Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors is a new phenomenon, and we were able to see it first hand in Boulder. For background, the company is only two years old and is the only company that I know of that is devoted to building exclusively electric cars. Or more precisely, they build exclusive electric cars, that is to say, not cheap. They start at over $100K, and with discounts for energy saving vehicles from state and federal governments, they can be substantively cheaper. Right now there are only two-seater roadster sports cars which are apparently very spiffy in road performance. Sedans are coming out next year. We haven't had a chance to ride in one, but we plan to.

What makes Boulder special here? There are seven showrooms in the US: Menlo Park and LA in California, Dania Beach in South Florida, as wells as in Chicago, New York City, and Seattle. And in Boulder, this small community outside of Denver. There are also three European sales offices and they are expanding to Asia in the near future. What makes Boulder special is two things. First they don't have a car dealership on Pearl Street, the famous shopping and dining street in downtown Boulder with one of the oldest pedestrian malls in the US. Why? Because of zoning laws prohibiting automobile dealerships from this quite remarkable shopping area (too dirty, environmental problems, etc.). But we were at 915 Pearl Street at a social event in the Tesla Showroom Gallery! Art galleries abound in this neighborhood and the city council apparently just winked this one in. You can test drive a car there, and find out all about it, but you can't buy one there. You have to go on to the Internet and order one from California where they are manufactured. And so this seems to work. More cars were "sold in Boulder" (in this Internet manner) than all other dealerships in the world combined. Quite a little record for the two sales people and office manager who work in the sales area there. Nigel with his booming English accent and absolute self-confidence is one of the sales people we met at a social event two days ago. Right now the company is breaking even and is very confident about the future.

We were invited to two events this past week, and one was a gathering of the Intenational Business Circle at the Tesla Gallery (see photo)where there was a panel discussion about Nikola Tesla (the man who invented Alternating Current and many other things more than a century ago and with his 700+ patents is one of the greatest of American inventors), about electric cars in general, and about the use of non fossil fuels in our transportation systems of the future. Boulder is full of high tech people and industry with a strong international flavor, and it was fascinating to meet some of them. There is the Frenchman who owns companies, some of which operate in Germany, the Australian who runs an energy company with his American wife who runs a straw hat company, a South American woman who runs a distance learning university, a Russian from St. Petersburg who spent 11 years in Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen teaching Russian to American soldiers and who is now a lawyer in Boulder, a Spanish entrpreneur, and a Dutchman who teaches mechanical engineering design (pro bono) at Colorado State University in Fort Collins while he lives in Boulder running his businesses, and a friend of ours from Argentina who studied computer science at Rice and is now a real estate agent in Boulder, etc. And on Friday we went to an Art event at Tesla where an artist (also international heritage: American, Swiss and something else) was showing her sculptures dealing with spiritual values and sustainable materials and energy in our fast-paced society. All in all, I have to say, coming to Boulder has been an adventure for us and continues to be surprising.
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