How can the new Tesla Roadster do 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds?


The 2020 Tesla Roadster washed over the Internet last week with some pretty incredible technical specifications and performance claims. For example, CEO Elon Musk said the new Roadster will sprint to 60 mph in just 1.9 seconds, which would make it the first production car in the world to go under the 2.0-second mark.

Such a bold claim deserves an explanation, and who better than Jason Fenske to provide one? On the latest episode of Engineering Explained, Jason worked through the math and provided context as to how the 2020 Roadster could achieve such an accomplishment. It starts with something very simple: rollout. Rollout is the first foot of the car's movement that isn't included in a 0-60 mph measurement, and many major independent outlets abide by the standard to keep in line with historical records which do include it. However, automakers tend not to include it in official figures.

Rollout normally means a car is going 5 or 6 mph before the stopwatch starts. For Tesla's Model S P100D, the 0-60 mph time is 2.28 seconds with rollout and 2.53 seconds without.

If Tesla is not including rollout, the 1.9-second claim is flat out incredible, which means it's truly reaching 60 mph from a standstill. Now, moving along, Jason looks at some factors that could help the Roadster achieve the 0-60 mph claim. Specifically, he looked at the Dodge Demon, which can reach 60 mph in 2.0 seconds flat in perfect conditions. He noted the Demon actually lifts off the ground, which means there is a load on the front axle. With an all-wheel-drive car, like the Roadster, the front wheels could help the car accelerate even quicker.

Ultimately, the most important piece of the puzzle is tire technology. As tire technology improves, and as it's capable of handling more force, 0-60 mph times will improve. If no substantial breakthroughs occur, many cars will hover around the 2.0-second mark. Then there's Musk's claim that the Roadster could include rockets—no we're not making this up—to help it fly short distances. Jason even looked at this potential and noted rocket propulsion would forego any issued tires have with putting power to the pavement. The current Roadster 0-60 mph claim doesn't include rocket propulsion, though.

Independent tests will have to verify Tesla's claims, but that won't happen until 2020 at the earliest. We all know Tesla doesn't always stick to a solid production schedule. In the meantime, Jason gives us our best idea yet as to how the Roadster will accomplish a milestone.

 
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