Test Drive: Tesla Roadster

By Sean Carroll | August 21, 2009 11:10 am

Here at Discover Media LLC, we are dedicated to bringing you news of the cutting-edge technology that will change your life. So we dispatched our Cosmic Variance automotive editor (me) to test-drive the car of the future: the all-electric Tesla Roadster. (No real secret actually; I have a friend who owns the car.) Thus, yesterday’s picture.

Fancy titles notwithstanding, I’m by no means a true car nut, so I can’t offer the insider perspective of a real expert. My take is that of an ordinary person who just had a chance to drive an exotic car through the hills north of San Francisco. After considering the experience carefully, my considered judgment could be expressed as follows: pretty frikkin’ awesome.

tesla-roadster.jpg Let’s get some basics out of the way: the Tesla, with a body based on the Lotus Elise, is a tiny car — a two-seater with a trunk that can at best be described as decorative. And it’s low to the ground; climbing inside is a bit of a process for the uninitiated. Inside, the electronics are all state-of-the-art (as one might expect), but the Roadster is not a cushy luxury car. It’s not uncomfortable, but you’re not being coddled by piles of plush leather. Removing the convertible soft top is a matter of unsnapping and stowing by hand; takes just a few seconds, but we’re not talking about a top-of-the-line Mercedes where there are separate buttons to stow the top, clean your sunglasses, and freshen your martini. The Tesla experience is about the driving; fripperies are for future incarnations.

So you sit down, turn the key to start the engine, and: nothing. That’s to be expected, and should be familiar to anyone who has driven a Prius or other hybrid. The electric motor doesn’t need to be turning when the car isn’t moving, so turning the vehicle on just means some lights come on. Spooky at first, but you get used to it.

Actually pulling out into the road and driving is a different story. There are basically three things that distinguish the Tesla driving experience from that of your typical Ford Taurus or what have you. First, as you may have heard, the Tesla doesn’t believe in a little thing called a “transmission.” Technically, there is a transmission, but really it’s just a reduction mechanism that translates a certain number of motor revolutions to a certain fixed number of tire revolutions — there are no gears, so there is no shifting, manual or otherwise. The original plans called for a two-speed transmission, but it proved unreliable, so they said screw it, let’s just have one gear. As a result, the rate at which the motor is turning is directly proportional to the rate at which your car is moving. That includes reverse; when you’re backing up, the motor is spinning in the opposite sense from when you’re moving forward. In a conventional car with an automatic transmission, there can be a bit of a delay between when you push down on the accelerator and when you actually accelerate, as the car tries to decide what gear it should be in. No such hesitation in the Tesla.

The second thing, which you may not have heard, is that there is no power steering. I don’t know whether that was a matter of cutting down on weight, or whether it was just thought that power steering wouldn’t be keeping it real. But despite its diminutive profile, the Tesla is not a light car, coming in at about 2,700 pounds — a third of that in the form of batteries. (The Elise, in comparison, is only about 2,000 pounds; but a Mazda Miata comes in at 2,500 pounds and a BMW Z4 at 3,200 pounds, so the Tesla isn’t unreasonable.) To those of us who have gotten used to having the car practically steer for us, the Tesla is a bit of an adjustment. But the adjustment happens quickly, and it’s very much in keeping with the sporty nature of the car — you’re here for performance, not coddling.

The single gear and the lack of power steering combine to create an effect I hadn’t really anticipated before the drive: a visceral connection between the driver and the ground. It’s hard to imagine a driving experience that is on the one hand that fast, and on the other hand features so little mediation between what you do at the controls and how the car responds. The engine turns, and the car zips along, at precisely the speed you tell it to, no more, no less; and the wheels turn at an angle precisely proportional to the attitude of the steering wheel in your hands. You are in control.

And — to come to the third crucial distinguishing feature — you’re in control of a lot. This puppy is fast. By which I do not mean, as physics training might lead you to suspect, that it travels at a high velocity. In fact the car is electronically regulated so that its maximum speed is 125 miles per hour (and I didn’t approach the limit, don’t worry). That’s fine, because despite the emphasis on sportiness, this is a car that is meant to be driven on actual roads with actual traffic laws. But because state legislatures aren’t required to pass any calculus exams, our rules of the road feature speed limits, but not acceleration limits. And it’s really acceleration that gives a car a feeling of being “fast”; when you push down on the accelerator, how quickly do you speed up?

