Eagle County lets electric cars strut their stuff at Tesla test drive | VailDaily.com

Eagle County lets electric cars strut their stuff at Tesla test drive

EAGLE — There are lots of good reasons to drive a Tesla, ranging from thumbing our collective noses at terrorist states who've vowed to bomb us back to the Stone Age (where they currently live) to loving our planet with a great big squishy hug.

Also, it's really fast, and that's the most American reason.

America, the country that invented the V-8 engine, rock 'n' roll and the electric guitar, is perfecting the electric car.

At the Eagle County Building this week, you had the opportunity to drive a Tesla. Relax, it won't be your last opportunity.

It's Tesla time

Monday's confab was two-pronged.

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County officials wanted to show off their new Chevy Volt. They bought it with a grant from the state energy department and turned it over to the county's department of Child, Family and Adult Services for a pilot program. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g03mLL1oMBw&feature=youtu.be

The grant also covered the cost of a charging station at the Eagle County Building.

When the Volt is gone, which is most of the day, the public is welcome to use the charging station, said John Gitchell, head Eagle County's Actively Green Team.

The Volt goes about 40 miles on a battery charge, and since they do lots of short trips to check on their people, it's working out fine, Gitchell said. Occasionally they have to go to Denver, and one case takes them to Utah. The gas generator kicks in with its 11 gallon tank, and it gets about 55 mpg with a range of about 400 miles, Gitchell said.

The Volt is essentially a gas-powered small SUV with electric motors added on. Those of us who remember the Carter administration will recall environmental gear shoe-horned into American cars, sort of the same way the electric drive gear is part of the Chevy Volt and Toyota Priuses. The county has 20 of those.

Ludicrous mode

The Volt and the Priuses get a nice participation ribbon for playing on the electric car team.

The Tesla, though, is an honest-to-eyeball popping super car.

We got in the Tesla Model PS85D with Michael Horvath, an engineer with the county, and Steffan Rowe, a Tesla sales guy who put us behind the wheel and let the car sell itself. The PS has gotta stand for "pretty spectacular."

Teslas are sporting new and better batteries, manufactured in their new Reno, Nevada, battery plant. It's 6,000 jobs in a plant that's completely solar powered — off the grid.

It goes about 270 miles on a charge, but here's the better part:

The PS85D now has three power modes.

Sport mode gets you 525 horsepower.

Insane mode generates 691 horsepower.

There's now a Ludicrous mode that generates 768 horsepower. It'll go from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds … fast enough to outrun most good intentions.

"Why?" we hear you ask. Because they like tinkering with stuff, and it wasn't all that complicated. They invented a fuse about the size of your thumb and changed the battery contacts. That's it.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that in Ludicrous mode, the car will accelerate in a straight line at 1.1 g, which is more force than you'd feel when falling.

Brush Creek butt kickin'

We took it out Brush Creek Road at well above the posted speed limit. The road looks sort of like a well-paved can of malaria germs — the perfect place to flog the Tesla.

The battery is really 7,000 batteries located under the floor. It keeps the weight low in the car and makes the handling supercar good.

You put it on a curve and it sticks like it's on rails. No drift, no body roll.

It runs at the speed of smiles.

There are only 24 moving parts in the drivetrain. The first major motor maintenance is at 500,000 miles.

"We expect these to go millions of miles," Rowe said.

Musk says he has "no clue" if these technology updates will boost sales. "We're just trying to make awesome cars," he said.

Tesla is bringing out a cheaper Model S. The 70-kWh version of the Model S is rear-wheel drive and sells for $5,000 less than the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive 70D, the previous base model. It's $70,000 before incentives. You can spend up to $125,000.

Colorado gives you a $6,500 rebate. The federal government gives you a tax break of around $7,000, depending on how much you owe.

"Electric motors use energy more efficiently than internal combustion engines and have zero tail-pipe emissions," Gitchell said. "While gasoline comes from oil, electricity comes from many sources including natural gas, coal and renewable solar, wind and hydroelectric."

Two things are true about gasoline.

1. It's going to keep getting more expensive.

2. We're going to keep buying it as long as we have to.

Which leads us back to electric cars. New power plants using renewable energy are being built, and generating electricity is becoming even more efficient, Gitchell said.

"The efficiency, quiet operation and low emissions of electric vehicles can help to improve the quality of our local environment," Gitchell said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.