Tesla: The First 48 Hours
By DAn ShUGAR
I’d never craved a sports car. I am, however, a full-time renewable energy and part-time electric vehicle (EV) freak. I’ve worked in solar power for 20 years and have
driven a Toyota RAV- 4 EV for 93,000 miles over the last
eight years, using batteries charged from photovoltaic (PV)
systems on my home and business. It still uses its original
batteries, so I had a lot of confidence in EV technology.
Copyright © 2010 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
a butt‐first entry technique: You sit, then pivot the legs in
under the steering wheel. Once seated, leg room is surprisingly ample. After the two-year wait, I was finally ready to
roll. I gingerly pulled out of the lot and was away!
Driving up Sand Hill Road toward the freeway reminded me of Einstein’s popular illustration of relativity, using
trains moving at different speeds. Accelerating from stop
signs, autos in adjacent lanes appear to decelerate, and then
reverse. Time slows and clocks spin backward as you exceed
light speed. Meanwhile, the Tesla’s whirring motors and
controllers provide the precise
audio backdrop appropriate for
a teleporter/time machine.
In tight turns, the Tesla suspension glues the tires to the
pavement. Punching it out of
the corners, the traction control
keeps the back end from hopping and makes a novice sports-car driver like me look polished.
With the top down and the stereo way up, the audio experience includes wind noise and
a steady stream of war whoops
from the driver.
Driving this car is like sitting
on a skateboard. You know you’re
small when a Corolla looks huge
next to you at the traffic light.
But the ground clearance is slim,
too. I suffered several “ouch”
scrapes pulling into steep driveways, which must be approached
slowly and at an angle.
The next day, I followed my
wife to the auto shop to drop off
her hybrid. While waiting for her, and catching up on my
Blackberry, I was startled by a very sharp impact to the front
of my car. A mechanic had backed into me at a speed of at
least 7 mph ( 10 kph). Can you believe it? A ding on the
second day, after two years of waiting! I leapt out, profani-ties flowing freely, frantically inspecting the front end of my
beautiful new car. I fully expected to see crumpled bodywork. And the damage was … nothing! The lightweight
carbon-fiber body turns out to be extremely resilient.
Truth is, the Tesla is invisible. Up close, you’re below the
viewing range of any rear-view mirror. The larger the car, the
more clearance you need. In traffic, I assume that the angle
of the blind spot for other drivers grows from the customary
90 degrees to something like 270 degrees. They can only see
you if you are out in front, so one solution to invisibility is to
adopt the philosophy that offense is the best defense: Get
out ahead. Fortunately, that’s easy to do.
The author, Dan Shugar, shows off his new Tesla
near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Dan Shugar is CEO at
Solaria Corp. ( solaria.com).
Contact him at dshugar@
What really appealed to me about the Tesla was that it
promised to prove to the market that EVs can not only save
the planet, but also look great and outperform machines
fueled by petroleum.
So in 2007, I laid down a massive deposit. It was an
expression of trust that Tesla would survive and actually build the promised dream car. Those of us who had
put down real cash then endured a year of press reports
about setbacks involving transmission and liquidity problems. Finally, Tesla Chairman Elon Musk sent out a reassuring e-mail personally guaranteeing that the car would
I picked up the car in May 2009. The first thing you have
to figure out is how to get in. I’m 6 feet, 2 inches (188 cm)
and, though an aspiring yogi, was challenged. I developed
20 March 2010 SOLAR TODA Y solartoday.org