The Tesla Roadster helped Elon Musk get his foot into the electric vehicle world, but he wishes it had been an all-original design from the get-go. Turns out Tesla had to modify so much of the Lotus Elise body, that it would have been easier to just design it from the ground-up.
It was an early lesson learned for Musk and the fledgling electric automaker, which sold something like 2,450 of the $100,000 Tesla Roadster, though other automakers are still trying to cram electric drivetrains into conventional cars. The Lotus that the Roadster was based on was never meant to carry a huge battery pack or have an electric motor mounted at the rear wheels, so by the time Tesla had redesigned it, they had sunk huge amounts of money into the project.
Now Detroit Electric is trying to do the exact same thing, and other automakers are still shoehorning electric drivetrains into economy cars. Only BMW has gotten the memo it seems, designing the BMW i3 to be an electric car from the get-go. The Mercedes B-Class was also designed with an electric drivetrain in mind, though it’s still primarily a petrol-powered vehicle.
Eventually, automakers wanting to embrace electric vehicles have to design them solely as electric vehicles, using the inherent strengths of large battery packs and electric motors as an advantage, not a disadvantage. It’s not coincidence that the Tesla Model S racked up a perfect safety rating, or has become the first electric vehicle that can really be called a success. With all the lessons learned, the next Tesla Roadster (or Model R, perhaps) promises to be the complete performance package.
For all of Elon’s complaints about the Tesla Roadster though, it’s ultimately the car that got this electric automaker started. An all-original design might have been better…but it might not have been either. Considering where Tesla is today, I’d say it all worked out for the best.