The latest electronic gizmos — electric doughnut makers, electric corkscrews, you name it — are on the shelves this time of the year. Consumers find the plug-ins hard to resist, and Donald Cox of Lincoln is no exception.
However, the electric gadget that Cox eagerly awaits is among the largest: a 4,700-pound, all-electric, four-door, five-passenger sedan, the 2012 Tesla S. Just charge it and goooooo.
And like an electric appliance, the model S can be plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet, although the car maker recommends a 240-volt outlet, “a dryer plug,” found in most laundry rooms.
Cox's new California-made sedan, which he expects to be delivered to his front door Sunday, may be a first for Nebraska.
“I don't know of any other Model S's in the state,” said Cox, a native Nebraskan who retired from teaching at Stanford University before returning to the state this summer.
Of the 2.2 million vehicles registered with the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, just 44 are all-electric, said Betty Johnson, the agency's administrator. Chevrolet Volts, which have a small gas-powered motor, are not classified as electric vehicles.
“As of September 17, there were 13 Nissan Leafs, one Tesla Roadster registered in Fremont, a couple old conversions, a couple Smartcars and some three-wheelers. The number might have grown since then,” Johnson said.
In fact, it has grown. Cox, who now teaches electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, owns a 2008 all-electric Tesla Roadster that is registered with the state's DMV, he said.
“There's one other Roadster in the state that I know of — the owner drives to Fremont and back everyday,” he said.
Once Cox's Model S arrives, the number of Teslas licensed in the state will climb to three.
Over the years, Cox has played show-and-tell with his sleek, high-profile Roadster, turning the wheel over to hundreds of people.
“We let everyone drive it,” said Cox, whose experience with electric vehicles began when his son leased an EV1, General Motors' all-electric car, in the late 1990s. In 2003, GM pulled the leases and scrapped the cars — still a sore point for Cox and other electric vehicle proponents.
When Tesla began taking reservations for the Model S earlier this year, Cox put in his order for one with the largest battery, giving a range of 270 miles. “It probably won't get as much attention as the Roadster, but it holds five people,” Cox said. An optional rear jump seat for two children can increase the total capacity to seven.
The Tesla sedan, with a base price of $57,400, began rolling off the factory floor in Silicon Valley in June.
The automaker has been selling all-electric vehicles, albeit in limited numbers, since introducing its high-performance, high-ticket Roadster, which was priced at $100,000 and up, in 2008. The automaker has sold about 2,400 Roadsters, but they are no longer sold in North America, said Shanna Hendricks, a company spokeswoman.
“We entered the market with a high-priced, low-volume vehicle, a proof-of-concept car. Our next goal was to bring a mid-volume car, a sedan, to market,” Hendricks said.
The first S model rolled off the factory floor in Silicon Valley and promptly earned Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year award.
“We have taken reservations for 13,000 and have delivered 250 as of the end of September,” Hendricks said.
Like many electric vehicle enthusiasts, Cox likes the technology's zero-emissions profile, efficiency and the low cost of “filling” up.
A one- or two-hour recharging session costs about $1 and adds $18 a month to the the electric bill, compared with $187 for the average gas-powered sedan, said Anne McCollister, president and owner of Lincoln-based Electric Transportation Partners, which promotes clean energy technologies.
“Electricity is a transportation fuel whose infrastructure we already own,” McCollister said.
Cox, who was visiting Palo Alto, Calif., this week, may soon be able to drive there. Tesla plans to install a network of superchargers, with a goal of 100 stations by 2013, to allow Model S owners with the right hardware to take a cross-country trip.
Cox test drove the sedan and visited the Fremont, Calif., factory where the car is manufactured. He considers the company's engineering and manufacturing process sound. “We are very much looking forward to the sedan.”
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