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Palatine man leading high-voltage life with Tesla Roadster
By Kimberly Pohl | Daily Herald Staff

Palatine resident Carl Walters and his electric Tesla sports car are regulars at environmental expos.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Palatine resident Carl Walters and his electric Tesla sports car are regulars at environmental expos.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Carl Walters of Palatine looks over the cooling system in the front of the car where the engine would normally be in his electric Tesla sports car.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Carl Walters of Palatine takes his electric Tesla sports car for a spin.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/5/2010 11:46 AM

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Carl Walters is loving retired life in the fast lane.

Every day, the 75-year-old Palatine man dons a black driving cap and a wide smile while managing a controlled fall into his deep-seated 2010 Tesla Roadster convertible.

The all-electric sports car - which comes with a base price of $109,000 - combines his "lifelong love affair with electricity," a concern for the environment, and a beautiful toy that accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds.

Walters will embark on his longest journey yet when he heads up to the fifth annual Green Drive Expo July 17-18 in Madison, Wis., where he's sure to have one of the more eye-catching vehicles. He'll easily make the 125-mile trip without having to plug in and recharge.

"It's partly about wanting to save the planet for future generations and partly about having a lot of fun," Walters said. "Some critics say plugging in requires coal fire plants, but it's a heck of a lot greener than something that belches carbon dioxide out the end."

Walters first spotted the Tesla on a clip of "Jay Leno's Garage" on TV in June 2008 and promptly flew out to California to buy one with custom features including electric-blue paint, black rims and a plastic armor coating that doesn't chip.

Fourteen months later, crews delivered Walters' Tesla, which gets about 245 miles per charge. He's been trying not to speed and hitting local green gatherings ever since, including membership in the Fox Valley Electric Auto Association.

According to the car's computer, a recent trip to Lake Geneva cost him just $5.18 based on ComEd's rate of 10 cents per kilowatt hour. He also received a $7,500 rebate from the federal government for driving a green car.

"This baby will pay for itself," joked Walters, a retired electrical contractor. "But really, I was surprised at how nominal the increase to my electric bill was."

Despite the hefty price tag, there's a growing niche for these high-performance electric cars. A Tesla dealership recently opened in Chicago and the carmaker went public last week, partly to fund the production of a $50,000 luxury sedan model due out in 2012.

The interest in the Green Drive Expo, which draws about 8,500 people, has also prompted organizers to start a similar event this year in the San Francisco Bay area, show founder and manager Eric Powers said.

Manufacturers like Ford and Toyota will display a variety of electric, hybrid, compressed natural gas, hydrogen and propane conversion vehicles. The event will feature test drives, a car parade and a course competition for highest miles per gallon. Chelsea Sexton - who played a big role in the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?" - will also speak.

"There's not going to be one solution to our future energy and transportation needs," Powers said. "The expo is a place where people can find out the information that's out there and the types of vehicles that are available."

Powers hopes interest in green cars isn't limited to when gas spikes to $4 per gallon and will instead grow due to new and exciting vehicles like the Tesla.

• Information on Green Drive Expo is at greendriveexpo.com. Information on Tesla is at teslamotors.com.