On Monday, Motor Trend magazine announced that the all-electric 2012 Tesla Model S won its Car of the Year Award. It was the first time Motor Trend gave the distinction to a pure electric vehicle, and the first time the judges were unanimous in their decision.
The Motor Trend award follows Automobile Magazine giving the Model S its top annual award earlier this month. This is likely just the beginning of the awards circuit for the Model S. Tesla’s sporty luxury EV is the front-runner for other upcoming major awards, such as the North American Car of the Year, presented at the Detroit auto show.
While a single car does not make an entire category, Tesla Model S’s sweep of awards will create a new level of legitimacy to the entire electric car category. Only an electric vehicle could garner a description like this one, provided by Motor Trend editor-at-large, Angus MacKenzie: “The Model S is one of the quickest four-door sedans ever built. It drives like a sports car, feels as smoothly effortless as a Rolls Royce, and is more fuel-efficient than the Toyota Prius.” Moreover, MacKenzie said that the Model S, produced by a start-up American automaker, proves that “America can still make things. Great things.”
The Chevy Volt, an American-made plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, won many Car of the Year awards last year—but the level of praise is mild compared to what is being heaped on the Tesla Model S, an all-electric car that is capable of going up to 300 miles on a single charge. While the 250-300 mile version of the Model S, costs as much as $100,000 fully loaded, the variant offering about 160 miles of range drops down in price to below $50,000 after federal tax incentives.
In granting its top honor to the Model S, Automobile magazine editor-in-chief Jean Jennings praised the car’s performance. “The Model S can blow away almost anything,” she said. ”The crazy speed builds silently and then pulls back the edges of your face. It had all of us endangering our licenses.”
In my week with the Model S—to prepare for my review of the car for The New York Times—I also loved the car’s performance. But it was the whole package that makes the Model S such an accomplishment—from the Aston Martin styling and low center-of-gravity handling, to the 17-inch jumbo iPad touchscreen on the dashboard and access to a network of highway superchargers in California. The network makes all-electric roadtrips, for example between San Francisco and Los Angeles, a practical reality.
At the end of the day, awards are merely symbolic—and don’t reshape real-world market dynamics. But there’s little doubt the Model S is a true achievement, and will provide unprecedented opportunities to promote electric-drive vehicles as a viable alternative to internal combustion engine vehicles. On Monday, after receiving the award, Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive predicted, “Other car companies will in fact copy us and pursue their own electric car programs with greater vigor as a result of this award.”
This means more and better EVs on the market, and greater opportunities for green car shoppers to find exciting and capable cars that use zero petroleum and have no tailpipe emissions.
Photo Credit: Tesla
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