Why I’ll Never Buy Another Gasoline-Powered Car

My father, Dr. Lawrence T. Papay, passed away in 2014. He had a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT and spent his entire career working with all forms of energy as a utility and private engineering firm executive. He always was in search of technologies to improve our energy future.

He also loved cars. When I was a boy in the late 60s, we lived in northern Italy for two years and regularly toured the country on the AutoStrada, watching fast-lane dogfights between Ferraris and Lamborghinis from the bubble windows of our red, slow-lane Volkswagen bus.

Three years ago, in honor of both my inherited fascination for energy technology and performance cars, we purchased a Tesla Model S. A year later we purchased a second one and have not owned a gasoline-powered car for the last year and a half.

I will never buy a gasoline-powered car again.

Not because our all-electric Model S is greener, cheaper to operate, safer to drive and more innovative than our previous cars – which it is.

But simply because it’s a better experience in almost every conceivable way: a better driving experience, a better ownership experience, and it’s a better cultural experience.


The Driving Experience

It all starts with the Tesla’s batteries, 7,104 of them, which are actually modified laptop batteries. These feed the electric motors, which have essentially instantaneous torque, taking this seven-seat sedan from 0-60 mph faster than Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugattis. And it does this silently with the electric motors, so the driving experience is not unlike piloting one of the pod racers that glide across the desert in Star Wars. Seriously (I think).

The battery is also the floor of the car, a skateboard. This platform gives the car incredible stability and dampening, even weight distribution, a low center of gravity, tremendous torsional rigidity and extra space inside the cab due to lack of a drive tunnel. Performance and safety intertwined.

All of this is packaged in the most aerodynamic production car made, with a teardrop shape, and door handles that retract while in motion but extend to greet you as you approach. This greeting welcomes you into a modern cockpit, simple shapes and a 17-inch touchscreen that eliminates all knobs, buttons and switches – totally intuitive in our digital age.

In all aspects the car’s design is derived from performance, and performance is amplified by design. The two are integrated, purposeful, meaningful and beautiful.


The Ownership Experience

Just as significant as the car is the ownership experience connected to it.  It starts with sales. Tesla sells direct to consumers, there is no dealership involved. That direct connection to customers allows Tesla to demystify electric car ownership to a skeptical public.

Once you own the car, it periodically improves. What? Yes, every couple of months, Tesla sends over-the-air updates to its cars. Every year, all cars become more software centric. The Tesla Model S is the first continually upgradeable car, the first where its constant connectivity to the Internet allows data to be collected and analyzed so the car can be improved.

To run, though, the car most be periodically connected to an electrical source. The primary options? Plug in at home every night and leave every morning with “full” batteries – never lose time filling up at a gas station ever again. And if on a road trip, Tesla’s provides a growing network of fast superchargers. These are free, completely free, to all Tesla owners.

But the most dramatic improvement to the ownership experience is Tesla’s integration of autopilot functions in the car. With hardware sensors and software that learns with every mile that any car drives in autopilot mode, Tesla is leading the transition to autonomous driving. This will dramatically increase highway safety and “driver” convenience, and eventually will allow people to purchase driving services rather than a car – like an Uber without the driver.

The Cultural Experience

A month after we received our first Model S, I wrote a blog post extolling its virtues and relating people’s first encounter with the car. I compared this launch of electric mobility with the Apollo program. Here’s an excerpt:

“…in a span of about 60 seconds (approach car, beautiful, the handles extend, THE HANDLES EXTEND, get in, stunning, the touch screen stares back at them, panoramic roof slides open, foot on break, speedometer flips over, roll away silently, first straightaway – punch it, reliving memories of first rollercoaster ride, fat-ass grins all over faces)…

And then they think, NO WAY, as in NO WAY has this freaking out-of-nowhere company kicked sand in the face of 100 years of automaking. NO WAY have they done it, NO WAY is it American, NO WAY is it 7,000 laptop batteries in the right kool-aid. NO WAY did I just laugh my head off driving in a 3/4 mile loop around your neighborhood!

