History:In 2005, Tesla was creating “test mules” by working with ACPropulsion to make drivetrains that they could put into the Lotus Elise chassis. A couple of these mules were used internally to validate the technology and then retired. In 2006, Tesla made about ten engineering/evaluation prototype Roadsters. These were shown off to early customers & press, put through extreme testing, then mostly retired from service.
Some prototype parts were seen on them that were changed later for production. In 2007, Tesla made about 14 Validation Prototype (“VP”) Roadsters.
These continued to be shown to the press and used to evolve components as they got ready for regular production in the following year. The VPs look a lot closer to the production models than the EPs and it becomes harder to spot the differences. Some of the VPs were done up in paint colors that didn’t make production, and the seats got revised as production started.
Here is a VP showing how the tail lights now have a red reflector inset in the brake lights, and although this one was used for display & testing in Europe, it had the narrow license plate cutout in the bumper that is more appropriate in North America. (VP12 shown below)In 2008, Tesla continued making VPs (about 19 more), but also started regular production with about 27 Founders’ series Roadsters (sold to company investors), 100 “Signature 100 cars” (first regular customers), and about 485 standard production models. The EPs, VPs, and Founders’ series cars all had their own “VIN sequence”, so when we look at the last 4 digits of a production Roadster VIN, that doesn’t take into account those “other” Roadsters in the total # made before it.

The early VPs, Founders, and some small numbers of Sig 100 cars came with a “1.0” drivetrain that included a 2-speed gearbox, but initial deliveries locked it in 2nd gear, as a reliability concern had been found with the use of the shifting mechanism. Tesla redesigned the drivetrain, calling it “1.5” with a new PEM & Gearbox that could achieve their performance targets with only 1 gear ratio. They effectively recalled the early cars to have them retrofitted with the 1.5 and switched all production over to 1.5. I don’t think there are any 1.0s in service anymore, as they were fairly thorough in swapping them all out.

I don’t think you will find any 2006 or 2007 EPs/VPs in “private hands”, but Tesla did sell off some of the 2008 VPs, and some of the Founders sold their cars later, so you sometimes see a 2008 VP or Founders’ car listed for sale on eBay and such.

The Founders’ series cars and the Sig 100 cars had special plaques made to show their special early production status.

This was somewhat redundant as the switch to single gear made the tachometer and speedometer basically track together in lockstep. 

All of the EPs/VPs/Founders’/Sig100s came with standard forged 7-spoke wheels. They continued to provide that wheel until sometime early in 2009 (but cars are still the 2008 model) when they switched to a new cast base wheel and made the old forged wheel optional. The cast wheel started showing up around VIN#249, and looks like this: After a little while (VINs in the 300s) they started to phase in a shinier finished version of the base wheel, and the dark-painted version was phased out. (Although they even had a set left for the last of the 2008s VIN#500).

Going between VIN#250 and #500 it is a bit random as to which wheel you may find. Any particular car may have been delivered with one of the 3 above wheel types.

Roadster #500 was the last 2008 model.

Tesla continued to deliver 2008 model-year Roadsters through the first half of 2009, so they skipped the 2009 model year and went straight to 2010.


Tesla did a major update to the Roadster for the 2010 model year.
They called this Roadster 2.0, replacing the old Roadster 1.5
Externally the car looks basically the same, but “under the skin” there are substantial changes.
These changes were apparently done to reduce cost to manufacture, make the car easier to service, and improve reliability. They also made changes to improve behavior in very hot conditions.

Among the many changes:

  • “Gear”/direction selector buttons instead of a “stick shift” handle.VDS display relocated from the left knee area to below the radio, in front of the PRND buttons.
    Revised PEM and Motor with better cooling capability.
    Revised center gauge cluster with a kW meter instead of the old tachometer.

2010 also introduced the Sport package option which included many upgraded features including Black painted forged wheel option.

