Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The TESLA electric roadster - Masses of fun !

0-60 in 3.7 seconds! The Tesla roadster is a magnificent feat of engineering.

A full carbon fibre shell around a mid engined convertible that delivers close to 300 BHP and 300 LB/FT of torque, the Tesla is something to be marveled at.

It will run for 400 KM on a full charge of its batteries (the equivalent of 6000 laptop batteries), and charges from a regular electric plug socket !

I was fortunate enough to test drive one on a recent trip to Hong Kong, and it was interesting. With several years of experience with "traditional" sports cars, I had a certain expectation of how this Tesla should feel, which was gone the moment I sat down.

The seating is exceptionally low, and it’s a gymnastics feat to get in an out, and when you turn the ignition key an array of lights comes on. No sound, but that's it! The car is "on" and in "idle". There is no requirement to "turn the engine" to start.

Its totally silent inside, and it feels weird, but away I went. Press the "D" button (for drive). I pulled out and the steering was very heavy. No power assist! Pretty strange for an all electric car. I tapped on the "gas" pedal lightly, and the car moved forward like a normal car. It was a crowded Hong Kong street, so it was crawling traffic for the first 10 minutes, and there was nothing revolutionary going on, but then we reached some open road ...

I pressed my foot down, lightly at first, and the car moved. This thing was fast ... and smooth! Clean fast acceleration instantly. No lag at all. I pressed down harder next time and I was pressed back into the carbon fibre racing seat.

On some winding roads leading up to the peak, the unassisted steering was well weighted and precise.

I kept going ... my god this thing was fast!

There was an electric whine coming from behind me, which replaces the more familiar roar you would expect, but the pace I was going, there was no time to concentrate on that.

Another remarkable thing about this car is the gearing. There is only one, and because of its configuration, it is ALWAYS at maximum torque, making it super responsive and very easy to drive quickly. That same high torque configuration slows the car dramatically as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator, so there is actually very limited use of the brake (except for sharp stops when required).

When we got to the top of the peak, I wanted to try it with the roof off. As standard, the car comes with a soft top that has to be manually removed. It folds into a fairly compact roll and sits easily in the boot, which is big enough for a set of golf clubs!

The car needs 14 hours to charge from zero, but if plugged in every evening, the range should be fine every day for most people. There is a "fast charger" available that can fully charge the car in 3 hours. I would have thought it better to give that as standard and save you a trip to The Carphone Warehouse to get one after buying the car!
very gadgety
The Tesla is a well built car. It has striking looks (more flash then elegant), but the shocking green test drive model I had didn't do it any favours. It is well appointed, drives beautifully and for a car of that size, the all round visibility is very good, but it likes the finesse and interior finish of a high end European sports car. With its Californian roots, the Tesla is very "American". A lot of gadgets installed, but they don't flow with the look and lines of the car (although I did like the lashings of visible carbon fibre all over the place). Nevertheless, its an engineering marvel. This is no Prius! This is an outrageously fast out-and-out sports car which is buckets of fun to drive and may well be start of the future.
lashings of carbon fibre
well appointed interior - I love that Momo steering wheel !
It certainly ticks all the right environments boxes. No petrol to use, no emissions, just one service a year (and that's basically a check on the electronics) ... no oil, spark plugs, gaskets, belts etc ... to change, so it should be remarkably low cost to run (time will tell), and I would feel good about driving one.
Now all that's left is to figure out where do you buy one from in Dubai!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Connected in China

Another year and back to the April Canton Fair (see my blog from a year ago)!

Its always a trek and an exhausting trip. Early starts, late nights, on your feet all day. Walking in an incredably crowded environment and dodging walkers coming at you in all directions.

But after 10 years of visiting this semi annual show, something dawned on me this time. However gruelling the week may be, one has to hand it to the shows organisers for putting on a tremendously well organised event.

With the volume of traffic, they do a fantastic job to get people in and out efficiently. Most hotels have free shuttle buses, and clear meeting points for pick up after the show. The entry points are tight and there is a full security check. This entry process has become smoother over the years and today is a fairly harmless process. They have increased the number of eateries and they cater to most tastes, and (sorry to bring up the subject) plenty of toilets all around.

It's a beautiful exhibition facility with massive halls, good lighting and air conditioning. Big corridors and very well laid out to find your way around easily.

But the kicker of the whole thing ... free and fast wifi all around the show. With an iPad in hand, I could never have imagined how useful this could be at an exhibition. Meetings with suppliers became instantly more productive. Talking about competitors or perhaps different product ideas? Pull up the relevant sites and have a look. Need some information for a discussion you weren't ready for? Access your files from the cloud and be prepared for any topic. It may sound like a small and simple thing, but I have not come across this facility at any other exhibition in my travels (not even in neighbouring Hong Kong).

Compare that to the usual "in-room robbery" of paying for internet in hotels (noting that the vast majority of Chinese hotels give fast free broadband in their rooms for guests) and its a clear sign of China thinking forward.

So for all the misery the show causes, the tired and aching feet, the lack of sleep, and the stress (that I certainly feel) when walking amongst huge crowds, here is an acknowledgement to the good side of the fair.

In addition, the improving international quality of the displays, the hospitality of the people, the professionalism of the companies and also some (albeit very limited) proprietary, genuine and useful product innovation.

Keep it up and keep improving. It's setting an example for the world!