In the Tesla, the answer is: as quickly as you could possibly want to accelerate outside a racetrack. The technical numbers tell us that the Roadster goes from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. (A Porsche Boxter does 0-60 in about 5 seconds.) All I can say is, it’s incredibly, breathtakingly fast. Punch it, it’s gone. Only after driving this car did it occur to me that maybe there should be acceleration limits written into the traffic laws; being able to accelerate faster than this strikes me as very plausibly dangerous. Once you adjust to the parameters of the vehicle, the combination of the incredible power and the unmediated response to your actions yields a driving experience that is pretty darn breathtaking.

There are a couple of other idiosyncrasies to remind you that this is not your father’s Oldsmobile. Although the Tesla is utterly silent while standing still, it definitely does make noise while moving. Not very much noise, but what comes to mind is less a Ferrari and more a muffled jet engine. I presume this is because the engine is turning notably faster (perhaps 7,000 RPM at highway speeds, I didn’t check carefully) than in an ordinary car. The other thing is the regenerative powertrain. When you take your foot off the accelerator, the car slows down perceptibly — it’s taking some of your kinetic energy and using it to recharge the batteries. So you don’t need to put on the brakes while going downhill. (Sadi Carnot would have something to say about this, but don’t worry — you’re still creating some entropy, just achieving something closer to theoretically maximal efficiency.)

In other words: the Tesla Roadster is an extremely fun car. But is it practical?

Well, it’s not practical for most of us to actually buy — the sticker price is on the order of $120,000. And you’re not going to take four kids and a dog to the soccer game. Nor are you going to take a road trip across the country; under ordinary driving conditions, the Tesla gets about 200 miles between charges.

But all that is okay. The vast majority of driving is not done on long hauls or with a car packed full of people; it’s done by a single person on relatively short jaunts. For those purposes — commuting to work, running errands, going to meet friends — something like the Roadster is just about perfect. There’s no reason to lug around two tons of car with room for six when there’s only a driver inside. Very few people would want a Tesla as their only car, but if they had two cars, it would be the one they were driving most of the time. And if you can afford to buy the thing in the first place, you can afford another car.

More importantly, in its current incarnation the Tesla is not about practicality; it’s a proof of concept. Electric cars have long suffered under the image of being under-powered and super-short range, needing to return home every 50 miles for a lengthy recharge. The Tesla blows those stereotypes out of the water, and that was the idea. Here is a car that is environmentally conscious, but is no sacrifice once you’re behind the wheel. It proves that an electric car can have a decent range and be easily recharged. And let’s face it — it’s hot.

Not that it is quite plug-and-play. The Tesla is powered by an array of about 7,000 lithium-ion batteries, not too different from what you have in your laptop computer (but with special care taken to ensure long life, no overheating, and no explosions). You could, in principle, plug the recharger into an ordinary 110 volt outlet already in your home; problem is, a complete recharge would take about 30 hours. (If you’re only driving about 30 miles a day, you wouldn’t need anywhere near a complete recharge.) If you’ve gone this far, however, you probably want to install a 220-volt receptacle; most homes are already wired for the increased voltage, but you have to spend a hundred bucks to install the appropriate unit. Now the car can be fully recharged in about 3 1/2 hours. In other words: come home, plug it in overnight, drive away the next morning.

Of course, even if we all were driving Teslas, the world would not suddenly transform into a green utopia. That electricity has to come from somewhere, and right now it mostly comes from burning dirty fossil fuels like coal. I’ve read that, under the current setup, driving a mile in a Tesla is just a little bit better in terms of total carbon emissions than driving in an ordinary car; you’re using less energy, but it’s coming from a dirtier source.

The system is going to have to change. We can’t keep burning petroleum in our individual cars, nor can we keep burning coal to get our electricity. The point is that it’s fairly easy to see how to get electricity form sources other than coal — we’ll need a portfolio of nuclear, solar, wind, etc. But the cars are going to have to go electric, there’s little question about that. (Believe Steve Chu if you don’t believe me.) A major challenge is going to be upgrading the electrical-power transmission grid; T. Boone Pickens recently had to abandon an ambitious plan to build a giant wind farm in Texas, after he realized that he didn’t have the resources to carry the power to the people who actually wanted to use it. But doing that upgrade is not optional, and it’s a matter of willpower rather than technological breakthrough.

