Protecting The R80 Roadster – Tesla’s First All-Electric Sports Car
Tesla, the all-electric car manufacturer, was named after Nikola Tesla, engineer and inventor of AC (alternating current) power used in our homes and offices every day. Born into an age of discovery, Nikola Tesla spent his life inventing and experimenting. A fitting tribute for a company dedicated to the development of a product as revolutionary as the all-electric vehicle (EV).
Although not the first to attempt a mass production EV, Tesla certainly was the first to make significant progress. For years, electric cars had been beset by limitations. Slow and suffering from a painfully limited distance between charges, prior to 2008, electric cars lacked panache and practicality. The Tesla Roadster changed all that.
The first glimpse of the all-electric Roadster was officially revealed to the public on July 19, 2006 in Santa Monica at an exclusive event to which a mere 350 guests were invited. Finally released in 2008, the first Roadster was delivered to Tesla CEO and co-founder, Elon Musk – the very car that recently made history by becoming the first production car to be launched into orbit by SpaceX, of which Musk is also founder and CEO.
The Roadster was initially based on the Lotus Elise chassis, although subsequently Musk described the build process as akin to ‘building a house by remodelling an existing structure until only one basement wall was left.’ That said, there are still a few reminders of its Lotus DNA, particularly in the cabin where the dashboard, steering wheel, and the switches are the same. That said, the Roadster is undeniably heavier, due to the battery pack, and although mid engined and rear-wheel drive, is less agile than its distant cousin and comes with a higher price tag. However, buyers of the Roadster would undoubtedly have bought an Elise if they’d wanted one. Instead, early adopters of the EV revolution were buying into automotive history.
The Roadster was the first road-legal mass production all-electric car powered by lithium-ion battery cells. It was also the first mass production EV to cover more than 200 miles on a single charge. As with conventionally powered vehicles, how far the Roadster will travel on a charge depends on driving style. Sensibly, Tesla included a mode switch button so, whilst recharging, power can be traded off for range and vice versa. However, with the all-electric Roadster, ‘launch’ has to be one of the most compelling aspects of the drive. Hold the brake and build some tension with the accelerator and the Roadster takes off – leaving you firmly planted in your seat yet without that heart-in-mouth moment distinctive of traditionally powered sports cars. The electric motor delivers power so smoothly, the chances of losing traction are next to nothing. Even when the road is wet (hello, British summer), the tyres stay glued to the road. With no gear changes to worry about, launch may feel like a move to ‘warp’ speed to the uninitiated.
The real technological achievement though is in the massive 80 kilowatt-hour (kW) battery pack (or Energy Storage System, as Tesla calls it) made up of 6831 lithium-ion cells in the configuration: 69 cells linked in parallel (positive to positive, negative to negative) make up a brick; nine bricks in series (connected positive to negative) form a sheet; and 11 sheets, again in series, make up the complete battery. The R80 was the first Tesla Roadster to be delivered with this larger Energy Storage System; previous models had 53kW system, the reduced capacity having a shorter range. Like all batteries, it will need replacing. When the Roadster was new, Tesla gave the batteries a projected life expectancy of seven years or 80,000 miles, although a test conducted in 2013 showed the battery pack retains 80-85% capacity after 100,000 miles. The replacement isn’t cheap though, at £12,000, although the introduction of a new, higher capacity (and therefore delivering greater range) battery pack just about doubles that figure. On the flip side, as an all-electric vehicle, the Roadster produces no emissions and is therefore not subject to road tax or congestion charge and charging it costs pennies. And it does deliver supercar-like acceleration!
To increase distance between charging, the Roadster makes use of ‘regenerative braking’ whereby generators on the wheels recapture energy and also act to slow the car when the accelerator isn’t engaged. A good move too, as the brakes themselves aren’t the sharpest – potentially worrying for a car capable of 0-60mph in less than four seconds! Added to that, the electric motor produces full torque (400Nm!) from the moment it starts spinning and continues to do so through to the 6000 rev mark at which point there is a steady and linear drop off. Power gathers pace potently until it peaks around 8000 revs and then falls away. Unlike combustion-propelled vehicles, the Roadster performs best when the batteries are warm and the motor is cold – so it’s at its most potent directly after recharging.
Speaking of recharging, the futuristic style has been incorporated into this too. Failure to connect properly results in a yellow light. When initially connected to power, the charging point glows blue, then changes to a pulsing green to signal it’s being charged. The faster the pulse, the more drained it is; as the battery pack heads towards full, the pulsing slows until it becomes a solid green.
The interior carries a surprising number of home comforts, particularly in the 2012 version – although the exterior (aside from the bumpers) are constructed from carbon fibre to save weight, in the cabin of the Roadster you’ll find heated leather seats with adjustable lumbar support. Also included are a powerful and immediate heating system, ventilation and air-conditioning, power windows, and a Homelink universal transmitter – a must have for those with compatible electric gates, garage doors, and home lighting and security systems. After all, stepping out of the future into the darkness to scrabble with garden gates or fumbling for light switches just wouldn’t do!
The owner of the 2012 Roadster featured here, had previously been a Morgan fan but when he embraced the racing bug, his Morgans became reserved for the track. As a result, he found himself looking for a sports car for daily use with the same kind of feel for his normal driving style and habits. No stranger to EVs having bought a Tesla Model S as soon as it became available in the UK, he felt the R80 met the requirements perfectly.
Despite the heavy rear battery and motor unit, the car handles phenomenally and behaves as we would expect an electric Morgan to do. It accelerates blisteringly, corners beautifully in a very balanced way with great road holding – and of course looks stunning! – R80 Owner.
