Those Who Ride the Lightning
There were exceptions of course, but never in enough numbers to impact the trillion dollar auto industry. At last, the technology is catching up with the visionaries. Electric cars are now being built that not only match their internal combustion counterparts for speed and power, but leave them in the dust. The most visible poster car for electric performance is the bright yellow Zooop. The Zooop tops out at 112 mph, with a range of 280 miles, all without needing a single drop of exorbitantly priced gas. It is the product of a Parisian fashion house of all things, Maison de Courrèges. The one unfortunate aspect of the Zooop (apart form it's name) is the cars appearance. It looks like the car Electra Woman and Dyna Girl would drive if they were still fighting crime. But the Zooop isn't built to be a production car, it's as much a work of art as it is a zero emissions sports car.
The real future of the automobile is being built at America's newest car company. On the opposite side of the country from the "Big 3" and the "Motor City", this automotive start up is based out of silicon valley. Tesla Motors recently revealed their spectacular new street machine, the Tesla Roadster. Named for the father of AC current, the roadster was unveiled on the 150th anniversary of Tesla's birth, July 10th 2006, the year of Tesla. Unlike the Cartoonish Zooop, the Tesla roadster is a full blooded sports car.
The unlikely mind behind the Tesla Roadster is Martin Eberhard, inventor of the Rocket E-book reader. An expert in portable electronics, Eberhard was the farthest thing from an automotive engineer. But after some big money investments from the founders of Paypal, Google, and Ebay, Martin has made his dream of a non oil dependent sports car a reality. Tesla Motors has partnered with Lotus for the final design and assembly of the Tesla Roadster.
The technical specifications of the Tesla are amazing. The car is capable of instant acceleration, 0-60 in less than four seconds. The top speed of the roadster is right around 130 mph, its range is 250 miles, generating 248 horsepower. The 2 speed 185Kw electric motor redlines at over 13,000 RPMs, has only one moving part, and is the size of a shoebox. That's another draw to this electric marvel. No oil changes, no belts or filters or spark plugs, no waiting for the engine to "warm up" the heater, none of the baggage that comes along with internal combustion. In fact, the only maintenance that Tesla Motors recommends in 100,000 miles is break and tire service.
The styling of the car oozes speed and performance, but that's no surprise coming from Lotus. There are things that may cause some gear heads to take a step back from the Tesla Roadster. For starters, the car is silent. No throaty Corvette roar, no Ferrari whine that suggests speed lives under the hood. And of course the Tesla must be plugged in periodically to charge the batteries, which is something sports car owners might take exception to. But at one penny per mile, and having the freedom to drive passed any and all gas stations at 130 mph, defying convention isn't an obstacle, it's a perk.
The Tesla Roadster may not be for all of us, with production models costing as much as $80,000. But Tesla Motors is also working on a sedan for everyday driving. And other conventional car companies like Mitsubishi are now announcing fully electric production vehicles that will hit the market in the next 1-5 years. With the stir that the Car 2.0 start up is creating, it's no surprise that many competitors are now working to steal Tesla's thunder. It remains to be seen if Tesla will become another Tucker or DeLorean. But just looking at the rolling wonder that is the Tesla Roadster, I am of the opinion that Martin Eberhard has caught lightning in a bottle. [inspired by Wired]
“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.” - Nikola Tesla