Forget about the electric-car pedigree for a moment. Consider owning a Tesla simply for the driving experience. After some spirited gallivanting in the first premium sedan built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, I wanted one. If this is the future of the automobile, bring it on, please.
There are about twenty electric car models on the market today and, aside from the Chevy Volt and its sister the Cadillac ELR, the range on a charge is usually in the neighborhood of eighty miles. That’s a tight neighborhood. By comparison, the Tesla Model S I drove had a max range of 280 miles. Heavy use of the throttle or the heater diminishes the range a bit, although a fifty-mph commute barely dents the power supply.
If you were to fix an absolutely drained Tesla to your home charger—on a 240-watt outlet like the one your clothes dryer uses—it would take nine hours to top up, and add just $10 to the electric bill. A fifty-mile commute would require just a few hours of charging and cost about $1.50. Or you can get a free plug-in at one of the high-powered “supercharger” stations Tesla is building along major arteries. I visited one at the Darien rest stop along I-95 and got 100 miles worth of juice in twenty minutes. Other Tesla stations are in Greenwich, Milford, Westchester and Manhattan.
The whereabouts of the stations can be tracked on the big screen that occupies the center console of the Model S. (The car being a WiFi hot spot, you can also check your email or stock prices from the screen.) The dashboard has a handsome, flowing Swedish Moderne refinement. It’s hard to believe this is an American car built in Fremont, California, at an old GM plant.
Cruising range like this requires enormous batteries. That’s why the two-ton Tesla feels as solid as a bank vault, but it does not feel remotely cumbersome. Go up a twisty wet road and the ride is accomplished. You can tool around town in serene silence, too. But step on the gas pedal—oops, I mean, the accelerator—and it instantly whooshes you to a heart-stopping speed. The Tesla will go up to 130 mph. No raucous shakes or snarls accompany this rush; there’s no building up steam.
While my Tesla Model S tester is the current performance version (the basic car is priced near $75,000), the factory has Ferrari-fighter levels of performance in the wings. An all-wheel-drive version is also coming, so look for it in Tesla showrooms in Mt. Kisko and the Westchester.