A computer on wheels visits Iowa Wesleyan
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Gary Riley of Quincy, Ill., brought his computer on wheels to Mt. Pleasant Friday for the Tri-State Development Summit at Iowa Wesleyan University.
Riley’s computer is better known as a Tesla. “Basically, it is a computer that happens to have wheels,” he said, describing his vehicle in a nutshell.
The Tesla Model S is the first fully automated vehicle in the United States. Riley purchased his vehicle for “around six figures” two years ago and has driven it just over 22,000 miles.
“You can drive it in any conditions,” he said, adding he operates the all-wheel drive vehicle year around. “The only thing I wouldn’t drive it in is deep snow.”
He said he’s never regretted for a moment purchasing the vehicle. “It has never disappointed me. I like gadgets and read a lot about the car and had to have one.
“It is a heavy car — about the same weight as a Ford-150, but all the weight is located on the floor of the vehicle,” he explained. The batteries that “fuel” the car are located under the floor board and protected from road hazards by a titanium plate.
He said the car’s ride is great, which he compares to the ride he receives in his Audi. The car also has power. Riley estimated the car has 550 horsepower and he proudly tells about the time he raced and beat a friend who had a Dodge Viper.
“When you step on the accelerator, it has instant pull and torque,” he said. “It is a smooth pull. I’ve had it up to 120 miles-per-hour. The manual lists top speed at 155, but I think it would do more. It takes about three seconds to go from zero to 60 (miles-per-hour).”
Riley’s Tesla was parked Friday at the entrance to the Howe Student Center, but had it been parked in the adjacent parking lot to the south, it would have been difficult to pick it out from a gas-powered vehicle. The car has leather seats, a sunroof and naturally, a large navigation panel.
The car, Riley said, is basically maintenance free with the exception of tires and windshield wipers as it does not have a gas engine or transmission.
Driving the Tesla, which Riley says he does daily and about 1,500 miles monthly, costs him about $12-$15 per month. He charges the car overnight when his electrical cost is about three to four cents per kilowatt hour as opposed to 17-18 cents during the day. Soon, he will save even more as he will be placing solar panels on his house, which not only will heat his home but also charge his car.
The Tesla can be driven either manually or you can put it on auto pilot and read a good book while cruising the country.
Automatic pilot can only be used on the highway although Riley said the newer Teslas will be able to be on auto pilot in town.
Driving the vehicle on auto pilot is one of those “Look mom, no hands and no feet” scenarios. On his drive from Quincy to Mt. Pleasant Friday, Riley just plugged in the address of the Mt. Pleasant destination and let the car do the rest. The vehicle automatically adjusts to the highway’s speed limit and can be increased at increments from one to five miles-per-hour with the touch of a lever.
If Riley is on the interstate and wishes to pass, he just pushes his turn signal to a left turn and leaves the rest to the car. When the vehicle has been passed, he pushes the turn signal to a right turn and the car re-enters the right lane.
So, with all that ease of driving, how can you stay awake? Easy, he said. The car sends an alert every 10 minutes and the driver has to touch the steering wheel. If the steering wheel is not touched, the car automatically goes to the shoulder of the road and parks.
The Tesla also has a range mechanism that can be set, from one to seven, as to the proper car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead of you.
A radiologist for a number of hospitals in the Quincy area, Riley said the farthest he has taken the car was to Virginia. He said he has never had to frantically search for charging stations as charging stations appear on his GPS system “and you just have to plan ahead.” The vehicle will run 270 miles on a full charge.
“Sometimes you have to deviate from your planned route to find a charging station,” he admitted. “I suppose on my trip to Virginia, I drove an additional 75 miles because of that.”
The car also has a summon feature. For instance, if the car is parked in a parking lot, all Riley has to do is hit a button and the car will drive to Riley. In addition, the car will automatically parallel or horizontal park.
Riley is hooked. He is already looking forward to his next Tesla. He said he will eventually purchase a Tesla Series 3 which runs on auto pilot in town, too. But he might have a long wait. The first Series 3 hasn’t rolled off the assembly line yet and there are already a quarter million orders for one. He said the Series 3 will cost around $35,000 but is eligible for a federal government electric tax rebate of between $7,500 and $8,000, which will bring the price to a comparable level of other new vehicles.