Musician Thomas Dolby's 'Time Machine' with Tesla Roadster electric car, March 2012
We're all time travelers, really. The thing is that we only move in one direction, and--in real time--very slowly at that.
If you fancy the idea of zipping forward in time to see if electric cars really take off, you'll need some kind of Time Machine.
Guess what? My favorite English musician, Thomas Dolby, has just the thing: 'The Time Capsule'.
I jumped into my all-electric Tesla Roadster to catch up with Dolby on his U.S. tour, to see if I could hitch up the time capsule and take it away.
It turns out that the steampunk-inspired Time Capsule isn't quite what I'd hoped.
But Dolby himself turned out to be a lot more aware of electric cars than you might have guessed. In fact, he's an old master on the topic.
Thomas Dolby: My wife is a bit of an eco-nut, and when we were living in Los Angeles in the late Eighties, we started to look around. A good friend of mine had a few electric conversions, and in 1990 we acquired a converted Ford Escort with 14 batteries in it.
We drove it as our second car for about four years. It performed well, though it'd slow down on hills a bit and occasionally pop a fuse. But we felt pretty smug!
How was life in LA with an electric car back then?
TD: It was considered quite geeky; LA is fairly materialistic. With all that valet parking, there's always that moment where you've been to some 'event' and everyone is dressed up and comes outside to get their car at the same time.
If your car is the first to pull up and you know it's not as swanky as the guy's standing next to you, you get these sort of butterflies in your stomach.
But we bypassed all that because ours would drive up and would be completely silent, and a rather confused looking valet would get out not knowing quite whether he should turn it off or not!
Invariably it'd take him 10 minutes to figure out even how to start it up.
It sounds like you enjoyed the eco benefits; did friends and family appreciate it?
TD: I think we probably influenced a few people.
Musician Thomas Dolby's
Musician Thomas Dolby'sEnlarge Photo
Back in the U.K., were you able to carry on with the eco lifestyle?
TD: When we came back to live in the U.K., I needed a recording studio, but it had to be powered from renewable energy--so that's what we did. My studio is housed in a lifeboat moored at the back of my house called the 'Nutmeg of Consolation'.
We have solar panels and a wind turbine on the roof powering the laptops that I use. We have a Toyota Prius hybrid as our family car, which really suits our needs.
Unfortunately Dolby's Time Capsule couldn't give me a glimpse into the future, but it does house a cool video recording suite that--with the help of Laura, the Time Capsule operator--allows visitors to record 30-second video messages.
Tesla Roadster, Laura, musician Thomas Dolby, Pandora - March 2012
Tesla Roadster, Laura, musician Thomas Dolby, Pandora - March 2012Enlarge Photo
Those messages will be compiled into a video and placed in a time capsule for 1,000 years.
Whomever or whatever inhabits the earth by then will be able to hear the thoughts and feelings of the race that inhabited it that long ago.
After the gig, Dolby took a run in the Tesla to see how it compared to his 1990s Escort.
TD: It's not much like the old Ford Escort. That car didn't do 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds!
There are a few more dates on Dolby's tour; catch up with one of them to record your message to the future.
Select messages will appear on Time Capsule TV. I recorded mine, but that message is between me and the future.
Michael Thwaite is an electric-vehicle advocate who lives in New Jersey and works in information technology. He also runs the Tesla Motors Club. When he was 12 years old, he hoped that when he grew up, we'd all be driving electric cars. More than 30 years later, they're finally here.