My driving life is now changed forever…

Posted on April 3rd, 2009 in AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Economy,electric,Electric vehicles,Global Warming,Opinion by Julian Edgar

I feel like one of the first pilots of jet-powered aircraft. They immediately knew that they were flying the future: there could be no going back to pistons and propellers.

Today I drove the car that, for me, spells the end of the piston engine for performance cars.

The car was the all-electric Tesla, and its performance – and the way it achieved that performance – was just so extraordinary that I am almost lost for words. That a start-up car company has created such a vehicle is simply unprecedented in the last century of automotive development.

For the Tesla is not just a sports car with incredible performance (0-100 km/h in the fours) but also a car that redefines driveability. Simply, it has the best throttle control of any car I have ever driven.

Trickle around a carpark at 1000 (electric) revs and the car drives like it has a maximum of just a few kilowatts available. It’s the pussy cat to end all pussy cats: Grandma could drive it with nary a concern in the world. Put your foot down a little and the car seamlessly accelerates: heavy urban traffic, just perfect.

But select an empty stretch of bitumen and mash your foot to the floor and expletives just stream from your mouth as the car launches forward with an unbelievable, seamless and simply immensely strong thrust.

There are no slipping clutches, no flaring torque converters, no revving engines, no gear-changes – just a swishing vacuum-cleaner-on-steroids noise that sweeps you towards the horizon. The acceleration off the line and up to 100 km/h or so is just mind-boggling – especially as it’s accompanied by such undemonstrative effort. The car will do it again and again and again, all with the same phenomenal ease that makes this the winner of any traffic lights grand prix you’re ever likely to meet.

And it’s not just off the line. Want to quickly swap lanes? Just think about it and it’s accomplished. 

In fact drive the car hard and you start assuming that this is the only mode – outright performance. But then enter that carpark, or keep station with other traffic, and you’re back to driving an utterly tractable car – in fact, one for whom the word ‘tractable’ is irrelevant. Combustion engines are tractable or intractable; this car’s electric motor controller just apportions its electron flow as required, in an endlessly seamless and subtle variation from zero to full power.

It’s not just the acceleration that is revolutionary. The braking – achieved primarily through regen – has the same brilliant throttle mapping, an approach that immediately allows even a newcomer to progressively brake to a near-standstill at exactly the chosen point.

A seamless, elastic and fluid power delivery that no conventional car can come remotely close to matching; a symphony on wheels to be played solely with the right foot; an utterly smooth and progressive performance than can be explosive or docile, urgent or somnambulant – literally, a driveline that completely redefines sports cars.

There’s no going back – my driving life is now changed forever.

Footnote: the Tesla drive was courtesy of Simon Hackett of the ISP, Internode.

21 Responses to 'My driving life is now changed forever…'

Subscribe to comments with RSS

  1. Michael said,

    on April 3rd, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    April 1st.?
    Where/what is this car?Links, photos etc
    Its DEAD!, it simply cannot be built at a realistic price.

  2. Julian Edgar said,

    on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:06 pm

  3. BG said,

    on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    It would be great if people like the folk at Top Gear could let go of the past…

  4. BG said,

    on April 3rd, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    My driving life may also be changed somewhat.. :

    We are two doors down-!

  5. Steve said,

    on April 3rd, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Were you given any indication of what the battery life is like? The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is reported to travel for approx 160 kms or so between recharges, which seems quite realistic for someone with an urban commute.
    Is the Tesla close to this? Obviously with spirited driving it won’t last nearly as long.
    But between the Mits and the Tesla I think it appears realistic fully electric cars will soon be a reality rather than a concept.

  6. Peter Tawadros said,

    on April 4th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I didn’t think there were any in Australia. Did you score a drive through Andrew Simpson?

    I had an opportunity to go to his seminar on the market readiness of EV’s – the one you covered in – I left reasonably convinced that EV’s are going to be a mainstream techology (but probably not the dominant one), but probably even more convinced that oil dependence, HEV’s and even straight petrol vehicles are highly unlikely to disappear from production in any forseeable timeframe. I could imagine petrol vehicles being a niche product, HEV’s being the dominant technology, and EV’s fulfilling the needs of an altogether different market.

  7. Julian Edgar said,

    on April 4th, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Peter, as I have (belatedly) added, the drive was courtesy of Simon Hackett of the ISP, Internode. Andrew Simpson came along with me – pretty good having an engineer who worked on the car give me a guided tour!

    Steve, information on the Tesla’s range, etc, is available on the Tesla site.

    I will be doing a much more detailed story on the car in an upcoming AutoSpeed.

  8. Daniel said,

    on April 5th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Fairfax Drive also did a video story on the Tesla not too long ago:

    From what I’ve heard and read so far I’ve been massively impressed.

