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The Tesla Model S

The Tesla Model S 85

In a nutshell, life is fine if you regularly use the Tesla Charger system supplied with the car, but frustrating as hell if you don’t (price £59,000)
The Tesla Model S

If you’ve ever seen a G-Whizz car you’ll understand why we say the Tesla Model S is ‘the most beautiful electric car in the World’

Zero Emissions…Zero Compromises?

 

‘Zero emissions, Zero compromises’ is the adage we usually see alongside advertising for the all electric Tesla cars. Let’s face it; that’s not really quite true, for we all know that if you drive an electric car you will be making ‘compromises’.

You can’t, for example, pull over at a petrol station and brim the tank full of fuel in a couple of minutes. Then there’s ‘range anxiety’ or simply put ‘Am I going to be stranded part way through a journey with no means of charging the car?’ There’s that bug-bear issue of charging time too; for a long trip you’ll need to programme in at least a good hours’ break to get a decent charge to carry on with your journey.

The Tesla Model S

 

And ‘what if’ you’re running late for a business appointment and just haven’t the time to sit for an hour over a coffee! The result; mental torture, and stress. I don’t know about you, but I for one am just not organised enough to discipline myself to plan for all of these scenarios.

The Tesla ‘Case’

Tesla will argue, no doubt, that I need to change my values, be a little less selfish, be more ‘environmentally friendly’, have more faith in technology, and have a test drive of a Tesla. Whilst the environmental debate about the carbon footprint of producing electric vehicles versus the damage of oil pollution to the environment from combustion engines will remain until I die, I didn’t think it was a bad idea to have a go behind the wheel of the Tesla.

Tesla are on a mission to prove that electric vehicles are the future. They have sought to prove the point by a whole hearted investment in the electric vehicle business, naming the product after electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla. Whilst Tesla vehicle production goes back to 2008, the company first showed a profit on its vehicle sales for the first time in 2013, and has thus grown to employ over 6000 workers. Its first production model, the two seater Tesla Roadster, began production in 2008, selling over 2,400 vehicles world –wide. By far its biggest seller now is the saloon we see here; the Model S having sold over 75,000 units up to June of this year.

If you’ve ever seen a G-Whizz car you’ll understand why we say the Tesla Model S is ‘the most beautiful electric car in the World’, for the G-whizz must surely be the ugliest. To the petrol-heads amongst us, first acquaintance with a Tesla is quite an experience. Walk towards the car and it senses your presence, unlocking the door for you in anticipation. The cabin is spacious and ultra-modern, with a centrally mounted touchscreen, loaded with apps the size of a massive version of your i-phone. Dead ahead are electronic readouts of essential info, such as remaining charge/range and speed. Other than that, it is simple, modern, spacious and stylish.

On the move…quietly

Press the brake and the Tesla ‘wakes up’ and is ready to go…in silence. The process of driving the car is almost too simple to be believed. There’s hardly any noise at all, no gears of course, just press and steer. The second big surprise is the remarkable acceleration, handling and ride comfort of the car. There is no performance compromise whatsoever, compared to a combustion engined car – in fact the Tesla is faster than most. 0-62 mph in 5.4 secs and a top speed of 140 mph is hardly worth complaining about. Handling is good too; the car feels lithe, light, and yet confidently purposeful when driven hard – the ride quality is truly exceptional, and the experience of driving around (especially London) in subdued silence, highly pleasurable.

You’ll need to adjust to driving it though, as there is a natural but pronounced retardation of the vehicle when you lift off the throttle. You have very little need of the brakes in normal driving as a result, and rely more so on acceleration sense to slow the car down.

Accommodation-wise, five people can be seated at ease, and due to lack of an engine there is a boot both back and front, so boot space is the best you’ll get in a mid-range saloon.

The decider

Finally, it comes down to the acid test of range and charging. The range is encouraging – you’ll get 250 miles on average covering a range of driving scenarios (mainly city) but you start with a true indicated range of 310. The charging issue, however, is a bit more complex. Tesla owners get a £5,000 government funded discount on the purchase price to pay for a charger to be fitted at home. Provided you go home to your wife or husband every night, not only will you stay married longer, but you’ll be able to charge up at a rate of 20 miles per hour. This allows most owners to complete a full days business the next day with a car that has been fully charged overnight without having to think about charging it again until you get home for your tea. What’s more, if you happen to pass one of the special Tesla superchargers en route, you can charge the car at the staggering rate of 170 miles per half hour – totally free of charge for life.

From thereon it’s a bit of a downward cycle. If, like us, you ended up having to plug the car into a three pin adapter at home, it charges at a measly 7 miles per hour. Worse still, if you depend on the ‘public network of 7,000 on-street parking lot charge-points’, you will be tempted to either start sniffing glue or commit suicide, because most of them don’t work, and there’s a helpline phone number on them that no one ever answers.

Further down the motivation spiral, the parking spaces allocated for charging electric vehicles are too small; they were made for matchbox size G-Whizzes, not big Teslas’ like yours. If you’ve just paid the best part of 70 grand for your new Tesla, you are unlikely to be inclined to squeeze it in next to Frederick Bloggso’s old banger, for you can bet that when he opens his door you’ll have a guaranteed dent or scratch on yours, and Sod’s Law, as far as he is concerned ‘what is your problem!’; if you can afford a posh car like that, then you can afford to repair it.

Tesla to the rescue

In a nutshell, life is fine if you regularly use the Tesla Charger system supplied with the car, but frustrating as hell if you don’t. The public electric vehicle charging infrastructure is simply not up to the job; it makes owning an electric car hell if you depend on them. Cynicism of the government’s pro electric vehicle policy is justified, because when you buy them none of the chargers work. So what do you do? Sell it and go back to petrol or diesel.
Full marks must be given to Tesla’s excellent product though; for the Model S is a great car. It’s just a shame that those who rule us and encourage us to ‘go green’ are clearly not investing enough money in the infrastructure to ensure you buy another one.

 

- Kevin Haggarthy

 

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