Tesla CEO Musk again teases rocket tech for Roadster, due in 2022

Elon Musk seems eager to capitalize on his control of both Tesla and SpaceX. He confirmed Thursday that the second-generation Roadster has been delayed until 2022—while still encouraging speculation about rocket tech for the electric supercar.

When Tesla unveiled the Roadster in November 2017—and began accepting substantial reservation fees—it said production would start in 2020. Now it seems the new Roadster will be at least two years late.

"Finishing engineering this year, production starts next year," Musk tweeted in response to a question about the Roadster's progress. "Aiming to have releasable candidate design drivable [by] summer." 

Musk added that the "tri-motor drive system & advanced battery work were important precursors," seemingly referring to the recently-revealed powertrain for Plaid high-performance versions of the Model S and Model X.

At the 2017 unveiling, Tesla quoted a 0-60 mph of 1.9 seconds for the Roadster, plus 0-100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and a 250-mph top speed.

The company also claimed a 200-kilowatt-hour battery pack would give the Roadster 620 miles of range, which left analysts scratching their heads, and concluding that Tesla would use some as-yet-unseen breakthrough—otherwise the Roadster would be very heavy.

2020 Tesla Roadster

2020 Tesla Roadster

Tesla quoted a base price of $200,000, and announced a limited-edition Founder Series model for $250,000 at the 2017 launch. It required customers to put down $50,000 to reserve a standard Roadster, and asked for the full $250,000 price of the Founder Series in advance.

In 2018, Musk began discussing a "SpaceX package" that would add rockets to the Roadster for even greater performance. He said it would include "10 small rocket thrusters arranged seamlessly around the car." Many didn't take it seriously at the time, but it seems Musk and Tesla fans haven't forgotten the idea.

Tesla podcaster Ryan McCafferty pointed out that the Model S Plaid also has a quoted 0-60 mph time of 1.9 seconds. On Twitter, he speculated that the SpaceX package will be standard on the Roadster to let it out-accelerate the Model S Plaid and justify the roughly $100,000 price difference between the two cars (the Plaid starts at $140,000).

In response to McCafferty's tweets, Musk commented that the new Roadster "is part rocket." When asked if the car could fly, Musk replied "a little."

Even a conventional road-going Tesla Roadster may not arrive for some time. While Musk indicated Tesla is making progress, the company is also juggling several other projects that are more consequential to its future, including the Cybertruck and Semi, as well as new factories in Germany and Texas.

As Tesla's first production car, the original Roadster as a major leap for electric cars. We and many others are hoping it will be again—whether it has rockets or not.

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