Why Project 100 and Its 100 Teslas are Perfect for Las Vegas

Tesla Model S 2

Photo from teslamotors.com

This week, the Downtown Project announced that it purchased 100 Telsa Model S electric vehicles to spearhead its new Project 100 transportation initiative. Project 100 aims to provide a transit system based on shared EVs, buses, and bicycles to wean Las Vegas residents off owning a car themselves. While I generally write for those who absolutely love driving, for non-enthusiasts living in the area surrounding Vegas proper who don’t enjoy owning a car and all the little costs that come with it, Project 100 is perfect. Here’s how it works:

The initiative adds 100 Tesla Model S sedans to its proposed fleet of more than 100 each of chauffeured cars,  customer-driven small EVs, bicycles, and shuttled bus stops. For a proposed fee of $400/month, customers receive access to this fleet to get around Vegas and its surrounding areas, which are split into distinct zones. Zones consist of Downtown, Residential, City (presumably the Strip), and Outer Zone (anything not covered under the first three). The main hub will house the majority of vehicles for access and recharging reasons, while the less congested spokes (satellites) will house relatively fewer.

The Teslas come with a driver, which is pretty cool as it frees up time for passengers to work from the back or just relax and not have to worry as much about the terrible Vegas traffic (this also likely helps control Project 100’s liability). Low range EVs will also be added, with the Polaris GEM as the most likely option. The low-range EV will not come with a driver, however, so the footwork is up to the customer here. Bicycles are obviously the most cost-effective from Project 100’s point of view, and buses with their own stops will also be included in enrollment. The website also suggests that additional, more heavy duty vehicles will also be added to their stable in the event users require one for special use, and will be offset by an additional fee.

The transportation system is perfect for Las Vegas, and here’s why:

-No more cabs. So your friends are in town and want to party on the Strip on a Saturday. You drive your car from your house to Caesar’s, knowing you’re going to take a cab back home because you’re a responsible driver. Good luck finding a cab on a busy night, or one that costs less than all your drinks combined during your massive bender. The same trip under the Project 100 system costs no more than what you are already paying as a monthly fee (except maybe a tip, of course. You should probably still slip the driver a couple bucks).

-No more wasting time in traffic, or being distracted by your phone. It is no secret that distracted driving is harmful, extremely dangerous, and pervasive. As a procrastinating student that routinely finished work moments before it was due, I know that every moment at the end is precious, even though the commute from home to my university was only about 25 minutes. Both of those problems are somewhat solved by having someone else do the driving for you. It allows passengers to make their work more mobile and keeps the driver’s attention where it needs to be: on the road.

-It makes Las Vegas more sustainable. Aside from the aforementioned specialty vehicles, both cars are powered by electricity whose “refueling” will not even come close to taxing Las Vegas’s substantial power needs. Although that power comes primarily from burning natural gas and coal, the extra electricity needed to power the fleet would likely be insignificant, at worst.

There are, of course, challenges that need to be addressed in the Project 100 proposal. For one, customers are pretty much limited to staying in Vegas. That’s not a significant problem, since Vegas is situated in the middle of nowhere, but that also means no trips outside the city unless you want to pay for a rental car or flight out of McCarran. Another is availability. What happens during peak hours, like during the morning rush as everyone races to get to work on time, or a busy weekend night when the Teslas are busy shuttling customers between hotels and home? Even with 100 Teslas and 100 Polarises (Polari?), these times are going to be heavy with Project 100 traffic as well as the normal, physical congestion, and whether the system can handle this traffic will be the most vital part of Project 100’s stress testing.

The most difficult nut to crack, of course will be the pricing. Access to Project 100 is projected to cost customers something in the range of $400/month, although the website is unclear on how many individuals this fee covers. Does a family of four have to pay four fees, or two for the adults, or just one for the entire family, and how many transportation methods are available for use at any one time? And how many guests are covered under the plan as well?

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf may be Project 100’s top competitor. From nissan.com

The proposed pricing highlights the most significant factor in Project 100’s success.  A Nissan Leaf can be leased for $200 per month, or roughly half what the Project 100 cost is expected to be. That doesn’t include tax, fees, and the practically required quick charging package, but it also gives drivers greater freedom at a lower price. Project 100 may have a difficult time convincing people who are cross-shopping the transportation options to switch to a less traditional service.

Beta testing of the system is supposed to commence over the next few months by invitation only, and Project 100  and its creator, the Downtown Project, will have to assess the true price point at which the initiative can be rolled out for general use.

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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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