We get to take a Tesla Model S luxury EV for a spin around the historic capital of Japan.

Today I would like to show you a revolutionary trend in automobile design that blew my mind. I encountered it while visiting an event held by the electric auto-making pioneers at Tesla to promote the first of the company’s high-speed Urban Superchargers in Japan.

The event was held at the Rihga Royal Hotel and began with a presentation about the company’s plan to bring autonomous electric vehicles and other energy solutions to Japan.

Currently in the country there are about 22,000 charging stations, most of which are either standard J1772 chargers or CHAdeMO high-speed chargers. As for Tesla, there are only 133 “Destination Chargers” set up in hotels and airports, and 20 Superchargers, both of which provide free charging to Tesla owners.

However, even with such limited numbers they are already rivaling CHAdeMO’s over 7,000 stations in terms of usage.

▼ The orange circles represent Tesla Superchargers and the blue are CHAdeMO chragers, the size of the circles represents the amount of usage between February and June of this year.

After the presentation, we headed down to the parking lot where several Teslas were waiting. I drew the red Model S for a test drive.

▼ Pictured front to rear: the Model 3 (not yet for sale in Japan), the Model S luxury sedan, and the Model X SUV.

My Tesla guide Yusuke pointed out all of the car’s cameras and sensors. Cameras are positioned behind the rear-view mirror, as shown in this image photobombed by our Japanese language writer Masami who was also here for a test drive.

▼ There are also cameras along the sides of the car.

▼ And there’s a sneaky one on the rear trunk.

All of the cars were parked by a row of Tesla’s Urban Supercharger stations. These are the first of their kind in Japan and the fastest too. They also have a more compact design than the standard Superchargers.

Heading inside the Model S, there was a large touchscreen panel in the center of the dash.

▼ The sunroof can be opened to 1-percent precision by simply sliding your finger on the image. It’s great for those who are really meticulous about their exposure levels to sunlight.

Also behind the steering wheel was another digital display. These all run on a proprietary Tesla OS and are updated periodically.

The entire car can be operated like a smartphone and even has a similar setting to switch effortlessly between Japanese and English. There are a lot of interesting features here as well; one neat setting is that you can adjust the height of the entire body with a tap of the finger.

Even better, the clearance is linked with GPS so that it can remember what height to be at in different locations, so it can learn to handle particularly nasty curbs or just cruise along. Sadly, there is no function to make it bounce along to techno music, but with updates anything is possible.

Because of the inherent differences of the motor, these cars also have several features to mimic the behavior of a traditional car. For example, the electric motor doesn’t cause the car to slowly move forward when no pedals are pressed, but an artificial creep can be added.

▼ Sadly, I don’t think Spaceballs was a big enough hit in Japan for people to get the “Ludicrous Acceleration” reference.

There’s also a feature where simply letting go of the accelerator causes the car to begin braking slightly without even touching the brake pedal. Yusuke said this feature can sometimes mess with people’s inherent sense of a car stopping and cause them to feel a little disoriented. Although it’s good for conserving power and brake pads, you can still dampen this effect as well.

After messing around with the touch screen, we headed out into the streets of Kyoto. Straight out of the hotel, we pulled up next to a person on a motorbike and behind a car.

The display behind the wheel also showed them both as little 3-D avatars and as a radar-like border with an exact measurement of how far away they were.

The EV quietly cruised through the streets of downtown Kyoto with all the grace of a luxury sedan. And as we passed the large wooden pagoda of Toji, a 1,200 year-old Buddhist temple, in our big smartphone on wheels, it was hard not to be impressed by this juxtaposition of past and future all around me.

On the way back, Yusuke opened it up for just a moment and knocked my head back into the headrest. With no transmission, these cars have quite the pickup and the Model S is capable of 0 to 100 kilometers per hour (0 to 60 niles per hour) in 2.7 seconds. The degree of acceleration can also be adjusted on the control panel with three settings of “Chill,” “Sport,” and “Ludicrous.”

However, the head-slamming jump I experienced was only on the “Chill” setting. Yusuke went to “Ludicrous” afterward but unfortunately the midday streets of Kyoto provided no opportunity to really open it up.

▼ This city of tastefully color-schemed Mos Burgers was no place for such antics.

After returning to the hotel, Yusuke also showed me the app that goes along with the Tesla cars. This app allows you to remotely lock and unlock doors, honk the horn, flash the high beams, pop the front and back trunks, and even pull the car out of a parking space a few feet in the event you get boxed in by a couple of jerks and can’t open the doors easily.

Of course, once the autonomous driving feature comes into effect, you’ll be able to remotely summon your car with the app as well. Yusuke says that Tesla is ready to go autonomous the moment Japanese lawmakers will allow it, all with a quick system update.

This is all great and revolutionary stuff, but I haven’t gotten to the most mind-blowing part of the Model S, that I referred to at the beginning of this article: Behold the wonder in this animated gif!

The freakin’ handles pop out of the door when you touch them. How freakin’ cool is that?!

Tesla seems to be well on their way to dominating charging stations in Japan if the stats are anything to go by. They are well poised to corner the luxury EV market as well, appealing to successful Japanese businesses who like the image boost an environmentally-friendly international brand brings.

But the real story here is the excellence in door handle design that can be found on the Tesla Model S. I predict that that these door handles, much like the BBQ car, are destined to be the next big thing in the industry. And as SoraNews24’s leading automotive expert who has neither a car nor a valid driver’s license and hasn’t driven in over half a decade, you can take that prediction to the bank.

Japan’s First Tesla Urban Supercharger Information
Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto / リーガロイヤルホテル京都
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Higashishiosagaru, Taimatsucho, 1 Horikawadori
京都府京都市下京区東 塩小路下ル松明町1番地 堀川通

Images: SoraNews24