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Spyshot: Developed at Lotus, looks like Lotus, but isn’t



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It looks rather like a Lotus Elise, but this is in fact America’s new Tesla Roadster – an ambitious electric sports car project that’s being engineered in the UK and will go on sale this autumn.

Our spy photo captures the car testing near the Lotus HQ in Norfolk, where it’s being developed.

Tesla is a Silicon Valley start-up company funded by some of the brains behind PayPal and Google, among other hi-tech industrialists involved. The Roadster uses the aluminium tub and many of the components from the Elise, so it should offer an agile, sporty drive.

However, instead of the Lotus’s screaming 1.8-litre petrol unit, it’s entirely battery-powered by a 200kW electric motor developing the equivalent of 248bhp. It will send the Roadster from 0-60mph in 4.0sec and on to a top speed over 130mph – all with a whisper-quiet electric whirr. Tesla claims a 250-mile range, too.

It should be a surreally fast driving experience; electric motors develop peak pulling power from standstill to 13,000rpm, and the batteries are topped up under braking. Tesla claims that you can recharge the Roadster in just two hours.

The first deliveries are due this autumn, carrying a price tag of £48,000. The fledgling car company has plans for expansion, too, with a 5-series-sized saloon in the pipeline.

Tesla Roadster

  • Design
    It’s based on lightweight Lotus Elise components, but with an electric powertrain

  • Performance
    Quicker than a Lamborghini, despite zero emissions: 0-60mph in 4.0sec

  • Availability
    Sales start in autumn 2007; European sales planned soon after

  • First drive: Lotus Europa S – on sale now

    Lotus dealers have been promised a trio of new models by the end of the decade, which will open their business to a wider customer base.

    Find road tests