• Elon Musk Will Hide the Tesla Roadster’s Rocket Booster in an Odd but Innovative Place

Chalk up another weirdly awesome feature of the upcoming next-generation Roadster to Tesla’s CEO

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk is no stranger to making bombastic claims, and while some of these claims can be attributed to nothing more than chest-puffing, Musk has proven to follow through on a lot of them. I bring this up because Musk was at it again, revealing new information about the Tesla Roadster’s SpaceX options package, which apparently will include cold air thrusters to help improve the Roadster’s performance capabilities. The thrusters, Musk claims, will “dramatically improve (the Roadster’s) acceleration, top speed, braking, and cornering.” They’ll also be subtle and hidden in plain sight — Musk says they’ll be hidden behind the license plate — suggesting that the thrusters that will come with the Roadster’s SpaceX options package will look less like the ones found in the Batmobile and more like the ones you’d normally see in one of James Bond’s vehicles. Either way, the thought of a car with cold air thrusters in it sounds hokey even in today’s world. But nothing about Elon Musk counts as normal. This is the same dude who built and sold flame throwers because he wanted to. If he says that cold air thrusters will be included in an options package for the upcoming Tesla Roadster, then we’ll probably see it at some point in the future.

The Tesla Roadster’s Rocket Boost Will be Hidden Where?

I’ve come to a point where whatever Elon Musk says, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, I’ll take with more than a grain of salt. The Tesla CEO has a history of stirring the pot with seemingly mindless comments that somehow manifest themselves eventually. It’s a unique gift that Musk has, though it’s more likely due to the fact that he has the money to back up these comments. The SpaceX options package for the Tesla Roadster isn’t a new development in the world of Musk. He made that announcement last month, saying that the next-generation Roadster would come with such a package.

He didn’t divulge a lot of details about the package itself, but he did hint that it would include “10 small rocket thrusters” arranged seamlessly around the car.

The goal of these thrusters, according to Musk, is to dramatically improve the next-gen Roadster’s acceleration, top speed, braking, and cornering. All of that sounds intriguing, maybe even exciting, but there are more pertinent questions surrounding the package, including what these thrusters will look like, where will they be placed, and, most importantly, how the hell do they work.

2020 Tesla Roadster
- image 746104
7,376 pound-feet of torque

Give Musk credit for not shying away from the details, or at least from giving a rough outline on what we can expect from what Musk now calls a cold gas thruster system. According to the Tesla CEO, the system uses ultra high-pressure air that’s contained in a SpaceX rocket COPV bottle. This high-pressure air would then power the cold gas thruster system. Now, some of you will remember that a composite overwrapped pressure vessel that was designed to hold fluids caused one of SpaceX’s rockets — Falcon 9 — to explode back in 2015. Years spent in the laboratory correcting that error resulted in the creation of these rocket COPV bottles that Musk described as “literally bulletproof.” Musk added that the bottles would be immediately replenished of high-pressure air as the Roadster’s power pack draw operation.

Unfortunately, compromises need to be made if you want to avail of the SpaceX options package.

Since these rocket COPV bottles take up space, there’s a good chance that you need to say goodbye to your Roadster’s two rear seats to accommodate the rocket COPV bottles. The thrusters themselves would be hidden behind the license plate, which could mean that they’re housed in a secret storage compartment that comes out at a press of a button. Don’t expect a Batmobile or Back to the Future-style gimmick with these thrusters. Think 007 without the secret machine guns and wheel shredders.

2020 Tesla Roadster
- image 746111
Targa top offers unlimited headroom

Now to the really important question that isn’t being asked enough: will these thrusters allow the next-gen Roadster to fly?

Musk initially balked at the idea of flying cars back in 2017 for safety reasons, but he didn’t dismiss the possibility for technological reasons. Two years later and here we are. The Tesla CEO made it clear that these thrusters would not allow the Roadster to fly, Jetsons-style, in the air for prolonged periods of time. He did say, though, that the SpaceX options package would allow it to “fly short hops,” which, at this point, is more than we’ve come to expect. Who knows, the introduction and application of rocket technology in a car is an achievement in its own right. Maybe we are getting closer to seeing flying cars in the world. Who knows, Tesla’s SpaceX options package could be the key that unlocks a lot of doors towards that possibility.

I’m not prepared to go that far in saying that Tesla will do it, but I am reserving the right to change my mind if the SpaceX option package works as advertised.

Even if it doesn’t, it’s not like the next-generation Roadster will be comprised of its own capabilities. After all, Tesla is developing the Roadster to become its resident supercar destroyer, able to take on the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and McLarens of the world. There’s a reason the asking price for a Roadster starts at around $200,000 to $250,000. This isn’t your typical all-electric sports car, and that’s without those cold-air thrusters in play.

2020 Tesla Roadster
- image 746108
0-to-60 mph in 1.9 seconds

Few actual details have been shared, though a few important ones have come out in the past year, including a version of the Roadster that will carry a 200 kWh battery that’s capable of running for 620 miles on a single charge. That’s insane. Even crazier is Tesla’s claim that the top-spec Roadster can sprint from 0 60 mph in a staggering 1.9 seconds with lower-spec versions taking around 4.2 seconds to cover the same ground. Top speed has been pinned at 250 mph, though consider that number fluid as the next-gen Roadster continues in its developmental phase.

Tesla Roadster 2.0 Performance
0-to-60 mph 1.9 seconds
0-to-100 mph 4.2 seconds
Quarter mile 8.9 seconds
Top speed 250+ mph
Range per charge 620 miles
Battery pack 200 kWh
Electric motors 3 (one in front, two in rear)
Torque 10,000 Nm

There’s always a possibility that these figures won’t end up being accurate. Some have even called the stats “conservative” compared to what the next-gen Roadster can actually do. However it ends up looking and performing, there’s no denying that Elon Musk has once again managed to draw even more attention to Tesla’s latest electric car development. As a hype man par excellence, it’s hard to expect anything less from Tesla’s CEO.

Further reading

2020 Tesla Roadster
- image 746104
7,376 pound-feet of torque

Read our full review on the 2020 Tesla Roadster.

Falcon Heavy Launch Sends Tesla Roadster And Starman Into The Great Beyond, But Now What?
- image 766744

Falcon Heavy Launch Sends Tesla Roadster And Starman Into The Great Beyond, But Now What?

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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