Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Electric Dream

I’ve created this blog to share my experiences about the new Tesla Model S which I am now on the way to owning. For years, I’ve been anticipating the arrival of this innovative car and I’ve been talking about it with friends and family. It seems that many people are interested in this car and electric vehicles in general. Since I’ve now decided to commit to buying the car and am planning on making it a new “hobby” of mine, I thought I’d take the time to write about it and let others share in the experience. It won’t just be for other prospective owners but for anyone who wants to follow along and learn about it. I’m not affiliated with Tesla Motors and so I hope to provide an objective viewpoint from an owner’s perspective. So…here we go….

I first read about the Tesla Model S in 2008 and became fascinated with it from the start. The early renderings of the car looked great and the concept behind it intrigued me. Conceptually, it seemed as though they were trying to build a car that was first and foremost…well…cool. The idea was to re-think cars in the modern era and imagine how a car would be built from the ground up-not just as an electric vehicle but as a modern car in general. So rather than taking an existing ICE (internal combustion engine) based car and retrofitting it as an electric vehicle, they wanted to start fresh and design it completely from the ground up and make it as good as it could be. In the public writings at the time, it seemd to promise a car that had the most range of any mass produced electric car to date,  would appeal to the luxury car buyers in terms of the overall driving experience and features and would sell starting under $50k (USD).

What my Model S will look like when built.
Model S Signature - Signature Red
Stock image of the Tesla Model S from Tesla Motors' web site

As soon as I read about this I became interested. I’m a family man so the fact that it was meant to be a sedan and family car was a plus. The stated price range sounded rational for me as well. But once I move beyond the practical things, I also appreciate cutting edge, modern and cool. And the Model S promised all of that. So, in May of 2009, I put my reservation down. After reading the agreement, you could put a $5,000 reservation down and “get in line” but could cancel and get the deposit back any time, so I felt like the risk was low at that point. Though I hadn’t seen details yet of the car and I felt there was a lot of uncertainty about it, I thought I could back out as the time got closer with the only possible risk being that Tesla goes bankrupt causing me to lose my $5k.

As time passed and the Model S came closer to reality, the car became more interesting to me. I once saw the “beta” up close and was told that it was “90%” of what the final car would be. It looked beautiful but I still didn’t have the details I needed to commit. I’m very cautious, especially when a lot of money is involved and so I remained hesitant throughout the time the car was in development. Then, in February of 2012, I was on a business trip to the San Jose area. While there, I stopped by the “Santana Row” Tesla store and looked at Model S on display there. The sales rep sat in the car with me and demonstrated the 17” touch screen console which serves as the “center piece” of the interior controls. It was amazing. He also showed me a prototype of the iPhone app that could monitor and control the car. He showed that it could tell me the location of the car and its internal temperature and other statistics. He said it would even allow turning on the air conditioning remotely. This was the type of thing I was looking for when I first read of the Model S in 2008 – a completely modern car. I had gotten my first real taste of what the car would be and I was getting excited.

Though the car was looking cool and meeting my expectations, I still had never driven it. So I was pleased later in the year when I got a much anticipated invitation to a test drive event for reservation holders. Tesla had begun its “Amped” tour around the US to give their reservation holders a chance to drive the first cars produced from their factory in Fremont, CA. Since I was a relatively early reservation holder, I knew I was going to have to test drive this car and finally make decision whether to commit to the car soon.  I went to the test drive event at the Dania Beach, FL store to finally test drive it. The one I drove was a red, non-signature series, non-performance Model S. This was good because I had not planned on forking over the extra money for either of those options. Ultimately, I think that is just fine because driving the car was mind boggling. Every ounce of acceleration that I would ever want was under my right foot. The car just zoomed forward and was beautifully smooth and quiet. It has a single-speed gear box so there is no changing of gears as in a typical car with an automatic transmission. It just smoothly accelerates with no hesitation. They state that the non-performance version can go from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. I believe that after driving it. I don’t think I floored it when test driving it but it had as much speed as I’d want – and it was not the performance version!

The test drive didn’t give me any solid reasons to back out. There were some reasons to cause me doubt and I’ll get into those in future posts. But for now, I’m expecting my Model S to arrive by the end of the year. I’m excited about being one of the first people to have this car. I’ve dreamed that, in the future, it may be viewed by people as a turning point for cars. I imagine that, perhaps, it may show what cars of the future will be like. There is no doubt that being a “first adopter” is a risk and only time will tell how “iconic” the car will ultimately be. In future posts, I’ll go into details about the buying experience, some of my reasons for buying the car and walk you through the experience of buying and owning the car. This will be a journey and hopefully a fun one!