Matt Kimberley profile picture Matt Kimberley a year ago 50

Tesla's New Roadster Walks The Line Between Genius And Madness

The new Roadster has fired like one of SpaceX's rockets, out of nowhere and into the world's astonished gaze. It's a flashy and dramatic statement to make, but it could be just another flight of fancy

Remind me later
Tesla's New Roadster Walks The Line Between Genius And Madness - Blog

Really, Tesla? This is what you’ve been doing while you should have been sorting out your embarrassing Model 3 production hold-ups? We’re so conflicted we don’t even know where to start.

You probably know we’re talking about the new Roadster. The car that Elon Musk rolled out of its new Semi truck by complete surprise; the car that no one outside of Tesla seemed to have the slightest clue was coming. The car that has stolen all the headlines, leaving the truck that carried it forgotten.

The stats are terrifying. Over 250mph, 0-60mph in 1.9 seconds, 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 8.8 seconds, wiping anything from Fast & Furious movies right off the map. And all in the company of the quietly frenetic, high-pitched whirr of electric motors.

Sounds great, right? Hell yeah it does. It also sounds like a recipe for loads of rich kids to get themselves hurt after dropping $200,000-$250,000 on something that will melt their synapses faster than a Bugatti Chiron.

Tesla's New Roadster Walks The Line Between Genius And Madness - Blog

But there are problems, here. First of all, why the epic distraction from the truck? Is there something wrong, there, that Tesla needs to buy time to correct? Are there more production issues on the cards? The way the Roadster has exploded onto the scene is a stunning PR coup, but it’s stealing the limelight from what should surely be one of Tesla’s most significant manufacturing achievements to date. We’d like to know why.

Resources are another problem. We all know how many rare earth minerals are needed to make electric car batteries. Lots. To achieve its spectacular performance the Roadster is fitted with 200kWh of cells; double what the Model S P100D has in its backpack. Where are the resources coming from, and where is all this being produced? The Fremont facility is “bursting at the seams,” Musk said earlier this year, and the Gigafactories aren’t equipped to build a car like this yet.

On a joint resources/production note, where is the money coming from for this when Tesla can’t even get the Model 3 out of the door? With such massive problems that don’t seem close to solutions, what on earth is Elon Musk doing with this Roadster idea? It’s no semi-working prototype – it shifts the way it sounds like it should, despite the fact that it must surely weigh about as much as California itself.

Elon Musk has a reputation as a genius, but also a fantasist. He’s a fun-loving guy who’s appeared in The Big Bang Theory, Hollywood comedy Why Him? and Iron Man 2. He runs SpaceX and Neuralink, too. His is clearly not a mind that stays in one place; it’s constantly fidgeting around to find the next exciting project.

Remember the BFR? The rocket-based transportation system that SpaceX envisaged to take people anywhere in the world within an hour? Pure fantasy. It was never viable and it never will be, but carting thousands of people around on ICBMs, minus the warheads, is the sort of wild departure Elon Musk enjoys.

The Tesla Roadster looks a little like another one of these wild flights of fancy. It looks like Tesla’s management is getting bored with the daily grind of trying to make the Model 3 work, and instead wants to get back to the exciting stuff, however much that takes away focus from where it should be.

This quote is attributed to a bunch of different people, but it’s the truest thing you’ll ever read: the distance between genius and madness is judged only by success. We hope that, looking back in 20 years, the Tesla Roadster was a moment of genius. Right now, it looks at least as much like madness.