Tag Archives: Tesla

Mt. Kisco Takes Our Tesla Taxes

The other day, David Pogue — the tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American), TV correspondent (“CBS News Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”) and author (“Missing Manual” series, “Pogue’s Basics”) — reported a Tesla story.

Pogue is also a devoted Westporter. He decided to localize his piece, exclusively for “06880.” After all, our town is (supposedly) the Tesla capital of Connecticut. He writes:

These days, we’re seeing a lot of Teslas on Westport streets. And no wonder: These electric cars are gorgeous, fast, and unbelievably smart. They’re far better for the environment than internal-combustion cars. You never need gas. There’s no engine and no transmission, so there are no oil changes, tuneups, or emissions checks. You get a total of $10,500 from the state and federal government, in cash and tax credits, to help you buy one.

And in Westport, there are free charging stations all over town — in the sweetest electric-car-only parking spots.

But every time you see a Tesla in Westport, remember that its owner drove to Mount Kisco, New York to get it.

That’s right: You’re not allowed to buy a Tesla in Connecticut.

Robin Tauck’s Tesla license plate sends a message.

Connecticut and 15 other states have an ancient law on the books. It bans a car maker from selling directly to the public, as Tesla stores do.

The law was designed 80 years ago to protect local franchises — the traditional car-dealership model — from having to compete with stores opened by the car makers themselves. Local Ford dealerships, for example, didn’t want Ford to open its own store across the street and run them out of business.

Of course, the law never envisioned a car company, like Tesla, that didn’t use the franchise system. (Why doesn’t Tesla use the normal local-franchise dealership model? It believes that electric cars require more explaining and patience than a traditional dealer would bother with.)

A number of states have recognized the anachronism and overturned the ban—but not Connecticut. Every time the ban comes up for a vote in our state legislature, our legislators continue keeping Tesla out of the state.

That’s a result of lobbying work by CARA (Connecticut Auto Retailers’ Association). “They’ll be the legislators’ best friends,” says Bruce Becker, president of the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut. “What some dealers do is, they’ll actually man the campaigns. They’ll have a campaign headquarters in their dealerships. There’s one dealer who’s actually running the campaign for someone who’s running for governor.”

He says that there’s a simple reason why car dealers want to keep Tesla out: because electric cars threaten their profits. Car dealerships make most of their money on service (3 times as much profit as they get from selling cars, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association). And as noted above, electric cars require almost no service.

“You’ve got these entrenched special interests that have really pushed hard, and they seem to be more entrenched every year, because they see the risks to them personally,” Westport state senator Toni Boucher told me. “There’s such an enormous amount of opposition.”

20 Saugatuck Avenue was considered recently as a site for a Tesla service center.

So what’s the result? Connecticut loses jobs, sales, and property tax to surrounding states.

This protectionism will make it difficult to reach Connecticut’s environmental goals (to lower emissions to 45 percent of 2001 levels by 2030).

“This is the unfortunate thing about CT politics: So much energy goes into creating these monopolies and protecting and limiting trade, as opposed to innovating and creating a more efficient economy,” says Becker.

I did a deep dive on this topic in my Yahoo Finance column this week. I interviewed not only Bruce Becker and Toni Boucher, but also Westport’s state representative Jonathan Steinberg; Tesla’s head counsel Todd Maron, and car-dealership lobbyist Jim Fleming, president of the CT Auto Retailers’ Association.

It’s a surprisingly fraught, sensitive, contentious issue, filled with back-room deals and arguments on both sides about what’s best for the consumer.

Meanwhile, next time you see a Tesla driving by, nod in acknowledgment to the trip its owner took to Mount Kisco.

Dawn Henry’s Cross-Country Ride To Environmental Activism

Two years ago, Dawn Henry bought a Tesla.

It was not to save the planet. “I just thought it looked cool,” she admits.

The Westporter was a successful marketing executive. She’d spent 12 years working with Diageo. Now she was a sought-after consultant.

Environmental concerns were off her radar. “I vaguely knew about climate change,” she says. “But I wasn’t paying much attention.”

Dawn Henry

She flew to California to pick up the electric car, then drove it home. At nearly every charging station along the way, she chatted with people who were interested in renewable energy.

There were, for example, 2 solar installers from Germany. They talked for 45 minutes. Dawn learned a lot.

Back home, she watched documentaries and read about climate change. She realized that the effects will not be “300 years from now. It’s happening today.”

The 2016 election galvanized her. “What Scott Pruitt is doing to the EPA, the fossil fuel money that’s going into politics — our government is moving backwards,” she says.

She joined national organizations. She went to conferences, and got trained as an advocate.

She lobbied Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and Congressman Jim Himes. “They’re great on the environment,” she says. “But I realized there’s not a lot that’s going to happen nationally. It’s more on the local level.”

Dawn Henry and her son Charles at the Climate March in Washington, DC, in April 2017.

