A sudden jolt — reminiscent of taking off in a jet — is the only sign from the backseat of the Tesla S P85D that the car has gone from a complete stop to 60 mph in a mere three seconds.
John Glenney of Lexington drives this all-electric car, which is one of the fastest American four-door cars ever made. He has never seen anything like the speed the Tesla offers, he said.
"There are places that you can get up to 60 miles per hour from a dead stop, and you look in the rear-view mirror, and everyone is still at the light," Glenney said. "Not only is it zero to sixty in three seconds flat, but it's zero to thirty in one second, so it's almost instantaneous."
Glenney's describes the P85D as his "own personal roller coaster."
The Tesla appeal
Founded in 2003, Tesla Motors is a California company focused on energy innovation, best known for its electric cars. But one of Tesla's newest products is a home battery — available this summer — charged by solar energy.
Glenney likes the all-electric cars for a variety of reasons, one being that he is spending only about one-tenth of the energy costs of a typical car to drive it. It's that sustainability that drew Glenney to Teslas. He was on the waiting list for an electric Nissan Leaf, but the more he read, he realized that Tesla already had a really high-mileage electric car.
Glenney and his wife flew to California four years ago and looked at the Roadster, the forerunner of the Model S. "I just loved it because it was so fast, so quiet," Glenney said. "I bought it on the spot."
Now, Glenney, who "found himself with a little extra money and a little extra time" after selling his biotech company, owns four Teslas. He is also on the waiting list for the Model X, a crossover version that will come out at the end of the summer.
It's safe to call Glenney a Tesla enthusiast. He was the first person to drive cross-country in a Tesla using the Supercharger network, he said.
The Supercharger network
Superchargers are essentially like gas stations, allowing users to "fill up" their cars with electricity. These stations are more powerful and will charge the car faster than the included home charger you receive when you purchase a Tesla.
Supercharger use is free for any Model S owner.
"It's easy and cheap to go cross-country," Glenney said.
Tesla is expanding its network of Superchargers to better allow cross-country drives, like Glenney's drive from New York City to Los Angeles. This past February, Tesla opened a supercharger in Lexington off I-75 in the side parking lot of the Hamburg Meijer, at 2155 Paul Jones Way.
It's a good location because it connects the Midwest to the South, all the way down to the southern tip of Florida, Tesla spokesperson Jamee Hawn said.
Glenney has used the Lexington supercharger a few times, but he said it's easier to charge at home overnight. Stopping at a supercharger is not quite as convenient, at least time-wise, as a gas station since it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to "fill up."
While the Lexington Supercharger may not be too useful for local Tesla owners, it has brought a few more Teslas to the area, Glenney said.
The electric car market
In California, where Tesla headquarters is located, the cars are much more common, but before the Lexington Supercharger, Glenney saw only one other Tesla in Lexington in his four years of owning one.
Glenney's P85D is one of the most expensive American-made cars. While $85,000 is the most visible price for the car on Tesla's website, this is after incentives and gas savings. The real base price: $105,000.
Clearly these luxury cars are not made for everyone.
Tesla is never going to be a dominant player in the electric car market unless they can sell a more economical car, said John Naber, a University of Louisville electrical and computer engineering professor who was behind the U of L effort to put electric car chargers on campus. "They're in a really niche market."
Tesla does have an economy version in the works: the Model 3, which is set to hit the market in 2017. The Model 3 will reportedly sell for $35,000 — still about $10,000 more than the average sedan.
"What a lot of people don't really appreciate or understand yet is how much money you save with an electric car," said Naber, who owns a Chevrolet Volt, another electric car. He saves about $3,000 to $4,000 a year on fuel costs, he said.
"Unless you sit there and do the math and see how much you can save, no one really appreciates it," Naber said.
Glenney's four Teslas
Glenney found his first Tesla, the Roadster, to be too small, and when Tesla came out with a Model S, he bought one.
Then, Tesla came out with their 4-wheel drive model with all of the hardware for automatic driving, and Glenney thought, "Well, I've got to have that.
"By the end of the summer, I'll be able to get out of the car and tell it to go park itself, and it will run itself into the garage and park itself where it's supposed to and turn itself off," Glenney said. "And you think I'm joking, but it's literally true."
Tesla updates the car's computers like Apple sends software updates to iPhones. While these updates might bring new features like automatic driving, they also introduce what bothers Glenney most: glitches.
"Like any computer, sometimes it gets a bug, and you gotta reboot it," Glenney said. "All of sudden, your radio goes haywire, or makes a phone call or something, and then you've gotta shut everything down and restart it. But that happens pretty rarely."
Despite the glitches, Glenney never tires of his car.
"It's the most fun I've had in a car since I was 16," Glenney said.
"I meant to have one for myself and one for my wife, but I just can't bring myself to sell them because there's nothing wrong with them," Glenney said. "It's been over two years since we've had a gas-powered car."
But can you mow your lawn with it?
Glenney has even attempted mowing his lawn with his Tesla.
"I was trying to find an electric tractor to do some mowing, and I just couldn't find it," Glenney said. "I thought, well, what does a tractor gotta have to have? It's gotta have four wheels, it's gotta be able to go anywhere, it's gotta have a lot of torque. Well, I've got one of those right here.
"It turned out to be not practical on a daily basis, but it was the image of seeing that an electric car, you can put anything you want on it."
Maybe one day, streets will be filled with self-driving Tesla cars and tractors, but for now, if you see a Tesla in Lexington, it is probably owned by John Glenney.