By Sue Loudon
This year a major change occurred at 10111 State Line Rd on the Missouri side. The former Office Max store and large, mostly empty, parking lot is now full of cars –battery powered Tesla cars. In February, Tesla moved its showroom from the Plaza to south Kansas City where the location also includes a service center. Are these the cars of the future to solve the carbon emissions problem that contributes to climate change? And who is Tesla?
Tesla is named to honor Nikola Tesla,1856-1943, a Serbian electrical and mechanical engineer who came to the U.S and worked on alternating electrical current (at the same time as Edison). Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Aware that GM gave up on electric cars, the founders wanted a car manufacturer that was also a technology company, producing cars that ran on batteries, computer software and a proprietary motor.
Ian Wright, Elon Musk, and J. B. Straubel eventually joined the founders and raised funds. After a lawsuit settlement it was agreed that the five men could call themselves founders including Elon Musk, who runs the company today. It was Musk who wanted the carbon-fiber reinforced polymer body for the cars. The first car, called the Roadster, came out in 2006. In 2012, Tesla launched the Model S luxury sedan. In 2015 Model X was introduced as their first SUV.
Production of Tesla cars takes place in Fremont, California, in a rebuilt General Motors factory. They do not buy parts from suppliers, but produce their own. Nor do they sell to dealerships. Interestingly, Tesla also makes no money on repairs, unlike other auto dealers who make more money on repairs than sales.
The 2021 Tesla Model 3 is a four door sedan that you can drive for 353 miles before recharging. It has a speed up to 140 miles an hour. The lowest price for this model is $33,690. (There is a federal income tax credit if you order a Tesla before the end of 2020.) The price does not include the battery charger needed in your garage to recharge the engine for eight hours. Installation of this battery charger is an added expense and depends on the difficulty of installation. The price also does not include the delivery charge, which, in Kansas City, is four to seven weeks. Appointments are necessary for a test drive.
The Model 3 Tesla has a “trunk” in front and in back. There is plenty of room for luggage. The drive sits on the motor (battery). Instead of a control panel in front of the steering wheel, a computer screen sits to the right of the steering wheel. The computer screen is what the driver looks at to check the speed and control the heat or air conditioning. This computer also has all the information about when and where you need to stop to re-charge. If you are driving from Kansas City to St. Louis you will need to stop in Columbia, Missouri to recharge the motor. This takes about one-half hour. If another car is already there recharging, the computer shows you another location to re-charge. The brake pedal is more sensitive to touch than a gas-powered car. Otherwise, the ride of this car is very quiet and smooth. These sedans hold four people comfortably and depending on the size, three people could fit in the back seat. If you need more room, the SUV holds seven people.
Sales people do not hand out colorful brochures in order to “save trees.” Information can be found online. However, a test drive by this writer reveals a very different feel to driving a car, especially having to look over or down at a computer screen while driving!
According to a salesman, the south Kansas City dealership has hundreds of cars, mostly sold, and serves as a distribution center for half of Missouri and all of Kansas.