Like a lot of Americans, my interest in presidential politics has bordered on obsession in recent weeks. I’ve been spending an indecent amount of time trolling the web for evidence that Barack Obama’s campaign will be reinvigorated by an infusion of moxie or that Sarah Palin actually thought the Bush Doctrine practiced bush medicine.
I love politics and the soap opera that is unfolding in the battle for electoral votes, but Sunday morning I got a reprieve from my political fixation, a touch of grace that came in the form of what certainly must be the most beautiful green car that anyone has imagined since Ian Fleming wrote Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.
I don’t consider myself much of a car guy. I like to drive, and once upon a time I was the very happy owner of a rusty old Alpha Romeo Spider, but my desire to go fast on four wheels has diminished now that I’ve got kids. Honestly, I’m thrilled by the family minivan: it’s kind of like a great big Swiss Army knife (automatic sliding doors, fifteen cup holders, great sound system, lots of cool compartments, plenty of room for people and stuff). When I do fantasize about cars I visualize myself driving a Morgan at low-rider speed.
But then last Sunday a couple in my church showed up for worship driving a Tesla. This is an electric car with a body by Lotus. It goes from zero to sixty in under four seconds. As I got a ride a round the church parking lot I felt like I was on a roller coaster, and, as the g-forces shoved me back into the passenger seat, I was grateful for the support of the fine leather upholstery. I had never imagined a car could go so fast on such short notice, or that it could slow down and turn ninety degrees so nimbly. It’s days later and my scalp is still tingling.
Occasionally, I hear that efforts to kick America’s oil habit are really just attempts to keep folks from having fun, to confiscate the keys to every SUV, and to control people by making them take the bus.
It’s not true, of course, but just in case you may suffer such delusions, hear me as I testify: in the Tesla, I’ve seen the future of green transportation, and the future will be fun.
Now, at 100K a pop, the Tesla roadster hardly is a proletarian ride, but it’s a start. The next Tesla product is rumored to be a sedan which will sell for half the cost of the roadster, and if a person doesn’t particularly need to drive an electric car that goes faster than a Ferrari, all kinds of possibilities open up. Surely the technology that had me whipping around the campus of Foothill Presbyterian Church in East San Jose could produce a car large enough for a family like mine, but it will take time and determination and strong leadership from the public sector.
This brings me back to the presidential race. The candidate who doesn’t look for a photo-op in a Tesla is missing an opportunity to stand tall for an America free from its dependence on foreign oi, an America dedicated to developing new technologies and creating American jobs—to say nothing of a missing a chance to have a little fun.
Update: This morning The San Jose Mercury News reports that Tesla’s new manufacturing plant will be in San Jose. Score one for the local team!
Here’s a review of the Tesla from Jay Leno: