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The Tesla Roadster: a quick and quiet test drive to the promised land


I know, it’s just a car. But my few moments in the passenger seat of a Tesla Roadster the other evening, courtesy of the good folks at Strategic News Services, opened my eyes. The experience so exceeded my expectations that I thought I should gush, just a little.

Here’s what I discovered. The difference between reading about a 250-horsepower two-seat electric sports car and riding in one comes down to what I call the “sonic un-boom.” You turn the corner, point the nose uphill, and find yourself pressed into the back of your seat, other cars on the streets becoming a (possibly illegal) blur. And here’s the kicker: there is no sound. Maybe a little noise from the rubber on the pavement, or a slight whine from the axles. But the kind of acceleration I was treated to feels like it should be accompanied by something just this side of thunder. Instead, you get nothing but lightning.

There are plenty of reasons that the Tesla, even at 135 mpg (well-to-wheels equivalent based on the California electrical grid), won’t do nearly as much to reduce carbon emissions as broader availability of basic hybrid technology, not to mention a small increase in folks taking the bus to work every now and again instead of driving. With a $100,000 base price, it’s just too dang expensive, for one thing. And it’s a tiny little sports car with the luggage capacity of a bicycle, for another. The weight of the batteries, the time to recharge, etc., etc. It’s all very impractical for now.

But that single burst of silent acceleration, the visceral experience of what I’ve been reading about now for what seems like a decade, pushed me all the way to the land of the believers. In my lifetime, we’re going to see the same kind of switch my parents saw when gasoline went from leaded to unleaded. In other words: my kids will drive electric cars (just, um, slower ones).

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