By Rich Pollack


Every now and then, Lori Berman forgets the red Tesla Roadster she’s driving is not a typical set of wheels.


She’s reminded often, however, especially when someone in the car next to her at a stoplight pulls out a cell phone to grab a quick photo.


It is the look of the Tesla that turns heads, but it is what turns the wheel that separates the car from the rest. Capable of hitting speeds of 125 miles per hour, the Tesla is a fully electric plug-in sports car — without a combustion engine — and still somewhat of a novelty.

“It’s a great car, it’s a fun car and it’s a great investment in our environment,” says Berman, a state representative who brought the Tesla to Lantana GreenFest 2010 last month tohelp demonstrate that hot cars don’t have to burn gas and to answer a few ofthe questions which surface every time a Tesla is on display.

The Roadster, Berman told those gathered around the car, can get about 240 miles on a charge and it takes about two or three hours to fully power it up using a 220-volt line. With a 110-volt line, it takes about eight hours.


The car Berman and her husband, Jeff Ganeles, purchased a couple of years ago was the 47th produced by California-based Tesla Motors. At the time, the cost was about $100,000 but today’s upgraded version will run about $109,000. There’s a sportier version of the Roadster available for an extra $20,000.


Built out of carbon fiber, the Tesla is strong and light and accelerates from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds.


“It’s like zero gravity,” says Berman, who isn’t bashful about putting the pedal to the metal as soon as a red light turns green.


In all, there are only about 1,500 Tesla Roadster owners in the world and of those, about 70 are in Florida. Because of its affluence and reputation as an outstanding luxury car market, South Florida was chosen by Tesla as the location for one its 12 showrooms in North America.


Visitors to the Tesla store in Dania can learn more about the car and can even take it on a test drive to experience the handling and performance firsthand.


For Berman and Ganeles, the look and feel of the car are important, but it is the environmental aspects that make it most attractive and what drew them to it before most people knew anything about Tesla Motors.


“We thought ‘this is going to be the wave of the future,’ and we wanted to be a part of it,” Berman says. “It’s attractive because you don’t have to depend on foreign oil.”


Reducing that dependence and saving money by being more energy efficient were the underlying themes at Lantana GreenFest, now in its third year.


“The goal of GreenFest is to share with residents ways they can be environmentally friendly and save money at the same time,” said Dave Thatcher, Lantana’s development services director and town planner.


Visitors had a chance to learn about everything from reducing their electricity usage through home energy surveys to using rain barrels to collect water for gardens.


In addition to programs on water and energy conservation, GreenFest included presentations by the Busch Wildlife Center, instruction on how to build a tire swing, as well as live music and food. The cost was covered by sponsorships.


Of course, one of the main attractions was Berman’s Tesla, which drew big crowds, including some residents who hadn’t been to GreenFest before.


“When you bring in something like the Tesla, you can reach a new group of people who might not be as aware of the importance of sustainability as are others,” said
Maggie Barszewski, Lantana’s community planner and the driving force behind the event, which drew somewhere between 800 and 1,000 visitors.


While Berman will tell you she and her husband — who drives it almost every day to work — love the car, she does point out Tesla owners need to always be cognizant of how far the car can go on one charge.


“Range anxiety can be a problem with electric cars,” she said.


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