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Jay Leno: Tesla is ‘probably 8-10 years ahead in battery technology’ compared to competitors

Just like a smart investor (this is Yahoo Finance after all), entertainer Jay Leno has learned to diversify his skillset. Comedian, talk and game show host (the all-new You Bet Your Life), as well as car collector and host of his own car show, Jay Leno’s Garage, fill out his resume.

His adventures in car collecting and “wrenching” on his own car creations are the envy of auto enthusiasts and fans around the world. His collection stands at around 180 vehicles and 160 motorcycles, all stored in a gargantuan car garage/museum/workshop in Burbank, California.

Onlookers have seen him riding around the streets of Los Angeles in his priceless Lamborghini Miura, a diminutive classic Saab, and even one of his steam-powered contraptions.

But the classic-car loving Leno is also a big fan of electric vehicles, and his daily driver is a Tesla (TSLA) Model S Plaid.

“It's been great,” Leno said about owning a Tesla during an interview with Yahoo Finance from his garage. “I had a regular [Model S] P90 before this — I had that for seven years — It never went to the dealer, really, for anything. It never broke. It was fine.”

Jay Leno and his Model S P90D
Jay Leno and his Model S P90D

Leno’s latest Tesla is the fastest and most expensive version of the Model S — the Plaid. “I have one of those Tesla Plaids. It is the fastest accelerating vehicle on the planet. Oh, and you're saving the planet, too, by the way,” he said with a smile, later admitting he bought it for the performance.

And it’s that performance that makes Tesla special in Leno’s eyes, and the company’s massive leaps in technology that make owning an EV actually realistic.

“[Tesla is] probably 8 to 10 years ahead in battery technology… For new technology to succeed, it can't be equal, it's got to be superior, and until just the last five years, electric cars didn't quite have the range. Now, they do,” he said.

In fact rivals like Lucid (LCID) are touting 500 miles of range for its Air sedan, and Rivian (RIVN) received an impressive 300+ mile range from the Environmental Protection Agency for its hulking, roughly 6,000-lbs. RT1 pickup. Tesla is upping the ante when it comes to efficiency and power density of its own batteries too, claiming its newest 4680 batteries are nearing production.

Now Leno is no Tesla ‘stan’ even though he is a long time Model S owner. He actually knows the tech, capabilities and drawbacks of EVs, but believes Elon Musk and Tesla have proven their engineering and software prowess. But in the beginning, he wasn’t so sure.

“You know, Elon brought his roadster here in 2007. It was only one or maybe two prototypes, and he said to me at that time, ‘we're building infrastructure, we're going to build charging stations all up and down the highway.’ And I was going, yeah, that'll happen,” Leno recalls.

But Leno says he was eventually proven wrong, as Musk did build out that infrastructure. Tesla recently announced it now has 30,000 Supercharger fast-charging stalls across the globe, and has superchargers in all 50 U.S. states. Leno sees this as not only part of the value proposition for Tesla owners, but Tesla investors who are trying to justify a $1 trillion valuation.

“I think they deserve that valuation because they are that much more ahead,” Leno says. “Everybody doing it now is sort of copying Tesla, because if you remember prior to this, electric cars were nice, but they were slow, and they were, quote, ‘big golf carts,’ you know, that type of thing.”

It’s hard to believe that was once the case. In fact, Leno (briefly) broke a quarter mile world record in a Tesla Model S Plaid earlier this year, completing a pass of 9.247, just under the car's reported quarter-mile time of 9.23 seconds.

The car, which can hit 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds, will likely dispel any notion of EVs being big golf carts.


Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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