This is the story of the Tesla Roadster — and thus, the beginnings of Tesla, which has grown to be the most valuable automaker in history.
Tesla's promised new roadster is a very different thing — this Roadster went into production at a time when electric vehicles weren't just in their infancy, they were a joke, disregarded by enthusiasts and regular customers alike.
The story begins with the Piontek Sportech, which was a home-built tube-frame sports car created by Ford Engineer Dave Piontek in his garage in Michigan. It used a 1300-cc Suzuki 4-cylinder motorcycle engine (with Nitrous injection) and could hit 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, weighing only 1234 lb.
A California-based startup called AC Propulsion bought one of the Sport-Techs and converted it to run on Optima Yellow-Top lead-acid batteries. They called it the tZero, and a prospective customer, Martin Eberhard, drove it and wanted to buy one — but only if it used Lithium-Ion batteries.
Bypassing the expensive Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries that were leading edge, Eberhard helped AC Propulsion go straight to small-format cylindrical Lithium-Ion batteries, which had vastly more capacity, were much lighter, and were ultimately cheaper.
The result was 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and a newly minted millionaire named Elon Musk wanted one, too. He joined forces with Eberhard, who had created Tesla Inc., and they worked directly with Lotus to extensively modify the Elise to become the Tesla Roadster.
In the end, the Elise's fundamentals remained, but the details didn't, and the Roadster emerged its own car. Tesla, at the same time, emerged the most valuable car company in the world. And the Roadster became the proof-of-concept that showed enthusiasts that an electric car could be fast and fun.
Next up was the Model S, the first part of the the S3XY product line that has catapulted Lotus to previously unknown valuations.
And it all started here.