Although the Tesla Roadster is a sexy car perfect for a single person or a family without kids, not all Tesla owners are child-free. One member of the Tesla family, Alison Suttles, has a family of her own. Although Alison and her husband Doug have taken their daughters on drives in the Tesla Roadster, the family is looking forward to a time when all four of them can fit into a Tesla. Thankfully for the Suttles’ family, that time is coming up quickly as they hold reservation number 287 for the new Tesla Model S sedan.
In a recent email interview, Alison shared her thoughts about Tesla as a company, electric vehicles in general and had some wise words for consumers concerned about the often over-hyped issue of range anxiety.
MNN: What led you to purchase the Tesla Roadster in March 2010?
Alison Suttles: Honestly, two things. First, because we could. I know that sounds terribly pretentious, but we had an opportunity to buy a fun, fast car and we jumped on it! That said, the reason we chose a Tesla over other options out there that might've been just as fast but cheaper is because we believe in the company and the technology. Basically, Tesla needed (and needs) people like us who are willing to take on those initial costs to support a company we believe in. Doug and I feel strongly that this world needs to embrace zero emissions, and Tesla is doing an excellent job of ushering in the era of very cool electric cars.
What is your overall impression of the Roadster? Of Tesla Motors as a company?
The Roadster is an insanely fun car. I liken it to riding a roller coaster. Until you get used to the feeling of fast acceleration with no shifting, it will make you giggle uncontrollably every time you hit the acceleration pedal. I've seen it happen to friend after friend who goes for their first ride in the car. You just can't help but laugh at the feeling. Plus, it feels great to be riding in a vehicle that idles quietly and accelerates with just a whine to tell you something is happening.
As for the company, they've always taken excellent care of us and our car. Obviously, we are early adopters to technology that will have quirks to work out. When something happens or they discover a flaw in the system, even if it hasn't impacted us, they are quick to upgrade, replace or otherwise fix our vehicle. I'm sure there will be changes as more people own Teslas, but right now being a Tesla owner is like being a part of a family. We went to the Model S Test Ride event last fall. It was so much fun to talk to others who have preordered their Model S vehicles. Even having never met these people before, we were able to discuss the different electric cars we've seen, how excited we are about our eventual cars and how important this movement is.
Why did you decide to reserve the Tesla Model S?
We didn't reserve the Model S right away. We toyed with the idea, but in the beginning, it was hard to part with cash more than a year before you stood a chance of getting a vehicle. But you know what the biggest motivator was for finally making that decision? My daughter being in preschool. Every morning, I hop into a gas vehicle to drive her to school. Some days, I'll get into the car, turn the key and realize I don't have enough gas to get her to school. Talk about range anxiety! I turn on the little range gauge to find out how much further my gas will take me. Can I get to a gas station? Somehow, we always manage to make it, but sometimes it means we're late to school. With an electric vehicle, every day starts fresh. You charge over night and don't even have to worry about whether your car can get you there in the morning.
Which version of the Model S will you choose and why?
We decided to go for the Model S Signature. We are #287 so I have my fingers crossed will have a car in September/October of this year. As I mentioned before, we are early adopters. We don't mind being the ones to test out new technology, and we trust them to find fixes for anything that goes wrong. Plus, we want Tesla to succeed, so we want to be a part of the group that helps them make the best Model S they can. Because we're getting the Signature model, it will have the longest range available. I want this to be our primary car, and 300 miles will take us most places we want to go including down or up the west coast with occasional recharge stops.
Why have you chosen to purchase electric vehicles over traditional gasoline powered or even hybrid vehicles?
In the interest of full disclosure, we currently own two gas vehicles. The Roadster is a great vehicle, but it's not practical for a family. The Model S will replace our sedan, but we'll still have an SUV in the mix for trips to the mountains and hauling bigger items. There are some great hybrids on the market, but so many of them are marketing tools that don't really do much for your MPG.
And yes, those are mostly excuses. The truth is it's hard to reconcile the desire for a cool, fast, fun car with the current hybrid/electric market. We are human, and we are Americans. While I'd like to say our reasons for purchasing electric vehicles was completely due to our desire to be environmentally responsible, one of the reasons we bought a Model S was because it is an awesome looking car. That it is also an excellent electric vehicle makes it even better.
I sometimes wonder if we would be EV owners if it weren't for Tesla. I like to think we would be, but I really don't know. Thankfully, we don't have to imagine a world without Tesla. I feel confident that as Tesla introduces their take on EVs to the general public, other auto makers will embrace the idea that you can make EVs that everyone will want to drive because they are great cars, not just because they are electric cars.
As an existing EV owner, what words of advice would you give to the general public on the topic of range anxiety?
Be realistic. Take a close look at the distance you drive on an average day. You'll probably discover that you don't go as far as you think you do. Start now while you don't have an EV, and then realize how many times you push that gas refill to the last possible moment and find yourself with a gas-induced range anxiety. With an EV, you start over every morning with a full range that costs you a fraction of what filling up with gas would. Unless you are driving to sales calls all day long, you're probably going to be just fine.
Plus, Tesla is taking EVs into a whole new world. Their base model vehicle will take you well over 100 miles on a charge. Those of us living in metropolitan areas won't have to worry at all when we need to get to the other end of the city or out to the suburbs. If you get the top model, you get 300 miles to work with! With the introduction of rapid charge stations, even the road warriors will find it possible to use a Tesla all day long.
Know that the more of us that embrace this technology, the larger the charging network will become. Supply and demand, folks! Ultimately, it's up to us - the consumers - to make this change happen. There are options for us out there. We just have to be willing to "take a chance" on new technology and realize that maybe, just maybe, our anxieties are unfounded.
Thank you Alison for sharing your insights as an early electric vehicle adopter.