Yet – and here’s the strangest thing of all – long before the Leaf the first credible pure electric road car was precisely that: in concept at least, the purest of pure sportscars. I refer of course to the Tesla Roadster.
Launched in 2008, it is today hard to remember that Tesla was back then a start-up, a near unknown American company that made what appeared to be an electrified Lotus Elise. Little did we know then that a dozen years later and at least by value if not volume, it would become the biggest automotive player on the world stage.
But at the time we probably cut the Roadster as much slack as we professionally could, because it was brave, interesting and innovative. And it was also much more than an Elise EV. Although it started life on the same platform and was sensibly built by Lotus in Norfolk, by the time the myriad changes were made, there was just seven per cent parts commonality between the Elise and the Roadster.
It wasn’t a success. Elon Musk got rid of his by sending it into space. And it doesn’t take long to work out why. Even with using expensive lightweight carbon-fibre components, it still weighed over half as much again as the Elise from which it was derived. It had a little more power and a lot more torque, but not enough to counteract the weight disadvantage. When Autocar road tested it they found it to be 3.5 seconds per lap slower than an Elise SC around a short track and that it would only manage three laps before its battery got all hot and bothered and started reducing power.