Tesla's Roadster to Meet Its End

California owners of Priuses and other hybrids are about to get a rude awakening: as of July 1, 2011, they will no longer be eligible for the HOV lane with their yellow stickers. Those who want to get into that lane again are stuck looking for white sticker vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf, but that all-electric vehicle is severely limited in range (Nissan claims 100 miles, but search for "range anxiety" and you'll see real-life is not the same).

[Green stickers will begin being issued for plug-in hybrids in January 2012.]

For those who want an EV, not a CNG vehicle, the question is: what to do, what to do? The answer for some may be the Tesla Model S.

The Tesla Model S is the new model that Tesla will eventually put into commercial production at the Fremont, California plant that once belonged to NUMMI. As the Model S is born, the supercar known as the Tesla Roadster will die, with sales ceasing in two months as Tesla focuses on the more affordable Model S.

The Tesla was not designed or marketed as a car for the average consumer. At $109,000, only 1,650 of the two-seater sports car were sold worldwide by the end of April 2011. However, Tesla said the object of the Roadster was not pure sales, as Tesla spokesperson Khobi Brooklyn explained:
"The Roadster accomplished everything we asked of it--it served as a catalyst for the EV industry, and it has allowed us to refine electric technology for future, and more affordable EVs. The Roadster proved that EVs can outperform traditional combustion vehicles while producing zero emissions."
That said, the Model S won't exactly be affordable, either. It will come in three "range levels," 160 miles for $57,400, 230 miles for $67,500, and 300 miles for $77,400 (not including federal and state incentives).

Still, with manufacturers of more affordable vehicles like the Leaf and the upcoming Ford Focus Electric apparently thinking that a 100 mile range is the "sweet spot," those who commute a distance of more than, say, 60 miles a day total (based on information provided by asking Leaf owners at various forums) can't depend on those vehicles without a certain amount of heart palpitations daily, or a way to recharge during the day.

There is another electric, the Coda, which is supposed to launch in "late Q4 2011," but that is an unknown company, and the price is much steeper than the Leaf or Focus Electric: over $44,000. Range = a lot more money, it is clear.

Is Tesla done with sports cars? No, the company said. While the Model S will be introduced in 2012, the company promises more supercars in the future. Brooklyn added,
"The Roadster will always be the cornerstone of Tesla, and we look forward to bringing back a version of the supercar that takes full advantage of our advanced electric powertrain in the next several years."