From Automotive News Who knew? Electric cars are fun to drive Tesla test drive shows the appeal and some glitches GUIDO REINKING AUTOMOTIVE NEWS SEPTEMBER 29, 2008 - 12:01 AM ET A future in which we'll all be driving electric cars does not appeal to me very much. I don't have anything against using electrically powered public transportation. But electric cars? Aren't they bereft of any emotion, just another appliance? Anyone harboring such misconceptions should test drive a Tesla Roadster. The all-electric sports car, which is based on the Lotus Elise, boasts acceleration on a par with a Ferrari. Tesla says the Roadster's 248-hp electric motor propels it from 0 to 60 mph in less than four seconds. On a recent company-sponsored test drive in Munich, the car offered the heart-pounding ride of a street racer. Unfortunately, the test drive also illustrated the car's technical weaknesses. Good when it worked Of the three test cars offered at the Tesla presentation, one did not start. Another began emitting smoke from the lithium ion battery compartment in the rear. Although the range and performance of lithium ion batteries are superior to the range and performance of nickel-metal hydride and lead-acid ones, lithium ion batteries are complex, expensive and not without danger due to the energy they store. When the Tesla functioned, it functioned well. But as the glitches demonstrated, the electric car seems to me not suitable for volume production yet. In the future, major technological advances in the automobile will continue to come from large auto companies, not from small, high-tech firms in California. A job for the big guys Developing and building a car requires thousands of experts and huge investment. Creating a car is different from writing a new computer program or designing a mobile phone with a camera or an MP3 player. Suppliers such as Robert Bosch and Continental are investing hundreds of millions of euros to develop electric-drive systems built around lithium ion batteries. Next year, Mercedes-Benz will begin selling a hybrid S class powered by Continental's battery pack. That kind of vehicle will make up an interesting market niche in the next 20 years. The electric car is just one of many building blocks in the future of the auto industry, but it is one you can have fun with.