Much political hay has been made over Tesla’s extensive government loans; Mitt Romney went so far as to call the electric vehicle startup a "loser" because of production delays on the Model S sedan, which I had the opportunity to test drive this past summer. But make no mistake: This car is a big deal. And this week, Automobile Magazine named the Model S its 2013 Automobile of the Year. If you’re not familiar with the inner workings of the car world, know that this, too, is a big deal.
What does the magazine think is so great about the vehicle? Part of it is the 265-mile range--impressive for an electric car (even with the least expensive battery option, it still gets over three times the range of the electric Nissan Leaf). The Tesla supercharger network doesn’t hurt. Neither does the vehicle’s sleek interior design, which features an iPad-like 17-inch touch screen that controls almost everything in the car.
But in the end, it was the vehicle’s impressive performance that pushed it to victory. After I had my turn in the Model S, I concluded that it was the most fun car I’d ever driven. "It’s the performance that won us over," writes Automobile Editor-in-Chief Jean Jennings in the periodical’s article about the Model S. "The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses."
It’s hard to overstate how important it is that the Model S can compete with and even surpass the performance of its gasoline-powered counterparts. If electric vehicles are to be taken seriously, they need to match up in performance and range to traditional vehicles. No electric car can yet be recharged as fast as a regular car can get a tank full of gas, but Tesla’s fast charger network and big batteries are a start.
Now if only the automaker could come out with a vehicle that costs less than $58,570 for the cheapest model, it could truly revolutionize the automotive world.