Stefano Durdic is a serial entrepreneur based in Lombard, Illinois. The Chicago Tribune recently described him as an electric car evangelist. He prefers “EVangelist.”
Like many Tesla Roadster owners, I began my path to "EVangelism" by expanding my knowledge about electric vehicles. The documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car" outraged me. Not because this wonderful technology was almost destroyed, but because I hadn’t realized electric vehicles even existed. This sentiment led me to research EV technology, buy an electric of my own, and ultimately reach out to the movie’s director Chris Paine about making a new documentary titled "Revenge of the Electric Car".
Nobody would look into my garage and consider me a car enthusiast. My Roadster sits next to a 1986 Honda Elite 80cc scooter, a 1996 BMW 328is, and a 2003 Honda Element. My wife, 13 year-old daughter, and I already had enough vehicles to meet our transportation needs. With a price tag over $100K, the Roadster costs more than the sum of all my previous car purchases. I asked myself over and over:
Why the heck would I ever purchase such an expensive car?
Why the heck would our family of three buy another car, let alone a two-seater?
My Roadster is one of the most expensive and impractical items I have ever purchased; but I’m glad I did.
The first time I drove the car after taking delivery, I met a friend at a local restaurant. I circled the parking lot three times before I found a spot away from any imagined hazards. Returning to the parking lot, I found a group of onlookers standing around my car.
Who makes it?
What kind of car is that?
Tesla - is it Italian?
I started to realize that owning a Roadster was going to be a unique experience. After answering a few questions, I asked one of the onlookers to pop open the "gas" cap. That’s when the real questions began: How much? How far? How long?
I enjoy the parking lot discussions and now have several versions of the same speech with keywords like "6831 lithium ion batteries, PEM, instant torque, 3.9 seconds, 240 miles, regen, 120V, 240V, 53 kWh, fast, fun, Model S." I think people walk away with a better understanding of and appreciation for electric vehicles. Along the way, I’ve become an ambassador for the EV movement.
"Revenge of the Electric Car" follows the key players helping to put electric cars back on the road. Obviously, Tesla Motors is a main character in this exciting story. We’ve followed many other interesting players and our story has taken us around the world. Most recently, Chris and I were at the Detroit Auto Show where we filmed an interesting conversation between Elon Musk and GM’s Bob Lutz.
The trip to Detroit was preceded by a visit to the new Tesla Store in Chicago where I had a chance to see Roadster VIN 750 as it made its trek across the country. It was great to see this workhorse covered in road salt and grime, and I was intrigued by Tesla’s decision to not wash the car for the auto show. I thought the juxtaposition of this filthy car next to the showroom-condition cars highlighted the fact that EVs are meant to be driven. Knowing what Midwestern cars look like in the middle of winter, it was great to see a true-life display of what a white car looks like in mid-January. It was also neat to see the Model S in a brilliant shade of red (I hold reservation 25).
January has been an exciting time. Finally, EVs are making an appearance in Chicago and the rest of the Midwest. One goal of “Revenge of the Electric Car” is to make a movie accepted by people outside the “Republic of California.” I didn’t want to see Hollywood celebrities pontificating on why everybody should be driving an electric car. I half-jokingly referred to it as the “No Ed Begley Jr. Rule.” In order for EVs to be accepted by the masses, they need to be viable for people outside the “Republic.” They need to be practical for those who don’t enjoy 250 days of sunshine a year, for those who drive in rain, snow, and potholes in sub-zero temperatures, and for those whose towns don’t have public charging stations. I hope our movie will help educate those very people that while EVs face challenges, they are ready for prime time. In order to do that, the movie needs to be accepted by my Midwestern neighbors in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Detroit.
Our cameras are capturing automotive history in the making. I hope the film’s release in early 2011 will provide audiences with close and personal insight about electric cars, and help raise awareness about them. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve come from being a Midwestern, suburban, non-car enthusiast husband and father to become a Roadster owner, Tesla investor, Model S reservation holder, and Executive Producer. I’ve come from not knowing much about EVs to become an EVangelist. Hopefully for others, taking the leap to buy an EV won’t feel so daunting in comparison.