Test Driving the Tesla

The roadster retails for $145, 000

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Lookout Chicago, there's a new kind of muscle car moving in.

    It's sleek, fast, and and it is 100-percent electric.
     
    Tesla Motors opened its first Chicago dealership this week, and their cars -- which don't use a single drop of gas -- are already turning heads.

    "It goes zero to sixty in 3.7 seconds." said Dustin Krause. "It's incredibly fun to drive. And it's unique. Nothing else is out on the market like it."
     
    On first glance, some think it may be a Lotus, or a Lamborghini, and its price-tag is similar. A fully loaded two-seat roadster retails for about $145,000.

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    Don't worry, it's worth the price for those that can afford it. The car drives like a rocket, zero to sixty in less than four seconds.  And its functional.
     
    "It will go 244 miles on a charge," says Dustin Krause, Tesla's Chicago sales manager.  "You can plug it into a standard wall outlet. You can use different charging implementations that we have too."

    "How often do you go over 200 miles in a day?" Krause asks.  "For normal every day driving, people drive it just like they would a normal car."
     
    Drive a Tesla, and you find yourself forgetting that it isn't a "normal" car.  It has air, and a navigation system, and it literally blows you back in the seat when you hit the gas, err, electricity?
     
    Oh, there is a gas cap.  But inside there is a plug, and that's where you connect the power.  Pop it open and the port is bathed in white light. Connect the cord, and it switches to blue, then throbbing yellow, then green when the battery is fully charged.
     
    You can use regular AC power and plug the car in like a toaster, but that is the slowest way to charge it.  Tesla will sell you a 220-volt charger which plugs into the equivalent of a dryer outlet.  That will charge the car in about six hours.  The company's optional wall charger, which you have wired into your garage, will put a full charge on the battery in about 3 and a half hours -- but it costs an extra $3,000.
     
    The Tesla is powered by lithium ion batteries, which look just like double-A's. The pack in the trunk contains close to 7,000 of them  They are virtually identical to the battery in a laptop computer.  Com-Ed says it estimates the electric operating cost of the roadster at about 3 cents a mile.  Tesla estimates that in Chicago, it costs about $7.32 to fully charge the battery.
     
    We wanted to see how the Tesla acted on the open road, so we took it for a quick spin to Rockford and back. We started with a full 240 mile charge, and made the 180 mile trip showing 37 miles remaining on the battery.  But we used the heater en route, and Tesla says that accessory puts one of the biggest drains on the battery.
     
    Drawbacks?  The car is small, and low to the ground.  You don't really get into a Tesla;  you put it on.  But once inside, it's suprisingly comfortable. There is a ton of legroom, because there's no engine in front of you.  (It's a motor, by the way, and it's in the back, below the battery pack).  Like any soft top convertible sports car, the ride is a bit noisy.  


    Still, not many people are going to be in a position in this economy to plop down $145,000 for a two seat sports car.  And Tesla knows that.  While the roadster is getting all of the press, the company just introduced its first sedan at the Detroit auto show.  The Model S, as it is known, is expected to seat 5, and is projected to have a price tag of about $50,000.  Tesla hopes to have the car ready to go by late 2011.