Craig Morganson doesn’t name his cars, which is surprising, because he’s clearly in love with them. The affection is understandable. To get around for his work as the owner of a Las Vegas-based travel-technology company, Morganson hops into the winner of Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year, the Tesla Model S. For play, he takes his Tesla Roadster out and, as he puts it, “beats it up.” Morganson not only believes in electric cars; he believes in his electric cars. When you’ve got a couple of Teslas, the future is always now.
The Roadster is the one Morganson posed with for his portrait in our 2012 Intriguing People issue (VegasSeven.com/People2012/Morganson), where we advised keeping an eye on the high-achieving entrepreneur. If you blinked last year, you missed a lot: Morganson started two new travel businesses; expanded into the business-to-consumer market; won several industry awards; and, as founder and chairman of the Mexico Image Committee, met with President Obama, U.S. Senator Harry Reid and other officials to ease the wording of the State Department’s Mexico travel warning.
But by far the biggest day in Morganson’s year was November 7, the day his Model S was delivered to his home, shrink-wrapped in a protective coat. It was only the 263rd Model S produced. After unwrapping his new toy, even Morganson was astonished at the black luxury sedan’s pantheresque beauty. As car critics across the globe have echoed, this isn’t just an amazing electric car. It’s an amazing car.
That praise extends to its performance, which I experienced first-hand when Morganson let me drive his Model S around Summerlin on a cloudy December day. The verve of the thing is frightening. Punch the accelerator, and it’ll rocket from zero to 60 in four seconds (though I did it in more like six or seven).
The Model S also wins over users with features such as the rearview camera and large computer console, where all the car’s functions are easily accessed and intuitively controlled. (Bonus: free Internet.)
Worldwide acclaim aside, this car is particularly suited for Morganson. Everything about it bears witness to who he is. As a self-described maverick, he likes the way electric cars subvert oil-company power over Americans’ mobility. As an entrepreneur who invests in clean energy, he likes Tesla’s ability to turn a profit while doing the right thing for the planet. As a free spirit, he likes the Model S’s 300-mile range. As a vegan, Morganson likes having another way to live in harmony with earth. And as a highly competitive man (he says that, before a back injury, he’d bike 100 miles before breakfast), he loves the high-performance technology.
Before Morganson lets me drive, he pulls into the Terrible Herbst station at Sahara Avenue and Valley View Boulevard to buy a bottle of water and give me a look under the hood. As I peer into the “frunk” (front trunk), an astonishingly open space left by the absence of an internal combustion engine, a small crowd from the lube shop gathers. They ask what the car is, what it runs on, how much it costs. A mechanic named Donald is having trouble wrapping his head around it all.
Donald: What kind of drivetrain does it have?
Morganson: It’s called a powertrain, and it’s a combination of a computer, a battery and a motor.
Donald: Are they still integrated into, like, a differential?
Morganson: You get rid of all those things. There’s no transmission. It’s just a single speed, so you go from zero RPMs to, like, 18,000 RPMs. It’s 100 percent torque.
Donald: Does it have a 4.4?
Morganson: No. There’s no engine. It’s just an electric motor. 100 percent plug-in.
We get back in the car, and Morganson hands me the key fob. “I love when that happens,” he says. “People are learning about the technology and getting excited about it. It’s only a matter of time …”