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Will Tesla Motors, Inc. Redefine Supercars With Its Next Roadster?

By Daniel Sparks - Jul 26, 2015 at 11:05AM

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Tesla's Model S is now one of the fastest accelerating cars in the world. But is the company planning on trumping supercar acceleration records with a new all-electric sports car?

In four years, electric-car maker Tesla Motors (TSLA -0.45%) will probably try to shatter records set by supercars. Just a few years ago, it may have been difficult to believe Tesla would even have a chance of competing with the likes of a Porsche 918 or a Bugatti Veryon. But things have changed. Today, predicting Tesla can outdo these cars within four years not only seems possible but also probable. Tesla's "Insane" and its just-announced "Ludicrous" mode are already outperforming a handful of supercars.

But Tesla isn't stopping at insane or ludicrous mode. Gas-powered supercars may officially hand over the title of fastest acceleration when Tesla finally launches its who-knows-how-fast acceleration speed reserved for its completely redesigned Roadster: "Maximum Plaid." 

A concept design by Carwow of a next-generation, sporty Tesla. Carwow calls this concept the Tesla Model R. Photo used with permission.

From insane to ludicrous
Tesla customers were having enough fun with the wild acceleration of the flagship P85D Model S. "Insane Mode" was truly insane. Videos of Model S launching off the line with 100% of torque from 0 mph and hitting 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds were popping up all over the Internet.

But little did these P85D customers know that their October 2014-launched Model S was about to get handily trumped by a new flagship Model S: the P90D, with its ludicrous mode.

Ludicrous mode, which was announced alongside two other new options for Model S on July 17, was an engineering feat discovered while Tesla was "working on our goal of making the power train last a million miles." It is based on a new, advanced smart fuse for the battery.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk explained the innovation in a blog post.

Instead of a standard fuse that just melts past a certain amperage, requiring a big gap between the normal operating current and max current, we developed a fuse with its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery. It constantly monitors current at the millisecond level and is pyro-actuated to cut power with extreme precision and certainty.

That was combined with upgrading the main pack contactor to use inconel (a high temperature space-grade superalloy) instead of steel, so that it remains springy under the heat of heavy current. The net result is that we can safely increase the max pack output from 1,300 to 1,500 Amps.

What this results in is a 10% improvement in the 0 to 60 mph time to 2.8 secs and a quarter mile time of 10.9 secs. Time to 155 mph is improved even more, resulting in a 20% reduction.

Musk noted during the press conference announcing ludicrous mode that the initial rate of acceleration is faster than the rate of falling. In a sense, therefore, it's like falling forward.

Upgrading to Ludicrous speed when ordering a Model S requires a range upgrade to Tesla's largest 90 kWh battery plus an extra $10,000. Image source: Tesla Motors.

This puts the top 0-to-60 time for Model S just behind a Bugatti Veryon and on par with a Lamborghini Aventador. Of course, these aren't really fair comparisons. The P90D, starting at $118,000, costs a fraction of what both of these cars do and is capable of carrying five adults, two children, and some luggage in the front trunk.

Will the next-generation Roadster redefine supercars?
The fair comparison will probably come when Tesla launches its redesigned next-generation Roadster.

"There is of course only one thing beyond ludicrous," Musk said in a blog post on earlier this month, "but that speed is reserved for the next-generation Roadster in 4 years: maximum plaid."

Musk said during the call the next Roadster won't be based on any of the design elements associated with the company's first Roadster, which was also Tesla's first vehicle. The car will be completely redesigned from the ground up.


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