I’d Love to Change the World…in my Tesla
The Tesla Model S revolutionary drive signals a demand for graphite: The deal was simple – I needed to meet with Aubrey Eveleigh, P.Geo., Zenyatta’s President and CEO when he asked me if I would join him at the Tesla dealership for a test drive. “Of course” I responded. After all, I am a well-known go-with-the-flow kind of girl (sarcasm intended).
Aubrey had just gotten the seat adjusted and the salesman, a geek keener from a bad version of the “Big Bang Theory” was accessing the ZEN stock on what I deemed to be the 17-inch mothership control panel. Stock was up as usual (TSXV: ZEN | OTCQX: ZENYF) so I asked the Gen-Y host if he would flip some tunes on, as I had the back seat and had nowhere to go. He smiled at me with a confidence of someone that had a lot more apps on his iPhone than I did as he accessed a world class sound system, formerly known to those of us from the eighties as — a radio. Timely, I thought as the single, “I’d Love to Change the World” by ‘Ten Years After’ started playing. Nothing could have been more appropriate at that moment, because Aubrey had hit the accelerator and at that very moment…we were flying.
“It’s like driving a Mac laptop!” my IT pro Sean exclaimed when I returned and he was green with envy. Indeed, testing the Tesla Model S is not the future, it is a trend – and it is here to stay. In fact, everything, will feel outdated if not downright stale by comparison. This is a new kind of car altogether. They say first impressions count, but this car provokes so many ‘first impressions’ because it is so different. The exterior styling is comparable and perhaps even more striking to any of the luxury sedans you might see, whether they are a Mercedes, Audi or BMW. This car is stylish by any measure. It is also large, can seat six adults comfortably and has two trunks that makes the Porsche look like an antique. Yes, two trunks because there is no mechanical engine, leaving room for my substantial wardrobe. The rear trunk is even larger as he told me that it could hold 750 liters, and FYI – the front one holds 134 liters. For my U.S. friends, 200 liters is 1 bathtub, so you have 4 bathtubs of storage here.
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Or, for you serious car junkies, the Model S has more trunk space than a Mercedes S-Class (530 liters) or an SUV. Soccer parents will not be missing the minivan or the big gas guzzling family tricksters when they haul families and equipment around – using no gas whatsoever, but never fear that’s what the Model X is for. Oh, and yes, I am concerned about the range but the salesman says it could do up to or more than 400 km or 250 miles depending on driving style. This said, the new rapid recharging stations across North America are making it possible to travel without “range anxiety”. The recharging time has been reduced to less than an hour and more improvements are on the way. Tesla is also negotiating case by case recharging installation points with various retailers, restaurants or popular venues such as McDonald’s, highway rest stops interested in wealthy clientele and they could attract. In Toronto, the Sheraton Center next door to my office has special parking and recharging for electric cars. At home, you simply plug in the car to your standard 120V socket but starting this year, Tesla will offer “superchargers” or fast charging terminals (about 30 minutes) and free.
The power is stored in the lithium-ion-graphite (I am renaming as you need 10x’s the graphite in every lithium-ion battery as you need lithium) batteries below the seats and it is delivered to an electric motor in the back. Note that the Tesla does not have a gas pedal, it has — an accelerator, which I mentioned on the pre-flight. Aubrey commented that he would have to get used to driving without a brake in this powerful turbine driven 4,700 lb very luxurious sedan. Did I mention it feels like a jet without the noise and really effortless acceleration that had both Aubrey and I saying “wow”. With an immense amount of torque, the Model S stops just as easily and quickly. But it’s not just the power; the electric motors make everything feel so smooth, quiet and comfortable.
Inside, the instrument panel feels like the latest laptop, with all the information you need delivered through a 17-inch center console, which gives the interior the appearance of the Space Shuttle’s dashboard. Yet, the seats, the fit and finish of the leather suggest old world luxury in a cabin that surprises you for its airy sensation of light and space because the roof is glass! There is a sunroof and as you enjoy the sun, as a passenger, you can surf the Internet on the same screen where there is a rearview camera, suspension settings, GPS map and climate control. There are also some finish touches such as faux carbon fiber and alcantara.
The external styling is a success. The Model S is big, they say it’s just less than five meters long but it’s shaped with ‘seductive’ (according to one of my editors) curves and features large rims. I think it feels closer in spirit to a Maserati than a Mercedes. The Tesla’s look should bury all preconceptions about electric cars. No wonder this car has gotten so much attention from Hollywood and people who would normally be buying a Bentley or a Porsche. The salesman tells me, the car is built in an ultra -modern factory, located in Silicon Valley ( California , USA ), birthplace of so much new technology since the 1980s and has attracted wealthy and famous buyers with its performance (0-100 km / h in 3.7 seconds , 300 km of autonomy) including stars : George Clooney, Matt Damon, Quincy Jones, Dustin Hoffman and Bono. Today, we feature Aubrey Eveleigh and the difference is that Tesla needs Aubrey…Tesla needs Zenyatta’s high purity graphite.
The Tesla Model S impressed with its design, astonishing performance and spaceship yet luxurious interior. Apparently, Tesla was the big surprise at the Beijing car show in April. Then again, China has a major pollution problem and it should not surprise anyone that this car addresses the current Chinese penchant for luxury and performance with the very real need to clean up the environment. The Tesla will push the drive for new materials. While they are called Li-ion, emphasizing the lithium content, these batteries contain around 5% lithium by weight and up to 15 to 20 times more graphite. The cars use aluminum to save weight. The Tesla and the whole breed of competitor cars it will stimulate means that the world needs to start producing much more of the so-called technology metals and especially graphite. Surely, the Tesla can eliminate the need for motorists to fuel up at the gas station but for this to happen on any significant scale we need batteries….many batteries.
The success of Tesla Motors is undeniable, and my test drive only confirmed my impressions. In fact, I’m sure Tesla sales will rise enormously: much more than the 21,000 cars they expect to sell by the end of this year (40,000 by 2015). However, the Tesla has a voracious appetite for lithium-ion batteries, which will drive demand for the raw materials – especially graphite – to grow. And we are already seeing the impact that Tesla is having on the battery industry. Panasonic, the current supplier, showed a profit of 34.6 billion yen in early 2013, a benefit greatly boosted by the growing demand for Tesla cars. Not surprisingly, Tesla wants to get into the battery side of the business with its “gigafactory”, which I slated to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. This giant plant may require investments of between USD$ 4 and 5 billion dollars, occupy an area of 930,000 square meters, employ 6,500 employees and a produce enough batteries to equip 500,000 cars per year. Graphite production in North America, the only place where Tesla expects to be sourcing it, will have to increase accordingly. The discovery of high grade mineral graphite sources such as identified by Zenyatta Ventures will make it possible to further advance battery technology thanks to higher purity levels and its offshoots into graphene.
Tracy Weslosky is the CEO of InvestorIntel Corp., a company that publishes InvestorIntel.com. A leading source for investors, entrepreneurs and industry leaders alike, InvestorIntel is ... <Read more about Tracy Weslosky>