First all-electric car arrives

January 12, 2009

By David Hayes

Issaquah owner says Tesla Roadster could change the world

Mark Mullet takes his all-electric Tesla Roadster, signature series No. 68, for a spin in the Issaquah Highlands. Mullet is the first in the state to own a Tesla. By Greg Farrar

Mark Mullet takes his all-electric Tesla Roadster, signature series No. 68, for a spin in the Issaquah Highlands. Mullet is the first in the state to own a Tesla. By Greg Farrar

If in the days ahead, a cloud of dust is spotted, preceded by a blur of radiant red, there’s a good chance it was just Mark Mullet living his boyhood dream behind the wheel of his new Tesla Roadster.

While many youngsters dream someday of burning rubber in the latest sports car, few imagine doing so in a fully electric hot rod. The Tesla is the perfect car for the Issaquah Highlands resident.

Mullet said he remembers when he was a starry-eyed lad living in the Seattle neighborhood of Greenlake, watching the solar car races. He especially recalled one Volkswagen Bug with its entire back seat filled with batteries.“It could go 35 miles on one charge,” he said. “Of course, it could also only go 35 mph. So, that kind of made it unnaturally hard to go anywhere in these designs.

“But I always thought it would be really cool to own a solar-paneled car,” he added. “It would only be a matter of time.”

That time is now. The Tesla represents the latest in cutting edge motoring technology. Time magazine declared the car the second best invention of 2008. The roadster’s Web site clicks off unbelievable features:

100 percent electric

0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds

14,000 rpm redline

Burns no oil

244 miles per charge

Cost is pennies per mile.

And Mullet has the first one in Washington state. He said he believes there are about 10 others in the state waiting behind him to get their order, including Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen.

While he ordered the signature 100 series Tesla back in 2006, he’s still learning the ins and outs of the roadster after finally having possession for two days.

For example, he knew the main lithium battery that powers the car is actually located in the trunk. But when he opened the hood in the front for the first time, he was surprised by how little was there.

“I don’t know what that is,” he said, pointing to what appeared to be another, smaller battery. “Is that the engine? You can tell I’m an environmentalist, not a car person.”

While other electric/hybrid cars have been on the market, few have caught Mullet’s eye as did the Tesla.

“The others look like glorified golf carts,” he said.

Even the marketing scheme lured Mullet into paying the hefty $100,000 price. While others waited for the Tesla Motor Co. to get more established or work out some of its production delays, Mullet’s faith in the product got him one of the first 100 in the signature series, No. 68 to be precise.

“The idea is to give your money up front, and the initial buyers are essentially funding the development of a planned four-dour sedan version,” Mullet said. “It was almost like being an investor in the company.”

Formerly employed in the financial and banking markets, Mullet likes his ability to see a good investment opportunity. Take his home in the Highlands. He had 30 solar panels installed, double the usual amount, to power both his home and the electric car he knew was someday coming.

The charging hose actually came a couple months ago. So now, he can park the Tesla in the garage and have it recharged by solar-generated power after only two or three hours. Even if the driver should exceed the 240-mile range (where most other hybrid electric cars have only a 40-50 mile range), the car comes with a backup battery to provide a few extra miles so it doesn’t completely leave the owner stranded.

“It also comes with a travel charger that you can plug into a regular outlet that takes probably 20 hours to recharge,” he said.

With three children, the roadster is hardly the family car (he’s got a Toyota Prius minivan hybrid for that).

The Tesla comes with two speeds — drive and reverse. Being all electric, there are no gears to cycle through. It just keeps accelerating. Quietly.

“I truly enjoyed the feeling Tesla encouraged, motivating buyers to partner in the idea of a fully electric car,” Mullet said. “If the industry could figure a way to combine solar power and electric cars and ship them to the rest of the world, this could be the answer to all our dilemmas.”

The Tesla also found a way to combine Mullet’s loves of environmentalism and electric cars with his third love — roller coasters. He demonstrated to a passenger the Tesla’s acceleration, which was very similar to a roller coaster shooting out at of the station. When they returned to Mullet’s driveway, the breathless passenger was overheard saying simply, “Wow.”

Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237 or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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