Hot Wheels! The Car of the Future

Mar 3, 2009 3:24pm

ABC News’ Stu Schutzman reports: What a neat ride I took last night. It was in the cockpit of a Tesla Roadster. The roadster is a space-age looking version of one of those small Italian, very expensive sports cars (click here for a look). It’s rocket fast — for you car nuts out there — it goes from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds — that’s screaming fast. When the car accelerates, there is so much force you can’t reach forward enough to turn the radio on. You know you’re going super fast, but because it’s so smooth and quiet, it’s hard to tell just how fast. And the fuel efficiency — zero miles to the gallon; the roadster is totally electric. It’s motor (it’s not an engine) is the size of a watermelon. The battery, says Tesla’s resident genius, guru, designer and CEO Elon Musk, is clean recyclable and delivers nearly 250 miles per charge. Musk says it can power your whole house for 24 hours. The car has no gears only forward and reverse. It runs absolutely silent, no "engine" noise whatsoever.  It sells for $109,000 — no haggling. But, as Musk points out, you get a tax credit if you buy one, which brings the price down to a manageable $102,000. We went to the Tesla facility, which is inside a giant hangar at a local LA airport, to get a sense of some of the innovation going on here in California, the place many consider the epicenter of innovation. "Innovation is in Californians’ DNA," said another local entrepreneur. California, by most estimates, was on the leading edge of this recession; the question we’ve been asking here is can California be on the leading edge of digging us out of it. Many of the techies here, like Elon Musk and the venture capitalists who fund their ideas and schemes, firmly believe that the "high-tech revolution" in California’s Silicon Valley was borne out of the recession of the early 1980s. They did it then so it follows, why can’t they do it now with innovation in energy and other new technologies. For many here these are risks worth taking. Especially at Tesla. Another Tesla innovation we snuck a peek at last night was their newest sedan to be unveiled at the end of the month. It as in a word, gorgeous — to my eye a combination of a Lexus and a Bentley which would cost about $50,000. It is fully electric with a 160 mile range. It has 3G internet inside. Eventually, says Musk, you will be able to call it on your cell phone to unlock it, turn on the lights and start the motor. The 3rd generation says Musk, will be more affordable in the $30,000 price range. And at Tesla they dream on. In the same plant where we saw the cars, Tesla is building parts for a rocket ship they say will someday carry passengers to Mars. That may not solve the economic crisis…but it sounds like a great way to leave it in the rear view mirror.

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