“I would give anything, literally anything, never to have to pump gas again,” I said, through chattering teeth, to my boyfriend of the moment as he rubbed my blue toes back to life beside the fire. Although, truthfully speaking, I referred to the obscene stuff as “petrol” because I was in the UK at the time. And I was freezing because I had just driven up the motorway from London to Bradford (about 300 miles) on a dark, cold January night. I thought I could make it on one tank, but I spluttered to a halt 30 miles outside of Bradford, about 400 yards from a gas station into which I had to push my Maxi (more on this little known gem of car in a moment) all by myself. My credit card was refused because I hadn’t paid the last minimum payment on it, and I had virtually no cash on me, so I had to dig around in my purse to find coins adding up to the minimum purchase. I was nineteen, I was a starving student, and this was in the days before everyone but your great grandmother had a mobile phone.
Last week I found out that my winging, all those years ago, was not in vain; the Future Tesla Gods were listening.
I’ve never cared much what my car has looked like as long as it gets me and my stuff from A to B. I remember moving house shortly after the Bradford boy dumped me. I moved from Lewisham, a charming (I’m being totally sarcastic) suburb in South East London to an elegant (still being sarcastic) apartment building in East Wandsworth. I did the move all by myself. It took me six Maxi loads, the last of which I completed at around 3am.
I have never been a fashion victim, and those who know me, and love me despite the fact, know that this goes for clothes and cars. My nearest and dearest have seen me through my first dirt-brown Maxi (in the UK), my canary-yellow Vauxhall Cavalier (again, UK), my cream Ford Contour (first car in the US), my ex-boyfriend’s “Autumn Gold” Toyota (Australia), three Maxis in three years that were all a more putrid shade of brown or orange than the last (back in the UK), and my Gold Saturn sedan (in the US) that I am currently trying to sell. Truth be told (again), I have never owned a car outside of the yellow/orange spectrum.
To date, the only car I have ever lusted after is the Prius, simply because of its amazing MPG (currently approaching 50, with the promise of 100 within the next year or so). I wish I could say it was simply for the great benefits to the environment, but with all that nickel mining, we’re in a big old grey area, and I have to confess, for me, it has a great deal to do with the reduced number of gas station visits.
So I’m not perfect but I do (maybe because I’m not perfect) try to reduce my carbon footprint as and when I can. On my 21st birthday (which was a frighteningly long time ago), my dad made a speech in which he called me the most environmentally friendly driver he’d ever known, because I could drive without gas or oil, alluding to both the Bradford incident and the time when I seized the engine in one of his precious Maxis because I hadn’t checked the oil in about a year and there was literally not a drop of oil in it.
Half way up another British motorway, on the way to my aunt’s house in Oxford, I heard a suspiciously loud banging noise coming from the engine. It got worse and worse until finally I had to accept that the car was losing power. I pulled over on the hard shoulder and, as luck would have it, a police car pulled over about two minutes after I’d come to a halt. The very nice policeman got out and asked if he could look at my engine. He asked me when I’d last put oil in it. Off my blank expression he asked me if the warning light for the oil had come on, helpfully indicating the location of the light on the dashboard, to which I replied,
“Oh, that. Well that’s been on for months, I think it’s faulty.”
My dad never charged me for the engine I seized, although he probably should have done, because I was at it again only a year later when I told a mechanic, who rescued me from the middle of a busy intersection after I ran out of gas, that the “fuel warning light hadn’t come on.” Apparently Maxis came equipped with “check oil” warning lights but no “low fuel” warning lights, which is all very confusing.
To really appreciate this whole story, I have to suggest Googling “British Austin Maxi” to get a visual. I think they stopped making them circa 1985. I’m not going to check; it chokes me up to look at one, because these cars are synonymous with my father, and I haven’t seen him in a while.
Before he retired, my father was a doctor. I guess he still is a doctor; you don’t just stop being a doctor because you retire, you just stop practicing. However, he didn’t just doctor people, he also doctored cars; and not just any old cars; Austin Maxi cars. With his doctoring skills, he would preserve working parts and amputate gangrenous limbs. For example, he would buy a Maxi with a good engine but totally rusted exterior, and transplant said good engine into a shiny sound-bodied Maxi (such as one he had let his eldest daughter drive) with a trashed engine. Seriously, if you haven’t yet, please pull up a new page and Google these cars, you need to see what they look like for maximum entertainment value. No wonder I never aspired to much in the looks department where cars are concerned, the bar had been set pretty low from the get go.
Which brings me to the moment, a few weeks ago, when I saw this fancy looking racecar at The Abbot Kinney festival, which is a street fair focused primarily on the latest environmentally friendly products. I couldn’t imagine what this metal contraption, this lovechild of the Porche Boxster and the Lotus Evora, was doing there. When I learnt that this was the Tesla Roadster, a fully electric performance car, I nearly choked on my tofu hotdog. I had to get the specs. Unlike the Prius, with its nickel battery and sometime consumption of gas, I was told that this car ran on lithium batteries (the exact same technology used by the computer industry so no extra developmental costs here) that were recharged by the same power source that runs my hairdryer. And that was all there was to it. If I owned this car there would be NO GAS STATION VISITS EVER AGAIN!! I booked a test drive.
You can go down to your local Tesla showroom or you can Google the company and get the facts, so I won’t regurgitate them here, but I will tell you that this drive changed my life. And not just because if I owned this car I WOULD NEVER HAVE TO VISIT A GAS STATION EVER AGAIN... unless it was to use the restroom... or to ask if I can plug in my car for a couple of hours. “Just think of it like a giant iphone, I swear it won’t blow your circuits!”
Driving the Tesla Roadster changed my life because it made me fall in love with speed, and power. Okay guys, now I get it, now I get what the fuss is about. When you have this machine under your control and you hit the gas (except that I’m hitting a switch here, not THE GAS!) and it shoots forward and you feel like you might take off any second and everyone on the road is staring at you because you just shot past them like a cannonball, it’s better than bungee jumping. It is an adrenalin rush like no other. The fact that my adrenalin fix doesn’t do much damage to the environment just makes it super sexy.
So I’m hooked. I’m putting my name down to take possession of a Roadster in September 2011. With all the add-ons, it will cost close to $200,000. I intend to pay for it all by myself.
I’ll order it in yellow of course.