Riding in a Tesla Model S with Steve Jurvetson

Tesla's new Model S has renewed enthusiasm in the electric vehicle market. Sumi Das rides with VC Steve Jurvetson to talk about the twists, the turns and the drama behind owning the first brand-new Tesla S.

Jared Kohler/CNET

Steve Jurvetson says electric vehicles are undoubtedly the cars of the future. Not too surprising, given that his VC firm, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, was an early investor in electric vehicle company Tesla Motors. But to really get an idea of how passionate he is about EVs, you have to hear the story about how he wound up getting the keys to the new Model S -- beating out even Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

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Musk had been dodging Jurvetson's numerous requests to put down a deposit on the car, saying that reservations for the vehicle couldn't be taken until the price was set.

But Jurvetson's luck changed as he prepared for a Tesla Motors board meeting.

"I noticed on page 65 that the prices are available," he said.

He asked whether the prices were being set that day. When he got a "yeah," there was no hesitation.

"I whip out my wallet as fast as I can. All of a sudden I have one check ready to go. I write it out to Tesla Motors for that amount and throw it across the table assuming for whatever reason I was in a race, but everyone else was just stunned," said Jurvetson.

On a recent sunny day in Menlo Park, Jurvetson gave my cameraman and me a ride in his sparkling, deep red S. As he quickly switched lanes and floored it to demonstrate the car's handling (promptly sending my cameraman flying from one side of the back seat to the other), it seemed pretty clear that he enjoyed his new wheels.

I was actually most impressed with the key, which looks like a hot wheels car. Press the side of the mini-car and the door handle emerges from the side of the car. When you lock the car, the handle retracts so it's flush with the door. Pretty slick. The control panel on the dash was also an eye-catcher. I had originally heard it described as iPad-like, and yes, it does resemble the tablet, but the screen is massive. Great for viewing maps, although I think it might take some getting used to, especially for people who like physical buttons and knobs.

Of course, not everyone can afford a Tesla. The cars start at $50,000 and go as high as $100K if you get all the bells and whistles. There are other, more affordable options from Nissan and Ford that are generally around $40,000.

About the author

    Sumi Das has been covering technology since the original dot-com boom. She was hired by cable network TechTV in 1998 to produce and host a half-hour program devoted to new and future technologies. Prior to CNET, Sumi served as a Washington DC-based correspondent, covering breaking news for CNN. She reported live from New Orleans and contributed to CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which earned the network a Peabody Award. She also files in-depth tech stories for BBC News which are seen by a primarily international audience.

     

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