N. R. Mallery
It seems likely that most of us know who Jay Leno is. He was one of the top comedians in the country, and then hosted the Tonight Show, starting in 1992. He hosted shows until he retired, in 2014, in part to focus more his hobby which was collecting and talking about cars. Of course, as a TV personality who is retired but loves cars, he had to have his own show, Jay Leno’s Garage.
Leno even shows up in the pages of Green Energy Times from time to time. The article that appeared in January 2021, “The ‘Never Charge’ EV of the Future,” which is about the Aptera electric vehicle, mentioned the fact that he owns an Aptera prototype that is several years old, and takes interest in the design and the company (www.bit.ly/GET-Aptera).
Being famous, Leno was not surprisingly connected to other famous people, and so he was able to try out the new Tesla Model S Plaid. He arranged to do that on a track in Bakersfield, California, with official witnesses present.
The Tesla Model S Plaid is a new production car. At the time Leno tested it, it was just starting its production run. The car he drove was not fitted in any special way – it was the ordinary production Tesla Model S Plaid, just as it comes off the assembly line.
Perhaps we should pause here for a minute. Leno, who has had a lifelong interest in cars of all sorts, was very aware of the specifications of this car. It has three motors, which together produce 1,020 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. For those of us who do find that hard to visualize, it means the car is insanely powerful. Leno arranged to test the car with timing officials close by, so he could have some fun.
Jay Leno was out to set a new record for the quarter mile in a production car. The record was held by a Bugatti Chiron Super Sport, a car costing roughly $2.5 million, which was able to finish a quarter mile in 9.4 seconds. Leno, in the Tesla Model S Plaid costing roughly $130,000, succeeded in setting a new record of 9.23 seconds for the quarter mile. His speed at the end of the run was 152.16 miles per hour (mph). He got to 60 mph in 1.99 seconds.
Leno made a number of observations about the race. One that stands out — something that he mentioned with a laugh — was that he even had the air conditioning on during the run. We do not know exactly what effect that could have had on the record he set. It would be reasonable to assume, but might not actually be the case, that it robbed the car of power and slowed it down very slightly. Considering the needs of an air conditioner and energy available to feed the 1,020 HP motors, it would have been very slightly indeed.
He also spoke about the fact that the car is very quiet. He mentioned that he noticed that there were birds sitting on the “Christmas tree,” the set of lights that signal the driver when to start the race. After his run, when he got back to the starting area, he saw that the birds were still sitting there. They were unconcerned about the car that had just taken off so fast. If Leno had been driving that Bugatti, or some other car with an internal combustion engine, the birds would surely have taken off even before the car started to move.
Leno said one thing to remember. He said, “I’m a huge fan of American technology, especially products that are developed here in America that are using locally sourced stuff. And that’s why I love this car.” We might note that of all American car manufacturers, Tesla is the one that has the most American-made parts.
There is a reason why this is important. Not many people notice slow, uninteresting cars. For this country to switch to electric vehicles, it will be necessary to make cars that people do notice. Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, knew that right from the start, when he set out to attract the attention of the American public. To do that, he produced cars that are impressively fast and sporty.
You can bet that Jay Leno will not hold this record long. There is probably a long line of race car drivers who are determined to beat it and will probably leave the AC off.