  • More low-end torque for 0 to 60 in 3.7 instead of 3.9.
  • Adjustable suspension for higher-performance handling.
  • Stickier tires. (Yokohama A048 instead of AD07)
  • Around VIN#750, Tesla switched the rear bumper to a “global bumper” with a wider cutout for the license plate so that they only had to produce one type of bumper for global Roadsters. During the 2010 model year, Tesla did another update to switch from 2.0 to 2.5
    This was a more visible exterior update including new front and rear bumpers.
    Previously the 1.5 & 2.0s used the original Tesla logo, starting around VIN#964, the 2.5 front bumper has a new shape with the new Tesla logo like this: The rear bumper changed to have a different “diffuser” that doesn’t “hang down” as much as the old.
    It also has a provision for a new (for 2.5) backup camera option.
    Old (2.0 sport):2.5 also changed the forged wheel design to a “pinwheel” design with new “turbine blade spokes”:2.5 also introduced the double-din upgrade stereo/NAV system and optional carbon fiber interior accents. ===2011===
    Roadsters #1170-#1464 are the 2011 models and continued as 2.5s relatively unchanged from the late 2010 versions.
    Roadsters #1459-#1464 are called “the final 5” and offer special options, colors, striping, and badging.
    #1464 in a special red with “final 5 stripes”, and “final 5 gray wheels”:

The Tesla Roadster is a battery electric vehicle (BEV) sports car, based on the Lotus Elise chassis, that was produced by the electric car firm Tesla Motors (now Tesla, Inc.) in California from 2008 to 2012. The Roadster was the first highway-legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 320 kilometres (200 mi) per charge.[7] It is also the first production car to be launched into orbit, carried by a Falcon Heavy rocket in a test flight on February 6, 2018.

Tesla sold about 2,450 Roadsters in over 30 countries,[8][9][10] and most of the last Roadsters were sold in Europe and Asia during the fourth quarter of 2012.[11] Tesla produced right-hand-drive Roadsters from early 2010.[12] The Roadster qualified for government incentives in several nations.[13][14]

The world distance record of 501 km (311 mi) for a production electric car on a single charge was set by a Roadster on October 27, 2009, during the Global Green Challenge in outback Australia, in which it averaged a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph).[15][16] In March 2010, a Tesla Roadster became the first electric vehicle to win the Monte Carlo Alternative Energy Rally and the first to win any Federation Internationale de l’Automobile-sanctioned championship when a Roadster driven by former Formula One driver Érik Comas beat 96 competitors for range, efficiency, and performance in the three-day, nearly 1,000-kilometre (620 mi) challenge.[17]

According to the U.S. EPA, the Roadster can travel 393 kilometres (244 mi) on a single charge[18] of its lithium-ion battery pack and can accelerate from 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 3.7 or 3.9 seconds depending on the model. It has a top speed of 201 km/h (125 mph). The Roadster’s efficiency, as of September 2008, was reported as 120 MPGe (2.0 L/100 km). It uses 135 Wh/km (21.7 kW·h/100 mi, 13.5 kW·h/100 km or 490 kJ/km) battery-to-wheel, and has an efficiency of 88% on average.[19]

Prototypes of the car were officially revealed to the public on July 19, 2006, in Santa Monica, California, at a 350-person invitation-only event held in Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport.[20]

The San Francisco International Auto Show, held on November 18–26, 2006, was the Tesla Roadster’s first auto show.

It was featured in Time in December 2006 as the recipient of the magazine’s “Best Inventions 2006—Transportation Invention” award.[21] The first “Signature One Hundred” set of fully equipped Roadsters sold out in less than three weeks, the second hundred sold out by October 2007, and general production began on March 17, 2008.

The first Tesla Roadster was delivered in February 2008 to Tesla co-founder, chairman, and product architect Elon Musk. The company produced 500 similar vehicles through June 2009. In July 2009, Tesla began production of its 2010 model-year Roadster—the first major product upgrade.[22] Simultaneously, Tesla began producing the Roadster Sport, the first derivative of Tesla’s proprietary, patented powertrain. The car accelerates from 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 3.7 seconds, compared to 3.9 seconds for the standard Roadster. Changes for the 2010 model-year cars included:[23]

