Going the Distance

If you drive an electric vehicle (EV) you are meant to be all-consumed by range anxiety and the stress of where your next charge is going to come from. But Tesla has all but put an end to this with their continual infrastructure and battery development.

It’s been over two years since I first drove a Model S and this time I got to drive a 100D, which has been rebadged as the Model S Long Range. My spec Model S had an official range of 632km (NEDC) from the 100kW battery, but in the real world for me this was more like 500km, around the same as my average usage out of one tank of petrol in an internal combustion engine car. This longer range paired with the roll out of V3 supercharging and the always expanding supercharger and destination charging network allows Tesla owners to now go further and charge faster meaning they can reach their destination even quicker. If you want to see for yourself, you can plan your next Tesla road trip here.

My nearest supercharger out of Sydney is at Goulburn, so of course when we had the Model S a road trip to Goulburn was in order. This involved a pleasant drive in the Model S, which has a very comfortable ride, for about two hours to the south of Sydney along the Hume Highway. If you do stop in Goulburn to charge your Tesla there is a great park opposite the charging station where your children can burn off some energy. Or if you are ready for lunch there are many lovely cafes to choose from along Goulburn’s main street.

Our choice though is the Paragon Café, we have been there a few times now and it hasn’t disappointed. The menu options are extensive and the portions sizes are large and you definitely would not need to have an entrée and a main. If you have a sweet tooth, make sure you save some room for a slice of cake from the cake cabinet, just delicious!

While connected to the supercharger our Model S was charged at a rate of at least 725km/h and then reduced as the battery reached its maximum capacity to about 69km/h. All up it took around 50 minutes to recharge our battery, which was ample time for us to enjoy our lunch.

Back at home though the charge rate using the standard wall plug is just 2kW/h, so it would take about 50 hours to fully charge the battery. But when you purchase a Tesla, you receive a wall charger for home which charges a maximum rate of 22kW/h. This means that you should not have to be concerned about the charging rate at your home.

So what else is new on the Model S? Tesla updates are done remotely as your Tesla is always connected to the web as long as it is within mobile phone range or connected via a Wi-Fi network. In addition to over the air updates this also allows you to use the Tesla app to monitor the charging of your car or even to pre-warm the car using the climate control and heating the seats. And on the cold winter mornings we have been experiencing lately in Sydney it was heavenly to get into a warm car.

Major software updates in the past two years include the introduction of Dog Mode that allows you to leave your dog in the car while you go to the shops and the car maintains a comfortable temperature for them. The other is Sentry Mode, which utilises the cameras that surround the car to watch over it while it is parked up, should be in an area where you are concerned that it may be damaged.

The Model S has a 17 inch touchscreen that controls most of the car’s functions. Opening the all glass panoramic roof, customising the automatic climate control, and changing the radio station all happen with a swipe or a touch. The touchscreen, digital instrument cluster, and steering wheel controls seamlessly integrate media, navigation, communications, cabin controls and vehicle data.

The Version 9 upgrade that came through late in 2018 simplified this user interface. The upgrade enables the forward facing camera to be used as a Dashcam. You can now start in-car navigation from your maps app on your mobile device by sending it directly to you Tesla. For improved safety, Tesla have made enhancements to Blindspot Monitoring, and introduced 360 degree visualisation through the eight external cameras on each of their vehicles. For fun when parked, you can now play classic Atari arcade games or Beach Buggy Racing 2, a kart racing game where you use the steering wheel controls for the most immersive gaming experience yet.

Tesla Australia added some other features for me to trial while I was driving the Model S. These included romance mode, which displays a flickering fire place on the screen while you are stationary and this is accompanied by romantic music and a gentle warming of the car. The romance can be quickly cut short though with fart mode and this was very popular with my children. Basically you can make the car fart on command or when you engage the indicator and you have different fast styles to choose from. Some would say that these features cheapen the Tesla brand, but I think that the world is sometimes a far too serious place and if the sound of a fart makes you laugh, then what is the problem with that!

The other big selling feature of the Teslas is Autopilot and this did work better than I remember and the auto lane change was now working well compared to when I drove the Model X at the beginning of 2018. I did find though that the Autopilot tends to want to hug the centre line of a dual carriage way on your left and this is a bit disconcerting when there is a truck next to you.

Active safety technologies on the Model S include collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking and the electric All-Wheel Drive system is other worldly with the level of traction it provides. Passive safety includes six airbags including head and pelvis airbags in the front plus two side curtain airbags.

There is actually very limited storage in the cabin, with no door pockets and no storage under the arm rest. There is a flip up lid with two USBs and one 12V and then under the sliding lid at the front of the centre console is an adjustable drink holder area. You do get a very large rear boot and a smaller front boot, so there is ample room for luggage in you are taking the family on a long road trip.

Rear passengers get plenty of leg and head room and the added benefit of no transmission tunnel to trip over. There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child restraint points and rear passengers get central air vents with speed control only and at this price point I would expect at least temperature control for back there, but they do have two USB points. Also if you are sitting in the back you can use the Tesla app to turn on your heated seat without asking the driver to do it for you.

The other thing that has occurred since I last drove a Model S has been a significant price reduction across the Tesla range. The starting price for the Long Range Model S including Autopilot is $141,964 and as tested my Model S was $154,664 plus on road costs. The Model S is protected by a New Vehicle Limited Warranty for four years or 80,000 km, whichever comes first. The Battery and Drive Unit in your car are covered for a period of eight years or 160,000km whatever comes first plus eight years road side assistance.

But this price reduction has been counterbalanced by a change in the pricing structure for supercharging in Australia. All new Tesla vehicles purchased after November 2, 2018 must pay for their supercharging at a rate of $0.42 per kWh. In addition if you are connected to a supercharger and your battery is full you are then charged Idle Fees. There are two different fees – $0.65 per minute or $1.30 per minute when the station is 100% occupied.

If you top up you Tesla at one of the many Destination Charging locations they don’t charge owners directly for the use of their chargers. Some Destination Charging locations are free to use while other locations stipulate that they must be patrons of their business to charge e.g. eat at their restaurant or be a guest at their hotel.

For my few days with the Tesla Model S I completed a total of 663.1km and used 133.6kWh at a rate of 202Wh/km. Using the figures supplied on my electricity bill (0.9475kg of GHG/kWh) these 133.6kWh of electricity would mean the Tesla produced 126.59kg of greenhouse gases. If I were to use an equivalent sized car as a comparison (like an E Class Mercedes Benz) that produced around 200g of GHG/km that would equate to 132.62kg of greenhouse gases for the same number of kilometres.  Of course this is a very simplified calculation of GHG emissions and it is far more complex than this when the whole lifecycle of a vehicle is taken into account.

If you own a Tesla then it can now be treated just like any other car in terms of its day to day usability. It is also now cheaper to buy into the Tesla family and this will be further reduced when the Model 3 becomes available in Australia. Visit your preferred Tesla Store to find out for yourself how easy a Tesla is to live with.

Pros Cons
Tesla has all but eliminated range anxiety The cost of supercharging has increased
Price reductions across the Tesla range Autopilot still needs some improvement
In-car technology is constantly improving Limited in-cabin storage

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.