She took the Climate Reality Project course in Seattle. The brainchild of Al Gore, it was “amazing,” she says. Back home, she made presentations at the United Methodist Church, the Fairfield Senior Center and Fairfield University. Soon, she’ll speak at the Westport Senior Center and Bartlett Arboretum.

Dawn joined the board of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Westport’s Green Task Force and the Electric Car Club.

“It’s hands-on. You can see results,” she says of the community organizations. “Energy, waste, water, conservation — they’re all important.”

So how does Dawn assess our town’s awareness of and commitment to environmental concerns?

“We’ve got good history and momentum,” she says. “There’s Net Zero” — the goal is to be fully sustainable by 2050. “The plastic bag ban. And we’re expanding our EV charging stations.”

Dawn Henry presenting at Indivisible’s ICT4 “Evening of Action” at the Unitarian Church last month.

Through her involvement in environmental issues, Dawn says, she has met “so many great people, in Town Hall and around town, I’d never have known.”

But, she notes, she and her fellow activists have “way more ideas and ambitions than we have hands to do them.” She invites anyone interested in helping to contact her (dawn@henrystrategy.com).

If you want, she’ll show you her Tesla.

It is pretty cool.

Phil Levieff Is In The TecKnow

Phil Levieff takes his hands off his Tesla’s steering wheel. The self-driving car zooms up Sturges Highway. It avoids an oncoming vehicle. It does not crash into a mailbox on my (passenger) side.

We arrive safely at Levieff’s house. We get out in the driveway. The garage door opens. The car drives itself inside, and parks.

Phil Levieff

We walk around the back. Levieff talks into the air. The back door unlocks. We stroll inside. He commands the lights to go on. Instantly, they do.

Of course, there’s only so much that technology can do. Levieff has to light the logs in his fireplace himself.

But that’s about it. Levieff is an early adopter. His car and home are as cutting-edge as 2018 gets.

The house includes 177 connected devices, operating in 24 zones. His voice controls lights, locks, thermostats, TVs, music, security cameras, alarms, blinds, fans, garage doors, solar storage and irrigation.

But Levieff’s home is not just a one-off. His business —  TecKnow — works with leading tech companies to “build the home infrastructure of the future.” It’s an attic-to-basement, indoor-and-out service that customizes and integrates the best home automation technology for individual homeowners.

They design, install and program your “smart home ecosystem.”

And — this is key — they teach you how to use it.

Nearly everything in Phil Levieff’s living room — in fact, the entire house, inside and out — is interconnected, and voice-activated.

Think about how many features of your smartphone you don’t use — either because you have no idea they exist, or you can’t figure them out.

Now multiply that by an entire house: TVs, music, kitchen, HVAC. You may not understand it all.

But Levieff does.

A Tesla battery in the basement runs Phil Levieff’s entire house.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate has been a tech geek since his days  building the first networked gaming PCs. He spent 23 years working for Automatic Data Processing (ADP), leading sales, marketing and strategy teams.

Now he’s struck out on his own. All he has is an Apple Watch, Apple TV remote, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and a Dick Tracy-like, intriguingly technologically advanced home on the Westport-Fairfield border, where he lives and utters voice commands with his wife and 2 kids.

Well, okay. He’s also got a great logo. It suggests the power of a voice, a Wifi geofence and the sun to efficiently run a home.

And Levieff has clients, both for new construction and retrofits. He’s turned Robin Tauck’s new Old Mill home into a smart marvel. He’s working with other homeowners in the area, and Massachusetts. Oh, yeah: Ralph Lauren too.

Levieff has spent the past few months offering demos to builders, architects, brokers, developers and skilled workers.

“A lot of people have tried and failed in smart home technology,” he says.

He is adamant he won’t be one of those.

After all, when it comes to home ecosystems, Phil Levieff has the “tech know.”

TecKnow ties together every element of a smart house.

Breaking News: Tesla Withdraws Saugatuck Application

In a 2-sentence letter, Tesla has abandoned its quest to build a vehicle service center on Saugatuck Avenue.

Mel Barr — the electric vehicle manufacturer’s land-use consultant in Westport — wrote to Planning & Zoning director Mary Young:

In view of the public testimony, submitted protest petition and Commission concerns expressed at the Public Hearing on June 15, 2017, the Applicant has decided to WITHDRAW the above referenced application [#17-024]. Please REMOVE this continued item from the July 6th, 2017 Planning & Zoning Commission Agenda.

Public protest at the public hearing, and on “06880,” against Tesla’s plan was strong earlier this month. Reasons included traffic, noise, and the possibility that the service center could become a dealership sometime down the road.

But the comments section of “06880” was also filled with proponents. They touted Tesla’s plan as a strong, low-intensity use of the property, and an asset to Westport’s economy and environmental commitment.

20 Saugatuck Avenue — the site where Tesla hoped to build a service facility.

NIMBY Or Not?

