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Cover Image of A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance Portrait of an Age by William Manchester published by Little Brown & Co (Pap)
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My Brush With Arnold: How I learned to Love the Tesla

abstract:Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades I pass Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Hummer. Well, he wasn’t the California governor at that specific point in time. He was just a movie celebrity slash retired body builder and husband to broadcaster Maria Shriver, on his way home from the studio. My kids were in the car and as we passed “the Terminator” casually smoking a stogy while driving in the slow lane, the site was just too much for them. Squiggling in their seat belts trying to attract his attention from the back of the car, Arnold sees that I am attempting to negotiate traffic and deal with their minor commotion. For one brief moment his eyes lock with mine across the lanes as I pull alongside him, and he breaks into his characteristic wide, broken-tooth grin and nods to me. Then he gives my kids "the terminator good-bye wave” the one that his character makes while sinking into the molten goo at the end of the titular movie, and my kids go wild and cheer and wave. I accelerate ahead into traffic. Read on to see where this leads to The Tesla and the current state-of-the-art in electric motor cars.


April 01, 2009
— I’ve since moved away from California, and can’t vouch for what Arnie is driving these days, but I doubt it’s a HumV. Like everyone else on the planet that is paying attention to climate change and attempting to reign-in their carbon footprint, I’ve begun to price electric and hybrid car options.

Following on the related celebrity theme, a few weeks ago our community hosted enviro-activist and cousin of Arnold and Maria, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Aside from a rather weird handshake he gave me at the end of his talk, which I won’t remark on further, I will remark on his involvement in a company called Better Place that is supplying electric cars to the entire population of Israel. It’s a two-year deal that will see every gasoline-consuming car replaced by electric cars. “This is a collaboration between Renault and Nissan where the cars are almost being given away for free,” says Kennedy, "because it’s the batteries that are of value, ($20K) and these will remain the property of the company." Instead of gas stations, electric car owners will pull into service stations that will switch-out the used battery for a fully charged one, and then they’re good to go for another 180 miles. The next country on the list after Israel to make a complete electric conversion of their gasoline fuelled autos is Denmark. They estimate it will be three-year project for Denmark at current production rates. After that, Australia and Canada are lined up. The implications of this are obvious.

So looking at developments here in North America, where in under two years the entire fleet of New York cabs was switched over to operate hybrids via a combination of tax incentives and licence requirements, we now see governments and municipalities taking the necessary steps to effect change in the transportation sector – and these influences along with “green-minded” celebrities – yup Arnold drives an electric car, and other first adopters are beginning to make a difference.

Enter The Tesla

Some years ago I saw an article about a Silicon Valley start-up that was tackling the electric car industry from the luxury coup sector. The TESLA is a hot looking sports car with remarkable style and acceleration characteristics that would make even the most die-hard gas-guzzling roadster punks take a second glance. It's named after NicolaTesla, the eccentric Serbian born inventor of the theory of alternating current. The Tesla auto goes from zero to 60 in 3.8 seconds - faster than any Porsche or Ferrari with the exception of the Enzo, it gets up to 14,000 rpm's redline, it ranges 244 miles per charge, and it costs half of what it costs to run a Prius. The owner of the company is PayPal billionaire Elon Musk (watch the youtube video) who says, "The great thing about owning an Tesla is you get to have the moral highground and still leave the Ferrari guy in the dust." However the Tesla roadster ticket price is not for the faint-of-pocket book. At a whopping $110K USD it’s clear it will not be leading the popular green revolution. But heck, it’s the car of choice for Google Inc co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who coincidentally pay parking fees of $1m/yr for each of their four jets parked at Moffat Field airport, so who’s fooling who?

And For The Masses...

However, today the same TESLA Company has announced their version of the people’s car – the Tesla Model S four-door sedan is priced at a competitive $49K with a $7.5K rebate from the government. (The car is equitable to a Ford Taurus at $30K at current market $4 fuel costs.) And yes, that’s the electric car that Arnold is currently driving. Er the roadster, not the sedan, I assume! Some consistencies need to be adhered to even for a movie star-come-eco-responsible politician. End result? My now jaded kids still approve of the Terminator!



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