Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Tesla Experience

Craig Slass waits to test drive a Tesla Model S with son, Jacob.
I have to admit I didn’t expect much when Craig Slass, Co-President of Rotor Clip, asked me to join him for a test drive of the Tesla Model S electric car. I was expecting to encounter a “work in progress,” a vehicle whose technology was promising but not quite there.

I was in for a surprise.

The exposed chassis of the car on display in one of the two show rooms in New Jersey, The Mall at Short Hills (the other is located at the Garden State Plaza Mall), was stark. There was a cylindrical shaped motor that drives the rear wheels and a few assemblies up front, but that’s it. The vast space between the front and back are for batteries. Hood and trunk are storage spaces. It’s hard to believe this vehicle could function with so few components.
Jacob Slass stands in front of a Tesla Model S chassis.
 Most of the space is devoted to the batteries.

Craig got behind the wheel and after a brief orientation from Owner Advisor, Andrew Chae, eased the car out of its mall parking space and into the traffic of nearby JFK Parkway. I was sitting in the back seat with Craig’s son, Jacob. The car was stylish and comfortable with a lot of the bells and whistles you’d expect to find in a new vehicle.

But it was the handling and power that most impressed me. The acceleration was smooth and quick, driving me into the seat like a plane about to take off. It was hard to believe the car delivered that kind of power without relying on an internal combustion engine.

We cruised across Columbia Turnpike and into the nearby town of Livingston. Craig had no trouble weaving in and out of traffic, passing at will (which is his way) calling on a burst of speed now and then that was worthy of any luxury car on today’s market.

When we returned, Craig sat down with Andy and reviewed the cars options including colors, sun roof, interior materials as well as other stats. These included:   236 miles on a single charge; three hours of charging time for every 100 miles from your home charger; or, 20-30 minutes for a full charge at a charging station. (It doesn’t cost you a cent—that seemed impressive).

The batteries will last about 8-10 years; you can choose to replace them at that time which would run about $10,000.

Our test drive was on the heels of New Jersey’s ruling barring Tesla from selling its cars direct to consumers through its two mall locations. New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, said the fault lies with the State Legislature, “…which says if you want to sell cars in this state, you must go through an authorized dealer.”

“My job is not to make the laws, it's to enforce the laws. And Tesla was operating outside the law,” he said.( NJ.Com, March 18, 2014.)

Regardless of who is to blame, Tesla must cease selling cars directly to consumers as of April 1.

Sales of the battery-powered vehicle, priced from about $70,000, totaled at least 22,450 last year, based on figures previously released by Palo Alto, California-based Tesla. According to the company, this exceeded its sales target of 21,500. (, January 15, 2014).

Right now, it’s only a small part of the transportation puzzle, but one that’s expected to grow. As Craig Slass noted, “Tesla is the future and we have to support them.”

Joe Cappello is Director of Global Marketing for Rotor Clip Company.

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