Sunday, July 25, 2010


It was 1995, for the first time in my life, as a previledged student at Supélec in France, I had the opportunity to drive one of the very first EV (Electric Vehicle) designed by the French car manufacturer, Renault.

This rEVolution, at least in my dreamer's eyes, was the Clio Electrique and it looked like that:

 Beautiful...  Isn't it?

As far as key characteristics, check this out:

MotorAsea Brown Boveri Separately Excited DC
21 kW 2100 U/min
ControllerABB BA 20
Batteries19 Saft STM - 100, 6.00 Volt, Nickel-Cadmium, Flooded
System Voltage114 Volts
HeaterVolvo ( Ardic ) Benzin Standheizung
Top Speed60 MPH (96 KPH)
Range45 Miles (72 Kilometers)

If you want to learn more about this disruptive product at that time, go there.

And, yes, you read that right: top speed of 60 MPH and amazing range of 45 Miles.  Just enough to go buy a few fresh eggs at the open-air market in the next town and come back home, then you needed three days to reload the battery!

Well, innovation doesn't happen overnight and I was so thrilled about this first EV driving experience that I have kept on dreaming about owning an EV since then.

The BP oil spill this year, the swings in oil prices, the increase in clean tech investments, and many other economic realities such as the poor performance of traditional car makers have begun to gradually shift consumers' attention and interest towards EV.  This is not a U.S. thing, it's a global thing.

Nonetheless, as a key driver of innovation, the U.S. is playing a key role in the development of the next generations of technologies that will redefine the way we are used to transporting ourselves.

In 2004, one of the guys who created PayPal - Elon Musk - co-founded Tesla Motors ( ) with the purpose to drive mass EV adoption in the U.S., and globally.

From the inception of this new venture, I have been an active fan, a brand advocate as some marketers may call us as I found their mission profoundly deep and worth promoting for a better future.

Apparently, they noticed from my activity on their website that I was quite engaged, and a few weeks ago I received a call from them to test drive their Roadster.   They didn't have to ask me twice, I invited my dear friends Gilles and Jorge to join in the fun, and together we went for a drive into the future of personal human transportation.

Here are Gilles' impressions after his test drive - hire a French translator if you need one :-)

For those who couldn't find a French translator, or if the video doesn't want to start, in a few words, Gilles was amazed by the quality of the experience that you can actually touch and feel as you interact with the materials of the car.

I am not quite sure Gilles would have said the same had he driven the 1995 Clio Electrique right after his Tesla Roadster test drive...

As a matter of fact, the key characteristics are quite different:


375 volt AC induction air-cooled electric motor with variable frequency drive.
Roadster Roadster Sport
Torque 273 lb-ft at 0-5,400 rpm 295 lb-ft at 0-5,100 rpm
Horsepower 288 hp (215 kW) at 5,000-6,000 rpm 288 hp (215 kW) at 4,400-6,000 rpm
Max rpm 14,000 rpm 14,000 rpm


Roadster Roadster Sport
Top Speed 125 mph 125 mph
0 to 60 mph 3.9 seconds 3.7 seconds


Single speed fixed gear. Reverse drive uses reverse direction of motor, limited to 15 mph.
Overall Final Drive 8.28:1
Final Drive Ratio 3.12:1

Range 245 miles
Expected battery life Seven-years or 100,000 miles
Battery heater for cold weather charging to -20 degrees Celsius Standard

How is that about to support Ray Kurzweil's singularity principle?

Elon Musk adopted the strategic approach of targeting high income early adopters with a premium positioning product (they did the same when they launch the first GSM digital cellphones back in the 90's...) and then go down market with more affordable models and some lean operation to ramp up production.  By the way, they recently announced a partnership with Toyota to just do that as they are now also pushing pre-orders on their amazing Model S.

So the comparision with the Clio may not be apple to apple because the Clio is the traditional "Monsieur Tout Le Monde" (Mr. Anyone) car in France, but still, the difference is quite "singular":
- From 21 Kw to 215 Kw, over 10x from a power standpoint!
- From 60 MPH to 125 MPH, over 2x from a top speed viewpoint!
- From 45 Miles to 245 Miles, over 5x in driving range!
- From 3 days to reload the battery to about 2 hours!

It sounds like singularity it is...
Where is the limit?

If Ray Kurzweil is right again, as he claims it in this video, we should soon be able to combine the benefits of the cloud with the disruptive breakthrough of physical technologies.

Can you imagine when we will be driving down I-95 in our Model Swhatever and download a batch of 300 extra battery miles off the solar Internet?


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