A lot of news came out of Tesla's late-night news event in Hawthorne, California. Attendees went expecting to see the Tesla Semi, but in typical Silicon Valley startup fashion, they got a lot of surprises along the way.
First, the Semi. Tesla CEO the battery-electric heavy hauler would "blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension." While we cannot confirm reports of skull injury, the Tesla Semi promises some significant performance milestones: Acceleration from 0-60 mph in five seconds empty, or 20 seconds when pulling a full 80,000-lb. load; 500 miles of range at capacity weight and highway speeds; and a "Megacharger" charging network capable of replenishing 400 miles of battery range in 30 minutes.
It's a thoroughly unconventional design. Unlike other experiments that shove electric drivetrains into existing semi-truck architecture, Tesla Semi designers started with a clean sheet. The single, center-mounted seat and stand-up cabin are evidence of that. Tesla began accepting $5000 reservations during the event; production is slated to begin in 2019.
, Musk seems to bristle at the thought of people comparing him to Apple's Steve Jobs. But the electric car visionary couldn't help tacking a Jobs-esque one more thing on to the end of last night's roster: The surprise unveiling of the next-generation Tesla Roadster.
The Roadster was the first model Tesla brought to market back in 2008, and discontinued in 2012. Compared to today's Tesla Model S and Model X, the first-generation Roadster seems rudimentary: Nearly 7000 laptop batteries crammed into a modified Lotus Elise platform.
The new Roadster? Holy moly. Tesla claims a 0-60 time of 1.9 seconds, a quarter-mile of 8.9, and a top speed surpassing 250 mph. That would make it the quickest-accelerating production car ever built, and among the fastest in terms of top speed. Musk also promised the electric supercar would offer 620 miles of range, and put out up to 7400 lb-ft. of torque. Crazy.
It was an unexpected addition to the evening. The last time Tesla spoke about the Roadster, back in 2015, the automaker claimed it would be . Either Musk has figured out time travel and brought us all along with him, or the automaker decided there was a very good reason to show its next-generation hypercar so far ahead of schedule.
A feature of last night's event provides a possible explanation: Musk announced, moments after unveiling the rocket-like Roadster, that Tesla would immediately begin taking reservations for the car. In particular, well-heeled investors can pony up the full $250,000 buying price () and be guaranteed one of the first 1000 Roadsters built—whenever production begins.
In other words, Tesla invited fans of the brand to offer up a grand total of $250 million in zero-interest loan money—for a vehicle that will not be built until 2020. Those who can't put their hands on a quarter-million dollars are invited to reserve a non-Founders Roadster .
This, in a moment when Tesla has delayed the rollout of the $35,000 Model 3 multiple times, amid major questions regarding the new automaker's ability to mass-produce a consumer vehicle that has earned hundreds of thousands of reservations. Previously, Musk had promised up to 5000 Model 3s would be produced by the end of this year, with . But a Wall Street Journal report found that, as of October, the Model 3 production line had barely started moving, with .
But if you were hoping to hear anything about the Model 3 during last night's Tesla performance in Hawthorne, you were sorely disappointed. Guess there wasn't any time for a second one more thing.