Tesla obviously isn’t the only company that’s caught on to the promise of electric cars, although the Roadster currently blows away the competition in terms of speed, acceleration, and range. The much-hyped Chevy Volt from GM is actually a plug-in hybrid, which includes an internal combustion engine to help the electric motor along when you want to go fast or far. That may be the wave of the near future, but I suspect that 100% electric is the medium-term solution. (Until we all have personal jetpacks, or the Singularity arrives.)

tesla_model_s_official_new-thumb.jpg Still, it would be nice to have a car more people could afford, and which could hold a couple of friends and/or offspring as well as the driver and a single lucky passenger. Behold: the Tesla Model S. Scheduled for first delivery in late 2011, this will be a true four-dour sedan, with a range of up to 300 miles. Still not cheap; estimated cost is around $60,000. But that’s completely competitive with executive-class sedans from Mercedes, BMW, or Audi. The Model S won’t put an electric car in everyone’s garage, but it will help “normalize” the idea of owning one — you’ll start seeing them on the streets in increasing numbers. And after that, there are hopes to offer another model for less than $30,000. Still not cheap, but getting there.

The future belongs to electricity. The good news is, it’s a pretty sexy future.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
  • JoAnne

    I’ve been following the progress of this car for a couple years now and all I can say is: I want one, I want one, I want one! Perhaps I should start playing the lottery.

  • Sili

    My apologies for assuming this was one of those gizmos that gobble up dirty fossil fuels directly.

    More nuclear tout de suite, s’il vous plaît. The nice Pu-234 will be an added benefit.

  • http://whenindoubtdo.blogspot.com Eugene

    I want one!

  • Jeff

    Concerning the “visceral connection between the driver and the ground”: you’re not old enough (not an insult)….my first car was a Camero with column shift and power steering wasn’t even a gleam in an engineer’s eye. I have no problem imagining that “connection”…indeed, I miss it !!

  • John R Ramsden

    When these cars become widely available. one question will be what drive tone to choose.

    Sounds daft, but electric cars will be so quiet that their owners will be obliged to make them artificially noisier. So it seems likely there will be a choice of engine sounds just like mobile phone ring tones.

    I think a throaty roar would be too boring and predictable (and maybe *louder* than the permitted range). So I’d probably go for a horse and cart “clippety clop” tone ;-)

  • steve

    An interesting car – I drove my friend’s about a year ago for about an hour. I have some seat time in an Elise and, in comparison, this is a relative pig when it comes to handling. Way below Boxsters and M3s.

    A very good first start but some way to go before it approaches what a sports car should be. Of course that isn’t the point. They wanted a sporty enough car with good acceleration (it has that) to go after the Bay Area rich guy market.

    I’m very curious to see what the S is like as a more practical family car.

  • http://blog.denniswilliamson.us Dennis

    Your favorite legislator may not care about acceleration, but your favorite member of the constabulary, student of calculus or not, will likely ticket you for some related offense – “racing” or some such – regardless of whether you’ve exceeded the speed limit.

  • Andrew

    The car sounds incredible!

    I have been discussing some issues revolving around global warming with a friend of mine who is in the business school at MIT. He is very environmentally conscientious and believes that global warming is in fact occurring, however relatively recently Professor Lindzen at MIT released some data showing that CO2 emissions are not a cause of global warming because it radiates most of its energy back into space and this has caused my friend to become suspicious (mostly because of the prestigious nature of a professor at his school). Does anyone know of a good link to some physics/geology/meteorology articles that directly dispute Lindzen’s claims or maybe a really good article that I can point to that would be influential in persuading a skeptic that global warming is real and something that should be a major concern for us all? I have read several articles in Nature and Science that were very good at convincing me but I am a scientist myself and those articles aren’t exactly easy browsing for the non-scientific minded.

