Tesla Motors Confirms Battery Upgrade to Roadster, Adds Aero Too

Elon Musk has been leaking tidbits about a potential Roadster upgrade for, well, over a year but, following an email to owners and blog post at TeslaMotors.com today, it looks like there might be a set of upgrades to the Roadster to create, what’s being dubbed the 2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0.

Tesla RoadsterWe anticipated batteries being added, or at least being swapped out for higher capacity units and that seems to be happening to the tune of 70kWh – that’s 30% boost over the already capacious 53kWh pack.

The surprise came with the addition of some aero enhancements to reduce the wind resistance and tyre and braking system technology enhancements to reduce drag from the rolling components.

As an owner, I can confirm that both of these will be very welcome. The Roadster is not a quiet car at speed – wind and tyre roar both play into the general cacophony. Reducing the aero drag (Cd) from 0.36 to 0.31 might seem small but I’m going to bet it’ll be significant at highway speeds.

Some simple in-car noise level measurements made on a highway at 65mph - the two lines compare loud and quit road surfaces

Some simple in-car noise level measurements made on a highway at 65mph – the two lines compare loud and quiet road surfaces

Musk goes on to claim that the Roadster will now be able to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco on one charge but the blog remains fuzzy about the speed… let’s face it, a regular Roadster today could just make that at 18mph – let’s hope we’re at least moving at 55mph+

Also missing from the blog are pictures and, the all important question about compatibility with the Super Charger Network, whether or not, the battery pack will be combined with power electronics and cooled as one and, if the output will be increased to create a quicker car to match the recently released Tesla Model S P85D however, the biggest missing data point – The price! This might be an expensive upgrade for owners as it includes changes to many parts of the car. Elon has made some promises to the Roadster owners around showing some love for their initial faith in the company and tweets from Elon and emails from Tesla Motors have all included phrases like “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Holidays” – I’m sure that many owners are hoping that the price will reflect that initial faith in the company.

We’ll get to see an unveiling of the aero enhancements in the coming weeks as Tesla Motors demonstrates the updates in a planned Los Angeles to San Francisco trip.

It’s great to hear what’s coming however, we do feel that there are still more questions than answers.

Do you think we’ll see Super Charger compatibility? Is the car going to lose its character in the pursuit of aero perfection? Let us know your thoughts. Upload a doddle if you’re a budding designer!

Here is the full text of the email/blog:

Battery technology has continued a steady improvement in recent years, as has our experience in optimizing total vehicle efficiency through Model S development. We have long been excited to apply our learning back to our first vehicle, and are thrilled to do just that with the prototype Roadster 3.0 package. It consists of three main improvement areas.

1. Batteries
The original Roadster battery was the very first lithium ion battery put into production in any vehicle. It was state of the art in 2008, but cell technology has improved substantially since then. We have identified a new cell that has 31% more energy than the original Roadster cell. Using this new cell we have created a battery pack that delivers roughly 70kWh in the same package as the original battery.

2. Aerodynamics
The original Roadster had a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.36. Using modern computational methods we expect to make a 15% improvement, dropping the total Cd down to 0.31 with a retrofit aero kit.

3. Rolling Resistance
The original Roadster tires have a rolling resistance coefficient (Crr) of 11.0 kg/ton. New tires that we will use on the Roadster 3.0 have a Crr of roughly 8.9 kg/ton, about a 20% improvement. We are also making improvements in the wheel bearings and residual brake drag that further reduce overall rolling resistance of the car.

Combining all of these improvements we can achieve a predicted 40-50% improvement on range between the original Roadster and Roadster 3.0. There is a set of speeds and driving conditions where we can confidently drive the Roadster 3.0 over 400 miles. We will be demonstrating this in the real world during a non-stop drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the early weeks of 2015.

Appointments for upgrading Roadsters will be taken this spring once the new battery pack finishes safety validation. We are confident that this will not be the last update the Roadster will receive in the many years to come.

Happy Holidays.


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