Tesla Motors announced Monday it has entered "regular production" of its 2008 Roadsters. The company unveiled its first production car on Feb. 1.


The startup did not say how many of the sporty electric cars it plans to produce this year, but in a blog posting Tesla CEO Ze'ev Drori announced that the company plans to ramp up its production to a rate of more than 100 Roadsters per month by early next year.

Last month the company said it would produce 1,800 cars in 2009 (see Tesla to Big Three: Let's Be Friends).

Monday’s anticipated announcement -- the company in January set a production target date of Mar. 17 -- is also expected to mark the end of San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla’s use of its interim transmission. The first few production Roadsters, including Chairman Elon Musk's February model, have been equipped with transmissions that accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds, instead of the "about 4 seconds" the company had previously promised (see Tesla Announces New Transmission).

Tesla said in January that it would replace the slower transmissions with one-speed transmissions capable of delivering the originally expected acceleration once the company reached regular production. At that time Tesla said it would also replace all interim transmissions at no cost to the cars’ owners.

The company on Monday didn't immediately return calls requesting more information, nor did it mention the transmissions in its press release.

In his Monday blog post, Drori described the acceleration in production as "an important milestone" for Tesla and "a watershed" for the new era of electric vehicles.

With the announcement, “…the Tesla Roadster is the only zero emission electric vehicle in production today – this is in stark contrast to the others who only talk about their future plans," Drori wrote. "Tesla will further expand its existing technological lead as we build and deliver thousands of Roadsters per year."

Of course, even a production goal of 1,800 cars per year isn’t enough to qualify as full production by Detroit standards, said Eric Fedewa, vice president of global powertrain forecasts for automotive research firm CSM Worldwide.

"That's pretty small," he said. "This is really under our radar, for sure. GM makes around 1 million full-sized trucks a year."

But in an interview with Greentech Media last month, Fedewa pointed out that while it will take time for startups to reach high volumes, even small announcements represent important steps toward vehicle electrification (see Green Cars Cruise Forward).

"To put it into perspective, as the world demands more efficiency, you're going to have to go to an electrical architecture in the vehicle, and Tesla and others are really at the forefront of developing the technology," Fedewa said in February. "Really, the electrification of the powertrain is the future. … These are very exciting steps to see."