Test drivers charged by Tesla

By on August 29, 2015
Rebecca Gallagher, who owns the Historic Smithton Inn with her hus - band, Dave, is seen here with the charging staging at the inn’s park - ing lot. The station was provided free to the inn by Tesla, and can be used at no cost by Smithton guests.

Last Saturday afternoon I was sitting behind the wheel of a battery-driven Tesla Model S P85D, ready for a test drive. The car has 691 horsepower. It can go from 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds and cover a quarter mile from a standing start in about 11 seconds. It costs $105,000.

That’s a bit beyond affordable for part-time —and even most full-time — reporters, but I was on assignment. One of the most amazing things about the Tesla is that, given its hefty price tag and a modest 250-mile range on a fully-charged battery, it sells.

I met up with the car and a Tesla rep at the Historic Smithton Inn, the stately bed-and-breakfast at the corner of Main Street and Academy Drive in Ephrata. The Smithton is in a 250-year-old stone house. In the 1700s, it provided lodging for travelers and hay for their horses. Lodging is still a feature, but instead of hay, the B&B today offers a charging station for Teslas and other electric vehicles.

My for-the-moment P85D — “P” stands for “performance,” “D” for “dual” — was charged up and ready to hit the road, me at the wheel, the Tesla rep in the passenger seat. We pulled out of the Smithton’s parking lot. This is a quiet, quiet car, with dual electric motors, 221 horse power delivered to the front axle, 470 to the rear. The electric motors mean there are no internal combustion noises. Meticulous manufacturing means no squeaks and rattles. From the outside, you can hear the car’s air conditioner, but from the inside, not a whisper.

Tesla  Model  S  P85D

Tesla Model S P85D

A touch of the accelerator pedal and we turned right onto Academy Drive, right onto Hammon Avenue and right again onto Meadow Valley Road, the longest stretch of our short test drive. Part of the test-ride deal was that the Tesla representative had to be anonymous. No name, no pictures, no quotes. There’s a curve on Meadow Valley with a 25 mph sign. “I wonder if I could take this 25 mile-an hour curve at 45,” I said.

“Maybe,” said the anonymous Tesla rep.

It cornered like a slot car.

“Thirty might have been better,” said the young man from Tesla. He’s a part-time company man and a full-time student at Villanova. It’s apparent he’s getting some real-life lessons in restraint and diplomacy while dealing with middle-aged — and older — boys at the helms of 691-hp automotive rockets.

In no time at all, we were back at the Smithton, being greeted by the ever-smiling Rebecca Gallagher who, with her husband Dave, has owned the inn since 2009. The Gallaghers hosted this three-day Tesla affair partly to promote the fact that they have a charging station for electric cars — not just Teslas — in their parking lot, and partly because it seemed like a fun and environmentally friendly thing to do.

The Smithton is part of a growing network of Tesla-provided charging stations around the country. As the company works to improve the range of its rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, it will continue to expand the number of charging stations available to customers who may feel constrained by the 250-mile range.

Many of these stations can be used at no cost. The one at the Smithton is free for the use of the inn’s customers.

Some 60 motorists reserved spots for the Smithton’s test drive event, originally planned for just Friday and Saturday, but expanded to Sunday because of the level of interest.

I observed a few of the drivers as they entered smiling into their assigned Teslas. I saw them when they came back, too. They were smiling even more broadly.

No word yet on whether any of them became owners.



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