It's easy to see why people feel passionate about the company. Driving a Tesla and talking about the experience is no longer terribly interesting, but let's get this out of the way—the Tesla Model X is easily the best car I've ever driven. I didn't have to deal with "range anxiety," which is the sense that your battery might die on a road trip, or any of the reported reliability or maintenance issues, so I was free to just gun the thing up and down the tree-lined mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe.
I felt sheepish getting into and out of the car. I parked for lunch in what I wasn't sure was a legal spot and was certain when I returned, I'd find a note disparaging me for driving a spaceship around town.
In any case, people kept commenting on the car: "Is that a Tesla?" "Wow! A Tesla!" When I got out of the car at my hotel, a man named Bob got out of his Model S and walked up to me—"You drive that thing here?"I told him I hadn't, but Bob quickly offered that he'd driven his from the East Coast. "You haven't road tripped 'til you've road tripped in a Tesla," he told me. "Did you race it while you had it?"I learned from Bob that just about every Tesla owner, has raced his or her car; in Bob's case, he'd crushed a Camaro off a traffic light down a desolate straightaway before the Camaro's higher top end eventually pulled ahead of him. I heard stories like this all night, regardless of how shy or unassuming the person I was talking to seemed. People love racing their damn Teslas, and people love telling each other about their Teslas. Bob didn't particularly seem like a revolutionary, but he was an evangelist.***
"You're standing in the middle of the factory right now," Musk told us in the tent. We were at least, oh, 1,000 feet or so outside the factory's temporary walls.
"It makes sense for railcars of raw materials to come into one side and for finished vehicles to exit the other side."
Musk says the Gigafactory is a "machine," a highly engineered Tesla product like any other. Some of the innovations seem cutting-edge: Putting all the production under one roof, for instance. Some of them seem like no-brainers that are being touted because it sounds impressive: Using plastic boxes to move battery cells around the factory will save "32 pounds of cardboard per palette," our tour guide says, pointing to a battery cell. The dad makes a joke.***
A man tapped me on the shoulder and suggested I move if I didn't want to get crushed
The cover band breezed through an instrumental version of "Creep," a slowed down version of "Gin and Juice," and, at one point, the frontman used an iPhone as a voice modulator.Customers gladly flew in from Germany, from Beijing, from Canada, from Japan. A computer programmer from Beijing told me it was an event that happens "once every hundred years." A guy who'd come out from Virginia told me it was a "once in a lifetime experience." No one mentioned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a traffic accident in which a Tesla passenger died while autopilot was engaged, or that Tesla has notoriously missed its deadlines, or that more than 12,000 people have canceled their Model 3 preorders.To have a revolution, you need to excite the people. Musk has no problem whatsoever in exciting this crowd—loosened up by alcohol, they're even more rambunctious than the group of college students I saw him address back in March, at a hyperloop conference.
A computer programmer from Beijing told me it was an event that happens "once every hundred years."