- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

OZARK, Ala. (AP) - Tom Wyse could count at least three times when he said he vowed that his last vehicle purchase would be his last time in the market for a car.

If he meant it would be his last time buying a car with an engine and that required gasoline, then he may have kept his promise. He and his wife, Elizabeth, recently purchased a 2016 Model S P90 Tesla, a 90,000-watt PC-powered electric car that runs on three electric motors.

According to Tesla’s website, more than 50,000 Tesla electric vehicles (EVs) have been sold worldwide since the company was founded in 2003. While there doesn’t appear to be an official method to track the number of EVs in the Wiregrass, the Wyses believe they are at least the first in Dale County to own one.

But the Wyses haven’t planned to enjoy their EV experience alone. They recently installed a public charging station outside their Ozark residence for use by Tesla and other EV operators who might need to “re-fuel” their EVs while traveling through the area. According to plugshare.com, a website which tracks residential and public electric charge stations for EV operators, the Wyses are one of just a few families or businesses offering such service in the Wiregrass.

Elizabeth said she is also working with local first responders to make the Tesla available for training for emergencies.

“Not simply because this is the first one in town, but because 231 is a busy local highway and other EVs do come through,” she said.

“It is important for our first responders to be prepared for an accident that has the stored electrical power that could be a serious challenge, if not properly disabled.”

Elizabeth said she and Tom spent months researching EVs, and particularly Teslas, before making the purchase in Jacksonville, Florida, recently.

The Wyses said they can travel about 286 miles on a full charge. A typical charge on a residential charger is up to 52 miles of charge per hour, which could give a driver in need of a charge enough electricity to reach a free supercharging station provided in major cities along most interstates. Those stations charge at a rate of about 250 miles per charge hour, Elizabeth said.

The Wyses’ Tesla has an auto-pilot feature that allows the EV to not only maintain the set cruise speed and stay in the lane, but to adapt to traffic conditions by braking and even changing lanes as necessary by the driver using the turn signal. Multiple sensors around the vehicle can “see” obstacles and assist in accident avoidance.

In addition to auto-pilot, the Wyses said their Tesla features an air suspension that raises or lowers the vehicle as needed and will remember height adjustments the next time the car is in the same location, can parallel park without assistance, and can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds.

The EV also does not require a key, and has the digital capability to bring in a Google calendar on the navigation screen and to remember previously visited locations.

Tom said the only user maintenance it requires is to top off the windshield wiper fluid and to have a tire rotation every 5,000 miles.

Elizabeth said the family’s first encounter with a Tesla was last year when Tom drove a Tesla in Chicago at the insistence of his son, Nathan.

“Tom came back sold,” Elizabeth said. “It was after a test drive in Jacksonville in March before I was as hooked as he was. We love cars, and we love technology. This has been the ultimate experience.”

Elizabeth said several factors went into the final decision to purchase the Tesla.

“It was not an easy decision. It was calculated. It was discussed. We pulled in our financial advisor, our banker, and joined several Tesla forums, and had many long conversations,” she said.

“In the end, the pros outweighed the cons. A $7,500 tax credit was a great benefit, too. Another selling point was Consumer Reports had to re-write their testing guidelines because the Model S met or exceeded their current safety standards.

Elizabeth said they’ve owned several different luxury, performance, and hybrid vehicles in the past, but Tom said the family’s Tesla definitely ranks high among the others. They bought their first hybrid vehicle, a 2005 Toyota Prius that used both a battery and gas, in 2005.

The couple traded their Prius for a 2012 model to enjoy hands-free technology. They also have a 2009, 24-mile-per-gallon Ford Flex, which is for sale.

The Wyses are in their 60s. Elizabeth said she looks at the Tesla as her and Tom’s ticket to enjoying technology that could be common in coming years.

“At our age, if we don’t take this chance now, we’ll give up on the opportunity. This is our way of looking into the future at what our kids and our grandkids will take for granted,” she said.

Tom said perhaps one of the neatest experiences with their Tesla is watching how the auto-pilot feature adjusts to their driving patterns.

“This car is so smart, it’s like we’re building a trust with the car,” he said.

“It’s also given us the opportunity to develop a less hurried lifestyle. We enjoy meeting people at the different charging stations and learning more about the vehicle in community forums online.”

Elizabeth likened their Tesla purchase to the transition from horse and buggy to the automobile.

“They didn’t have a gas station on every corner in the old days,” she said.

“One had to plan their trip from gas station to gas station. With an EV, it’s really no different now than it was then.”

___

Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com

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