That acceleration is a full second faster than any existing production car.
It’s unclear how Musk will develop a street-legal, rocket-boosted production car.
This astonishing figure would shatter existing records for production vehicles, even among the highest tier of luxury sports cars. (Our friends at Car and Driver say the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder currently boasts the fastest 0-to-60 acceleration at 2.1 seconds, for what it’s worth).
So, how could Musk gain that full extra second over the competition? He’ll equip the second-gen Roadster with SpaceX rocket thrusters, of course.
Visitors to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles first spotted the jaw-dropping acceleration assertion as part of a new, two-week exhibit on the Tesla Roadster. The day after the display opened, patrons tweeted at Musk asking if the claim could possibly be true.
Musk replied the Roadster will use a “SpaceX rocket thruster option package” to achieve those speeds. Rocket thrusters are typically relegated to the world of spacecraft, used as a propulsive device for acceleration and altitude control.
As you can imagine, a ride in this version of the Roadster won’t be for the faint of heart; in his tweet, Musk said it would be “very intense,” and “probably not wise for those with a medical condition—same as a hardcore roller coaster.”
Sticking with Musk’s roller coaster analogy, let’s talk about the kinds of gravitational forces (also called g-forces) that you experience while on the ride. Most coasters give off between 4 and 5 g’s for less than 1/10th of a second at a time, according to a 2012 story in the BBC.
That means for a short moment, your body feels about four to five times heavier than usual, giving you a strange sense of weightlessness. Fighter pilots are specially trained to withstand higher gravitational forces of up to 8 or 9 g’s for extended periods of time. But those sorts of forces could injure—or even kill—a normal person.
Futurism calculated this rocket-boosted Roadster would produce 2.5 g’s of force on the driver, so the roller coaster analogy tracks. But so do the risks.
Rocket-powered cars are common for professionals attempting to break land speed records, sometimes reaching over 700 mph. But those cars aren’t street-legal; manufacturers usually throttle luxury sports cars at an arbitrary speed in the interest of safety. It’s similar to the difference between NASCAR’s “stock cars” and the fully custom-built chassis and engines of IndyCars or F1.
Existing automotive regulations don’t account for rocket boosters. That means any hypothetical Roadster 2.0 (it’s already been 4 years since the car was announced) must go through an entirely new approvals process that doesn’t yet exist.
What does it look like to regulate a brand-new kind of vehicle? Musk is selling his SpaceX rocket package as if it were another trim level, rather than a complete reimagining of what a street-legal vehicle can be. But he might believe he’s found a shortcut.
In 2018, Musk first detailed what he thinks this rocket thruster option plan will look like:
Then, he reconfirmed it in 2019.
At that time, InsideEVs did the math and found what Musk described would actually drop the expected 0-to-60 acceleration from 1.87 seconds to 1.56 seconds. Musk must have calculations to back up his 1.1-second figure—and we’ll be waiting.
This is an interesting puzzle. Sure, rocket cars
designed to break the land speed record aren’t street-legal, but that’s due to countless other factors, in addition to the rocket thrusters. They don’t have the right safety features to start with, and engineers build the cars to be as light as possible, rather than as safe as possible.
But what about a fully street-legal car whose only alteration is to add on some cold gas thrusters? Maybe it’s less clear how regulators will approach the topic simply because no one has ever tried it before.
After 4 years, most Tesla fans would love to see any Roadster—rockets or not.
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