The Wilder family's first electric car: a 2008 Tesla Roadster
The Wilder family's first electric car: a 2008 Tesla Roadster will be joined shortly by a Nissan LEAF, both to be 'fueled' by the Sun.

Reflections On My First Tesla Test Drive

Founder of the WilderHill Index shares his impressions.

By Robert Wilder

Dr. Robert Wilder has now had his 2008 Tesla Roadster for more than two years during which time he's essentially powered it with sunlight. In an upcoming article he recounts the lessons learned. In advance of that, we thought you'd enjoy reading his personal reflections about spending nearly $100,000 on a single car.

With pieces already by others on 1st impressions test driving the coming 2008 Roadster, I'll instead focus on some of my own feelings & concerns going into a first -- and it turns out rather surprising -- test drive. Please excuse the fairly personal nature of this post.

Since sending in a check long ago, I reckon I've 'sort of' owned an early 2008 Roadster sight unseen. But it still was a tremendous leap of faith for the whole family and me to have spent so much on a car that I knew so little about. So when the company asked if I wanted to actually test-drive a near-production car, I jumped at the chance.

First it meant this car itself was probably for real: at least I needn't endure years of ribbing from my wife for buying a non-existent car! Secondly with keys at last in hand, I was curious: what would I feel in my heart and head behind the wheel driving this unique, entirely new electric vehicle (EV)? Can EVs even begin to fulfill the promises?

I'd long been captured by the idea of wrapping a beautiful lightweight car body around thousands of Li-ion cells, with a strong AC motor and regenerative braking. But still it was all merely a thought: could it really come together as a great driving car?? Nobody had pulled it off in production so this Roadster was trying something pretty special. Certainly the world's major automobile manufacturers had ALL given up on EVs long ago as a mass production proposition and their comments about EVs since were derisive.

So there is a rather a lot riding on this coming car. Because I'm passionate about fast cars, emotional feedback was no small matter to me. But before going into the test drive, I'll share the thorny hurdle from when I first came across this car in concept long ago.

I'll admit straight off that the hurdle wasn't that it was electric. Rather it was the price: a quick calculation showed this would be not only the most expensive car I'd ever bought but roughly what I'd spent on all cars before in my life ... all put together.

Yet in my gut, I felt an EV if put together in properly disruptive way absolutely could yield a car unlike any before. More than anything, that caused me to swallow and send a check ... it was how much better an EV could be, by integrating right parts and thinking.

But whether this car could deliver when so many failed -- still made this a leap of faith.



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