GO, GO, GO GREEN -WITHOUT THE COMPROMISE
At The Green Organisation, we often get asked for our views on environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Many motorists want to do their bit for the environment, but do not want to sacrifice the creature comforts to which they have become accustomed in the Emissions Age.
Well now we have the solution – the Tesla Model S.
It is all-electric, so it has zero vehicle emissions; and you do not have to significantly compromise on range, comfort, reliability, appearance, performance, style or anything else.
There is a guy in the office who has never volunteered for anything in his life. Not ever!
But when I asked if anyone was available to collect a test drive Tesla Model S from 100 miles away, he was gone! Disappeared in a cloud of his own exhaust smoke as he could not wait to get his hands on this mighty beast.
But he, like the rest of us, was surprised to find it was a very well-behaved wildcat.
It does not roar – even at 100mph+ (rumour has it!). It does not even purr. It is silent; like flying a stealth fighter. And just as much fun.
Of course, being so quiet can have its own problems as you would hear every knock, squeak and rattle with no other background noise. Well, you would if there were any – but the engineering is so precise there is not even a whisper of poor workmanship.
There are enough bells and whistles to occupy the boys who like their toys, but it also simplifies faff-free, relaxed driving to the extreme. Just point and press.
Acceleration is more jaw-breaking than jaw-dropping, because you can virtually feel the G forces rearranging your features as you instantly approach warp speed. Floor it and it can show a clean pair of (w)heels (see what I did there?) to just about any other vehicle.
There is more than enough raw power under the bonnet (or under the floor in this case, because that is where the array of lithium batteries is housed) to excite any speed freak; but the Model S is just as happy when tip-toeing through town traffic like a prima ballerina.
That low-level and even distribution of weight under the floor provides excellent stability, and frees up cavernous boot space back and front.
For all its sporty looks, the back seat will genuinely accommodate three fully-grown adults with plenty of leg room. And you can make young friends for life by installing backward-facing kiddie seats in the boot for an additional £2,500. That really is fun on the run – and could spell the end of the ‘are-we-there-yet’ nightmare.
My first impression was that I might suffer for my art as my right leg was aching after just a few miles. But two minutes of playing with the infinitely adjustable seat and wheel positions solved that and there was never another twinge in 1,500 miles.
You need to be a bit more ‘warrior’ than ‘worrier’ in the Model S, because it is well suited to gung ho wind-in-your-hair driving – specially with the enormous all-glass panoramic roof fully open.
The worriers among us might have it at the back of their minds that while the Model S has a much greater range than most competitors – it is still limited to about 250 miles and electric vehicle charging points are not to be found at every service station.
But worry no more. The supersize console visual display lets you know exactly how far away your next Tesla facility is, and how many miles you have left in the ‘tank’.
THIS WAS NOT an incident-free test drive (1)
On the way back from Scotland, the on-board monitor kept urging me to call in for a re-charge at Gretna.
But I am a journalist at heart – so I think I know everything!
With my trained observer’s eye, on the way up I had seen a ‘Tesla Service Point’ notice at Tebay Services on the M6, so I decided to push on the extra 50 miles before topping up.
Sure enough; there was the sign.
Sure enough; there was the power point.
Sure enough; the key was immediately available at the filling station.
Sure enough; the car knew better than me!
The facility was in the process of upgrading to accommodate newer models, with cable-laying actually in progress.
That was why Tebay was not listed on the on-board computer – and that was why I had to turn round and re-trace my wheel treads back up the M6. That’s a long way with your tail tucked between your legs – and back again…
The moral of the story: Just leave it to Tesla. The machines have taken over.
And those batteries, by the way – guaranteed for eight years!
THIS WAS NOT an incident-free test drive (2)
Every story should have a hero. This one has three – Alan Simpson, Paul Silver and Scott.
We took a drive up to Aberdeen from Ballater, safe in the knowledge that we would need a
re-charge before driving back.
