Make us your home page
Instagram

Tesla Roadster provides a jolt of fun

Green means go, and in the case of the Tesla Roadster, green means go! That's because the little sports car has the advantage of instant torque that all-electric power provides: It rockets from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds. How quick is that? It's the equal of a 505-horsepower Corvette Z06 and faster than many performance cars — all without the tailpipe emissions.

"It's guilt-free fun," said Tesla sales adviser Neil Joseph, who, on a recent weekday, parked the little sports car in front of the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg. It was there that its eye-catching appearance — imagine the progeny of a Lotus and a Ferrari — had pedestrians reaching for their cameras and even stopped a few motorists.

"There's always a sports-car market, even during a down economy," Joseph said of the Roadster's appeal. "It sends a different message than a classic sports car — you're happy to support the future of energy consumption."

The Roadster, which has a carbon-fiber body, is both a production vehicle and technology showcase for Tesla Motors, a California company founded in 2003 with the goal of demonstrating that electric cars need not be pedestrian in design or performance. (On the horizon: a luxury sedan in 2012.) The Roadster is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that gives it a range of 245 miles on a full charge, Joseph said. The car can be plugged into conventional 110- and 220-volt outlets and it comes with a power connector. (Tesla recommends buying one of two more powerful connectors — $1,500 to $1,950 — to cut charging times to as little as four hours.)

Tesla's other goal: be a producer of powertrains. It already has forged alliances with Toyota (for an electric RAV4) and Daimler (for a Smart electric car).

But all that technology doesn't come cheaply: The Roadster's price starts at $109,000.

"It's really gone from early adopters to people who say, 'I'm looking at the Porsche, Audi and the Tesla,' " Joseph said of potential buyers.

One of the early adopters was Greg Sembler, a fan of electric cars who owns a Toyota Prius that he has converted to a plug-in hybrid.

"I love it," the St. Petersburg developer says of his first-generation Roadster. "I frustrate a lot of Porsches and Vettes out there (from 0 to 60 mph).

"I really think electric cars are the future."

Joseph said Tampa Bay may be an important part of that future. The company owns its retail and service network and has 13 "Tesla Stores" worldwide; Joseph said the company eventually would like to have one here. For now, the closest store is in Miami. For service, the company will send a "Tesla Ranger" mobile service technician to owners.

Joseph will be based in Tampa for the next several months doing sales and market development. The first Roadsters were delivered in 2008, and according to Tesla, there are more than 1,300 on the road worldwide; about 15 are in the bay area.

Ultimately, Tesla's goal is bigger than being a niche automaker.

"Overall," Joseph said, "we want to be a luxury brand like BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, with a similar range of cars."

For more information, call Neil Joseph at (941) 681-0198 or go to teslamotors.com.

How'S it drive?

Some owners who bought the Roadster as a weekend runabout have been so impressed by its characteristics that it has become their daily driver, according to Tesla's Neil Joseph. "It has a pretty direct connection to the road. It's a pure driving experience," he said. It certainly is a simple one. There isn't power steering, so the wheel requires a little effort. There's no shifting — it has one fixed gear. It corners as well as many high-end sports cars I've driven. And unlike many hybrids, the regenerative braking isn't noticeable. (Just taking your foot off the accelerator slows the car rapidly.) The only learning curve is one of perception: It will change how you view acceleration. From 0 to 60, it is gasp-inducingly quick. I took several co-workers for rides, always warning them before I floored it; they all reacted as if on a theme-park ride. The best comparison seems to be the launch of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Tesla isn't quite that quick — yet.

Peter Couture, Times staff writer

Tesla Roadster provides a jolt of fun 11/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 6:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]