Electric cars coming fast, selling themselves

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) People attending an electric transportation forum at UNR's Innovation Center Thursday were told electric transportation is coming fast, and for good reasons, but the cars are selling themselves.

Speakers at the forum covered the economic and environmental benefits to electric transportation, even its importance to national security.

In a way, that's what attracted Jack Bowers to electric cars long ago.

"I felt like this country ought to be able to provide their own energy for their own transportation and I felt electricity was probably the best way to do it."

So, in 2006 he put down a deposit on Tesla's first vehicle, a sporty roadster. He's been driving them ever since.

His latest is a new Model 3, the long-awaited, mid-sized, mid-priced car for which the Gigafactory in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center is being built and operated.

Ask a Tesla owner or the owner of any electric vehicle a question about their car and you'll get a sales pitch.

"Yeah, we're pretty much all in," says Bowers, who as an early buyer was allowed to buy Tesla stock during the initial offering.

Get behind the wheel--we hardly needed to ask--and it starts to make sense. It feels solid, but then it's a new car and should, but things are different. The dash is clean. No gauges. Instead there's a big monitor. It's like having a laptop in front of you and everything you need to know is there.

Most important--since range anxiety, as we heard it called--is a prime concern--is the power remaining in your battery, how far to the next charging station. It will pretty much plan your trip for you.

Pulling into one of these charging stations is pretty much what you would expect. A backup camera, one of several cameras in the car, guides you and once there, it's kind of like filling up at the pump, though if you're at a Tesla station, there's no credit card. The company registers the charge, puts it on your bill. And that won't break the bank.

"Electric cars are roughly about three times the efficiency of gasoline cars when you look at the actual energy involved, the efficiencies involved."

But it's on the road where the real difference becomes clear. Full-on power is available at your right foot all the time. Acceleration is exceptional and once you're cruising, you can get another glimpse of the future. On Autopilot it maintains speed and safe distance to other traffic without your help, hands off the wheel.

“The driving is a better experience," says Bowers. "You can tell people that, but until they get behind the wheel and try it themselves they don’t appreciate how much better. But that’s the number one thing and the reason this thing has legs.”

On the road it doesn't attract a good deal of attention. It's radical concept hidden in an attractive, but fairly conventional exterior. Behind the wheel, though, you'll know and understand owners' passion.

The owners are the reason you don't see any Tesla ads. The company doesn't need them. The owners are eager to spread the word.

It's impressive and a space ship compared to my old English sports car.