On Monday afternoon I made the drive over to Tesla Motors in Toronto to take delivery of my Model S electric sedan. In the four days since delivery I've been busy showing the car to friends, family, and total strangers who are curious when the silent sedan pulls into a parking spot, or when I walk up to the car and the door handles magically present themselves to me.
Tesla has not only accomplished the feat of breaking into the difficult automotive sector, but they've done so by building a fully Internet connected and fully electric car with incredible performance. They are making every other car company look like they're stuck in the dark ages.
I'm sure many of you reading this are familiar with Tesla Motors and the Model S, but for those who are not acquainted with the story here's the basic idea:
- Tesla started by making a 2-seater electric sports car called the Roadster. They made less than 3,000 cars until they stopped, and shifted gears towards an electric sedan.
- The Model S, a large family sedan, went on sale in 2012, and the company is now selling thousands of them every quarter, and is on track to deliver 35,000 to customers this year.
- The battery powered car stores up to 85 kWh of juice, which will cost me about $10 to charge from empty overnight in my garage. That juice will take me 265 miles based on EPA ratings (that's about 420 km for those who aren't stuck in the imperial system).
- Because the motor is electric there is almost no noise and the acceleration is rocket-ship-crazy.
- The dashboard features a huge 17" capacitive touch screen that my kids refer to as a "giant iPad". Because the car is connected to the cellular network (sadly it is only 3G), it has all kinds of awesome features baked in.
Since this isn't a car blog I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the vehicle performance. I'm not really a so-called "car guy" anyway. This is by far the nicest car I've ever owned so all I can say is the performance is mind blowing. Instead I'd like to focus on the connectivity awesomeness.
This is by far the nicest car I've ever owned so all I can say is the performance is mind blowing.
3G data isn't anywhere close to state of the art these days, but it is enough to give users a great experience with streaming audio. The car comes with Slacker Radio built-in, and the voice recognition features means that I can just hold down a button and say, "Play Back in Black by AC/DC" and the car will find the song and play it. I imagine once cars come loaded with Google or Apple's version of Android / iOS integration this sort of thing will be commonplace. But right now it is a major fun differentiator.
The navigation system is also crazy good because the screen is HUGE and supports pinch and squeeze gestures just as you'd get on an iPad. It runs Google maps and Tesla has done a bunch of work to beautifully integrate everything into the giant touch screen and the smaller (non-touch) display that sits behind the steering wheel.
The car has a great web browser, but I think it's more the sort of thing you'd use when only a little bandwidth is required. 3G is hardly good enough to run YouTube or Facebook. Believe me, I tried while sitting in parking lot waiting for my wife to finish up in a store.
I'm also a big fan of the mobile app that Tesla provides to connect you to your car via your iPhone or Android. Marcus, the leader of the Mobile Nations crew, even coded a BlackBerry 10 version of the app on his own based on APIs that Tesla published. With the mobile app you can check on the charge status of your car, turn on (and set) climate control, unlock the doors, honk the horn or flash the light.s It might be fun to sit outside of a pub with the car parked nearby and use the app to honk the horn as people walk by. But I'm not saying I've done any such thing. Such juvenile behavior :)
I'm also a big fan of the mobile app that Tesla provides to connect you to your car via your iPhone or Android.
The app also tells you where your car is physically located, so if you leave it with a valet you can see if the guy takes it on a joyride, or where he parks it. Very cool.
The keys also connect you to the car insofar as they have proximity detection built in. When you approach the car, keys in hand, the door handles just appear into your hands. Very cool. When you sit in the car there is no on/off button. You just sit, press the brake, and put it in drive. The concept of on and off is completely obsolete when the key detects your presence and the drive/neutral/reverse/park switch tells the car your intention for movement.
So far I haven't been disappointed by any aspect of the car. But it's only been 4 days. I'll come back and write more when I've had even more time to play around. Until then, I'll be looking for opportunities to drive around.