Promoting National Security Has Never Been So Much Fun

John McEwan, Entrepreneur and Engineer, August 7, 2009

After serving as a U.S. naval officer, including an assignment with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John A. McEwan founded Technology Advancement Group in 1984. TAG began in John’s garage but is now a leading developer of information technology for the U.S. military. (The U.S. Navy is the company’s largest customer.) John, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, wants to wean the nation from dependence upon foreign oil. He is currently overseeing the “Mount Vernon Project,” a 2.25-acre estate in Fairfax County, Virginia, which aims to generate more energy than it consumes. To read more about John, his Roadster and his projects, visit his personal Web site.

I received my Roadster just before Father’s Day – and what a gift! The day it arrived at my home, it was the dawn of a new age. This was an experience that is forever forged in my brain. Like the first horseless carriage or the first radio or first television or the advent of the personal computer, fax machine, cell phone, or even the Internet itself, this totally electric car is free from having to run to a gas station, free from burning anything, free from noise and smell. It represents the fundamental paradigm shift that will define the 21st century.

My dad was a pilot, and I began flying lessons at the U.S. Naval Academy decades ago. I’m also an avid sports car enthusiast. I bought my first Corvette in 1975, and I now own a Lamborghini Special Edition Gallardo and Mercedes S Class 65 AMG V12. Although I can pick from some of the world’s most esteemed gas guzzlers, whenever possible I pick the Roadster.

The Roadster liberates me from foreign oil and wild price fluctuations at the pump. But beyond national security interests, the Roadster simply is exhilarating to drive. It has great road feel. I feel one with the seat! Being able to quickly accelerate without the thunderous roar of a gasoline engine is really cool, stealthy and much more confidence-inspiring, instant and intuitive than conventional gas acceleration, in which the car must proceed through a complicated set of mechanical reactions before peak torque is achieved.

One of the key differences between driving the Roadster and driving any conventional car relates to having maximum torque available all the time. When driving a typical muscle car, you have to drop it a couple of gears, rev the engine and then go through the gears. Then the car revs through each gear until the torque drops, signifying that it is time to switch to the next gear. You repeat this process as you build speed. Whether your transmission is manual or not, the same is true – you perceive the lurch or jerk as your transmission shifts.

But with the single-speed gearbox of the Tesla Roadster, you can forget all of that complicated footwork, shifting and lurching. You simply press the accelerator, and instantly you have maximum torque. It stays with you until you are at your desired speed, which happens very rapidly.

Think about a light switch, hair dryer, food processor or other electric appliance: It doesn’t crank up into high speed; it’s either on or off, and all power is available nearly the moment you flip the “on” button. And in contrast to the deafening roar of other sports cars, it happens in the Roadster very quietly, very effortlessly, very elegantly.

It takes a lot to excite a pilot about road driving. A pilot is accustomed to moving quickly in three-dimensional space, both in translation and in rotation. A car can only move about on one plane, and even that movement is restricted to specific lines called streets. And as far as rotation is concerned, forget it -- unless you are about to roll over, and you’ll probably only experience that once! Yet the Roadster recalls the best of 3D piloting, thanks to its responsiveness and the near-instant availability of all of its torque without lag, without sound, without excuses or excess. And thanks to regenerative braking, you can control your speed by subtle pushing or pulling off the throttle, without ever having to slam on the brake pedal (unless you need or want to). This car should be in the garage of every pilot!

Electrical engineering has always been my passion. My dad received his Master’s degree in EE and has patents, and so do I. My first patent was in 1981 and I started a technology company ( in 1984. When I was much younger, I was invited to NASA and met the astronauts of the Apollo program regarding my science project which won a national science fair overseas. Even though I was accepted at MIT, I entered the US Naval Academy.

Much like the space program, which has been in the news so much this summer because of the 40th anniversary of man stepping on the moon, Tesla engineers started with a blank piece of paper and a set of requirements. They had to make it fast (0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds), they had to make it last (at least 200 miles per charge), they had to make it relatively cheap (about $100,000), they had to make it cool, they had to make it work, and they had to do it much faster than a typical automaker. From a piece of blank paper to a dependable, street-legal, production car, the Tesla engineers performed amazingly. They hit it out of the park—totally awesome!

After several weeks behind the wheel, I keep coming back to the wiz kids depicted in the movie Apollo 13. The Tesla engineers certainly have much to be proud of. Like their space program counterparts, they accomplished what had never been done before. Like the NASA engineers, Tesla engineers are now part of history. Thanks!