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Tesla Motors is a Silicon Valley start-up founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning which set out to to one thing – to design a sports car that would go as fast as a Ferrari or Porsche, but run on electricity.

The name Tesla is a tribute to genius inventor Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-born American inventor, electrical engineer, and scientist whose many inventions include the induction motor and alternating-current power transmission. He also did experiments with wireless power transmissions. Anyone here who has played C&C: Red Alert would have been warmed up to the name.

Their first production vehicle is the Tesla Roadster, which looks so much like a Lotus Elise that people have begun calling it an electric Elise. What makes the Tesla tick? More details after the jump.

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The Tesla Roadster is an electric powered sports car, with juice supplied by 6,831 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the same stuff that powers your notebook computer. Battery life is expected to be in excess of 100,000 miles or 161,000 kilometers. It’s got a range of 400 kilometers per charge for mostly highway driving. 100km/h is achievable from a standstill in about 4 seconds and the car has a top speed of over 209km/h.

The car is powered by an Taiwan-built AC Propulsion Inc 3-phase, 4-pole electric motor that produces a peak horsepower of 248 horsepower and redlines at 13,500rpm. The engine also offers regenerative engine braking, a must have considering the car is a pure electrical vehicle, not a typical hybrid which has a little gasoline motor. Since it doesn’t have a gasoline engine, the Tesla Roadster is a plug-in electric vehicle. The lithium ion battery packs are fully charged in 3.5 hours.

Being powered by an electric engine, the Tesla Roadster offers none of the screaming orgasmic sounds associated with a normal gasoline engine powered sports car. The car is very quiet. While the electric motor does not sound fast, it definitely goes fast. Peak torque of 244Nm is available right from 0rpm and stays powerful beyond 13,000rpm, dropping steadily from about 5,500rpm down to about 95Nm near the 13,500rpm redline.

The electric motor is mated to a 2 forward speed and 1 reverse speed gearbox. The gearbox is a essentially manual transmission with a computer controlled clutch. First gear revved up to the peak 13,500rpm gives you 112km/h, then you have to shift into second gear which brings you up to the top speed of 209km/h. Braking is provided by anti-lock disc brakes on all 4 wheels, with twin-piston AP Racing calipers in front and single-piston Brembo calipers at the rear. Power is transferred to the roads with 16 inch Yokohama Advan Neova AD07 LTS at the front wheels and the same rubber but in 17 inch size at the rear wheels.

The Tesla Roadster‘s physical design was done by Barney Hatt of Lotus Design in England which explains it’s similiarity to the Lotus Elise. Lotus even builds the car for Tesla Motors. Alot of Tesla Motors’ 80 employee team were former Lotus employees. The car would surely be a fun drive, but I think I’d miss the sound of a roaring gasoline engine. What do you think? Would you enjoy speed without sound?

The Tesla Roadster is expected to cost between US$85,000 and US$120,000.

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More Photos: AutoBlog