A 2011 Tesla Roadster has proved itself on the grinding Targa West tarmac rally which was held in Perth last month, becoming the first EV to complete the 900km race.
A first for Australian racing, it is the only 100 per cent electric vehicle to have finished a timed FIA / CAMS tarmac rally event, marking the arrival of EVs as serious contender in Australian motorsport.
Driven under the Gemtek EVSport banner by experienced racing drivers Jurgen and Helen Lunsmann, the Tesla Roadster set the 3rd fastest time in the Challenge Category for road legal cars, clocking in 4th overall due to dropped stages.
When we spoke to Gemtek’s Florian Popp prior to the race last month, he was optimistic about how the Roadster would perform, but also realistic.
“The Tesla roadster is quite unique in that it was built on the Lotus chassis, so it is suitable for this type of event, but having said that the 2011 is a very early model electric car,” Popp says.
The Tesla Roadster did not disappoint.
Pitted against a formidable field of Porsche, Lotus, Mazda RX7 & 2013 Holden SSV, the Tesla came out in front of the Holden with a little over 3 minutes to spare.
Winning the category was the 2017 Lotus Elite, followed by the 2012 Porsche 911 and then the 2002 Mazda RX7.
The event is held over 4 days on a closed, real road course stretching around Perth’s suburbs and surrounding region.
The schedule for the race set a challenge for the Tesla Roadster, which had to make use of mobile charging equipment specially developed by Gemtek’s organisers in order to finish each stage, which include 444km on Day 3.
While the range of the Roadster in optimum conditions is 360km, racing conditions increased the power consumption of the battery up to five fold.
When comparing fuel used and individual stage times, the Tesla was the most energy efficient competitor, setting fastest stage times on several stages.
The team were able to make use of the Hyatt Regency Perth’s dedicated Tesla charging outlet in the Parc Ferme stage; however, in stages where charging stations were not available, mobile charging equipment requiring a diesel generator had to be used, meaning that 27L of fossil fuels were needed to keep the Roadster on track.
Despite this, Gemtek’s organisers report that the Roadster still had a smaller footprint in terms of fuel consumption.
“When comparing the amount of fuel required by petrol competitors, the statistics show that the efficiency of the EV is far superior, as well as the reliability of the drive train, motor and battery pack, compared to more than half of the field in Challenge Category,” Gemtek reported in a press release.
Overall, the Roadster completed 24 of the 30 Special Stages in the overall rally – but as many ICE cars also dipped out of similar numbers of stages due to mechanical failures, this did not significantly affect the final results.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.