  • An upgraded interior and push-button gear selector, including an “executive interior” of exposed carbon fiber and premium leather, and clear-coat carbon fiber body accents.
  • Locking, push-button glove box wrapped in leather.
  • A centrally mounted video display screen to monitor real-time data, including estimated range, power regenerated, and the number of barrels of oil saved. This screen is visible to the driver and passenger.
  • Adjustable, custom-tuned suspension. The shock absorbers’ response and anti-sway bars are manually adjustable.
  • More powerful and immediate heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning.
  • More efficient motor and hand-wound stator. The increase in efficiency allows the motor to deliver higher peak power.
  • A suite of sound-deadening measures to dramatically reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. For instance, engineers added pellets to a member of the chassis side rail. These pellets expand by 50 times the original volume during the adhesive heating cycle to eliminate rattles.

All of these features, except for the motor were available either as standard or as an add-on option for the non-sport model.

Beginning in mid-March 2010, Tesla, in an effort to show off the practicality of its electric cars, sent one of its Roadsters around the world. Starting at the Geneva auto show, the Roadster completed its journey upon its arrival in Paris on September 28, 2010.[24]

In July 2010, Tesla introduced the “Roadster 2.5”, the latest update of the Roadster.[25] New features in Roadster 2.5 include:

  • A new look, which included a new front fascia with diffusing vents, and a rear diffuser reflecting the future of Tesla’s design
  • Directional forged wheels available in both silver and black
  • New seats with improved comfort, larger more supportive bolsters, and a new lumbar support system
  • Power control hardware that enables spirited driving in exceptionally hot climates
  • An optional 7″ touchscreen display with back-up camera
  • Improved interior sound reduction including new front fender liner material to make the cabin quieter

At the time, the US$112,000 Roadster was the most expensive single prize ever offered, though not won, on The Price Is Right, in a playing of Golden Road on April 22, 2010 for Earth Day.[26]

A Roadster was used as a promotional tool for a wind power electricity company in 2012.[27][28]

Tesla produced the Roadster until January 2012, when its supply of Lotus gliders ran out, as its contract with Lotus Cars for 2,500 gliders expired at the end of 2011.[9][29][30][31] Tesla stopped taking orders for the Roadster in the U.S. market in August 2011.[32][33] The next generation will not be based on the Lotus gliders but instead on a shortened version of the architecture developed for the Tesla Model S.[34][35] Featuring new options and enhanced components, the 2012 Tesla Roadster was sold in limited numbers only in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Tesla’s U.S. exemption for not having special two-stage passenger airbags expired for cars made after the end of 2011 so the last Roadsters could not be sold in the American market.[36][37] Also, a total of 15 Final Edition Roadsters were produced to close the manufacturing cycle of Tesla’s first electric car.[38] As of June 2012 the Roadster remained on sale in Europe and Asia[9][29] and as of December 2012, inventories were not yet depleted.[11][needs update]

Tesla announced an optional upgrade to the current Roadster, the Roadster 3.0 in December 2014. It will have a new battery pack from LG Chem,[39] with a capacity increased by 50% to 70 kWh (250 MJ), a new aero kit designed to reduce drag, and new tires with lower rolling resistance.[40][41]

The Roadster was developed by Tesla to mass-produce AC Propulsion’s tzero concept car.

After Martin Eberhard sold NuvoMedia to TV Guide, he wanted a sports car with high mileage, but could not find one. His battery experience with the Rocket eBook inspired him to develop an electric car.[42] The production idea was conceived by Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning who incorporated Tesla Motors in Delaware on July 1, 2003, to pursue the idea commercially.[43] South African-born entrepreneur Elon Musk took an active role within the company starting in 2004, including investing US$7.5 million, overseeing Roadster product design from the beginning, and greatly expanding Tesla’s long-term strategic sales goals by using the sports car to fund the development of mainstream vehicles.[44][45] Musk became Tesla’s Chairman of the Board in April 2004 and had helped recruit JB Straubel as chief technology officer in March 2004.[46] Musk received the Global Green 2006 product design award for the design of the Tesla Roadster, presented by Mikhail Gorbachev,[47] and he received the 2007 Index Design award for the design of the Tesla Roadster.[48]Before Tesla had developed the Roadster’s proprietary powertrain, they borrowed an AC Propulsion Tzero vehicle as a test mule and converted from lead acid AGM batteries to lithium-ion cells which substantially increased the range, reduced weight, and boosted 0-60 performance. Tesla then licensed AC Propulsion’s EV power system design and reductive charging patent which covers the integration of the charging electronics with the inverter, thus reducing mass, complexity, and cost. However, Tesla was dissatisfied with how the motor and transmission worked in the chassis.[49] Tesla then designed and built its own power electronics, motor, and other drivetrain components that incorporated this licensed technology from AC Propulsion.[50][51][52]Given the extensive redevelopment of the vehicle, Tesla Motors no longer licenses any proprietary technology from AC Propulsion. The Roadster’s powertrain is unique.[53]

