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by Tim Beissmann

As part of Tesla’s global ‘The Next Billion’ event, the electric vehicle manufacturer is inviting new car shoppers to its Melbourne and Sydney stores this weekend to experience the Model S and learn how it could fit into their lifestyles.

The Next Billion recognises the billion miles (1.609 billion kilometres) that Tesla Model S owners have cumulatively clocked up around the world, and looks ahead to the future of ticking over the next 10-figure mileage milestone.

CarAdvice attended a Next Billion demonstration on Friday where we were taken through Tesla’s four-step ‘road map’ showroom experience, covering ownership, safety, charging, and a test drive.

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First up we were given a tour around Tesla’s Sydney store in St Leonards. Tesla calls them stores rather than showrooms because the open, uncluttered layout is very different to a regular car dealership where fresh metal typically covers every inch of floor space.

Designated ‘hangouts’ allow existing owners to grab seat on a couch, hook into the Wi-Fi, watch Foxtel and sip on a free coffee or soft drink while their Model S ‘Supercharges’ (also for free) in the car park. The hangouts are currently only open during business hours, but Tesla says soon they’ll be available for Model S owners to access 24/7 with a security swipe card.

Tesla has also confirmed it is on track to open a second NSW store in “central Sydney” before the end of this year.

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A sneak peek downstairs at Tesla’s workshop reveals a spotless white floor with red workbenches and hoists that looks more like a design studio than a greasy garage.

Tesla recommends owners bring their cars in for a service every 12 months. It says the price of annual services (it hasn’t completed one in Australia yet since the first cars only arrived in the country around the start of the year) will be on par with those of rival luxury brands.

The Model S’s lack of an engine and conventional transmission means there are significantly fewer moving parts than a regular vehicle with an internal combustion engine. It requires air conditioner gas and brake fluid changes every two years and coolant changes every four years, while steering, suspension, wheel alignment and stored vehicle data are assessed each year.

Tesla says it has so much confidence in the Model S that even if customers never bring their car in for a service, they won’t void their warranty.

An eight-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty covers the battery and drive components. Tesla claims that internal tests have made it confident that even if a car was treated as harshly as possible for 10 years (that is, recharged to 100.0 per cent and then driven as hard as possible to empty over and over again) the battery capacity would still be around 70.0 per cent of its original capacity.

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Back upstairs we’re introduced to a naked Model S chassis. Tesla Australia marketing and communications manager Heath Walker tells us when safety tested by the NHTSA in the US a special ramp had to be built to force the vehicle to roll because it couldn’t be provoked to roll naturally. In another test the weight of four Model S sedans (between 1800-2200kg each) was placed on top of a Model S to test its pillar and roof strength. The immense weight broke the machine, but left the car intact, demonstrating the incredible rigidity of its high-strength aluminium body.

Safety extends far beyond the chassis, too. The Autopilot system combines a forward-facing camera, radar and 360-degree sonar sensors to enable automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning. A forthcoming update delivered ‘over the air’ (available for existing customers to download for free using Wi-Fi or 3G) will add autonomous steering that will allow the Model S to read lane markings and steer around bends without driver input.

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Our last stop before jumping behind the wheel is an explanation about charging options, which is broken down into three charge forms.

The first is home charging, which Tesla says accounts for 90.0 per cent of charging completed by Model S owners. Currently a home wall unit (free with the vehicle, excluding installation) can charge at a rate of up to about 50km of range per hour, though Tesla says a second-generation wall unit due to be released in the coming months will boost that to a maximum of 110km of range per hour.

Quizzed about the cost of charging, Walker said a full charge of the Model S 85 from zero to 100 per cent (official range is 502km) could cost between $15 and $25, depending on electricity rates. He added, however, that most owners needed only top up their battery each night, making the typical cost only a couple of dollars per day.

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The second option is using Tesla’s Supercharger network. Before the end of the year, Superchargers will make travelling between Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney possible in a Model S. Brisbane will be joined to the network by the end of next year.

Additionally, Tesla will add a number of ‘destination charging’ sites to the network, placing chargers in locations desired by its owners.

The final charging method is a mobile travel connector, which charges up to 15km of range per hour from a regular power point when you’re away from home and out of reach of the Superchargers.

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With all that knowledge under our belts, we’re escorted to the car park where a Model S 85 is all ready to go.

In case you’re planning to take part in The Next Billion event this weekend, we won’t spoil the best part of the experience, other than to say the Tesla Model S will be unlike anything you’ve ever driven.

If you’re interested, you’d better be quick to sign up. As of Friday, Tesla said the program was 90.0 per cent booked up in both Melbourne and Sydney, even with three test drives running each 30 minutes at both stores. Both St Leonards and Richmond stores are open 10am-5pm Saturday and 11am-5pm Sunday.

If you can’t make it, or simply can’t wait that long, you can read all about our previous Model S adventures here, including our 1800km road trip from Seattle to Los Angeles.




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