Burn Rubber, Not Gasoline

Wednesday, September 6

The makers of the Tesla Motors’ Roadster have built a vehicle, they tell the press, for people who like to drive. The Tesla is an all-electric car that zooms from 0 to 60 in about four seconds and gets the equivalent of 135mpg.

The American “car thing” speaks volumes about personality, as well as where-with-all. My mother adored the 12-cylinder E-type convertible Jaguar that she couldn’t afford; her father fancied a gull-wing Mercedes, and her mother lumbered a Rolls Royce to the supermarket (in a very small New England town, she made a splash and friends (not) to and fro). I was married – briefly – to a man who raced sports cars; sponsored by Mobil and Ford; he drove a Saturn, much to the disappointment of my friends looking for a wild ride. While I can appreciate the appeal of vroom-vroom and leather seats, I inherited neither the “car gene” nor the money to park stylin’ wheels in my driveway. I hear the Tesla goes for $80K or $100K, and people are plunking down deposits.

But it isn’t just the wealthy clamoring for this electric car. A homeowner in Colorado (who saved shekels to install a rooftop battery-backed photovoltaics system on her green-built home) is now saving up for an electric car. In customer surveys for Sun Electric Systems, she gushed over the Tesla Roadster.

The electric roadster prompted me to drive my Subaru wagon to Boulder last night to hear Joel Swisher of the Rocky Mountain Institute to speak about the “Smart Garage.” The “smart garage,” says Joel, integrates energy systems in a carbon-constrained world; it takes the on-board energy storage capacity of vehicles (aka, batteries) and uses it as distributed generation on the electric grid, reducing the need for coal-fired plants. Joel points out, we want not the kWh, but the services energy provides. As I see it, we want fast sports cars for the wealthy who can afford them now – and potential electric generators for the green market segment wishing and waiting for their chance to go vroom-vroom.

Other goings on this week:
Journalists must have been given the silent “OK” on global warming, as articles proliferate in the newspapers on energy efficiency and green building over the last few months. The word’s getting out. Taking direct action, however, are students. I bumped into Daniel McKinnon, a student at CU, in the halls of the University’s aerospace building where he, glued to a cell phone, was finalizing the kick-start of CU’s Campus Climate Challenge. Invited to participate in the September 7th event were Clean & Green (green tag marketers), Juice Bag from 3r Living (solar-powered backpacks), and the City of Boulder which has crafted a Climate Action Plan. Daniel spoke of home performance and energy audits, of selling carbon offsets on the exchange, of door-to-door outreach to students and outreach to landlords. He has lots and lots of student support and a wealth of marketing ideas. Keep up the good work, Daniel!

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