The Prius be damned! Using your car to brag that you're energy conscious is hip, but you know what's hipper than that? Owning a car that delivers energy savings, style, and speed. That's why Silicon Valley players have been lining up for the electric sports cars starting to trickle out in limited editions. "Nobody wants to buy a $60,000 electric Civic," says Elon Musk, PayPal's onetime CEO who's now chairman of Tesla Motors and the founder of space-exploration startup SpaceX. "But people will pay $90,000 for an electric sports car." The Tesla Roadster debuted in late summer, and its first production run—100 cars—immediately sold out to the likes of Sergey Brin, George Clooney, and Jeff Skoll. Its successor, which, according to the company, will be twice as energy efficient as the Prius and can go 250 miles on a charge, was available for preorder at press time.
Performance is ultimately what turns heads, and these new sports cars are positively electric. "You have to offer people something other than just energy efficiency," says Ian Wright, founder of Wrightspeed, a Tesla competitor. Wright's X1 does 0 to 60 mph in three seconds flat, but it's still a concept car. You may have to settle for Tesla's 4.3-second 0-to-60 performance. Or, if you have a few more bucks, Venturi, a Monaco-based carmaker, sells the racing-inspired and aptly named Fétish, a $500,000 car that features a carbon-fiber frame and does 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. Having proven with the swells that "electric cars could be something people desire," according to Venturi boss Gildo Pallanca-Pastor, both his firm and Tesla are planning mass-market follow-ups. If those cars look half this good, desire won't even begin to describe our feelings.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.