Philosophy in the modern world has strived for a sense of relevance as the sciences (“natural philosophy”) have become dominant. But philosophy may have found a footing in the complicated space between technological advances and defining human virtues with efforts to address and understand change and its impact on human existence. These efforts have included the ethics of biological manipulation and, critically, existential threats to humanity, including climate change, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering.
I mention all this because I’m really writing about cars but need to fit the discussion somehow into the theme of this blog. So the existential threat of climate change means we need to pollute less and burn less fossil fuels. More tactically, however, my wife and I also needed to buy a new toaster because our five-year-old Oster four-burner unit was failing. There was therefore only one solution to this dilemma: take the brand new Tesla S 70 miles away to the foothills of the Sierra on a test drive and, yes, to buy a new toaster.
I had taken delivery of our Tesla S Performance 85 with Tech Package a week before but didn’t really have any opportunity to drive it because of work obligations that kept me firmly planted in front of a computer monitor. I had driven it briefly but it mostly sat charging in the garage (at the slowish pace of a 120V circuit; Tesla did not deliver my dual charger station in time and I haven’t had the 100A circuit installed to support it either), so when Saturday came, I realized that it was an opportunity to justify a longish trek to test the drivability of the car and to seek out and use the Tesla “supercharger” stations that promise rapid charging in 30 minutes to an hour. I had several choices for supercharging stations, including the outlet mall at Gilroy, Harris Ranch (basically some truck stops between San Francisco and Los Angeles), and Folsom (a suburb of Sacramento) outlet malls. Why outlet malls were chosen for these installations I do not know.
The journey began poorly, however, when I scraped a wheel against a curb at a Starbucks resulting in a small flap of rubber protruding from the Michelin Pilot Sports. That flap oscillated and rattled at highway speeds. I had to pull over and inspect. Luckily my wife as usual has a wood-and-turquoise-handled folding knife handy in her purse. I cut away the rubber and we proceeded north towards Sacramento.
Driving impressions: Quiet at freeway speeds, but not as quiet as I might have expected due to road and wind noises. The technology suite is impressive with such amenities as free internet radio via 3G connectivity (currently paid by Tesla), web browsing, Google-maps-based nav, SiriusXM radio, speech recognition, and smart innovations like garage door openers that pop up via GPS as the car approaches a programmed garage. The torque and acceleration are astonishing and definitely rival or exceed contemporary supercars (save a Veyron or Aventador), but driving hot and fast is discouraged by the psychology of electric cars where calm and slow maximize battery life.
Lunch took 2 hours at Ten 22 in Old Sacramento, starting with duck confit and fig pizzette, then followed by warm spinach and truffle salad, finalized with Marin brie and honeycomb with Earl Grey. We almost didn’t want to leave, much less buy a toaster, but the charging station was only 20 miles away and we found it after crawling around the ring of the outlet mall for 10 minutes. It turned out that there was another gray S charging there, but the other three stations were unoccupied. I spoke briefly with the owner, then re-encountered him 20 minutes later after we had re-charged to maximum range. He was chatting with another couple just hooking up their wine-colored S.
Continuing on to the Galleria at Roseville, I was disappointed to find only two Chargepoint stations for the entire mall (and both occupied by Volts), but at least we got a toaster while minimizing at least one existential threat.