Friday, July 21, 2006

A brand new car for a brand new future!

Here is the introduction from an article on

“Martin Eberhard holds the brake down with his left foot and presses on the accelerator with his right. The motor revs, the car strains against the brake. I hear ... almost nothing. Just a quiet whine like the sound of a jet preparing for takeoff 5 miles away. We're belted into a shimmering black sports car on a quiet, tree-lined street in San Carlos, California, 23 miles south of San Francisco. It has taken Eberhard three years to get this prototype ready for mass production, but with the backing of PayPal cofounder Elon Musk, Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and ex-eBay chief Jeff Skoll, he has created Silicon Valley's first real auto company.

"You see any cops?" Eberhard asks, shooting me a mischievous look. The car is vibrating, ready to launch. I'm the first journalist to get a ride.

He releases the brake and my head snaps back. One-one-thousand: I get a floating feeling, like going over the falls in a roller coaster. Two-one-thousand: The world tunnels, the trees blur. Three-one-thousand: We hit 60 miles per hour. Eberhard brakes. We're at a standstill again -- elapsed time, nine seconds. When potential buyers get a look at the vehicle this summer, it will be among the quickest production cars in the world. And, compared to other supercars like the Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo, and Lamborghini Diablo, it's a bargain. More intriguing: It has no combustion engine.”

You read that right, there is no combustion engine, its an electric car. The sentence about elapsed time is misleading, that is from dead stop to 60 mph and then back to a dead stop. The actual zero to 60mph time is four seconds. Yes, you read that right, four seconds. That’s only .3 seconds slower than a Porsche 911 Turbo, .1 seconds faster than a Porsche Carerra (yes, the supercar is slowr to 60 than the 911, but in 0-100 times the story is quite different).

Anyway, Tesla Motors unveiled its brand spanking new Tesla Roadster yesterday at an event in California. The Roadster is an all electric roadster, capable of a 0-60 time in 4 seconds, and a top speed of 130 miles per hour. It could go faster but the transmission, in order to keep weight down, can’t get the car past that. The car comes in right about 90,000, which is a deal when you compare it to cars that provide similar specs, not to mention what it costs to power it.

The travel distance of one charge is about 250 miles. Not enough for a cross country trip, but more than enough to be a daily driver. The best thing is that there is no refueling at a gas station, you just plug it in when you get home. Tesla estimates it will cost you about 1 to 2 cents per mile for a charge. So, in other words, to fully charge the 250 mile battery it will cost you between $2.50 and $5 dollars! Talk about a deal!

Let’s look at it this way. Say you travel on average 12,000 miles a year, the distance most leases allow in a year. At the current price of gas for 87 octane here in Atlanta, that would be 2.99 a gallon of gas and we’ll assume you get 25 miles per gallon. So, with some simple that’s (12000/25*2.99) $1,435.20 in gas a year, give or take. With the Tesla Roadster we’ll assume that the 1 to 2 cents a mile figure is 1.5 cents so you’d pay (12,000*.015) 180.00 dollars a year extra on your power bill. THAT’S A SAVINGS OF $1,255.20! That’s real money! That’s a vacation! That’s a new fridge! I mean, that is a significant amount of extra money for someone to have.

Now, while I’m excited I have to be realistic, it’s a two seat roadster that costs 90 grand. Obviously, that’s not something myself or most people could use or afford. Tesla plans on a large sedan in the next year or two with a bigger battery and a 500 miles range or so. By then they should have the infrastructure down so that the costs is less. That means for most people this is not in the realm of reality yet, but it will be soon.

When I looked at the pictures of the Roadster at I couldn’t help but think Lotus Elise. I’ve figure out why, Barney Hatt of Lotus Design in England is the chief designer for this. From what I read Tesla had four or five designers come up with sketches of what they wanted the car to look like and everyone liked Hatt’s design the best. It makes sense too. Lotus is know for making really fast, lightweight, small roadsters. It seems like it was only natural for it to look similar to the Lotus designs. Honestly, I think it looks a bit too much like an Elise, but I’ll let that slide for the sake of what this could mean for the auto industry.

Screw Hydrogen, this is the future baby. Imagine the richy riches buying a 50,000 dollar Tesla Sedan instead of the BMW 5 series. Good looks, great handling, sporty acceleration, and a significant savings in gas! That’s how we get gas prices down, take gas out of the equation entirely. This type of technology won’t be cheap enough for the everyman for about 10 years or so. But in the mean time, every well to do person who buys a Telsa is one less person draining out of the finite gas supply the rest of us have to use. That can add up quickly and could have a drastic impact on gas prices in the future. Unfortunately, that’s going to take some time to ramp up, and unfortunately, I see gas hitting 4 dollars a gallon before any of what I speculated starts to become reality. Plus, if these guys get something going that’s hot, GM, Ford, Chrysler will be forces to pick up on it, that market will require them to do so.

There is a lot of potential here, and we’ll see how it goes. I hope Tesla has the best of luck with their endeavor, because it could be part of the answer we’re looking for.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Plus, if these guys get something going that’s hot, GM, Ford, Chrysler will be forces to pick up on it, that market will require them to do so."

No they won't. This is a 90K sports car. What is the price of their automobiles on a budget of, say, 25K? Do they make trucks?

And forget electricity AND hydrogen -- water is the way to go:

10:58 AM  
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3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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5:52 AM  

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