On 11 July 2005, Tesla and British sports car maker Lotus entered an agreement about products and services based on the Lotus Elise, where Lotus provided advice on designing and developing a vehicle as well as producing partly assembled vehicles,[54] and amended in 2009,[55] helped with basic chassis development. The Roadster has a parts overlap of roughly 6% with the Lotus Elise,[56] a 2-inch-longer wheelbase, and a slightly stiffer chassis according to Eberhard.[57] Tesla’s designers chose to construct the body panels using resin transfer molded carbon fiber composite to minimize weight; this choice makes the Roadster one of the least expensive cars with an entire carbon fiber skin.[56]

Several prototypes of the Tesla Roadster were produced from 2004 through 2007. Initial studies were done in two “test mule” vehicles based on Lotus Elises equipped with all-electric drive systems. Ten engineering prototypes (EP1 through EP10) which led to many minor changes were then built and tested in late 2006 and early 2007. Tesla then produced at least 26 validation prototypes which were delivered beginning in March 2007.[58] These final revisions were endurance and crash-tested in preparation for series production.[59]

In August 2007, Martin Eberhard was replaced by an interim CEO, Michael Marks.[60] Marks accepted the temporary position while recruitment was undertaken. In December 2007, Ze’ev Drori became the CEO and president of Tesla. In October 2008, Musk succeeded Drori as CEO. Drori became vice chairman and left the company in December. In January 2008, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it would grant a waiver of the advanced air bag rule[61] noting that the Tesla Roadster already includes standard air bags; similar waivers have been granted to many other small volume manufacturers as well, including LotusFerrari, and Bugatti.[62][63][64] Tesla delivered its first production car in February 2008 to Musk.

Tesla announced in early August 2009 that Roadster sales had resulted in overall corporate profitability for the month of July 2009, earning US$1 million on revenue of US$20 million.[65]

Tesla, which signed a production contract with Group Lotus in 2007 to produce “gliders” (complete cars minus electric powertrain) for the Roadster, announced in early 2010 that Roadster production would continue until early 2012. Starting one year prior to the end of the contract, Tesla put a hiatus on new orders to allow time for tooling changes at Lotus’s assembly plant in the UK.

Tesla’s cumulative production of the Roadster reached 1,000 cars in January 2010.[67] The Roadster is considered an American car though many carry a Vehicle Identification Number beginning with the letter “S” which is the designation for the United Kingdom.[68] Some however carry a number starting with “5” appropriate to the US. Parts were sourced from around the world. The body panels came from French supplier Sotira. These were sent from France to Hethel, U.K., where Tesla contracted with Lotus to build the Roadster’s unique chassis.[69][70] The Roadster shares roughly 6% of its components with the Lotus Elise; shared components include the windshield, airbags, some tires, some dashboard parts, and suspension components. The Roadster’s single-speed gearbox was made in Detroit to Tesla’s specifications by Auburn Hills, Michigan-based supplier BorgWarner. Brakes and airbags were made by Siemens in Germany, and some crash testing was conducted at Siemens as well.[71]

For Roadsters bound for customers in North America, the chassis was then sent to Menlo Park, California, for final assembly. For Roadsters bound for customers in Europe or elsewhere outside of North America, the chassis was sent to a facility at Wymondham near Hethel, for final assembly. At these final assembly locations, Tesla employees installed the entire powertrain, which consisted of the battery pack, power electronics module, gearbox and motor. Tesla also performed rigorous “pre-delivery inspection” on every car before customers took ownership.

