In the 2006 documentary film “Who Killed The Electric Car,” director Chris Paine details how a mandate in California in 1990 required major car manufacturers to offer up a car that was solely powered by batteries if they wanted to continue selling gas powered vehicles in the state. Right off the bat, the car and especially the big oil companies set out to kill the idea. The car companies mounted a campaign to convince the public that there was no market for an electric car in the United States and big oil joined the cause, fearing that they would lose their monopoly on transportation in this country.
In the end, GM, the world’s largest car manufacturer at the time, took back all of their 5000 electric models (called EVI’s), and either donated them to museums or universities or crushed them.
Since that time, our attitudes towards the electric car and the hybrid, which are cars that run on electric but also have a gasoline engine, have changed. I believe this is due partly to the extremely high gas prices of the past few years, and partly because of fears over global warming. But the biggest change is that car companies are beginning to realize that there just might be some profit to be made selling cars that run off of batteries.
The other factor is that the batteries last a lot longer than they did in the first models. But battery life and the perception that the cars are expensive and slow are still the problems that need to be overcome before the electric cars can compete on an equal footing with their polluting gasoline counterparts.
Almost all of the major car manufacturers now produce an electric car, but one of the most innovative and exciting is Telsa Motors. The car was named after Nikola Tesla. Nikola, was one of the big three inventors back when electricity was first discovered. The other two players, of course, were Edison and Westinghouse.
But most people aren’t that familiar with Tesla. Most just know him as a kind of crackpot who wanted to send electricity to people’s houses through the air instead of through wires. But he actually was instrumental in developing things like alternating current, the florescent light bulb, X-Rays, radio, remote control, robotics, and lasers, among others. Some say he ended up destitute and broke at the end of his life because, unlike Edison and Westinghouse, he wanted electricity to be free for all.
Recently, I had the opportunity to see a couple of the new Tesla S luxury cars at the Richmond Heights Classic Car Show and talk to one of the owners, a pleasant young man sporting a leather Australian hat with a feather on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get his name, but he told me he would email me some information about how he became interested in the car, but I haven’t heard from him. But I did learn a lot from him as we talked.
He told me all about the inventor and the car and gave me a sales brochure. (I think he was a dealer.) Since the cars start with a $60,000 price tag and go up to about $100,000, I don’t think I am going to be buying one in the near future.
I learned from the owner that the car is as fast as a Porsche 911 sans turbo and there are several options as far as batteries go. The mileage on a single charge at 55 miles an hour varies from 160 miles to 300 miles. It goes from 0-60 in 6.5 seconds at the low end and the performance model makes it in 4.4 seconds. Pretty fast I’d say.
There are also plans to have charging stations where you can get a quick charge in a matter of minutes, or you can swap out the battery for a fully charged one. The neatest things I find about the car is that since the motor is in the middle, it is perfectly balanced, and the battery is a thin piece of metal that runs from the front of the car to the back, leaving BOTH the front compartment and the trunk completely empty! At first I thought: Where IS everything!?
So, if you have an extra 60 grand laying around, consider getting a Tesla. The company also plans on making a less expensive version that everybody can afford. After all, they make all of the batteries for Toyota’s electric car. Oh, did I mention that the Tesla S is Motor Trend’s Car Of The Year for 2013?