The Car

We flew into Fort Lauderdale, FL, and were met by Brian, the service manager.  He took us to the showroom, which is in an industrial part near the airport. He said its nice when people fly in to look at the vehicles, but isnt really conducive to walk in sales.  However, this really isnt an impulse purchase anyway.

The show room car pictures are posted, there are two vehicles on the floor that you can play with, a fully painted red one, and a silver one that had the carbon fiber trim exposed, which is an option.  Additionally, there was a single test drive vehicle in the back that was electric blue. If anyone is interested in seeing the colors, do not use the web site color selector, it does not do a good job showing the quality of the vehicle finish.

Wow, this thing is small.  Were talking really small. That is most apparent when my 5 wife stands next to it.  However, as the photo shows, when she is in it, its still big enough for her. If I bought one, I would probably end up keeping the Spyder, just to have something bigger!.

The entire body was a wonderful glossy finish. The panels are all carbon fiber with some kind of paint clear coat over it. Additionally, there is an adhesive film, kind of like a plastic covering that comes on new TVs, that was covering the front of the car.  However this was extremely clear, very thick, and made by 3M, just for the purpose of protecting surfaces.  They apply it to the front end to protect against road rocks. As we examined the exterior we noticed that the body panels are very flexible. It was a rather shocking thing to get used to. Just the task of closing the trunk meant having to pull both side of the lid down, and then pressing had on one side, then the other, watching the trunk cover bend back and forth. The same was the case for the hood.

The doors had rectangle button that you push to unlatch them.  Interestingly, they were electric.  You could hear a little motor run every time you pressed the button to open the door. Closing the door meant giving it a solid slam. Trying to gently close it would not be adequate

Getting in or out is not a simple task.  You know how you typically enter a car: one leg, then you sit down, then the other leg. Not in this case. First thing, you sit down, then bring your legs in one at a time. As seen in the interior picture, that this will lead to a lot of scuffs on the kick plate on the inside. Once inside, your feet are close together. The leg room, although long, is not very wide. Furthermore, the seats are manual, and as far as I could tell, only went forward or backward. Not up or down, and I couldnt even find an adjustment for the recline angle.

The most striking thing was that the interior looked? For lack of a better description, home made. Its not that it was cheap, but it was not assembly line manufactured.  The dashboard and console were covered with stitched leather; it was not a collection of molded plastic parts like other cars.  This shocked me when I saw it.  The cabin controls (fan, air conditioning, heat) were just ordinary small knobs, as can be seen in the close up picture. It was nothing like what we are used to in a regular car. The center console has a small touch screen that let you view and control the cars systems, and tells you about charging, power, diagnostics, etc. More on that later, but the leather stitching around the display gives you a clearer image of what I mean regarding the interior. Also, the quality of the actual screen was not as good as the touch screen of the radio and navigation system, which is a third party product from Alpine.

The Apline system was a stereo, CD, navigation, blue tooth, and more. It had a very nice touch screen interface that also included physical button along the bottom, so it was kind of an oxymoron of an interface. I didnt use it, because I didnt spend any time learning it before I started driving. And I didnt want to learn it on the road. The whole system is not made by Tesla. However as I mentioned, the contrast between the touch screen quality of the Alpine and the cars system screen was striking.

The main dash has only two gauges: A speedometer, and a power meter. the speedometer is obvious, but the power gauge was interesting. It normally points straight up. When you start to drive, it shows the wattage that the car is consuming by moving to the right.  More power means the needle moves further. When you are coasting, and the wheels are used to regenerate power, the needle moves to the left.

I had a chance to discuss the car with Byrone, the service technician, and the conversation went something like this:
I asked, So, this is a three phase synchronous motor?
So the vehicle speed is controlled by the frequency of the AC system?
And I can hear the AC frequency change, it goes from what? about 200 to 2500 hz?
More than that.
Does it have magnets?
So you use a DC exciter?
Uh huh.
Is the same motor used in the regeneration mode?
So you just track the AC frequency, and change the torque angle of the system?
Way cool!

Pretty much geek speak from here on out. Byrone went on the show me all the features that are in that little screen on the console. It can tell you the charging rate, the cost of the charge, how much you have spent charging it, and list of every time it was charged and how much it took, how much gasoline you didnt use, how many barrels of oil you have saved, the engine power mode (standard, performance, long range), the acceleration in G force, motor torque, temperature of the motor, battery, power module, tire pressure, and on and on.  For such a small screen, which I did not like the physical quality, the amount of information it displayed from the system was vast. I had to stop him after about 20 minutes, and I dont think we were even half way done.  Furthermore, the factory could connect to the cars computer by cell network and run all kinds of diagnostics on it. Truly amazing.

Read on about the drive...

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