Tesla rep hopes test drives will give electric cars a spark

2010-12-26T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:40:01Z Tesla rep hopes test drives will give electric cars a sparkDavid Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 26, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Alex Frank is used to getting more than just long looks when he zips around in his all-electric Tesla Roadster.

"I've had people follow me several miles out of their way and accost me" to ask about the car, said Frank, who as market-development representative for Tesla Motors drives a Roadster daily.

But you don't have to accost Frank to get a closer look at the "fusion red" Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5 convertible he drives - just call or write him to test-drive the latest model of the electric supercar.

Frank has been scheduling test-drives for Arizona residents since late October.

Before then, those who wanted to drive a Tesla Roadster had to go to one of the company's stores, such as the one in L.A., or catch one of Tesla's special test-drive events.

Frank said 15 to 20 Arizonans are Tesla owners, and five have signed up to buy since Tesla began offering test drives in the state.

The Tesla rep is based in Phoenix but is periodically scheduling test-drives in Tucson. Frank was in town last week doing test drives from the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.

At base prices of $109,000 for the standard model and $128,500 for the Sport 2.5, the Tesla Roadster isn't for everyone (though a $7,500 federal tax credit eases the final cost a bit).

Tesla Motors - named for electric-power pioneer Nikola Tesla - is aiming the Roadster at affluent, environmentally conscious "thought leaders" who can help foster the market for electrics.

At that, the company is selling its Roadster essentially at cost, Frank said, to fulfill the company's goal of driving next-generation electric car technologies into the mainstream.

Those technologies include an advanced, high-density lithium-ion battery pack, a three-phase A/C direct-drive motor with regenerative engine braking, advanced power and charge controls and a carbon-fiber body.

"The goal of this car is to set the stage for the electric vehicle," Frank said.

The company's next car is more family- and wallet-friendly.

The Tesla Model S is a four-door sedan (seating five in the main cabin with space for two child-size jump seats in the hatch area) with a base price tag of $49,000. Though slower than the Roadster, the Model S will have a range of up to 300 miles per charge with an upgraded battery pack.

Deliveries of the Model S are expected to start in 2012.

Because of its hefty price, the Tesla attracts mainly affluent buyers.

But in addition to wealthy car buffs, Tesla buyers include scientists and engineers - just the kind of early adopters Tesla is looking for to help charge up the electric-car market, Frank said.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@azstarnet.com or 573-4181.

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