  9. Julian Edgar said,

    on April 5th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Slightly odd video review. For people who follow supercar times (not me!), what other standard production cars can do 0-100km/h in 4.0 seconds?

  10. Ford Man said,

    on April 5th, 2009 at 10:29 pm


  11. Levi said,

    on April 6th, 2009 at 7:16 am

    ‘For people who follow supercar times (not me!), what other standard production cars can do 0-100km/h in 4.0 seconds?’

  12. doctorpat said,

    on April 6th, 2009 at 9:01 am

    But the 0-100 time is just part of the story.

    AC Propulsion (who developed the t-zero, the original car using the technology that was was developed into the Tesla) used to have a detailed website that showed the performance times of the T-zero against other supercars.

    The 0-100 time was good, but the overtaking times were unbelievable, being way ahead of even things like the McLaren F1. I mean way ahead, like twice as fast as an F1.

    Sadly that website seems to have disappeared.

    In fact, the most information anywhere seems to be on Autospeed, Issue 129 and 130. There is some of the data there.

    Anyway, compared to the F1 (ignore mere Porsches at this point) the T-zero, with the same mass and 1/3 the power is pulling nearly 1/2 the times. Awesome.

  13. henry said,

    on April 6th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Electric motors are certainly the way of the future. Whether powered by hydrogen, petrol/E85/diesel/LPG/gas. Or straight from the local wind turbine.
    All we need now is for the prices to start coming down. In the future we will be amazed we ever drove smelly, vibrating things that spewed toxins and pollution at a standstill into peak hour traffic.
    As excitement can be engineered into any vehicle.

  14. Ross said,

    on April 7th, 2009 at 10:25 am

    But the sound, the sound. Surely a large part of the supercar experience is the howl of that multi-cylinder fuel injected engine next to your left ear? The crackling noise as you brake into a corner?

    That’s one thing an electric car will never be able to match.

  15. doctorpat said,

    on April 7th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Those of us (including Julian) who have grown used to high performance Human Powered Vehicles have already moved away from that particular requirement.

    Besides, a potent motor at 13 000 rpm makes a very distinctive, wondrous sound, even without a series of small explosions to keep it going. (I guess, I’ve only dealt with rather gutless little electric motors that top out at 1 kW or so. But some of them would pull 30 000 rpm. And that is AWESOME, it gets inside your bones, it just has to be experienced. I’ll shut up now.)

  16. Larry said,

    on April 9th, 2009 at 11:16 am

    To ROSS–the sound- easy run a soundtrack from any engine you desire on the day,hooked into the accelerator controls.
    Today I’m a flat six,to the office an M3, the options are endless,anyone for an 8v92T ??

  17. Danny said,

    on April 9th, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I remember from my old slotcar days that high speed electric motors could sound very special.

    I’d expect in a future with electric cars there’d be similar sounds that will be fantastic.

  18. Ben said,

    on April 13th, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I’m sure you will get over the sound and I’m sure those that are bombarded with car exhaust noise pollution will appreciate the lack of sound. I have electric scooters (think vespa style). They are faster than the 50cc scooters (same class of scooter…LA) and are very quiet.

    Also remember that these early electric cars are just the tip of the iceberg. Currently hindered by battery tech which is changing very quickly, with some amazing things in development. There really seems to be no need for hybrids long term at all. Electric will be more that capable of exceeding the performance parameters of current cars by a long way. And of course no pollution when sourced from green energy which is easily done today. Just choose it from you power supplier and your done.

  19. Darin said,

    on April 14th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    As a teenager into performance in the late 70s it was all roaring v8s & twin exhausts. When I first heard turbos I thought they were a joke. I currently own a turbo car and I’ve grown to love the whistle! I still like the sound of a nice v8 but I agree with Henry, one day people will look at this period in history and shake their heads in disbelief at how we sat in traffic slowly poisoning ourselves with exhaust fumes. Just as we shake our heads in disbelief as we look back at Londons’ coal burning days with it’s pea-souper fogs that actually killed people. I love my turbos and v8s but roll on the electric car I say!

  20. Richard said,

    on April 16th, 2009 at 9:34 am

    I think there are still some solutions needed on the electric car front (which will no doubt be solved in years to come) and these revolve around battery tech. Range and charge times would hold me back from buying an electric car. I don’t really think buying an electric car to do just work commutes is viable or environmentally friendly, as a second car is required to do long trips (think of the extra carbon in the form of car production that would be produced if people NEED to own two cars). Once the range is increased to a few hundred kms and a charge time of say 15 mins, electric cars will be awesome.

  21. Geoff said,

    on April 16th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I know AMG have done a soundtrack off the SLR Merc for the Tesla, but as much as I love the sound of my couple of twin turbo machines, my V8 powered luxobarges and my loud 4 cylinder I look forward to a potent electric brushless DC in my little Lynx. Power in any soundtrack works for me.