Telluride Inside... And Out In Denver: Tesla And Cool Energy

  SolarHeart2 A few days after our return to Telluride from our Fall travels, Susan and I needed to spend some time at our place in Denver. Not that being in Denver is a chore: our home here is beautiful and there are friends we enjoy being with.

Yesterday I decided to do a couple of things that had been on my mind, but time is usually a little short when we come to Denver. I hadn't thought about it specifically, but as it turned out, my two stops were very much related.

The first stop was at Boulder's Cool Energy. I had a great conversation with President/CEO Sam Weaver last July, and wanted to check in. Cool Energy is working on an electrical power generation system using low heat from solar and waste heat sources. It was fascinating to see the working model of the Stirling heat engine that is central to the process. Weaver was away on business but Leslie Weise, Vice President of Business Development did a good job showing me the operation and catching me up on recent developments. Thanks also to the engineering staff for showing off the equipment.

Boulder_Hero I thought my next stop was about fun, but on reflection, the two missions are separate sides of the same coin: how do we take care of the planet without going to hair-shirt mode. If you read the title of this article you already know I was now at Tesla Motors in Boulder. Anyone with a jones for beautiful machinery is already aware of Tesla. The Tesla roadster, with antecedents in Lotus Cars, is a potential game-changer in the transportation field, and I couldn't wait to drive one. Erich Ziegler wasted little time with words, instead let the little red car do its own talking. Talk it did! After a few blocks of easy driving in the streets of Boulder, Erich pointed me up Boulder Canyon. In case you didn't know, the Tesla is an electric car, but not your great grandmother's electric car, not a golf cart. The current version of the Tesla sports car has no gearshift: one simply presses the "gas" and it goes. My god, how it goes! Its Lotus ancestry is apparent climbing up the quick curves going up the canyon, the linear response of its powerful electric motor slingshotting us to whatever speed we felt comfortable with. And Erich just sat there with a smug smile in the right seat.

Too soon it was time to take the car back: there was another enthusiast waiting for his turn. The roadster's real mission, besides exciting automobile fans, is to demonstrate that electric and fun driving don't have to be mutually exclusive terms. It is a pricey way to demonstrate the concept, but it not only got my juices flowing, it also has me eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Model S, an electric sedan from Tesla, that is due out in 2012.

So Tesla has the potential to redefine motoring in an age when the responsible among us are concerned about the carbon effects of our current mode, and Cool Energy has the capability of providing some of the electical energy to make that possible.

I have seen one view of the future, and it ain't bad.


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