Fire destroys Tesla fleet in Arizona, including 25 original Roadsters

And I’ll explain why we should be sad about it

A fire at the Gruber Motor Company in North Phoenix Arizona destroyed over 30 Tesla vehicles about a week ago, and 25 of these were original Roadsters.

The original Tesla Roadster was launched in 2008 and it made a lot of noise - not literally of course - because it was one of the world’s first modern electric cars and, more to the point, it was the first electric car that at least tried to be desirable.

It’s important to point out that it had absolutely nothing in common with any modern-day Tesla apart from the badge and the fact that it was powered by batteries. Even the battery pack was substantially different, made of over 6,000 batteries that were technically very similar to the ones we find in our laptop. Crucially, they also weighed the same as a laptop battery, which means the Roadster tips the scales at 1,305 kg (2,877 lbs).

It doesn’t sound like a lot in absolute terms but the Roadster was based on the underpinnings of a Lotus Elise (series 2), but the Toyota-sourced engine was of course scrapped and replaced with a 3-phase AC motor that‘s a bit Neanderthal by today’s standards. The first model had a power output of 248 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque, while the 2.0 and 2.5 models had more power (288 hp) and more torque (280 lb-ft, 295 lb-ft).

I was fortunate enough to drive the car twice, first in 2010 in London and then again in 2011 in Milan. It was fun, extremely fast and a bit quirky. Tesla tried to improve the cabin with the addition of a tiny screen and cruise control but it was still an Elise, and it showed.

I’d definitely call it a classic. A, because it’ll go down in history as the car that kickstarted the whole EV thing; and B, because it is a far cry from the equivalent electric convertibles you can buy today.

The CEO of Gruber Motor released a statement: “Along with the entire Tesla community, we grieve the loss of over 30 Teslas that perished in our shop, which is dedicated to normally preserving and credited with saving hundreds of [this] rare and dying breed of first-generation EVs.”

Gruber Motors specialises in ‘classic’ Roadsters, which they help maintain by replacing the dead cells and modules in the batteries, rather than replacing the entire battery pack.

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