As most established sports car-makers tinker with hybrid prototypes, one relative newcomer has produced the world's first zero-emission, electric-powered sports car with a range of almost 400 kilometres - a distance that will rack up an electricity bill of just HK$50. Launched in 2008, while other carmakers were struggling for survival, California-based Tesla Motors, founded by PayPal creator Elon Musk, has sold more than 1,300 of the roadsters in 30 countries. The car is a stunning ride that blends exhilarating performance with real-world usability. The Tesla Roadster looks very much the part of a two-seater track car with its slippery lines, fared-in headlights and nose-down, squat stance. The neat, driver-focused cabin is a no-nonsense affair with bucket seats, sports dials and a tiny steering wheel - with only a touch-screen central console hinting at its contemporary technology. The low-slung soft-top has a carbon-fibre body mounted on a monocoque chassis made from resin-bonded and riveted aluminium to add rigidity and strength to its lightweight (1,235kg) package, while the under-floor mid-mounted power unit - comprising 6,831 lithium-ion cells similar to ones you'll find in your laptop - helps to maintain a balanced weight distribution. The Hong Kong-spec car comes with improved sound-reduction materials in the doors and new wheel-arch liners to suppress pavement noise, while an upgraded power control unit has been developed for 'spirited driving' in hotter climates. And 'spirited' is the word. From the off, acceleration is instantaneous and the Tesla sets a blistering pace. It overtakes two cars in the blink of an eye up the Old Peak Road - one of Hong Kong's steepest tarmac inclines. Most impressively, there's no perceptible lag as you progress to road-legal limits and beyond, as there would be in a conventional performance petrol-driven car. There's no waiting for an automatic box to catch up or a turbo to kick in, and no time wasted on making manual gear changes. A faint whine from the transmission and a rumble from the road is the only noise you'll hear as the Tesla relentlessly tracks its way to its 201km/h top speed. In fact, the roadster has less in common with technical speed machines such as the Nissan GT-R and is more akin to rear-wheel-drive sports cars of old, replete with heavy steering, a seat-of-your-pants ride and a charmingly thuggish delivery. Yet, for all its speed, the roadster has a real-world practicality that would shame many petrol-burning supercars. It's easy to control - the steering lightens up the faster you move - and the drop-top feels sure-footed on the road no matter how you drive it. It's easier to stop than a regular vehicle, as the Tesla's inert engine-braking kicks in as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator. It's so effective you'll find you use the main brake pedal much less, when it needs to be dabbed in tight corners and floored for quick stops. The braking system is regenerative and recycles about 30 per cent of the energy used in stopping to recharge the lithium-ion batteries. Engineered for performance and efficiency, the roadster has a range of 394 kilometres on a single charge, which can take between four and 20 hours depending on the kind of power adaptor you use. Using a household 13 amp power source, each hour's charge is good for 20 kilometres, giving it a range of more than 100 kilometres on a five-hour charge. Tesla says the zero-emission roadster is twice as energy-efficient as leading hybrid sedans, with better acceleration than cars that cost twice as much. The manufacturer claims the roadster is the only sports car that can be charged using renewable energy such as solar, wind or hydroelectric power. In Hong Kong, where we're heavily reliant on coal power, the zero-emissions argument is open to conjecture, yet it's heartening to know 400 kilometres of motoring could cost you the same as running an air conditioner for a night - about HK$50, Tesla estimates. Recharging your roadster in your garage or parking space will be easy to organise, but Tesla (and a raft of manufacturers soon to launch EVs) is working on developing a network of charging points across Hong Kong in malls, parking lots and office buildings, so making quick top-ups around town will be easier in the future. CLP Power and Hongkong Electric have installed charging stations across Hong Kong in shopping malls and government parking lots. Tesla is also developing a dedicated station on Hong Kong Island, which will be equipped with the fastest-charging system, giving the roadster a full 394-kilometre range in about 31/2 hours. If you're worried that HK$1 million is a lot to spend on a previously unknown brand, a look at Tesla's backers would suggest the company's prospects are rock-solid. Daimler AG acquired an equity stake of US$50 million last year, while Toyota spent the same amount on Tesla common stock, before forming a strategic partnership with the carmaker in May to collaborate on the electric version of Toyota's new RAV4 SUV, to be unveiled later this year. Customers can spec and order their Tesla online - and your roadster will be air-freighted to your door. Tesla's after-sales service is similarly switched-on, with local technicians paying 'house calls' to make annual inspections and provide software upgrades. It's a far cry from electric cars of old - welcome to the era of plug-and-play motoring. Tesla at a glance What drives it? An electric power-train of 6,831 lithium-ion cells, linked to a one-speed transmission. How fast is it? The Tesla Roadster makes zero to 97km/h in 3.7 seconds with a top speed of 201km/h. How safe is it? The roadster meets all US safety standards, comes with two front airbags and a specially designed integral battery mounting. The single-piece monocoque chassis is designed to shield the occupants in the event of an accident. How thirsty is it? The Tesla Roadster has a range of 394 kilometres on a single charge. How clean is it? No CO2 emissions. It's faster, more fun and much kinder to the environment than any other sports car around. Available: From HK$988,000, Tesla Motors - www.teslamotors.com , tel: 65001596.