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The High-Voltage Superhighway

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By David Landau

Published Jan 1, 2009 8:00 AM


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Photo Courtesy of Tesla Motors.

As you walk into Tesla Motors' West Los Angeles showroom just a few blocks away from UCLA, you're struck by the fact that even though the dealership is directly connected to the auto shop, there aren't any smells of grease, exhaust or blackened motor oil. Not surprising, since Tesla offers only one model — the first completely ready, highway prepared, street legal electric sports car. And this cutting-edge car company got a big boost from a Bruin.

Leading venture capitalist Ira Ehrenpreis '91 is a member of the car maker's board of directors and a pioneer in sustainable energy technology investment. Ehrenpreis, named one of the "Top 50 Most Influential Men Under 45" by Details magazine in 2007, says he chose Tesla for its amazing potential and its visionary goals, and the move is paying off.

Meet Tesla's red roadster

Jeremy Snyder, Tesla's general manager for West L.A., gives a tour of the electric sports car.

Tesla has exploded onto the scene with its Roadster, the first in a projected three-model fleet of electric vehicles. It's more than a little pricey — the vehicle sells for more than $100,000 — but it definitely defies the stereotype of electric vehicles (EVs) as underpowered and underwhelming.

This bad boy can zoom up to 125 mph, boasts a range of about 220 miles on the EPA cycle, and delivers impressive performance: 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and 12.7 seconds on the quarter-mile track. That's fast enough to sweep past a Porsche. And the Roadster, like all EVs, runs totally silent.

This isn't your everyday car-buying experience, either. San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla doesn't license franchises or pressure you into buying. "At Tesla we want to redefine how vehicles are distributed, purchased and serviced," explains Jeremy Snyder, general manager of the West L.A. store.

Even with a few setbacks influenced by volatile markets, the future of Tesla looks bright — their next model, the Model S sedan (designed with the legendary Mazda man Franz von Holzhausen), is set to debut in the near future, and production of the Roadster is speeding up to deliver the hundreds of orders they've already received.

"Tesla is shipping a product today that has achieved the important milestone of 'greenest car on the planet,' and a car that goes faster than a Ferrari [at the same time]," says Ehrenpreis. "They've accomplished in a short period of time what Detroit hasn't been able to figure out for decades."

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