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The drivable "mule" (modified Elise)

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Aug 20, 2006
The drivable "mule" (modified Elise)

"The Mule 2" original prototype ...
based on an Elise but with custom fiberglass and bondo body.




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The yellow Mule 1 started its life as a gasoline-powered Lotus Elise: an Italian-spec car with the Rover K-Series engine. Lotus imported the car to the US for show before they had any US-spec cars. When they were done with it, they could not sell it for road use in the US because it was not DOT-compliant, and it was not worthwhile to ship it back to Europe. Tesla bought it relatively cheaply from Lotus for conversion. The car was pretty much completely dismantled by the early Tesla crew, then re-assembled with early prototype drivetrain components.

I was the guy who got to take the sawzall to the Elise :biggrin:

Mule 2 was not based on an Italian Elise at all. It was based on a chassis that was not completed to a car at the factory. Its rear subframe was modified in Hethel to accommodate prototype drivetrain components to be installed in San Carlos, and to increase the wheelbase 2" to the Tesla spec. A red Elise body was "cut and shut" (lengthened) to fit the elongated chassis, but this body was on the car for a very short time before the fiberglass Tesla body was created.
Just remember to lock up the sawzall when P2 finally arrives!
(It doesn't need any modifications!)

Well, maybe he can take the chainsaw to the transmission as a form of therapy, but otherwise...
I found an old photo of much of the original engineering & manufacturing team standing around "Mule 1".

I tried to add names as best as I could remember from the blog postings and early public lectures I attended.
(sorry if I got any of the names wrong)

(Edit - it appears that images uploaded to this forum have been removed)
(Perhaps a desperate effort by dsacks6 to avoid exceeding the monthly bandwidth limit for the site?)



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The first battery was more complicated than the production design. The sheets at the two ends were smaller than the ones in the middle because they had to fit around the wheel well. That problem was avoided in production by stretching the chassis 2 inches. The assembly technique for the sheets was also much different than in production. If my visual memory from 15 years ago is intact, it involved PCB material. And there probably was no liquid cooling.

The mule also incorporated the analog PEM made by AC Propulsion. I suspect that all the components were cannibalized in the next stages of development.
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Trying to get the exact original config going again might be near impossible now.

Would you consider doing some other type of retrofit? Like look for a generic ACP AC-150 kit, and maybe use some salvage Chevy Volt batteries?

Example of used ACP-150s...
For Sale - AC Propulsion AC-150 Drive Systems - 40 sets - Used, working, w/trans

Maybe you could find a wrecked RAV4-EV so use as a donor vehicle?

Even if we don't find or track down the drive train which I can't detail yet what stage we are in or how close, if a certain person at Tesla corporate decides to move ahead and reacquire the Tesla Mule 1 chassis, most likely it will be on display at one of our factories. Not planning to retrofit it to a race car with some sub par battery tech :p