  • John R Ramsden

    @Andrew [8]

    Try a search on:

    conservative string theorist “global warming”

    For reasons that I won’t expand on, that’s as far as it’s prudent to go here ;-)

  • Neal J. King

    8, Andrew:

    A good site that reviews & refutes the “skeptical” arguments against the actuality of global warming:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    A useful video on the physics of climate change by a climate modeler at NASA, Gavin Schmidt:
    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/schmidt09/schmidt09_index.html

    More on climate models, by Gavin Schmidt:
    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/schmidt_04/

    My own modest contribution: a review of some relevant textbooks:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0497116/board/thread/64426867?d=64426867#64426867

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Fun read! In all honesty, the best review of the TR I’ve read to date.

    I’m a Prius owner, and have pondered a few things myself about transmissions and whatnot. The Hybrid Synergy Drive sounds like a very complex beast, the complexity stemming directly from the need to combine torque from a power plant that needs a transmission, and one for which, alone, a transmission would make no sense. Maybe the HSD’s power distribution system is to blame, but I’ve no technically sound explanation for my biggest Prius pet peeve: The very noticeable delay in acceleration from a standstill when you hit the gas. Why the interminable “Huh? Oh, you want to move now?” when you stomp on it? If you’re not moving in a Prius, the gas engine is likely off. The electric motor could do it all. Why doesn’t it just GO like the Roadster?

    Anyway, sounds like a very cool ride, and I look forward my own all-electric…once they’ve reduced the price a little. Like about 75%. Should happen any day now!

    Again, nice piece!

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    The more powerful commercially available street-legal motocycles will do 0-60 in about 2.5 seconds, so the accelleration of the Tesla is not exceptional by those standards. Heck, my grad school ride (a 1987 CBR600F) did 0-60 in 3.9.

    f=ma, so if m=202kg plus rider instead of 1200 kg+ driver, there is plenty of room for more a with less f.

    If your main purpose is to transport one or two people and minimal stuff around town, four wheels is two too many.

  • http://www.iwanttobuyanelectriccar.com Sean M.

    Here’s what a science guy says about gasoline vehicle pollution versus coal-produced electricity pollution: http://bit.ly/9rGKY

  • Otis

    Does the Tesla have air conditioning? In Texas (where I live) car air conditioners are used at least 9 months of the year. The AC must be running, even when sitting in traffic. It is difficult for me to believe that a battery powered vehicle could deal with the Texas heat. I remain unconvinced of the practicality of cars like the Tesla, especially if they are larger, requiring more power for the AC.

  • Jason

    My wife and I live in RI and we put our $5,000 to get a Model S. We are number 421 off the production line. Translation: (I think) we are the 3421st person to get a car. We get the argument about using the dirty fossil fuels to power the car all the time, but in RI there is an electricity option to “green up.” This means we pay 2.4 cents more per Kw hour, and the electric company will source our electricity use from renewable sources. The green up program includes electricity from wind, solar, hydro and methane digester from landfills. We have been on this program for years. This is just a heads up that these options are out there.

  • Jdhuey

    I heard on an NPR report that Tesla actually made a profit last year!! This is an astounding achievement for this type of company that is that young, but it is even more astounding given the overall economic environment.

  • Oded

    This car sounds awesome, and I would love for more cars to be eco friendly like this.
    To me the whole idea of cars seems so insane – I am a 70kg being, and here I am lugging around with me TWO THOUSAND kg just to get from place to place, which is also about 50 times my volume. It just seems so insane and inefficient.

    But I have a question about electric cars – will there be a peak-lithium? Is Lithium-ion a finite resource? I am honestly asking, I can’t find the answer easily…

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Oded,
    USGS lithium fact sheet is here:
    http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/lithium/mcs-2009-lithi.pdf

    (repost with fewer links to bypass spam filter)

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    However, this does not include the orders-of-magnitude larger amounts of Li in seawater, the extraction of which is not currently economic.
    Japan and Korea are pursuing Li extraction anyway, presumably for national security reasons.
    (link removed)

  • Oded

    Wow, that doesn’t look very optimistic – total reserves of 13mil tons – at 1 ton of lithium a car, that’s not even enough to fill Israel with electric cars!

