Introduced back in 2008, the Roadster was Tesla’s first-ever production vehicle and the first car to become a rolling ambassador for the brand, so it is only natural that the Californian company has nothing but love for it. Essentially, the car is a thoroughly modified Lotus Elise that has been converted to run exclusively on electricity, thus also making it the first-ever electric sports car that was produced in a significant number. In total, around 2,600 units were manufactured, with production ending back in 2012. As we enter the 2015 model year, there is not a new Roadster coming, but instead an update to the older models that extends its EV range.

Its 4-pole AC induction motor was reworked in the Roadster S version to give the car a naught-to-60-mph acceleration of just 3.7 seconds, not exactly bad numbers considering its EPA range of 244 miles. With the "3.0 package," Tesla reckons that its range will increase by a predicted 40 to 50 percent in ideal conditions, and it will try to put its money where its mouth is by taking an updated Roadster over 400 miles in a non-stop drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the beginning of 2015. According to the company, a new battery pack needs to finish a safety validation before appointments for upgrading Roadsters will commence sometime in the Spring of 2015, when all owners can receive the new modifications that will enhance their range.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0.

Exterior

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Exterior
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A new retrofit aero kit will not only help the Tesla Roadster 3.0 achieve better aerodynamics, but it will also upgrade its look for those worried that their car has bit of an old-school design. According to Tesla, thanks to "modern computational methods" the car is expected to drop its drag coefficient from a Cd of 0.36 to just 0.31, making for a 15 percent improvement in air resistance.

Other than the aero kit, the exterior of the model will remain largely the same, so the British mid-engine look will still be a large part of the equation. The froggy face and compact appearance will therefore remain unchanged, while the go-fast look should be even more emphasized with the addition of the retrofit aero kit, which not only makes the Roadster more aerodynamically efficient, but improves its design as well.

Interior

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Interior
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The rather austere interior of the original Tesla Roadster was last updated as part of the "Roadster 2.5 package" back in 2010, when it received new seats, an optional seven-inch touchscreen display and better sound-deadening material. The "3.0 package" will not mess with any of those elements, so expect the upgraded Roadster not to offer anything new from this perspective. A future upgrade to again correct the situation isn’t out of the question, but Tesla says that we shouldn’t expect something in the near term.

Drivetrain

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Exterior
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This is where most of the magic happened with the "3.0 package," as the upgrade includes a new lithium-ion battery pack which has 31-percent more energy than the original. This means that the new battery can deliver roughly 70 kWh without any increase in size. Thanks to the aforementioned aero kit, some improvements in the wheel bearing and residual brake drag, and new tires, the overall rolling and air resistance of the Roadster 3.0 have been reduced substantially.

For example, while the current Roadster tires have a rolling resistance coefficient (Crr) of 11.0 kg/ton, the new ones have a Crr of around 8.9 kg/ton, making for a reduction of no less than 20 percent just in this area. Combined with a battery pack that will offer 70 kWh instead of the original 51 kWh should in theory translate into an up to 50-percent improvement in range between the first Roadster and the Roadster 3.0. Not bad for an upgraded car that is no longer in production.

Prices

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Tesla hasn’t announced the pricing for the "3.0 package" so far and is expected to do so sometime in 2015, close to the date when the upgrade will start rolling out. As long as it doesn’t cost a small fortune, considering that the Roadster had a starting price of $109,000, it is safe to say that probably most owners will switch to it during the course of 2015.

Competition

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive

2013 Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive High Resolution Exterior
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Manufactured in a very limited series and costing upward of $500,000, the SLS AMG Electric Drive isn’t exactly a rival for the original Tesla Roadster, nor for its 3.0 variant. Its four electric motors are rated for a combined output of no less than 740 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to catapult the model from 0 to 62 mph in just 3.9 seconds.

Even with all that performance and a decent amount of overall weight, the electrified SLS AMG offers a range of about 160 miles, mainly thanks to a lithium-ion battery pack rated at 60kWh. Compared with the much cheaper (and more available) Tesla Roadster, there are probably just a handful of SLS AMG Electric Drive running around some European cities, as the prohibitive starting price and lack of an electric charging infrastructure doomed its sales right from the start.

Conclusion

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Exterior
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In this day and age, apart from an increasing number of recalls to fix certain defects, it is practically unheard of for a car manufacturer to update a car that it is not longer in production. Everyone else is trying to sell their cars, take your money and then repeat the same process with another product almost perpetually. From that perspective, I tip my hat to Tesla, especially since this is still a start-up company no matter how you look at it.

With Roadster customers probably looking with envy at Model S owners, who bought themselves a car with similar performance (or better, in case of the P85D), five more seats, two luggage compartments and a better range, Tesla probably figured that the only way to keep them as clients is to sweeten their original deal. This is how the so-called "updates" started rolling in, and the "3.0 package" for the Roadster is pretty exemplary, especially if it turns out that the 40- to 50-percent increase in range will happen in real life conditions as well.

  • Leave it
    • * You can no longer buy a new one like this
    • * Could be expensive
    • * No interior updates

Press Release

The Roadster 3.0 package applies what we’ve learned in Model S to Roadster. No new Model S battery pack or major range upgrade is expected in the near term.

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Interior
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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.

2015 Tesla Roadster 3.0 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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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.

Summary
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.

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