Tesla uses electric power to woo local sports-car fans
Salespeople for the all-electric Tesla car in Seattle are looking for new types of customers. Rather than rely solely on wealthy environmentalists or technologists, they're targeting sports-car and aircraft fans who appreciate power.
Seattle Times transportation reporter
A $109,000 Tesla roadster, when released from its brick showroom in fashionable South Lake Union, will accelerate on the street from 20 to 40 mph in half a second. The G-forces can leave you a tad queasy if you're sitting in the passenger seat, but they prove a point.
You don't need gas anymore to drive a speedy sports car.
Tesla salespeople in Seattle are looking for new types of customers. Rather than rely solely on rich environmentalists or technologists to be early adopters, they're wooing sports-car and aircraft fans who appreciate power.
On Saturday, about 70 members of a local Porsche club visited the showroom. Tesla cars are also appearing this Earth Day weekend at a Future of Flight Foundation festival at Paine Field. Boosters compare the carbon-fiber car body to lightweight composites in the 787 Dreamliner.
Porsche enthusiast Mary Downing, riding shotgun in the red roadster Saturday, was amazed by the instant acceleration and even more by the silent electric motor, compared with loud gas engines. "It allows you to be out in your own world," she said.
But several club members said the Tesla is too expensive for them; the average Porsche owner starts with a used car, they say.
About 1,200 of the U.S.-made Teslas have been sold worldwide, including 50 in the Northwest, salespeople said. In a couple years, a $50,000 sedan will hit the market, followed by a $30,000 subcompact.
The elite roadster clearly has limited appeal, but sales adviser Lance Merkin says it plays a role in promoting affordable electric cars for the masses by dispelling the myth that electric cars are like glorified golf carts. "If that's the case, the solution is a car that will draw attention," he said.
Meanwhile, the all-electric Nissan Leaf is scheduled to reach Seattle as a test market next year, costing as little as $25,000 after tax credits. Chevy's mostly electric Volt, with a gasoline-backup engine for when power runs low, is also expected to be available by then.
With all those kinds of cars coming to the area, Seattle officials wonder if they must upgrade the public-utility system to recharge electric vehicles as they gradually replace fossil-fuel cars. The city's hydro-powered system can tackle the extra load if electric cars charge overnight while other demand is low, said City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who chairs the energy committee. Even then, Seattle needs to provide charging stations, new pricing policies and maybe a new substation, he said.
Electric cars serve the city's goal of "carbon neutrality," Harrell said. "We might be in front of the market. They're cool, the benefits are incredible. We want to create the buzz."
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.