How I Almost Drove a Tesla Roadster – But Didn’t
By Chris Haak
The Tesla Roadster, now ramping up its production, isn’t quite as hard for journalists to get a test drive in as it had been a year ago, but it’s still a pretty good catch when an auto writer has a chance to take one for a spin. Yesterday, two of us from Autosavant attended a media event at which a Tesla Roadster was available for [chaperoned] test drives.
I figured that I wouldn’t have a chance to drive the car because I didn’t want to wait in line while missing the chance to drive other desirable vehicles at the event, but later learned that the Tesla PR representatives were compiling a sign-in sheet/waiting list for drives in the car. I added my name to the list and got an estimated time of 1:00 (about two hours after getting onto the list).
Meanwhile, I heard anecdotal stories of how the charge was holding up remarkably well – at 11:00, it was at 60%. Yet I managed to foolishly violate rule #1 in scheduling test drives of electric cars: go for your drive early to ensure there is adequate power.
Supposedly, a generator truck was on the way to give the Roadster a power boost. It must have been a big truck. The 220-volt charging cable in the Roadster’s small cargo area was an intimidating-looking thing that wouldn’t be out of place had it been connected to a clothes dryer. I figured that a nice 220-volt burst of energy would make the Roadster happy to keep running all day. Unfortunately, with additional test drives happening (and the hilly terrain of the test site in New York sapping the Roadster’s power reserves with each run), the battery situation began to get more dire.
At 1:00 sharp, I arrived at the Tesla’s spot. There was one person above me on the waiting list. He wasn’t there at that first instant, and I had a glimmer of hope that my turn might come a little earlier than expected. But alas, he showed up, hopped into the car, and took it for a drive with his Tesla-provided chaperone. I sought a shady spot to check e-mails while I waited for the car to come back. My turn was next!
After about 20 minutes, the Tesla Roadster glided back to its parking spot. I pulled up Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/autosavant) on my iPhone as I approached the car and threw out a tweet that said, “About to drive a Tesla Roadster for my first time!!” The previous driver turned off the car and got out of it, as did the car’s handler. The front-mounted cooling fans were running hard as the car shook off its last run. I felt like a little kid on Christmas Day.
Then bad news hit. The generator truck wasn’t there. I waited for a while and took some photos of the car. The carbon-fiber bodywork is very interesting to see from the underside (such as on the rear decklid, where the batteries and one-golf bag-sized cargo area reside). The car really is tiny. It doesn’t even go up to my waist, and the steering wheel was by far the smallest I saw of the 19 wheels I used today.
The generator truck never arrived (I’ve frankly never heard of a generator truck before, and my 3 1/2 year old son has probably told me about nearly every kind of truck in the world). I’m not quite sure what they were expecting to happen with (potentially) seven hours of journalists driving their car fairly hard.
It’s disappointing that I was so close to driving the Tesla Roadster, but my consolation is that I managed to get some wheel time in another roadster (one called a McLaren SLR) and another electric car (MINI E). Just not in the same one. I also have a few photos, so maybe I’ll have a chance to drive the Tesla Roadster another day. While it’s frustrating to have been so close to driving a very interesting vehicle, I can also attest to the fact that the Tesla Roadster is not, in fact, vaporware. It’s definitely a real car, albeit one I have yet to drive.
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