An email — asking recipients to circulate a petition opposing the proposed Tesla service center and/or dealership on Saugatuck Avenue — is making its way around town.

Click here for background info, provided in the email’s link to a website called SaveSaugatuck.org.

20 Saugatuck Avenue — site of the proposed Tesla facility.

The email itself says:

If you don’t live in Saugatuck, you may not have heard – but Tesla has proposed to open a dealership/service center/charging station in the vacant space at 20 Saugatuck Ave – they are looking to change zoning to do so.

Reaching out to see if you’d be willing to sign and help gather some signatures from your neighbors/friends for a petition to help prevent Tesla from changing the zoning in a way that would allow them to open a dealership right in the middle of the neighborhood. The zoning board votes on the proposal May 18th – so we need as many signatures by then as possible.

Wouldn’t want to presume we all feel the same way about this but think it would be bad for the neighborhood to have a busy dealership creating traffic on Saugatuck Avenue, an already congested area. There is also concern around cars being test-driven on local streets like Sunrise and Treadwell, as we love how walkable the neighborhood is and feel like it’ll be a safety concern having people driving cars they’re unfamiliar with on our streets–especially ones that go from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.

We’d love to have a Tesla dealership in town, just up on the Post Rd where the other dealers are, just not in Saugatuck.

Without taking a position one way or the other on Tesla’s Saugatuck proposal, here’s my question:

What do residents of Greens Farms — where potential Maserati owners test drive those vehicles, often going 0 to 60 in 3 seconds — think?

Taking a Maserati out for a test drive.

Gentlemen (And Ladies): Start Your (Very Quiet) Engines!

Westport celebrated “Greenday” — actually “Greenweekend” — with festivities at Wakeman Town Farm, WeGreen awards, Earthplace nature walks and much more.

Including the 3rd annual Electric Vehicle Rally.

Art Cohen's hybrid BMW i8 drew many admiring  glances.

A hybrid BMW i8 drew many admiring glances.

Several dozen EVs — and their drivers, navigators and admirers — assembled at the train station. They compared EV notes, munched on free food from Steam (quaint imagery there, no?), then embarked on a silent ride to Wilton.

Robin Tauck (center) lent selectmen  Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner (left) her 2 electric vehicles last year. Kaner liked driving it so much, he bought this Tesla P35D model. It goes from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds -- not that anyone does that on local roads. On the right is Westport Electric Car Club president Leo Cirino.

Robin Tauck (center) lent selectmen Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner (left) her 2 electric vehicles last year. Kaner liked driving it so much, he bought this Tesla S P85D. It goes from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds (not that anyone does that on local roads). On the right is Westport Electric Car Club president Leo Cirino.

PS: The weather was perfect all weekend long. Despite all we’ve done to her, Mother Nature threw us a bone.

Two of the clever license plates seen at the Electric Vehicle Rally today.

Two of the clever license plates seen at the Electric Vehicle Rally today.

Rally Round The EV

Most road rallies start with vroooooming engines.

But electric vehicles are silent. So when 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and Westport Electric Car Club president Leo Cirino waved checkered flags to begin this morning’s 2nd annual Electric Car rally at the Saugatuck train station, engines were very, very quiet.

The air was filled instead with music, and the excitement of a much more environmentally intelligent future.

1st selectman Jim Marpe sends the Downunder electric car on its way. Earlier this year, Marpe drove Robin Tauck's Tesla for a week. He loved i.t

1st selectman Jim Marpe sends the Downunder electric car on its way. Earlier this year, Marpe drove Robin Tauck’s Tesla for a week. He loved it.

EV owners are a proud, enthusiastic, sometimes proselytizing bunch.

They, their co-pilots and hangers-on munched on free muffins from Steam. They discussed “range anxiety,” and shared charging tips.

Robin Tauck, Robert Brickley and their Teslas.

Robin Tauck, Robert Brickley and their Teslas.

They studied 4 pages of intentionally vague directions, for their 40-mile jaunt through Fairfield County.

And then they were  off.

Very, very quietly.

Members of Staples High School's Electric Car Club pile into a small, environmentally friendly vehicle.

Members of Staples High School’s Electric Car Club pile into a small, environmentally friendly vehicle.

New York Times automobile writer (and Staples graduate) Jim Motavalli talks with a charging vendor in the Saugatuck station parking lot.

New York Times automobile writer (and Staples graduate) Jim Motavalli talks with a charging vendor in the Saugatuck station parking lot.

Dkey Oster -- owner of Steam coffee shop -- provided free coffee, muffins and music before today's Electric Car road rally.

Dkey Oster plays outside Steam, before today’s Electric Car road rally. The popular coffee shop provided free coffee, muffins and bagels all morning long.

 

 

A Message To OPEC

The owner of this all-electric Tesla Roadster snagged a great license plate:

I guess the letters “FU” were already taken.