Tesla ordered 2,500 gliders from Lotus, which ended supplies in December 2011 when their contract expired.[30][31] Tesla ended production of the Roadster in January 2012.[29]


Subsequent to the completion of production car number one at Hethel, the company announced problems with transmission reliability. The development transmission, with first gear enabled to accelerate 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in 4 seconds, was reported to have a life expectancy of as low as only a few thousand miles. Tesla’s first two transmission suppliers were unable to produce transmissions, in quantity, that could withstand the gear-shift requirements of the high torque, high rpm electric motor. In December 2007, Tesla announced plans to ship the initial Roadsters with the transmissions locked into second gear to provide 0 to 97 km/h (0 to 60 mph) acceleration in 5.7 seconds. The first production car was not delivered with this interim solution; P1 has both transmission gears enabled. According to the plan, the initial transmissions were to be swapped out under warranty when the finalized transmission, power electronics module (PEM), and cooling system became available. The EPA range of the car was also restated downward from 394 to 356 km (245 to 221 mi). The downward revision was attributed to an error in equipment calibration at the laboratory that conducted the original test.[72][73][74]

  • During the first two months of production, Tesla produced a total of three Roadsters (P3/VINF002, P4/VINF004, and P5/VINF005). Production car # 1 (P1) and P2 were built prior to the start of regular series production, which began on March 17, 2008.[75]
  • By September 10, 2008, Tesla had delivered 27 of the cars to customers. It was also reported that a newer, better transmission had been developed and that production of the car was hoped to reach 20 per week by December 2008, and 40 per week by March 2009.[76] Over the next 20 days, however, only three more cars had been delivered to customers which brought the total to 30 as of September 30, 2008.[77]
  • By November 19, 2008, more than 70 of the cars had been delivered to customers.[78]
  • By December 9, 2008, the 100th car had been delivered.[79]
  • By February 11, 2009, 200 Roadsters had been produced.[80]
  • By April 2, 2009, 320 Roadsters had been delivered.[81]
  • In May 2009, Tesla issued a safety recall for all 345 of its Roadsters that were manufactured before April 22, 2009. Tesla sent technicians to customers’ homes to tighten the rear, inner hub flange bolts. Tesla told customers that without this adjustment, the driver could lose control of the car and crash. The problem originated at the Lotus assembly line that built the Roadster and Lotus also recalled some of its own vehicles. Tesla reminded customers that millions of cars are recalled every year.[82][83]
  • By the end of May 2009, the 500th Roadster had been delivered.[84]
  • Tesla made its first profit ever in July 2009, when it shipped 109 vehicles, the most in a single month at that time.[85]
  • By September 15, 2009, 700 Roadsters had been delivered.[86]
  • Tesla announced on January 13, 2010, that it had produced its 1,000th Roadster. The company had delivered vehicles to customers in 43 states and 21 countries worldwide.[87] In 2009 Tesla began taking orders from customers in Canada, and Canadian deliveries began in February 2010.[88][89]
  • In January 2010, Tesla began producing its first right-hand-drive Roadsters for the UK and Ireland. The 2010 model-year right-hand-drive Roadster included a suite of unique noise-reduction materials and an upgraded sound system. The Roadster started at £86,950 and cost about 1.5p per mile.
  • On 29 January 2010, in a Form S-1 filing of its preliminary prospectus with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated that it would halt production of the Roadster in 2011 and replace it with a new model which would not be introduced until 2013 at the earliest: “…we do not plan to sell our current generation Tesla Roadster after 2011 due to planned tooling changes at a supplier for the Tesla Roadster, and we do not currently plan to begin selling our next-generation Tesla Roadster until at least one year after the launch of the Model S, which is not expected to be in production until 2012…”[90][91][92] The Model S was released in June 2012.[93]
  • On 16 March 2010, Tesla announced that it had “negotiated agreements with key suppliers that will increase total Roadster production by 40 percent and extend sales into 2012”,[94] also indicating that it would expand into the Asian and Australian markets by 2011.[94]
  • On 2 December 2010, Tesla had delivered more than 1,400 Roadsters.[95]
  • On 28 September 2011, Tesla delivered its 100th Roadster in Switzerland.[96]
  • Production ended in January 2012 and was no longer available for sale the U.S. after December 2011.[29]
  • More than 2,418 units were sold worldwide through September 2012. The remaining cars were available for sale only in Europe and Asia.[9][10] Most of the remaining Roadsters were sold during the fourth quarter of 2012.[11][38][97]
  • In 2015, it was announced that a successor to the Roadster would debut in 2019.[98]
  • In 2016, Tesla began selling a battery upgrade from 53 to 80 kWh (190 to 290 MJ).[99][100][101]
  • In 2017, it was announced that a successor to the Roadster would debut in 2020.[102]