    Am I being overly pessimistic? Is the large amount of Li in seawater that you mentioned really feasible? Because batteries are expensive enough right now…

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    According to the internet:

    “230 billion tons of lithium in seawater is an immense source, though the lithium concentration in the seawater is quite dilute (0.1-0.2 ppm). Japan and South Korea are leading countries to develop the technique about lithium recovery from seawater recently.”

    Add the usual internet prefix to:
    ioes.saga-u.ac.jp/ioes-study/li/recovery/seawater.html

    Warning to physicists: Chemistry in above link!

  • http://scienceontap.blogspot.com ARJ

    Is Tesla participating in the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ program!??? ;-)

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Also, it is worth pointing out that 1 ton of lithium-ion batteries contains a lot less than 1 ton of lithium, as most of the mass is anode, cathode, and electrolyte.

  • OBM

    Two concerns:
    1) When I remove investigate the battery pack of my Nokia phone, it says “Cell produced in Korea, further processed in China” Since Korea has no big mining facilities for lithium, the raw material comes from somewhere (most probably Chile). That is a lot of turning around the globe. Additionally, since Lithium itself is neither environment friendly, nor easy&safe to process (good summary at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium) combined with the fact that they are good only for a couple of years, just how environment friendly do you think these whole business of electric cars are?

    2) Since they are cutting down weight, are they insulating the motors adequately? What is the strength/Frequency of the EM radiation leaking from those large motors?

  • Koray

    This review is pretty much identical to the one they had at BBC’s Top Gear. As they are real car nuts, they also commented on the car’s handling (they also drove a Lotus Elise on the same track, etc.)

    Actually there’s not much wrong with high acceleration under the speed limit; whether or not you’re cruising at 50mph or accelerating from 20mph to 50mph pretty much the same sort of bad things may happen. A lot of people can handle +1G acceleration (22mph per second) on a straight line just fine.

    The worst things happen when you need to decelerate heavily and the speed limits are there mostly to control that. Not a lot of people can handle -1G, even on a straight line, and when it’s needed it’s usually not on a straight line, either.

  • Andrew S

    “I’ve read that, under the current setup, driving a mile in a Tesla is just a little bit better in terms of total carbon emissions than driving in an ordinary car; you’re using less energy, but it’s coming from a dirtier source.”

    I think there’s some confusion in this sentence. Based on using oil-fired electric generation, the Tesla gets an equivalent of 100-150 mpg. In this case things are cleaner because the power plants have more sophisticated cleaning than individual gas cars. However, based on charging at night, one marginal Tesla, in most markets, will result in ZERO additional electricity being used; there’s generally much excess capacity at night.

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    California has F-all oil-powered electricity. It is mostly UT/AZ/NM coal, with a significant minority of local nuclear and OR/WA/ID hydro.

    Coal has a much higher C/H ratio than oil, so more carbon is burned to release equivalent energy.

    Getting back to cosmology, though, a question for the physicists:

    What proportion of Earth’s Li is from the Big Bang, as opposed to being produced in SN spallation?

  • http://www.metcaffeination.net thm

    The United States uses something like 380,000,000 gallons of gasoline per day, along with comparable magnitudes of diesel and jet fuel. So the next logical back-of-the-envelope question is: what sort of solar/wind/nuclear infrastructure will be needed if our gasoline replacement is not going to be coal? And a more serious question: while the Tesla demonstrates that electric cars (and their fueling infrastructure) are ready to pass from the proof-of-concept phase, electric rail is a solved problem and one which doesn’t depend on battery technology. So how do the energy savings that could be realized by shifting both freight and passenger travel to electrified rail compare with the potential of electric cars?

  • Manish

    I always wondered how green our world would be once every car in the world starts to dump the batteries?

  • PI

    Andrew (#8):

    You’re not going to find any published critique of Lindzen’s new paper because his paper isn’t even in print yet (just in press). There have been a few early blog reactions to it, e.g.:

    http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/lindzen-on-climate-feedback/
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/08/quick-comment-on-lindzen-and-choi.html

    As for believing Lindzen just because he’s from MIT, there are many climate scientists at prestigious institutions who come to opposite conclusions. For example, you might point out to your friend that there are plenty of other smart researchers also at MIT who disagree with his estimate of climate sensitivity, e.g. this paper (with, by my count, 12 authors affiliated with MIT):

    http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F2009JCLI2863.1

    You can also search Google Scholar for the published rebuttals of his earlier version of this claim (the “infrared iris”). Not to mention his publication list full of angry rants against the global warming “myth” which, some might say, raise doubts about his impartiality.

