When Tesla, the upstart auto company based in Silicon Valley, unveiled its all-electric Roadster at a swank affair in Santa Monica last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped in for surprise visit. Recognition hung in the air. The man who became famous for playing one seriously aggressive electric appliance had come to pay his respects to another.
That's not too germane to the subject, but I couldn't resist! Also see photo "Assault with battery". Ah, the pun electric!
The Tesla is a toothsome sports car. The EV1, um, wasn't.
Perhaps most important and most unlike the EV1, the Tesla offers something beyond mere virtue as a reward to its buyers. Fun, in large, hair-raising voltages. The company claims 0 to 60 mph acceleration in four seconds and a top speed of 130 mph.
Big brakes, racy suspension, optional leather and navigation system, air conditioning, heated seats. There's even room for golf clubs. With the Tesla, the electric car seems poised to move past its groovy-granola beginnings.
"There's a big market for green," says Chris Paine, EV advocate and director of "Who Killed the Electric Car," "but not as big as the market for something more primal. Speed and power have always sold cars."
There are more variables than an algebra textbook and Tesla's success is far from a sure thing. GM, with all its technological prowess and financial depth, couldn't make a business case out of the EV1 - and I submit that those who think otherwise don't understand the car business.
The Big 3 don't seem to understand the car business much anymore either, other than "build what sells". Expensive gas will change that more than green thinkin' will. Dinosaurs historically have not been receptive to evolutionary change. Seen any of those lately?
Shorter "The times they are a-changin'": We're goin' from dirty-dirty suck-squeeze-bang-blow to cleaner 'whirrrr'. I hope we're in time.