Electric Tesla catches the eye

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In fact, it’s unlikely that any will be able to match the range or performance of the Tesla in the short term.

You can’t help wonder what the major manufacturers could have produced had they devoted their massive resources to the electric car earlier.

TESLA: WHAT IT’S LIKE TO DRIVE

From the moment you start the Tesla Roadster, it’s clear it is a unique machine, arguably more familiar to those who drive electric golf buggies than cars. Instead of the clatter of the starter motor as it fires the engine to life there’s a simple beep to signify the vehicle is ready for action.

A stubby gear lever helps select forward and reverse (although there are no gears). As with any automatic, there is only a brake and accelerator. The speedo reads to 150mph (242km/h), while the tachometer shows the motor can rev to 15,000rpm- double that of an average petrol engine.

Being based on the Lotus Elise, it’s a cosy cabin, with head and leg room at a premium. There’s also the hint of other cars, such as the washer-indicator stalks borrowed from Opel (Europe’s Holden).

Manoeuvring at low speeds, you notice the heavy steering but it lightens quickly once on the move.

Squeezing the accelerator for the first time is an eerie experience, with instant response and just a mild whir as the motor builds speed.

Being an electric car, I was expecting near silence-one of the concerns raised by some enthusiasts is that electric cars lack the sound of a petrol engine-but was surprised to hear so much.

As speed rises, so does the pitch and volume of the whirring, resulting in a muted turbine-like yowling that’s in keeping with the Tesla’s image.

My brief test-drive was on public roads, so not enough to put the Tesla through its paces around corners. But the steering felt accurate and responsive.

When you lift off the accelerator there’s noticeable deceleration, similar to that of a petrol car that’s revving hard in a low gear.

As the electric motor starts to wind down, it’s also recovering some of the energy lost in accelerating. There’s also regenerative braking, which helps recover energy usually lost in heat through the brakes by transferring kinetic energy into electricity.

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