I knew there was not a Tesla point that far north, but the Zap Map showed several charging points around the city.
On arrival at the first of these on Union Square, I found both ‘pumps’ already occupied and charging up a couple of vans.
On to the next option in Frederick Street. Sure enough, two charging points free – but requiring a ‘Charge Your Car’ swipe card to access them. I had two others, but not the one I needed on this occasion.
Before I had time to swear and scratch my head, Paul and Scott were on hand. They had been chatting outside the car park and their curiosity had drawn them inside to get a closer look at this ‘rare beastie’.
They explained the system and showed me how to access the helpline – but all I got was a continuous ‘please hold’ instruction.
Luckily, they knew the city’s electric vehicle charging points supremo, Alan Simpson, and gave him a call.
When they told him it was ‘a bloke in a Tesla’, he dropped everything he was doing and materialised in minutes.
He decided that the standard machines at Frederick Street would be too slow for us, so – for the privilege of a Tesla ride – he escorted us to a couple of quicker machines a couple of miles away.
He arrived there with mixed emotions. The fact that both outlets were already in business demonstrated the city’s wisdom in investing in the facility – but it did not solve our problem.
Without a second thought, he dashed off to get his own vehicle – in his own time – so that he could lead us to a supercharger on the city outskirts.
What a player! The complete opposite of so many council ‘jobsworths’ that we have all encountered.
The trio’s helpful attitude was typical though. To paraphrase an old advert: You are never alone with a Tesla!
Admirers would come up in the car park and peer through the tinted windows.
Cashiers would come out of petrol stations, just to pay compliments and comment that the VDU screen was ‘bigger than my TV at home!’
Heads would turn; smiles of appreciation and wonder would replace frowns; and conversations would begin with people who would normally just ignore you.
I would like to think all of this was sparked by my own charisma – but my nearest and dearest assure me it was the Model S that made the difference.
THIS WAS NOT an incident-free test drive (3)
A warning light came on the dashboard to let me know the pressure was low on my left rear tyre.
I guess that happened when I kerbed it on a narrow Scottish lane, because its wheelbase is noticeably wider than the mere mortal car that I normally drive.
I put some air into it and limped back to the hotel. As there was no spare, I phoned Tesla’s own
24/7 recovery service for advice.
They said they would send some help straight away.
As we were being recovered from the heart of the Cairngorms, I half expected a St Bernard with a barrel of brandy round its neck.
Instead, it was the more traditional man-in-a-van – but eat your heart out Lewis Hamilton! When was the last time your pit crew made an 800-mile round trip to change a wheel for you?
Tesla are still building up their infrastructure, and the nearest service unit was based in Derby.
Can you get better service than that?
Tesla offer the same recovery service to all Tesla owners – not just to the top-spec £76,780 model I had at my disposal. But even with prices in the luxury bracket, many high-mileage business users find instant fuel-savings and significant payback benefits through Tesla’s free super-charger service.
THIS WAS NOT an incident-free test drive (4)
Being all-electric, the Tesla is totally automatic and has no clutch.
But old habits die hard and I instantly jammed down with both feet when the truck in front of me lost its load and sent of pile of five-metre metal pipes clanging across both carriageways.
As emergency stops go – it was textbook.
The brakes brought us to an immediate straight-line halt that was so effective we were in more danger of banging heads on the windscreen than we were from the runaway pipes.
THIS WAS NOT an incident-free test drive. Did I mention that(?)
My final thoughts on the Tesla experience? One day all cars should be like this. But at present we have something akin to the VHS/Betamax conflict in the early days of video recording.
If all EV manufacturers and charging point networks can agree on a universal system and
then co-operate to make topping-up as simple as filling up, they will be in the driving seat. (See what I did there as well?)
And if the boffins can eventually find their Holy Grail of a battery breakthrough that solves the weight and range limitations, electric vehicle sales will really switch into top gear. (See, I did it again!)
Words – Roger Wolens
Pictures – Tesla
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