photo by Nathan Laliberte
Think electric cars are only for tech-savvy bachelors in Silicon Valley? Think again—they’re on these very roads. With global concerns over oil supply, the ever-increasing price of gas, and a decade-long “green” initiative still going strong, more and more eco-conscious Americans—and, yes, Westchesterites—are opting for zero-emission vehicles.
Enter Aaron Kwittken, a successful entrepreneur and longtime Armonk resident. At just 40, Kwittken has made a name for himself in the ultra-competitive world of public relations. His firm, Kwittken + Company, which he founded in 2005, has quickly risen to the top of the ranks as one of the most prestigious and well-respected PR firms in Manhattan. He can often be seen on CNBC, Bloomberg, and FOX Business as a commentator on crisis management.
In addition to heading his own firm, Kwittken is a self-professed adrenaline junkie. His latest acquisition is the first highway-capable, fully electric vehicle offered in America. With a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds, it also happens to be a bona-fide rocket ship.
As a 40th birthday present to himself, the competitive triathlete and proud father of two purchased a Tesla Roadster. Say what? A Tesla Roadster, an electric—and ridiculously fast—little sports car made by Tesla, a small California-based company founded in 2003 and headed by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.
Kwittken is quick to point out that his decision to purchase a Tesla was not done in haste. “I was very skeptical at first,” he says. “In fact, when I stepped into the dealership, I was only marginally convinced the Tesla was for me. During the test drive, my wife screamed a lot —that’s when I knew I wanted the car.”
Being a die-hard endurance athlete, Kwittken jokes his Roadster ideally should have come equipped with a built-in heart-rate monitor. “It is that fast,” he says. Its ultra-lightweight body, handcrafted out of carbon fiber, makes the car incredibly nimble around curves.
Because of its dubious status as a six-figure electric vehicle (starting price: $109,000), the Tesla occupies an ambiguous space between overpriced sports car and eco-friendly green machine. “My kids love it, but my wife calls it a death trap,” says Kwittken. In fact, his kids, ages seven and 10, are such ardent fans that Kwittken frequently coerces them into hand-washing his car on weekends. “They are little and so is the car—it works perfectly,” he explains. “Plus, I give them five bucks apiece.”
Charging the Tesla is not as complicated as you might think. It plugs in to nearly any outlet through a deceptive “gas cap cover,” and Kwittken notes it gets 245 miles per four-hour charge. That is about three carbon-free round trips from Armonk to downtown Manhattan. It also happens to be so whisper-quiet that Kwittken had to have a deer whistle mounted on the front bumper. “They just don’t hear me coming,” he says. “I also have to keep honking at squirrels.” The absence of any cacophonous exhaust roar is because, well, there isn’t a combustion engine, let alone an exhaust pipe.
The Tesla’s cabin is short on decorative fluff but long on functionality. Kwittken aptly describes the interior as “no-frills and very Web 2.0,” with its own iPod port. “It has one speed—fast!” says Kwittken.
“During the test drive my wife screamed a lot—that’s when I knew I wanted the car.”
For Kwittken, electric car ownership has not come without some playful jeers from friends and colleagues. “When I first got the Tesla, one of my buddies asked me if I could make it to the train station without running out of juice,” he says. For his misinformed friend, Kwittken offered a quick g-force-inducing spin around the block in his Tesla. “I knew he was just envious,” he says.
While his Tesla has been problem-free, Kwittken admits that his decision to purchase an electric car was a leap into uncharted waters. With big oil companies on the prowl and electric technology still in its nascent stage, nobody can say for sure what the future holds for the electric car movement. Kwittken knows his decision was bold, but he kind of likes it that way. “I think of my Tesla as an immensely complex character—kind of like Tony Soprano.”
Nathan Laliberte is a writer and former resident of Hastings. He currently resides in New York City with his faithful dog, Meatball.