The R80 Roadster was booked into UF Studio to have the paintwork restored, as years of intensive washing had left tell-tale swirl marks, dulling the shine and detracting from the vibrant cherry red paint. Wanting a ceramic sealant as innovative as the technology behind the R80, he opted for Kamikaze Collection ENREI.
Kamikaze Collection is boutique Japanese manufacturer of innovative car care solutions. Founded by Kai Morita, Kamikaze Collection is passionate about creating products capable of solving new car care challenges, rather than manufacturing their own versions of products already available. This has led to the development of some truly groundbreaking solutions such as Artificial Clear Coat, a primer specifically designed to provide a tougher surface layer for highly sensitive clear coats that will then allow for the application of a ceramic sealant. ENREI is their flagship coating, a two-stage system that fully embraces the art of application in the performance of the coating in addition to the expected superior protection expected from a high-end sealant.
Before the coating can be applied, the car must first be clean, free from environmental and industrial contamination and the paintwork restored.
Wheels tend to bear the brunt of the driving debris and the wheels on the Tesla Roadster were no exception.
The wheels and arches were washed first using Valet Pro Bilberry Wheel Cleaner before then being treated with Gtechniq W7 Tar & Glue Remover, the active ingredient dissolving the sticky bonds formed by tar and rubber. These areas were then treated with Bilt-Hamber Korrosol, specifically engineered to work on brake dust. Once the area had been rinsed, the wheels were washed, in turn, using Swissvax Wheel Wash and Wheel Woolies, long handled wheel brushes with microfibre heads that reach to the rear of the rim to allow for thorough cleaning. Wheel Woolies are available in different sizes, allowing the heads to pass through even the most intricate of alloy wheel designs.
After treating the bodywork for brake dust contamination and greasy deposits, the car was pre-cleaned using Ultimate Snow Foam, the thick lather lifting dirt and grime away from the surfaces of the car and allowing them to be freely (and safely) rinsed away.
After rinsing the foam and contamination away, the Roadster was washed using the Two Bucket Method, keeping wash and rinse water in separate buckets to prevent reintroducing contamination from a dirty wash mitt. After initial rinsing, an Aqua Gleam De-ionising Water filter was used to deliver a final, pure water rinse to avoid introducing calcium water marks. The Tesla was then brought into the studio and placed on a ramp to allow easier access to all parts of the vehicle. A BigBoi BlowR Pro air dryer was used to chase water off the panels and out from areas likely to retain droplets, such as grilles and badges. The paintwork was then inspected under high-intensity lighting and areas of damage noted on a vehicle appraisal sheet for reference during the machine polishing stages.
It was immediately clear the Tesla’s paintwork was covered in a myriad of swirls and holograms.
The Tesla had clearly been cherished mechanically and washed regularly to keep the car spotlessly clean. However, time, wear and tear coupled with untrained wash techniques had resulted in swirls and holograms which were dulling the paintwork. – Matt Back, UF Studio
To eliminate the defects, a RUPES LHR15 ES BigFoot Dual Action Polisher was used with a Kamikaze Collection Banzai Dynamics Red Polishing Pad and Koch-Chemie Heavy Cut H8.02 compound. The Banzai Dynamics Pad uses Dot Point Polishing (DPP) technology, a ‘nippled’ interface that increases the cutting area of the pad whilst encouraging air circulation, keeping the working temperatures lower allowing the compound to be worked for longer.
The challenge when working on non-metallic substrates is they do not conduct heat well, allowing heat to build up in concentrated areas. Having a pad that disperses heat effectively with a lubricating compound such as H8.02 is the ideal solution. – Matt Back, UF Studio
For refining, a Kamikaze Collection Banzai Dynamics Black Finishing Pad and Menzerna Super Finish 3500 were used to reveal a glossy, swirl-free finish. The panels were then prepared for the protective sealant using Gtechniq Panel Wipe, a preparation solution containing solvents that dissolve polish or silicone residues and flash off to leave a perfectly clean surface.
Kamikaze Collection has truly lead the way for ceramic sealants, formulating VOC and solvent-free coatings that are able to provide high levels of gloss and protection. For a coating to be solvent-free the ingredients have to be extensively refined during the manufacturing process and Kamikaze Collection was the first manufacturer to successfully achieve this. Solvents typically act as a carrier for the coating’s ceramic component but being a solvent, it evaporates. By eliminating the solvent, Kamikaze Collection has engineered a coating that can be laid down in a thicker layer and therefore offers enhanced protection. – Matt Back, UF Studio
ENREI No.1 Base Coat Primer is applied first and locks on to the clear coat effectively plugging any gaps in the molecular structure that might allow contamination to bond. No.1 Base Coat also has a higher affinity for No.2 Top Coat than clear coat alone would have. As a result, the chemical bond that forms is both comprehensive and strong, providing enhanced protection from wash swirls, environmental and industrial fallout as well as producing an incredible, candy-gloss shine.
The glass was treated with Kamikaze Collection Intenso Window Coat, a super slick hydrophobic coating that repels water and the dirt it contains. This helps keep the windscreen clear and makes driving less tiring during inclement weather.
The forged light alloy wheels were coated with Kamikaze Collection Stance Rim Coat to repel water, dirt, and contamination including potentially damaging brake dust.
Only 2500 of the original Tesla Roadsters were ever produced, the model being discontinued in 2012 although Tesla is planning a new Roadster for 2020. Of the original Roadsters, only 79 made it to the UK. With the restoration of the paintwork now complete and ultimately protected with Kamikaze Collection ENREI, this rare little Roadster really did look out of this world!