A Passionate Love Affair: Tesla Model S Owners and Their Cars

By · January 24, 2013

John Hennessey with his Tesla Model S

John M. Hennessey with his much-loved Tesla Model S Signature Performance model.

The Tesla Model S has been on the market long enough for buyers to get an owner’s impression of it. And to say they like their cars is, well, an understatement.

Ken Edwards, a real estate broker with a suburban practice, told me, “There are no words to describe my feelings for this car, my Tesla Roadster, or the company. ‘Like’ would be the understatement of the year.” In buying the car, he said, “I realized a dream.”

Several of the owners profiled here live near me in Connecticut (who says that EVs sell only in California?), and they’re plugging into the just-opened East Coast Supercharger network, which currently has stops in Milford, Connecticut and Wilmington, Delaware. Edwards told me he plugged into the plain white chargers (located near the rest stop entrance) even before they were officially opened in late December.

According to Edwards, “I charged quickly to 200 miles of range in about 35 minutes and then stopped, since I had more than enough miles to get home and it was getting late.”

Appreciates the Tech

John Hennessey is a vice president at a company that distributes pro music equipment. He bought the top of the line Signature Performance model, opting out only on the rear-facing auxiliary seats (his kids wouldn’t have enough headroom).

“The more I researched the car, the more it felt right,” Hennessey said. “I made my reservation without ever seeing the car in person. I have range anxiety about running out of battery on my cell phone, and charge it as often as possible, and even carry backup power. But with the Model S, unless I’m going to drive more than 200 miles, I don’t even think about it. So far, even on longer trips, I’ve come home with more than 70 miles of range left over.”

Hennessey and his family are planning a drive from Connecticut to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this summer, charging at the Supercharger locations and then an RV campground in Richmond, Virginia. “I have to be honest and say it feels like a stretch, but we view it as part of the adventure,” he said.

Hennessey, who has a 66-mile daily roundtrip commute, considered no other EV before buying his Model S. “What really attracted me to this car was the infotainment technology and performance,” he said. Makes sense for a guy who works with high-end audio equipment, doesn’t it?

And here’s proof that Elon Musk realized his own dream: Hennessey says he bought the Model S because “I believed it was the best car, not because I was necessarily looking to buy an electric car.” His other ride is a Lexus GS350 and, after driving it again recently, he found that “just the sound of the engine changing gears, and the delayed acceleration, felt distinctly inferior. And I used to think the GS was a quiet and quick car!”

A Total Convert

Peter Spirgel, a New Jersey-based lawyer at Flaster/Greenberg (which offers free curbside charging to its employees and clients), traded in a 2001 Mercedes S500 for a Model S Signature edition after some prodding from his 20-year-old son. “I had never heard of Tesla, but after reading about the Model S on the company’s website I was intrigued. I decided to go all in and reserve one of the first cars, realizing that I was betting more than I ever had on a new company and a new technology. We need more companies like Tesla in America.”

John Hennessey with his Tesla Model S

Peter R. Spirgel with his Tesla Model S--there's a plug at work.

Three months in, Sprigel (who’s been profiled in the Philadelphia Inquirer with his Model S) says he’s “had no issues whatsoever and I simply love the car. I don’t regret my decision and I’m rooting for Tesla and other electric carmakers to succeed. Every day I plug it in to a 220-volt outlet in my garage and each morning I leave for work with a full tank. The range—realistically, 275 miles—is more than enough to eliminate range anxiety on all but the longest trips.” Sprigel has taken the car to Washington, D.C.—170 miles each way—and arrived in the city with 80 miles left and plentiful options for charging.

She's Sold

Robin Tauck, who’s in the global travel business, also bought a Model S after owning a Roadster. (That car was flooded out in Hurricane Irene and then rebuilt by Tesla, but that’s another story.) “I couldn’t drive my car for the first three weeks because my foot was in a cast,” Tauck says. “It was like not getting a toy from Santa.”

Robin Tauck's Tesla Model S

Robin Tauck's Model S at a Connecticut electric car meeting. (Jim Motavalli photo)

Tauck admits she’s not “a car person,” but Tesla’s vehicles spoke to her. She was living in the San Francisco area in 2010 and visited the showroom in Menlo Park on a rainy day. “It didn’t take much,” she said. “They let me take a Roadster out for a ride, and I drove around the Stanford campus. It was very fast and handled beautifully.” Once she had a Roadster, adding a Model S to the fleet was an easy choice. She was the first buyer at Tesla’s new store in White Plains, New York.

“I’m not the biggest green person, though I’m intrigued by President Obama’s call for a million EVs by 2015,” Tauck said. “This car can handle Americans’ daily routines just fine. I’m always amazed to be surrounded by enormous SUVs with one person in them. What’s it cost to fill up a Lincoln Navigator [her husband’s car]? $100? That really adds up, and you can deduct it from the cost of the Model S, which I consider a good investment.”

Tauck is “thrilled” with the Model S’ LED displays and its “state-of-the-art” navigation system. “It’s like driving an iPad,” some observers have remarked. “And you also have Google at your fingertips,” she said. “I’m letting anyone over 16 drive my car—I really think the EV revolution will happen in their generation. It’s the people in their 50s and over who are nervous about it.”

That’s true, but it’s unlikely that 16-year-olds have the scratch to buy a Model S, especially after the price hike. For now, it’s the forward-thinking baby boomers who are giving them a big welcome.

New to EVs? Start here

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  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
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