Tesla begins regular production of the Roadster

Tesla Motors is starting to pop cars out of its factory. It's slow right now but it will pick up, the company says.

The electric sports car has gone commercial.

Tesla Motors on Monday moved into commercial production with the Tesla Roadster, an all-electric sports car. The car isn't in mass production yet--Tesla is actually only putting out about one or two cars a week right now, but it will steadily increase production. By early next year, it hopes to be producing around 100 cars a month.

So far, more than 900 people have put reservations in for the car, including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. The Roadster costs $98,000. But for that you get a two-seater car that will go zero to 60 miles per hour in just under four seconds. The company has dealerships in Los Angeles and Northern California. (Tesla delivered the first car earlier to company Chairman Elon Musk, but it's not like that counts as a commercial release.)

A prototype of the Tesla Roadster. Mike Kanellos

The company helped revive interest in electric cars. Rather than try to come out with an economy car like some other outfits that have tried to sell electric cars, Tesla decided to start at the top-end and first release a sports car. In hindsight, it made sense. Batteries cost quite a bit, and one of the advantages of electric engines is acceleration. How fast is it? Fast. Check out the test ride.

Tesla showed off prototypes in July 2006 and laid plans to come out with a car by the middle of 2007. Technical problems with the transmission, among other components, however, caused delays. The company also revamped its management in late 2007.

To solve some of the technical problems, Tesla created its own single-speed transmission. The first cars coming off the line will have the older transmission, which does not let the car hit the 0 to 60 in 4 seconds mark. However, anyone who gets the older transmission will be encouraged to return to Tesla and get the new transmission for free.

Assembling the car is a global affair. The lithium-ion battery cells come from Japan and are packaged into an ornate battery in the U.S. Meanwhile, the body and chassis come from Europe. Final assembly--which largely involves putting the battery into the car--takes place in Silicon Valley.

 

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