Was the Roadster really the first Tesla?

edited November -1 in Roadster
The impact the Tzero had on the creation of Tesla Motors, and the inspiration behind
the first Tesla car, the Roadster is undeniable.

Here is a repost describing this historic car and design event:
Every collecting pursuit, from comic books to Beanie Babies, has a “Holy Grail” — its rarest
and most valuable object. And so it is with car collecting.
Ferrari has the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, Plymouth has the 1971 Hemi Cuda Convertible,
Lamborghini the 1972 Miura P400 SV, and Ford faithful covet the 1968 GT40.

The Tzero electric car featured in the link to pictures (below) has not been valued yet and may
remain obscure, or maybe not. There were only three of these built and in existence.
One now resides in Arizona and is a test vehicle at the Gruber Power Services EV division.

This is the car, built by a tiny company called AC Propulsion Systems in CA that
inspired Martin Eberhard, the real founder of Tesla Motors (you thought it was Elon),
to commit to building electric sports cars, and the rest is history. Elon also found
AC Propulsion some time after Martin, test drove the Tzero, and also became convinced
there is a market for electric cars. He then joined Martin's Tesla Motors as an investor,
and eventually took over the company.

These three Tzero's, built in 1997, rivaled the performance of exotic cars of that era.
It is the proof of concept vehicle that the first production Teslas,
the Roadster, was patterned after. In fact, for a time, Tesla used the Tzero
as a test mule, and paid royalties to AC Propulsion for using their T Zero design
in the Roadster.

It is also the most influential electric vehicle in this century since it inspired
and started the clean energy electric car movement. Performance is 0-60 is 4.2 seconds
with a range around 70-80 miles with lead acid Optima batteries in the doors.
Handling is surprisingly nimble and responsive.

For a set of images illustrating this proof of concept Roadster, go to:

flickr (dot)com/photos/racevpr/albums/72157671550977931

Pete Gruber


  • Adding to the OP's info:

    Prior to founding Tesla, Martin Eberhardt hired AC Propulsion to create a new battery pack for the T-zero using thousands of commodity 18650 li-ion cells to see if the concept would work. Does this sound familiar?
    Later, Tesla's first Roadster Mule was a stock Lotus Elise converted to electric using an AC Propulsion motor and inverter.
  • edited September 2016
    Marc Tarpenning speaks about co-founding Tesla Motors with Martin Eberhard. Marc ran the electrical engineering group as well as being the acting CFO for the first three years. Tesla Motors has sold over 2500 fully battery electric Roadsters and is now delivering Model S sedans. It became a public company on the NASDAQ exchange in July 2010, and employs over 2,000 people. Since leaving Tesla Motors, Mr. Tarpenning has been Entrepreneur in Residence at Mayfield Fund, sits on several company Advisory Boards, speaks frequently on entrepreneurship, is a Mentor at Greenstart and is an elected School Board Trustee for the Woodside Elementary School District.

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