I drove a Tesla Model S yesterday. I’m just about speechless. Finally it’s the 21st Century. Our jetpacks have arrived.
Saw it way out in an empty part of the parking lot at work, and ogled it a long time. Then saw it again on the street, with a friend of mine driving it! Yesterday he let me take it for a ten mile spin around the office parks and freeways.
It’s an amazingly big car, way bigger than my Prius. Stunning appearance in real life. Low, sleek, carved. Chrome door handles are perfectly flush. Click the keyless remote, they glide out a few inches for your hand to pull. Inside, tons of space for five adults, a big hatchback space behind that, plus a trunk under the hood.
photo: Tesla Motors Club
Push the start button and boot it up. The huge 17″ iPad-like console display comes up with a Google map of your area and your music and comfort choices, or graphs of your power usage, expected range, etc. Behind the wheel another big sharp display with concentric speed (mph) and power (kW) gauges, and a smaller usage/range graph. Push the column stalk down for Drive, give it a little pedal, and it’s quite smooth, docile, fully controlled. Steering is precise and a bit heavy. It feels exactly like the luxury sedan it is, plus exquisite smoothness and silence.
Give it more pedal, you get more push. More pedal, More Push. More pedal, MORE PUSH! Silent, effortless Hand of God force, perfectly smooth, like gravity. In four seconds you’re going 60 mph. Let up on the pedal and you feel a smooth firm force slowing you down. Let it up more, and more force slows you down. It’s one pedal driving, you just use the brakes to hold it stopped. Driving the Tesla Model S is just a total joy, a dream come true.
The power train and batteries are all underneath. That 85 kWh battery pack in the floor has over 7000 Panasonic lithium ion cells with nickel-cobalt-aluminum cathodes, good for 265 mile range (EPA). My friend has easily taken 200 mile round trips in his car. A three-phase AC induction motor (invented by Nikola Tesla of course) drives the rear wheels directly through a single reduction gear ratio. Model S comes in four levels of power, range and price. I drove the top of the line Performance model, all they delivered in the first 1000 cars. It starts at $84K before US federal EV rebate, options typically take it over $100K. 4640 pounds, with all those batteries. 416 hp (310 kW) at 5000-8600 rpm, 443 ft-lb (600 Nm) torque at zero to 5100 rpm. That’s right, 443 ft-lb torque instantly on tap at all legal speeds. Zero to sixty in 4.4 sec, standing quarter mile in 12.6 sec, top speed 130 mph.
Tesla’s base Model S starts at $54K before rebate. It has a 40 kWh battery pack, 160 mile range, 235 hp and 310 ft-lb torque. Sixty in 6.5 sec, 14.7 sec quarter mile, 110 mph tops. EV’s are funny that way, since torque is proportional to current at given voltage, it’s ultimately the maximum current you can draw from the battery pack that determines performance. More batteries = more range = more current = more torque.
5,350 Model S cars have shipped in its first six months up through February, and they’re at full production now, 400 cars a week. Yes, it’s a very expensive car today. Remember what a good PC cost 20 years ago? It’s a tenth of that now. The first color TVs were over $4K in today’s money. Cars like the Tesla Model S that normal people can afford are coming, in good time. (Actually my friend isn’t particularly wealthy, he just has different priorities.)
Tesla Model S is a milestone car. All the car of the year awards are totally justified. It is not just an astonishing luxury sports sedan, it’s a perfectly capable all-around car for anyone to drive, take on long trips, anything. 250 mile range. Recharges in as little as 30 minutes. And hey, it’s Made in USA. If this is the future, I want to live a long, long time.
PS: I didn’t take any pictures of the car I drove, normally I only snap old cars. These are from the Tesla Motor Club. I’ll get some photos myself next week, and maybe replace these.