At the red light, the sun smiles on your exposed face while the wind gently brushes your hair. Cars zoom by and others wait with patience gazing intently in your direction. The air smells wonderful as it fills your lungs and you exhale just in time for the light to turn green. You make your turn onto the straight road and hit the accelerator.
With zero delay, your heart is pounding in your ears and your stomach is somewhere in your throat. That, or you’ve left it behind at the stoplight with the other cars that now seem to be moving at a snail’s pace. In less than two seconds, you’ve left a 400-foot gap between you and any other car. You think to yourself, I have to get this thing on the freeway. As you make your way, people turn and stare in delight. With each green light, the amazement continues as they watch you effortlessly fly by them. There’s a rush of adrenaline with each touch on the gas pedal. You gather yourself as you wait in line for the freeway. It’s go time. You hit it.
The giant rush of wind fills your ears. A pounding continues to come from somewhere deep in your chest … you can feel it in your fingertips now. Your face tingles with excitement and your body begs for more—0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, but you passed 60 mph 20 cars ago. After all, you’re driving a Tesla Roadster.
The Here and Now
Where does one start? The speed? The inner workings? The company? The future? How about the experience? Driving a “Radiant Red” Roadster for three hours was certainly not a bad gig. And did I mention it’s pretty? When Camille Ricketts, the communications manager at Tesla’s showroom in Menlo Park, Calif., handed me the keys to the car, I couldn’t help but smile.
What about the things that aren’t so obvious? The top, for instance, must be placed on the car manually, which most would not expect to have to do nowadays with a luxury-priced vehicle. Inside the car is an incredible sound system, complete with Sirius/XM radio, a CD player and a USB audio option, as well as GPS navigation. Tesla keeps everything simple and fairly obvious. As Ricketts stated, “Our goal is to educate and get people interested in the car—we don’t need to make things complicated.”
There is no shifting in a Tesla. To the right of the driver’s seat is a control panel spotted with various buttons (marked D, P, R or N for their respective gears, an iPod hookup and a button marked TC, for traction control. “I recommend that you keep the traction control on in this sports car, as you may be driving at rapid speeds.” I could picture the kind representative’s smile over the phone when I called to ask what TC stood for.
Tesla is building its brand on innovative practicality. Frankly, they can’t afford not to. The masses will not buy an electric vehicle (EV) that will go 245 miles before needing a charge that could take up to 10 hours. Unless we have a direct and immediate benefit that is beyond our day-to-day travel experiences and invokes a heavy emotional trigger, an EV is simply a one-hit wonder. Tesla offers that emotional charge, along with some sweet side benefits.
The cost of driving 245 miles in a Tesla? Less than $8! You read that right. Most of us probably spend close to $200 dollars a month on gas—or considerably more if you drive a big SUV or truck that takes somewhere around $150 to fill the tank. With a Tesla, you would literally be saving hundreds of dollars on gas. “No more oil changes” was another favorite feature of mine. This car actually handles the snow, too! While that may not be a big deal to those of you living in southern Arizona full time, trips to the snow are not as worrisome. I’m not saying it’s better than having four-wheel drive, but I would trust the Tesla in snow more so than a regular sports car. Also, because it’s electric, warming up the car is a thing of the past!
It’s estimated that the typical battery on a Tesla will last as long as 10 years. When a Tesla is purchased, a down payment of $12,000 is made up front for a battery replacement after seven years or 100,000 miles. What if you don’t live near a Tesla facility and can’t drive across the country to get to have maintenance done? That’s where the Tesla Rangers come in … think of them as the Geek Squad of the new supercar. They come to you! Yes, there is a charge per mile, which could definitely add up, and a typical annual inspection costs $600.
No, the car company is not perfect. And, yes, Tesla knows the Roadster is not cheap. One thing I found admirable about all of the people I spoke with at the company, however, was their openness. When you walk into a showroom, you don’t feel like you’re the bait. The employees are simply specialists in their field and are there to educate you as much as possible. They answer any questions you ask and are seemingly up front about everything.
And What About Distribution?
Excellent question. “We sell cars through several channels: online, test-drive events and through our 18 showrooms around the world,” was Ricketts’ answer.
“We will continue to use these channels when the mass-produced Model S comes out,” she added. “We will also be opening more showrooms in new locations in the next year to grow our retail network. … In the future, we plan to distribute just as many vehicles as any other major auto brand, only through vertically integrated, Tesla-owned stores instead of traditional dealerships.”
Having seen the Model S—which will be priced at around half the cost of the Roadster—I can again state that innovative practicality is this company’s motto. Ricketts’ face lit up as she talked about the car. “The Model S will feature a 17-inch digital touchscreen with possible 3G connectivity on its center console, making vehicle controls immediately and easily accessible.” After seeing what she was talking about and then some, I can honestly tell you that you will be highly impressed with what’s coming next!
Aside from feeling like a celebrity driving down the street, the tax breaks alone almost had me sold. As you may already know, the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for all EV purchases. There are also various state-specific tax breaks. “In Arizona, for example, there is reduced license tax available for EVs, worth $3,400 to $4,800 for the Roadster,” said Ricketts. “There’s a tax credit of up to $75 for special charging equipment. Roadster drivers get access to diamond lanes even when they drive alone, and EV owners can park without penalty in spaces designated for carpools only.”
Driving doesn’t have to be dangerous to the environment. It also doesn’t need to be boring. You can have your cake and eat it, too, believe it or not. Tesla Motors is living proof of that. It’s also proof that we as a society are capable of change—of good, clean change. We no longer need to gaze into the future and say, “One day ….” The future is here. Where are you?