Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, announced an exciting Christmas present for electric car enthusiasts: an upgrade to the company’s Roadster will enable it to travel over 400 miles — or nonstop from Los Angeles to San Francisco, as Musk tweeted Thursday evening — on a single charge.
In a blog post on Friday, the company said the Roadster 3.0 will feature three main upgrades. First, using a new cell that has 31 percent more energy than the original, Tesla was able to boost the battery in the new Roadster significantly. The new vehicle is also 15 percent more aerodynamic and features new tires and other improvements that reduce the rolling resistance of the car.
As a result, Tesla says it will achieve 40 to 50 percent range improvement with the Roadster 3.0, enabling drivers to go much further on a single charge. “There is a set of speeds and driving conditions where we can confidently drive the Roadster 3.0 over 400 miles,” the company wrote. “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.”
The new Roadster is just one in a steady stream of upgrades and advancements as Tesla continues to push the envelope for high-end electric vehicles. In October, the company unveiled a new all-wheel drive version of its Model S, complete with increased efficiency, range, acceleration, and even auto-pilot features. The next step for the Model S will be a battery pack upgrade but according to Musk, that won’t happen anytime in the near future.
Tesla plans to release its first SUV in 2015 and the more affordable Model III in 2017. In order to keep up with anticipated demand, the company sought bidders for a lithium-ion battery “gigafactory” earlier this year. Nevada came out on top and the new gigafactory is expected to employ up to 6,500 workers and eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than are currently made worldwide. In addition to generous tax incentives, Nevada’s abundance of low-cost renewable energy was said to be a major factor in the state’s selection.
While more and more electric vehicles are being sold across the U.S. — jumping 75 percent from July 2013 to July 2014 — the hefty price tag renders them largely unaffordable for the average family. Tesla’s Model III, which will reportedly sell for $35,000, will help bridge that gap.
In addition, the pairing of solar panels and electric vehicles make both technologies more appealing financially, and more environmentally friendly, as Chris Mooney recently pointed out in the Washington Post. Homeowners who install solar panels and generate their own electricity are cutting their monthly utility bills and “at the same time, if you are able to someday generate enough energy from solar and that energy is also used to power your electric car, well then you might also be able to knock out your gasoline bill.”
Suburban sprawl, and the increased driving and consumption that accompanies it, is a major contributor of the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. The sheer economics of pairing solar panels with electric vehicles could make the combination appealing to suburban dwellers on both sides of the political aisle. Mooney cites a new working paper by researchers at the UCLA Institute of the Environment which estimates that “for a household that buys an electric vehicle and also owns a solar panel system generating enough power for both the home and the electric car, the monthly cost might be just $89 per month — compared with $255 per month for a household driving a regular car without any solar panels.”