First Tesla Model 3 in Connecticut gets rave review
WESTPORT — Bruce Becker woke up at 4 a.m. on a day in late March 2016 and drove from Westport to the Tesla store in Mount Kisco, N.Y., to put his name on the list for a Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle. He was third in line.
After a nearly two-year wait, he finally picked up his car Monday.
“I’m an environmentalist and an architect and developer and I’ve spent the last 10 years of my career trying to create buildings that don’t rely on fossil fuels,” said Becker, who grew up in New Canaan. “What I came to realize is cars actually have a bigger impact on the environment than buildings. With all the energy I’m spending trying to make green buildings, it was crazy for me to ignore my own personal driving habits.”
Becker, the first known Tesla Model 3 owner in Connecticut, showed off his new ride at Staples High School Wednesday at an event promoting the new car, expected by electric vehicle enthusiasts to be as revolutionary as the Ford Model T.
In 2012, Becker, president of the Westport Electric Car Club, bought his first electric car — an early BMW electric vehicle prototype — which he said was an expensive indulgence. His new Tesla is much more affordable, coming in at $24,500 after incentives.
“But now they have a Model 3 — that’s a mass-market car,” Becker said, who works in Fairfield.
Westport building official Steve Smith agreed about the market for the Tesla Model 3.
“This is the people’s version,” Smith said.
The new Tesla models can go farther than the earlier models without needing to be charged, which, in addition to the lower price, Smith hopes will incentivize more Westport residents to purchase the electric vehicle.
Furthermore, the building official said, Westport already has the infrastructure necessary for residents to use electric vehicles with charging stations at both railroad stations, the high school, town hall and Baldwin Parking Lot.
First Selectman Jim Marpe attended the showcase and also hopes the town’s investment in charging stations, coupled with the new Tesla model, will bring the town closer to reaching its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“We need to transition away from fossil fuels,” Becker said in agreement. “This is one of the keys to avoiding global warming and reducing the particulate pollution, which is creating asthma and health issues even here in Westport.”
While Becker’s primary reason for buying the car is environmental concerns, he also believes the Tesla Model 3 could help rebound the state’s economy.
“All the money we currently spend on gasoline leaves the state, but more and more electric power is coming from renewable sources generated within the state. When you’re powering your car with electricity, you’re basically keeping money and jobs in Connecticut,” Becker said.
A Connecticut law intended to protect franchised car dealers prohibits selling Teslas in Connecticut, however, because Tesla is a manufacturer, and not a dealer, which is why Becker had to travel to New York to purchase the car.
“Connecticut is a very green state and we’re very progressive, but we’re completely backwards on the Tesla bill,” said Scott Thompson, a Fairfield resident and member of the Fairfield Clean Energy Task Force. Michigan, Texas and West Virginia are Connecticut’s only kin in prohibiting the direct sale of Teslas, Thompson said.
“We’ve got to bring the tax revenue associated with these cars into the state and not let it go to New York. That’s what’s at stake here, besides our reputation,” Thompson said.
Environmental protection was at the forefront of Jackie Eskin’s mind when she went to see Becker’s new car at the high school. Six years ago, the Fairfield resident purchased an electric vehicle because she believed if she didn’t step up and buy one, the company would say no one cared and would stop making the cars.
“Each person buying electric vehicles tells the companies they’re important,” said Eskin, a member of the Westport Electric Car Club.
Staples High School junior George Englehart also believes personal choices can help reduce the environmental impact of transportation emissions.
“People always think of doing stuff at a huge global level, but if you just do your part in your town, it can really make a significant difference,” said Englehart, the only high school student on Westport’s Green Task Force.
In addition to the positive environmental, economic and financial benefits of the new Tesla model, Becker said they’re just plain cool.
“It’s basically like turning an iPad into a car,” Becker said, displaying the car’s touch screen, which controls all of the car’s functions.
Although now an environmental advocate, Westport resident Dawn Henry said she bought her first electric vehicle several years ago solely for the cool factor.
“The first Tesla I got I didn’t buy because it was electric; I didn’t buy it because it was zero emissions; I bought it because it was the hot sexy car,” Henry said.