Thursday, July 10, 2008

Electify America: The Coolest Car of the 21st Century Doesn't Go Vroom

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By Helen Aki, Breakthrough Generation Fellow

This post is part of our week-long Special Issue exploring ways to sever the link between transportation and oil by electrifying transportation. Stay tuned for more...

The coolest car of the 21st Century doesn't go "vroom!"...

...it goes "whizz!"

Tesla Motors, an innovative electric car start-up straight from the heart of Silicon Valley, is now producing its 2008 Roadster, an all-electric sports car than can go 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds. High-tech and emissions-free, the Roadster celebrates a future that is not only sustainable, but sexy and fun. (Sports car enthusiasts may find it disconcerting, however, that when you hit the gas, the only noise from the engine is an electrical "whizz!")

From Tesla Motor's website:
Most electric vehicles operate under the assumption that driving is merely a necessary evil if you need to get someplace you can't reach on foot or bike. The result has been cars that are designed, built, and marketed in ways that refuse to glorify driving.

We respectfully disagree. We believe driving is exhilarating. Just watch any child on a go-cart and the joy is plain to see. And when you can soar along at top speed, knowing the only oil in the car is in the transmission, the only emissions are the songs from the radio, the ride becomes more enjoyable still.

The lithium-ion battery pack used by Tesla embodies both power and energy, so that the Roadster can accelerate quickly to a top speed of 125 mph, and drive for 220 miles on a single charge. Over 600 orders for the $109,000 model were placed before production even began this year. (So far they've produced 7.)Currently, Tesla is at work on its second-generation model, a sedan called the "Model S" which is anticipated to cost around $60,000. It will directly compete with models like the BMW 5-series and the Audi A6. Tesla's third-generation "Blue Star" model will be a more affordable $30,000, marketed to a wider consumer base.

As GM approaches bankruptcy, and Toyotas and Hondas flood the market, the Model S will quietly present a superior, chique, and all-American alternative. The brainchild of Silicon Valley engineers and innovators who are well-versed in technological excellence, the Model S will be made right here in California. Production was initially scheduled to take place in New Mexico, but thanks to Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a new tax break will relieve Tesla's California production center of sales tax on manufacturing equipment (much to New Mexico's chagrin).

Tesla recently hired former Chrysler engineer Mike Donoughe to oversee production of the Model S, as well as design of the third-generation "BlueStar" model. This fusion of Silicon Valley ingenuity and Detroit expertise will give Tesla a boost towards achieving auto industry credibility.As the dollar crumbles, and the U.S. economy grows ever more dependent on foreign oil (not to mention foreign goods and foreign investment), initiatives like Tesla Motors shine a glimmer of hope and possibility into the doldrums of a modern age. The transportation sector accounts for one third of America's energy usage, and it is almost entirely oil-run.

Electrifying personal transport is a crucial step towards freeing ourselves from oil.

More than that, however, the Tesla represents the American quest for excellence: no complaints or mediocrity, but the creation of something that's simply the best. If Tesla can "glorify driving," America can certainly zoom gloriously into the future. Rather than dragging our heels or kicking and screaming, America can innovate and create its way to the future of our dreams.

And perhaps this is the car we'll be driving into that future!

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3 comments:

Aurelia said...

This is more of what we need in electric cars! It seems that most of society sees the new electric cars as slow, boring, and not as cool as there own gas-guzzling sports cars. Now with rising gas prices and a nice-looking electric car that can match a gas one, perhaps things are looking up!

El Bandito said...

$109K is pretty expensive. Can anyone tell me about the potential for more competitively-priced, 100% electric vehicles that can sustain a charge for 220 miles? Also, what kind of infrastructure would be needed to enable transportation of goods and people for trips longer than 220 miles?

car pricing said...

For me a lifespan of a vehicle only lasts from 5 to 10 years, and in that lifespan, I don't think that compared to other regular cars, this would actually equal whats its worth. This car is very expensive than regular cars and yet it only offers a few advantages. Also, we have to consider that electricity is money to be spent as well.