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PHOTO CAPTION: Tesla Roadster is powerful but silent; there is no vrooom, reports Clark Fredricksen

Life on An Electric Highway

Clark Fredricksen goes for test drive of Tesla Roadster.

Published: 23-Oct-2008

It's like taking off in an airplane. First, you hear a high-pitched whine, then your body is thrown back into the seat. You wonder, "Is this going to be the take-off that makes me throw up?" Not quite. For one, this is no airplane. It's a Tesla Roadster, the new all-electric sports car I've been invited to test-drive and write about. Here's why I'm told you should buy a Roadster: It performs like a race car, it's battery-powered, and it could be the car that ushers in a new era of sustainable, environmentally friendly vehicles. Here's why I shouldn't buy a Roadster: It performs like a race car, it's battery-powered, and it would be the vehicle that breaks my bank account, ushering in a new era of unsustainable macaroni and cheese dinners.

I arrive at Kelsey Creek Raceway in Bellevue, which, to my dismay, is actually an abandoned K-mart parking lot-turned-racecourse, complete with orange cones, press tents, and nearby Japanese restaurant called The Tuna House — it's a strip-mall speedway.

My first impression of the Roadster is — is this it? It seems tiny. Apparently, the Roadster was based on the design (with permission) of another low-to-the-ground sports car, the Lotus Elise. Both cars share a similar wide frame, chassis, and windshield, while the Roadster has a few less dents in the side paneling, a different derrière, and a different logo. This particular Roadster, a prototype, is painted gray — not exactly a sexy color. Worst of all, it's silent. Thanks to its battery-powered engine, the combustion-less Roadster doesn't roar when you turn it. There's also no shuddering exhaust, no delicious fumes, no vroooom vroooom. When I think sports cars, I think vroooom vroooom. For someone uneducated in the ways of automobile enthusiasm, I wonder, "are all high-performance sports cars supposed to be this unimposing?"

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