Michael Marks was interim CEO of Tesla from August 2007 to November 2007. Before that he was CEO of electronics manufacturing services company Flextronics. He sits on the board of directors at several public and private technology companies, and he has been managing partner of Riverwood Capital since March 2007. He took ownership of his Roadster – Founders Series No. 22 – in November 2008.
As a partner in a Silicon Valley investment firm, I spend a lot of time in my car – driving from startup to startup, meeting with engineers, entrepreneurs, executives and bankers. I’m also part owner of the Golden State Warriors, so I spend a lot of time driving from my home in Palo Alto across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland. It’s not unusual for me to put 125 or more miles on my car in a single day.
I used to log all these miles in a Porsche 911 Turbo. But after I took ownership of my Roadster in November, I drove the Porsche less and less. By February, when my four-year lease was up, I decided not to replace the Porsche. Why bother? It wasn’t as much fun to drive as the Roadster. Owning both seemed like needless overlap.
So far, I’ve clocked 6,500 miles on my Roadster and haven’t regretted giving up the Porsche for a second. The Roadster is simply the most fun car I’ve ever owned.
In fact, my ownership experience makes me question the entire notion of “range anxiety.” I refuel my car each night by plugging it in -- a 10-second feat I accomplish in my own garage. I wake up each morning and the car is fully charged. I haven’t been to the gas station in months.
To be honest, the only real complaint I have about the Roadster is that its windshield is perpetually filthy. Think about it: If you don’t stop at a gas station, when would you clean your car’s windshield?
When I was interim CEO of Tesla, I would get a lot of questions from media and from prospective customers about charge times. It’s true that the Roadster takes 3.5 hours to charge from dead empty to full on a 240V/70A home system. But focusing on the full recharge time is not relevant to the typical ownership experience.
The Roadster gets well over 200 miles per charge, so it’s very rare that I get perilously close to empty – even after a long day of shuttling to meetings around the Bay. I typically have at least half a charge when I return to my garage at the end of the day, so my car is recharged long before I wake up in the morning.
If we are going on a weekend trip with friends and family, we all pile into my wife’s SUV. But I have a soft spot for little, fast sports cars. That’s why I drove a Porsche for the last seven years. And that’s why I thrill to the scorching acceleration of the Roadster.
But my sheer delight behind the wheel of the Roadster continues to surprise me. Even though I was an early investor in Tesla and was the company’s interim CEO in 2007, I’m not a dedicated environmentalist. I didn’t buy this car to make a statement about my values. I’m not vegan. I don’t have solar panels on my roof. And I certainly didn’t expect to replace my tried-and-true German sports car with an electric vehicle.
Nor did I buy the Roadster because I’m a flashy person who needs to have the newest boy toy on the block. A couple weeks ago, I went to a conference at a hotel on Sand Hill Road – the strip in Menlo Park, California, that serves as the epicenter of the global venture capital industry. There were four other Teslas parked in the lot!
I love the Roadster because it’s a hell of a ride – and at the end of the day, for EVs to become mainstream options for customers, that’s all that matters. They need all the performance and convenience attributes of a gasoline car. They need to serve as your only car.