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Tesla Model S Makes Meg’s Week

In mid-May I had a birthday. Birthdays aren’t usually something I get all that public about, because it can seem really self-centered, and so I’ve certainly never written a blog about a birthday before. But here’s one! Although it’s not mainly about the birthday itself. It’s mostly about what happened as a result of my birthday: I got to drive a Tesla Model S for an entire week!

If you know me well, you probably know that I have coveted Teslas for years, well before I got to lead Valley Vision’s work in the Clean Economy and was able to get involved with the region’s Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Collaborative. So this birthday gift (from an inspired husband and some teenage co-conspirators) was superlative.

I’d driven a Tesla once, briefly, almost exactly four years earlier, in a ride-and-drive event in Napa. But this was an entire week. So, what did I take away from the experience?

  • It accelerates like a bat out of hell. For someone (me) who was trained as a driver in the assertive New Jersey style of driving, this is a dream come true. The acceleration will truly snap your head back if you want it to. (I demo’d that for CEO Bill Mueller one day; he liked it too!)
  • Auto-pilot is really remarkable, and a harbinger of the autonomous future to come. And it performed exceptionally. I used auto-pilot on surface roads in Davis and Sacramento, on our freeways, on the merge onto the Causeway in rush hour, in the rain (yes, rain), in heavy and variable traffic, and on highway 49 up to Grass Valley one day, as the road transitioned from undivided four-lane to a twistier and hillier two-lane.
  • Auto-pilot can even change lanes on the freeway, which was freaky when I discovered it by accident. I turned on my signal for a lane-change before disengaging auto-pilot as I thought was necessary. Feeling the car begin to change lanes on its own was a little more exciting than I was ready for! But after that first surprise, it was just amazing.
  • It will charge when plugged directly into house power overnight. But it will not charge quickly! We’d gain 30-40 miles in a ~10 hour overnight period. If I ever own a Tesla, of course we’ll install the special home chargers to get close to full overnight recharging.
  • Tesla Superchargers are good. And easy. And free. There’s one in Natomas, which I frequented, and also one in Rocklin that I used on the day I went to Grass Valley.
  • “Range anxiety” is a thing, even with a convenient Supercharger. I usually drive a Prius, with 500+ miles between fueling. The Model S would charge to a 200 mile range, but if one drives or accelerates assertively (ahem), that compromises your total range. I’m sure if I owned the car, I’d get accustomed to driving it closer to “empty,” but the relative scarcity of Superchargers and the slowness of charging on a regular outlet made me conservative and a little twitchy whenever my range fell below 75 miles.
  • If you’d like this same experience for yourself, there’s an app for that, of course. It’s called Turo, and it’s just exactly like Airbnb, except with cars rather than homes. We regretfully returned our lovely Tesla to the home of its owner, in the Pocket, on a Saturday morning.
  • There are more of them out there than even I’d noticed. One afternoon I left the parking garage behind the library in downtown Sacramento, and waited at a light to turn left, with one black Tesla Model S behind me, and a second one in the lane to my right. We were like a little Tesla flock.
  • I’m not the only one who stares (and sometimes points) as a Tesla goes by.

Having meetings in Sacramento, Davis, Grass Valley and places in between, I drive significantly more than some. The Tesla enabled me to do that driving with a clearer personal conscience and in tight alignment with my professional life at Valley Vision – including the Cleaner Air Partnership, focused on air quality and transportation emissions, and the Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative, focused on climate and impacts. Keep up with Valley Vision’s leadership in these areas by subscribing to our monthly Cleaner Air News email newsletter!

Meg Arnold is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the Clean Economy and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategies.