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Tesla S owner will never buy
a gas car again

  • Tesla Model S

    The Tesla Model S is a completely electric car - photo by Jil McIntosh - for Wheels

When my foot pushed the accelerator of the Tesla Model S, I felt like I should grab a guitar and start singing about Major Tom.

It was as if I was on my own journey beyond the stratosphere. Not the floating part, where astronaut Chris Hadfield strummed his remake of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity.’ But lift-off, when astronauts experience triple gravity.

‘Go for it,’ was the brave invitation from John Preiner, who bought the $115,000 battery-powered Model S after 12 years of driving a Mazda Tribute and Volkswagen Jetta.

With pedal to carpet, my head snapped back and I was flattened against the leather-clad seat of this metallic brown, top-of-the-line Performance version.

The instant and powerful response, which internal-combustion can’t match, made me immediately understood why most Model S drivers are enthusiasts, and why Preiner, a 44-year-old married father of two and a urologist at Newmarket’s Southlake Regional Hospital, was eager to show it off.

He’s racked up about 3,000 kilometres per month since picking up the car in late February; much of that the 80-kilometre commute between hospital and home.

‘I was floored, just floored,’ he recalls of his initial test drive, a few times around the block near Tesla’s Mississauga service centre. But ‘as great as the performance is, that’s not the greatest thing. It’s that it’s all electric: It makes so much sense in so many ways.’

But does the Model S make sense’ After all, Tesla has sold a mere 10,000 in North America this year. With the cheapest version at $77,800, it can’t be mainstream.

As well, buyers in the U.S., Ontario, Quebec and B.C. get incentives of $5,500 to $9,500. Is it reasonable to reward those who can afford a $100,000 car’

Preiner’s argument: He never buys gas and spends only $45 per month on electricity to travel 3,000 km. The car doesn’t need oil changes, has fewer components to maintain and repair, and is a dream to drive.

And although the real-life range is well below the car’s official rating of 480 km, he says that’s not an issue for 99 per cent of his trips, and won’t be even if, as expected, battery capacity falls 20 or 30 per cent within eight years.

Preiner worries about the future of his boys, now 4 and 6.

‘I believe in climate change and that we’re the cause of it,’ he says. ‘You can see the effects; the tornados and flooding. It’s only going to get worse. We can’t go on doing what we’re doing. ‘ This is one step in reducing our environmental impact.

‘I’m fortunate to be able to afford a high-end sedan. I’m voting with my wallet. If enough people like me were willing to step up to the plate, it would have a tremendous effect.’

Which brings us to the incentives. I consider them unfair and ineffective. Preiner disagrees.

‘All other EVs currently available are quite limited in their range, and so will have a very limited market as a city car or second vehicle,’ he says. Additional incentives for them aren’t likely to influence sales.

The Model S is less limited in its range. ‘Although the segment of the market willing to spend $80,000 to $120,000 is relatively small, the segment at $60,000 to $80,000 is much greater,’ he notes. ‘Until a more affordable EV with real range becomes available, this is precisely the market that should be targeted with rebates.’

He thinks incentives, combined with the fuel and maintenance savings, might entice someone planning to spend $60,000 on a car to consider the cheapest Model S, with its 370-km range. This, in turn, could ‘get the attention of manufacturers’ and ‘benefit all consumers as more products become available and the charging infrastructure grows.’

In any case, Preiner is sold. He’s already registered for Tesla’s next product, the Model X SUV, to replace his wife’s Toyota Highlander in a couple of years.

‘I’m never going to buy another gasoline car,’ he says. ‘This is the future.’

wheels@thestar.ca

  • Tesla S owner will never buy a gas car again Subject: Gorrie photo - June 29 On 2013-06-21, at 10:01 AM, Peter Gorrie wrote: Photo for Gorrie Wheels column, June 29. John Preiner and his Tesla Model S. Shot by Peter Gorrie Preiner-ModelS.jpg

 

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