advice on designing and developing a vehicle as well as producing partly assembled vehicles, and amended in 2009. helped with basic chassis development. The Roadster has a parts overlap of roughly 6 percent with the Lotus Elise. Tesla's designers chose to construct the body panels using resin transfer molded carbon fiber composite to minimize weight; this choice makes the Roadster one of the least expensive cars with an entirely carbon fiber skin.

Several prototypes of the Tesla Roadster were produced from 2004 through 2007. Initial studies were done in two "test mule" vehicles based on Lotus Elises equipped with all-electric drive systems. Ten Engineering Prototypes (EP1 through EP10) which led to many minor changes were then built and tested in late 2006 and early 2007. Tesla then produced at least 26 Validation Prototypes (VP1 through VP26) which were delivered beginning in March 2007. These final revisions were endurance and crash tested in preparation for series production.

In August 2007, Martin Eberhard was replaced by an interim CEO, Michael Marks. Marks accepted the temporary position while a recruitment drive went into place. In December 2007, Ze'ev Drori became the CEO and President of Tesla Motors. In October 2008, Musk succeeded Ze'ev Drori as CEO. Drori became Vice Chairman and left the company in December. In January 2008, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it would grant a waiver of the advanced air bag rule noting that the Tesla Roadster already includes standard air bags; similar waivers have been granted to many other small volume manufacturers as well, including Lotus, Ferrari, and Bugatti. Tesla delivered its first production car in February 2008 to Musk.

Tesla announced in early August 2009 that Roadster sales had resulted in overall corporate profitability for the month of July 2009. The company said it earned approximately US$1 million on revenue of US$20 million. Profitability arose primarily from improved gross margin on the 2010 Roadster, the second iteration of Tesla’s award-winning sports car. Tesla, which like all automakers records revenue when products are delivered, shipped a record 109 vehicles in July and reported a surge in new Roadster purchases.

Tesla, which signed a production contract with Group Lotus in 2007 to produce "gliders" (complete cars minus electric powertrain) for the Roadster, announced in early 2010 that Roadster production would continue until early 2012, in part due to tooling changes at Lotus' assembly plant in the UK.

Read more about this topic:  Tesla Roadster

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