As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Going Electric

I'm tired of even thinking about the lunatic political leaders in this state, so I'm going to take a short break and focus on the innovators, those who have the ability to drag us out of recession and toward a new economic future.

For starters, Tesla Motors, which last year was thought to be in a fair bit of trouble, has come out of that and has begun to receive orders for their new $50,000 sedan model.

San Carlos, California-based Tesla Motors said it has received 711 reservations for its new Model S, an all-electric family sedan that carries up to seven people and can travel up to 300 miles per charge.

Tesla said reservations - which include a refundable $5,000 fee - started coming in after the car was formally unveiled on March 26. Mass production of the Model S is expected to begin in late 2011.

The company said the Model S will go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.6 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. Three battery pack choices will offer a range of 160, 230 or 300 miles per charge. The company has not released pricing options on the higher-mileage battery packs.

The anticipated base price of the Model S is $49,900, after a federal tax credit of $7,500.

One high-profile buyer is Governor Schwarzenegger himself, who will turn in the Tesla roadster he had previously purchased in exchange for the sedan. The goal of Tesla is to bring a model into the $35,000 and under market, essentially on par with a Lexus, within the next couple years, and with the federal tax credits and complete lack of gas costs, that would be an attractive option for a pretty broad section of the upper and upper-middle class. Tesla reminds me of the Wild West early days of the auto industry, when lots of small manufacturers competed for business and the competition drove innovation.

Outside of the auto realm, the California high speed rail Authority hopes for up to $4 billion in federal dollars to jump-start production.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved by Congress in February contains $8 billion to be doled out to states for development of high-speed rail service and passenger rail service among cities.

California wants half.

"As of now, we have close to $4 billion worth of things we can show can be done within the time limit" of the act, said Mehdi Morshed, executive director of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building a speedy rail line connecting Northern and Southern California through the Central Valley.

Morshed and other California boosters are trying to make the case with federal transportation officials that when it comes to high-speed rail in the United States, the Golden State is king.

"All factors considered, we are at the top," Morshed said. "We are the only ones with a real high-speed rail project. Everyone else is just improving their current (conventional) rail service."

While the $10 billion in bonds authorized by last November's Prop. 1A (the good one) have yet to be sold on the open market, federal stimulus dollars would really help get HSR off the ground. And such an investment would get some of the preliminary work out of the way and spur private investment, which would be looking toward a shorter lead time for their payoff. Our friends at the CA HSR blog, including some guy named Robert, have more. You can quibble with the strength of the SacBee article, but you cannot deny that the President has made high speed rail a priority and California's entity is clearly the furthest along, suggesting that we will be in line for a good portion of those stimulus dollars.

Despite political dysfunction, innovators will allow California to move to a new economy based on clean energy and efficiency. Hopefully the political leaders will follow, having failed to lead.

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