I’ve been impressed with Tesla since I first heard about their 0-60 in 3.9 second, 2.5 hour recharge time, 244 mile range electric car, which, by the way, also happens to be beautiful. At $109,000, though, it wasn’t just out of my league (I ride a bike), it was out of my comprehension.
This week, though, two events changed my perception of Tesla. First, Tesla announced that they’ll be releasing a 4-door electric sedan, priced at roughly half the cost of their roadster. Still well out of my league, and only in the league of an elite few, I’m nevertheless impressed with Tesla’s ability to push the physical limits of electric cars and the batteries that power them. They’re certainly headed in the right direction. Although Tesla hasn’t officially unveiled the car, they’ve revealed a teaser image (above) and Road and Track released a supposedly leaked image this week (shown below, although the two pictures show a few slight differences).
The other event that changed my perception of Tesla was the opportunity I had yesterday to take a ride in a Tesla Roadster (bottom image). My friend Sam Perry, founder of Ascendance Ventures, member of E2- Environmental Entrepreneurs, the guy that Oprah leaned on in the Innauguration, and all around great guy, let me take a ride in his, the 100th, Tesla Roadster. I was left speechless– knees quivering and stomach near my throat. I’ve never been in a faster, smoother and quieter car. As a reformed car nut, I was able to renew my love of cars without the guilt that had previously clouded my adrenaline-laden fascination.
Sustainability without compromise is the ultimate goal of most forward-thinking environmental businesses, and, price-point aside, Tesla is working hard to make that a tangible but visceral truth.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the pending bailout of Detroit automakers. Philosophically I’m opposed to it, as the bed-sharing and hand-holding of industry and government has done little good and plenty bad in the past. In practice it’s not that simple, as millions of jobs and entire city and state economies are at stake. Regardless of what happens with the bailout, though, it’s become clear that true innovation in the automotive industry, which is necessary and long overdue, will not be born in conference rooms in Detroit or on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rather, true innovation and progress will come from start-ups across the world focused on redesigning not only the car, but the entire transportation system.
I’ve written before about my love for Zipcar and other car sharing programs, but it’s going to take more than car sharing to make a dent in the way people think about cars. Tesla Motors is selling the most impressive electric car, but it retails for $109,000, and doesn’t solve the problem of recharging remotely. Zenn, Fisker, Venturi, Th!nk and others are all selling (or planning to sell) electric cars as well, but they all succumb to the same problem of remote recharging. What’s needed is not just a new car, as I said, but a new infrastructure.
As a proud San Francisco resident, I was happy to read this morning that the Bay Area has signed on with Better Place to do just that- create a vast network of recharging stations and battery exchange stations throughout the region. Better Place, based in Palo Alto, has developed a unique subscription model, similar to the model employed by most cell-phone companies. By subscribing to a certain mileage plan, buyers will get electric vehicles at a discounted price (even free in some markets!), making the barrier to entry much lower than other cars. And with 250,000 charging stations and 200 battery exchange stations throughout the region, buyers won’t have to worry about running out of juice on a trip to Ikea. Better Place has already signed similar deals in Australia, Israel and Denmark, and will hopefully continue to spread their networks throughout the world, saving money, emissions and our all-too-precious petroleum.
Take that, Detroit.
via Mercury News