AC Propulsion Tzero: The Car that Elon Musk Opened His Eyes

The history of the automobile is full of insane studies that first inspired and then disappeared. This time: the AC Propulsion Tzero. Without the almost forgotten electric car prototype, Tesla might not even exist.

It is well known that Elon Musk likes to be the center of attention. But he obviously also has a feeling for when truthfulness is appropriate. In a tweet on December 9, 2018, he announced that the Tzero electric sports car was “the inspiration for the Tesla Roadster”. “Without this prototype, Tesla wouldn’t exist, or at least it would have taken a lot longer,” tweeted Musk.

Tzero? Even if hardly anyone knows the bold vehicle, of which only three prototypes were built – it is actually the nucleus of all modern electric cars.

The handcrafted car first rolled onto the stage of the auto world in January 1997 at the Los Angeles auto show. The main purpose of the two-seater was to publicize a new electric drive from the Californian company AC Propulsion. The company from San Dimas, founded in 1992, was already developing electronic components for the automotive industry.

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However, the electric two-seater did not attract attention until three years later. The Tzero competed in quarter-mile sprint duels (approx. 400 meters) against a Ferrari F355, a Corvette C5 and a Porsche Carrera 4 – and each won a superior one. A measly electric car disgraces three supercars! An e-machine with 160 kW made brute six- and eight-cylinder combustion engines look old! There had to be something to this new electric drive technology. The Tzero combined lightweight construction, high-tech, driving fun and dynamism – and it did so almost silently and without exhaust fumes. Was that much more than just a technology demonstrator from a small company on the outskirts of Los Angeles?


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