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The light fantastic - Tesla Roadster

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Is it the best thing since sliced bread or the longest technological cul-de-sac outside of a Milton Keynes housing estate?

One thing’s for sure – when Octane’s editorial team got their hands on the all-electric Tesla for a day recently, there wasn’t a single one of us who didn’t come back into the office wearing a grin a mile wide.The fun starts when touch the throttle for the first time and glide away in utter silence, as if a giant hand is gently pushing on the boot lid. It’s a weird sensation, and especially so when you’re sitting in what appears to be a Lotus Elise clone.But the real amusement comes when you floor the throttle. The car emits a delightful but muted whoosh – like the noise made by a jet airliner when its engines are being run up just before take off –  and then rockets into the distance. This is indeed slingshot acceleration: nought to 60mph in less than four seconds, and on to a maximum of 125mph.So how does it achieve this impressive feat? Well, battery technology has improved enormously over the last few years, and the Tesla has a bank of no fewer than 6831 Lithium-Ion cells that generate the equivalent of 248hp. That power is transmitted by one big electric motor through a single-speed gearbox, and since an electric motor delivers maximum torque from zero revs, there’s no hanging around waiting for turbos to spool up or cams to come ‘on song’. You push the throttle, it goes.Ah yes, you say, but it’s dashed inconvenient running out of electricity only 55 miles from home (the range that BBC TV’s Top Gear claimed it achieved on its test track) and then having to wait 16 hours for a recharge. Well, it appears that whatever the reason for TG’s car apparently dying, it wasn’t lack of battery power – there was plenty left – and, if you buy a Tesla, a nice man comes along and instals a fast charger in your garage that will rejuice the car in 3.5 hours.Our own experience suggests that you’d probably easily get 150 miles from one charge in mixed driving, and maybe up to 230 on a slow commute. (If your commute is even longer than that, you need to move house or change jobs.) That’s certainly enough for most needs, whether daily driver or weekend toy. Incidentally, when you plug the charger into the car, its socket glows and pulses like an Apple Mac – a clear hint about the type of style-conscious early-adopter this car is aimed at.

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