In Practical Terms, The Tesla Roadster Actually Makes Green Sense

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Sports cars are known to be the playthings of the elite. You can often find the expensive dream machines ripping it up along hidden valley roads or stored in pristine garages. But a new breed of exotic sports car is now on the market, and this one is actually helping to pave the way for a vehicle revolution.

That sports car is known as the Tesla Roadster, 2.5 and instead of gulping fossil fuels the beast runs on electricity. It doesn’t require imported electricity to run either, but simple house juice feeds it. In fact, if we step back and take a look at the overall operations of the $128,000 vehicle, it appears that this is a good model for the future of vehicles. But let’s take a look.

How is a Tesla Roadster Different?

The Tesla Roadster does not rely on a gas-powered engine. Instead it gets it power from 6,831 Panasonic built lithium ion cells, the type of cells that are not unlike those in many consumer devices. The cells give the car a 245-mile travel range per charge. And the power is silent, unlike a comparable gas engine. Instead of tearing down the boulevard in a loud display of power, the Tesla will silently slip by, stealing its way into the night.

Is it practical?

Outside of the initial sticker shock (we did mention the $128k, right?), ownership of the Tesla is not expensive. A full charge will cost on the average around $8, which is much cheaper than the gasoline counterpart. And it will not take a full evening’s charge to top off the Tesla’s electrical tank, either. A charge will require from 4 to 6 hours, depending on whether the source power is 110v or 220v. This makes it easy to drive the 200+ miles to grandma’s, visit for pie and catch up while charging, then drive back. Tesla is in talks with retailers, hotels, and restaurants about installing recharger stations, allowing you to foray much farther from home and still have it conveniently topped off while you do other things.

Of course, this is not as quick as pulling into a gas station and filling it up, but technology is under development to allow high speed charging from a commercial source. For now it does require a little advance route planning, but the savings in fossil fuel is probably worth it. Not to mention the quiet ride. In fact, it is such a quiet ride that you could consider checking out portable DVD player reviews to pick a great player and let a passenger watch a show for the ride back home.

National Power Grid Impact

The Tesla also shows that the impact to the nation’s power grid for electric vehicle ownership is very minor. For example, charging a Tesla Roadster is about the equivalence of running four plasma screen TVs. According to Camille Ricketts, communications manager for Tesla,

We don’t see the grid being overtaxed. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that even if everyone on your block has one of these, there’s nothing that would have to be changed about how you receive your electricity. I don’t foresee the need for new coal-powered plants to power electric vehicles.

Research by Duke Energy, based in North Carolina, adds to this by stating that ownership of plug-in vehicles by every household would only increase the demand by 10 percent. And according to Connecticut Light and Power President Jeff Butler,

With electric vehicles, our existing electric system offers our customers an alternative fuel source for a more sustainable transportation solution

So it appears that the growth and adoption of plug-in electric vehicles would not force an undue strain on the existing national power grid. The Tesla shows this to be true today. And, in case you were curious, the on-board battery packs last for seven to ten years before replacement is required.

Tesla Making Inroads

Obviously, an expensive electric sports car is something that may not find a waiting market in today’s economy, but it is making inroads into its niche. You will find over 1,300 Teslas on the roads today in over 30 countries, but that is just since the first delivery in 2008. And Panasonic, the maker of the battery cells for the vehicle, has invested $30 million into the company since 2003.

But it isn’t just the manufacturing partners that are investing in the Tesla concept. Vehicle manufacturing giant Toyota has invested $50 million into the company, and they also have a contract with Tesla to help develop a plug-in version of their own RAV4 crossover vehicle. The companies are seeing the practicality and success of the Tesla, and are betting on its platform.

Electric Vehicles are the Future

Of course, it isn’t just Tesla and Toyota that are betting big on electric cars. General Motors is producing the hybrid plug-in Chevy Volt, and Nissan is scheduled to release its Leaf vehicle next year. And the market for slightly more affordable, working-class electric cars is already in place. In fact, General Electric plans to buy over 25,000 such vehicles by 2015 to replace its aging fossil fuel driven fleet.

As the Tesla acceptance and ease of ownership shows, having an electric vehicle can make life easier for the owner. You would never have to leave the house without a fully-charged vehicle, as long as you remember to put it on charge when you park it. But why are they better?

Efficiency is the Key

The simple reason for electric vehicle ownership comes down to one word – efficiency. The typical internal combustion engine only manages to extract about 5 to 10 percent of the energy in its fuel. By comparison, an electric motor can extract upwards of 70 to 80 percent from its power source.

In the end equation, such a difference in operational efficiencies can lead to better use of resources. Of course, it should be noted that the electric car has to be more efficient to overcome the difference in energy storage per pound between liquid fuel and batteries. But it is that efficient and more, making it one in our favor.

It is great to think that when future generations look back at the time we shifted from fossil fuel driven vehicles to clean electric ones, it was a battery-driven sports car that led the way for the change. This proves once again that the value of toys, especially the clever, fun ones, cannot be overstated. In fact, they might even need to be studied.

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