  • Pingback: Pickens Plan Media Coverage 8.22.09-8.24.09 | Sustainability In Business

  • Brian

    @Oded (#20),

    Discover did an article recently that covered this:

    http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jul-aug/17-secret-sauce-of-hi-tech-obscure-metals/?searchterm=rare earths

    What I got out of it is that there’s lots of capacity, at least for the moment. However nothing is infinite and if electric cars really take off, well, the car market is pretty big. A giant new market for Lithium batteries could make the supply/demand situation look different in a few years.

    Here’s my question, from a northern perspective. We have long cold winters where I live. Batteries take a big hit in performance when it’s cold. Some people use so-called battery blankets to help with cold weather starting (although these are far less popular than block heaters, for reasons that are unclear to me). An electric car, that would seem to be courting trouble in such an environment, no?

    Just how practical are these electrical vehicles in a place where it’s cold 5 months of the year?

  • Thanny

    Electric cars are not the only future. There simply has to be a way to refuel a car in a matter of a couple minutes. The only way to get this kind of refueling time for electric cars would be to make the batteries swappable. This would require that all electric vehicles use exactly the same battery module, and that refueling stations be quite large to house all the spare charged batteries.

    Fuels should be treated as an energy transport mechanism, not an energy source. All energy on this planet comes from the sun (save the contribution of radioactive decay to geothermal energy). Fossil fuels represent billions of years of trapped solar energy. That energy should remain trapped.

    That does not mean internal combustion engines need to go away. Existing engines can already burn alcohol, in varying percentages. New engines should burn 100% alcohol, which can be either ethanol or methanol. Both can take advantage of the existing liquid fuel infrastructure.

    Ethanol can be manufactured from plant matter. Most of the energy required comes from photosynthesis. Any additional energy can come from cleanly-generated electricity (which is ultimately solar, whether it’s wind, tidal, or whatever). All you need to do is use the right plants (i.e. not corn), that don’t require fossil-fuel based fertilizers.

    Methanol can be manufactured by running a fuel cell backwards. You need a supply of clean electricity to produce hydrogen from water and to power the cell. Carbon dioxide is also required, which comes from the air (and released when the methanol is burned – it’s completely carbon neutral). There are also some promising means of producing hydrogen biologically.

    Hydrogen itself can also be used as an energy transport mechanism, but it would require a new infrastructure, unlike alcohols.

    Electricity is just too hard to store compactly. It should be used as a means of generating more portable fuels, not a fuel itself, for applications like long-range vehicles.

  • boreds

    I would kind of agree with Thanny above, that electric cars are not the only future.

    The basic problem I think we’re all talking about is how to convert and store solar energy in a way that’s suitable for personal transport. And oil is just a great and stable way to store solar energy, which is why nature has evolved that mechanism. Respect the evolutionz.

    I expect biodiesel to become a viable alternative, and one which will have a relatively low impact on food prices. And it’s also a case where the technology increase is at the point of fuel production, rather than at the point where a consumer buys a new car. I think this will be hugely important in marketing renewable personal transport outside the US, where it really could take a LONG time for people to afford a Tesla, but where it will be relatively easy for people to run their W123s on Bio.

    But hey, yay for multiple technologies.

  • Thomas

    Why do we always go on about driving long journeys?

    Look to the Chunnel, the train designed to transport cars & their passengers under the British Channel to the continent. Surely this is the way forward for long journeys: Drive your electric car to the nearest cheap electric train heading in the right direction, then let the train do the work. When you near your destination, be it a business meeting or Auntie Flo’s, drive off the train & to your destination. This then solves the problem of not being able to drive over 300 miles in a single go. Who knows, perhaps you could also pop a little charge into the car at the same time?

    Plus don’t forget a high-speed train – think of the French tgv, introduced a couple of years ago in North America – can travel at well over 100mph for extended periods, whereas a driver in a car has to slow down frequently and stop. Trans-America at very high speeds, quite legally…

    Makes sense to me. Any thoughts?

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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