Eco-Friendly Elegance: Tesla Test Drive

LEAN_Tesla-image-footerIf the phrase “electric car” makes you think of a slow little box puttering down the street, you’ve never seen — or ridden in — a Tesla. The eco-friendly, all-electric vehicles made by Tesla Motors are sleek, fast and fun to drive. They’re also some of the safest cars on the road. And then there’s the main selling point. They don’t use gasoline. They run on batteries that are charged up using electricity. Tesla Motors recently held a test-driving experience in Montgomery at the capital city’s Hampstead community as interest in their cars increases in Alabama.

The motivation behind the creation of Tesla Motors is to increase the use of sustainable transport by designing and manufacturing a full range of increasingly affordable electric cars. To date, the California-based company has delivered more than 80,000 electric vehicles to customers worldwide.

The company is betting that just a few minutes behind the wheel of the nimble Model S will hook those already excited about the idea of a green, zero-emission vehicle. It is the first premium sedan built from the ground up as an electric vehicle. While the cars aren’t cheap, you get a lot of bang for your buck. You’ll never spend another dime on gasoline, and the simple-lined interior is full of extras that go beyond what you’d expect even from a luxury car. There aren’t a lot of nobs and buttons; in their place is the equivalent of a giant iPad in the center of the dash. The touch-screen display lets you set and save custom seat settings and climate control preferences, syncs with your digital calendar, includes a web browser and has map showing all of the charging stations built into its navigation system.

One drawback in the mind of many when thinking about electric cars is range, but Tesla is quickly overcoming the misperception that electric cars can’t go very far. After plugging up and getting an overnight charge at the charging station in your garage (that comes with the car), the Tesla Model S P90D is good to go for 270 miles. And Tesla has placed free charging stations all over the country; there are currently 350 in the United States, including several at key points in Alabama like Greenville (off I-65), Auburn (off 1-85) and in Mobile.

LEAN_Tesla-image2And then there’s the drive. Instead of sacrificing performance, the Tesla Model S exceeds expectations, beating gas-powered cars in several categories. With a rigid aluminum body and a remarkably low center of gravity, the Model S offers sports-car-like responsiveness with a quiet, smooth ride. Unlike an internal combustion engine with hundreds of moving parts, Tesla electric motors have only one moving piece: the rotor. As a result, Model S acceleration feels instantaneous; it zips from 0 to 60 mph in an astonishing 2.8 seconds, making it the world’s fastest accelerating four-door vehicle ever built.

It’s doubtful that you’d get tired of driving a machine like the Model S, but if you do, just switch it to autopilot. It takes a little getting used to, but once you flip it on, this mode allows the Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes and manage speed all on its own by using an active, traffic-aware cruise control made up of a forward radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors that sense 16 feet around the car, a forward-looking camera and a precision electric assist braking system. And Tesla Motors has expanded beyond cars, taking its mission to step-up sustainability further with its energy innovation initiative called Tesla Energy.

So the next time you’re in the market for a new car, consider giving Tesla, the company that’s engineered the electric car’s evolution, a look.