…It’s our Apollo Program.

People are proud of it. Of the guts to try it. Of the audacity to pull it off. People we don’t even know are proud of us for buying it. They feel like they’ve bought it by seeing it or riding in it. No one is lukewarm about it. Is this how Columbus felt?”

That captures an initial rush of excitement that came with purchasing the car, but it goes deeper. A couple weeks after that post I received the following from an engineer at Tesla :

“I read the Tesla forums often and with great intensity. In particular, your brilliant and inspiring piece on Tesla and the Apollo program really hit home for me.

The choice to come to Tesla Motors for me was deeply personal and a very high risk to the comfortable lifestyle of a typical automotive engineer like myself in Detroit. Like many automotive “Detroit expats” at Tesla, I hungered for something more than what the Detroit machine was putting out. I was never really able to put it in words for people who asked why I made the leap, and then I read your Apollo post from a few months back. As I read each line, the smile on my face grew wider and wider, and then tears actually formed in my eyes. I was really moved.

I immediately sent out an email with a link to your post to my most trusted friends, family and Tesla colleagues with the simple title “This is why I work at Tesla.” The response I got was incredible. People finally got it. They got why this company, its products and its people are so different, they got why I made the change.

Working at Tesla (as you might imagine) is far harder than anything I have ever done in my life. When I was interviewing for this position, I read a portion of the job description which said: “You must have a passion for engineering electric vehicles. Without passion, you would find what we are doing too difficult. There are easier jobs.” Your words still reverberate in my mind and often provide the extra energy I need to get through a particularly difficult day.”

I could relate dozens of similar stories of strangers becoming friends over a discussion about the car – in supermarket parking lots, at Tesla conventions, in my driveway. It’s a car, hardware, software and a movement all in one. If you’re interested, you can follow our escapes as electric pioneers on teslamodels.wordpress.com.

The Model S is at the intersection of performance and innovation. Their next car, the crossover Model X, extends these themes – and we recently purchased one. In two more years Tesla will introduce the Model 3, a mass-market car that will spread the electric vehicle revolution to millions. Maybe because it’s greener, cheaper, safer and more innovative. Or maybe simply because it’s better.

All electric and all in.

I think my dad would be happy.

‘Twas the Night Before Xmas – 2

A week left in the Model S referral program – please use the link below if you’re interested in buying a Model S before October 31st with a $1,000 discount.



I went to the Model X reveal in Fremont last month a penned a second version of ‘Twas the Night Before Xmas’ on the way out there. Enjoy!


Twas the Night Before Xmas II

Twas the night before Xmas, when all ‘cross the bay
All the X fans were stirring – we’re one day away!
The plans to attend the reveal were made clear,
In hopes that our Elon soon would be here;

The S’ were charging snug in their garages,
While Model X owners hoped not for mirages;
JB in his calcs and Franz in his sketches,
Had just arrived to take part in the message;

When down at Solyndra there arose such a party,
That all came a driving, ‘let’s not be tardy!’
They drove and they parked and they stood there awaiting,
Expectations were high for a ‘best ever’ rating;

The moon was abreast, it was tired of eclipsing,
The owners were pumped, we wanted revealing!
When what in the background of selfies appeared,
But the new Model X – it kicked ass, yes, my dear!

With a little old driver, (or an autonomous one?)
We knew in a moment it must be Elon!
More rapid than Einstein his brain it did spin,
And we knew that no one was smarter than him:

Now Porsche, now Aston, now Jaguar and Audi,
On Beamers, on Benzes, hell throw in Ferrari;
Get your engineers stoked, throw out your gas tech,
You’re all chasing Tesla, prepare now to wreck!

As cars that before the reveal party fly,
When they meet with Nvidia, they hail Mobileye!
So out to the stage the reveal Xs flew,
With a whole slew extras that nobody knew!