1rst Owner So long, Porsche: The Roadster is my daily driver

Michael Marks, Roadster Owner July 1, 2009

Michael Marks was interim CEO of Tesla from August 2007 to November 2007. Before that he was CEO of electronics manufacturing services company Flextronics. He sits on the board of directors at several public and private technology companies, and he has been managing partner of Riverwood Capital since March 2007. He took ownership of his Roadster – Founders Series No. 22 – in November 2008.

As a partner in a Silicon Valley investment firm, I spend a lot of time in my car – driving from startup to startup, meeting with engineers, entrepreneurs, executives, and bankers. I’m also part owner of the Golden State Warriors, so I spend a lot of time driving from my home in Palo Alto across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland. It’s not unusual for me to put 125 or more miles on my car in a single day.

I used to log all these miles in a Porsche 911 Turbo. But after I took ownership of my Roadster in November, I drove the Porsche less and less. By February, when my four-year lease was up, I decided not to replace the Porsche. Why bother? It wasn’t as much fun to drive as the Roadster. Owning both seemed like a needless overlap.

So far, I’ve clocked 6,500 miles on my Roadster and haven’t regretted giving up the Porsche for a second. The Roadster is simply the most fun car I’ve ever owned.

In fact, my ownership experience makes me question the entire notion of “range anxiety.” I refuel my car each night by plugging it in — a 10-second feat I accomplish in my own garage. I wake up each morning and the car is fully charged. I haven’t been to the gas station in months.

To be honest, the only real complaint I have about the Roadster is that its windshield is perpetually filthy. Think about it: If you don’t stop at a gas station, when would you clean your car’s windshield?

When I was interim CEO of Tesla, I would get a lot of questions from the media and from prospective customers about charge times. It’s true that the Roadster takes 3.5 hours to charge from dead empty to full on a 240V/70A home system. However focusing on the full recharge time is not relevant to the typical ownership experience.

The Roadster gets well over 200 miles per charge, so it’s very rare that I get perilously close to empty – even after a long day of shuttling to meetings around the Bay. I typically have at least half a charge when I return to my garage at the end of the day, so my car is recharged long before I wake up in the morning.

If we are going on a weekend trip with friends and family, we all pile into my wife’s SUV. But I have a soft spot for little, fast sports cars. That’s why I drove a Porsche for the last seven years. And that’s why I thrill to the scorching acceleration of the Roadster.

But my sheer delight behind the wheel of the Roadster continues to surprise me. Even though I was an early investor in Tesla and was the company’s interim CEO in 2007, I’m not a dedicated environmentalist. I didn’t buy this car to make a statement about my values. I’m not vegan. I don’t have solar panels on my roof. And I certainly didn’t expect to replace my tried-and-true German sports car with an electric vehicle.

Nor did I buy the Roadster because I’m a flashy person who needs to have the newest boy toy on the block. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a conference at a hotel on Sand Hill Road – the strip in Menlo Park, California, that serves as the epicenter of the global venture capital industry. There were four other Teslas parked in the lot!

I love the Roadster because it’s a hell of a ride – and at the end of the day, for EVs to become mainstream options for customers, that’s all that matters. They need all the performance and convenience attributes of a gasoline car. They need to serve as your only car. Mission accomplished.