And then in an inkling we saw on the roof,
The Falcon Wings open, this was living proof!
As I snapped on my iPhone, and recorded with sound,
Down to the stage St. Elon came with a bound!

He was dressed, thank Talulah, in clothes that looked good,
For the Livestream was being sent out to the ‘hood.
A bundle of options were Signature bound,
And the second row seats were made to astound!

The X, how it sparkled, its headlights, how pretty!
And its aerodynamics were .24 ready!
Its dark plastic nosecone was taught as your skin,
And the tint-changing roof glass let some light in.

All doors would now open, with a touch here or there,
And cupholders, cupholders, were now everywhere!
It had a big pack, and room in the frunk,
And third row seats that fold down for a trunk.

It still had great range, Detroit’s out of luck,
And dieselgate execs could only say *uck.
The LED eyes and climate cool seats,
Made me think this reveal would be full of tweets.

We got to peer close, the car looks like art,
Remember this company’s just at its start.
And stomping and pulling close to 1G,
Made us feel it’s ‘game over’ when we get Model 3.

We had a great night, the X wait’s forgiven,
We want to configure and enter production!
So we left feeling good as it faded from sight,
Merry Xmas to all, our dear Tesla’s all right.

‘Twas the night before Xmas…

If you want to buy a Model S and want a $1,000 discount, feel free to use my code:


And enjoy the poem!

‘Twas the Night Before Xmas…

‘Twas the night ‘for Xmas and all through the forum,
The posters were antsy, they’d thrown out decorum!

Their stocks had gone up at the end of last week,
In the hopes that St. Elon would send out a Tweet.

The Res. holders were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of falcon wings danced in their heads.

While Bonnie in her Roadster and Nigel in his ‘S’,
Had just settled down to let their fingers rest.

When over at Fremont there arose such a clatter,
A new thread was started to discuss what was the matter.

LED headlights started to flash,
And v7.0 appeared on the dash!

The moonlight at Hawthorne started to show,
That the launch of this next model was ‘all systems go’.

When what to our wondering eyes did appear,
But the new Model X! This was no mule, dear.

With a wing-walking driver, no way Exxon’s pawn,
We knew in a moment this must be Elon!

More rapid than falcons this SUV came,
And he laughed and joked and called it ‘Insane’:

Now JB, now Deepak, now Franz and Chris Porritt!
On Diarmuid, on Jerome and George B. before it,

To the top of the sales charts, to to the ships in the ports!
get cars to customers, (and Consumer Reports)!

As blurry videos showed before the car was yet driven,
The ‘X’ is amazing, delays are forgiven!

So out to the Founders and showrooms they flew,
Went trucks full of Xs and Elon went too!

And then, in the media, we heard with a cheer,
Motor Trend, once again, said ‘Car of the Year’!

As we checked on our status, and deliv. date projections,
Elon streamed a reveal that showed all the options!

He was dressed all in black, clothes Talulah had picked,
And we swear his sunglasses were electrochromic!

Purchase agreements, he had in a stack,
Those old auto dealers were taken aback!

His projections, how they fluttered, and while recently wary,
50,000 deliveries did not seem so scary,

With autonomous here, and a little more code,
The Model X would have its own ‘Ludicrous’ mode.

The second row seats, how they swivel to greet,
And a titanium shield still lurks beneath,

The nose has a cone and the rear can tow plenty,
And with a big battery pack it exceeds 120.

It was stylish and sleek, an SUMV*,
We all knew the servers would blow at TMC.

This is the future, we’re all into EVs,
And it gave us a great hope for the new Model 3s.

We are grateful for Tesla and all their great work,
Ignore Holman Jenkins, the miserable jerk.

So here’s to the Founders and Signatures too,
Powerwall, Powerpack and Gig Factory 2.

Elon sprang to the Hyperloop, SpaceX had a countdown,
There’s a lot on his plate, don’t let it get him down,

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Solar panels to all, let’s be powered by light”.

*SUMV = Sports Utility Mini Van