Tesla – the love them or hate them car company. I sit in neither camp, but I have been fascinated by their cars since they first entered the market. In 2017, I placed a reservation for a Model 3, but after a while became impatient that the expected delivery date in Australia kept slipping to the right.
After checking that there were Superchargers on the key routes where my family does its regular Easter and Christmas holiday drives to visit family (Brisbane to Sydney and Brisbane to Melbourne), I decided to check out the Model S and Model X in more detail.
After selecting an inventory, 20km on the odo’ Model S 75 (RWD), I waited for the car to be delivered to the Brisbane Tesla store and took delivery on 1 December, 2017. After eight months and 14,000km, I am still enjoying the car and will highlight some of the areas people normally ask about.
Price – While it is true that the cars are expensive, I was comparing the Model S against the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series etc. The criteria I used were performance, storage and technology (driver-assist features). There were aspects of the E-Class and 5 Series that I prefer, but on balance the performance (my non-performance Model S does 0–100km/h in 4.5 seconds and the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at Willowbank) and storage (over 800 litres of boot and frunk space) won me over.
Purchasing a new inventory car, with the colour and features I would have ordered anyway, saved me some money over a custom order. The purchasing experience was easy and the Tesla staff were great to deal with.
Fit and finish – Before I drove off in the car, I asked the staff if I could have 30 minutes alone with the car in the delivery bay. They obliged, and I spent the time checking panel gaps, paint, trim, and made sure I was happy with the quality of the car. I am picky when it comes to these things and didn't find anything that needed attention. Nothing has creaked, rattled or come loose in 14,000km, and I haven't had to take the car back to Tesla for any work. After purchasing the car, I had the windows tinted and the paintwork ceramic-coated.
Range, charging and road trips – Since owning the car, I have averaged about 400km a week. This happens to be the amount of range on a 100 per cent charge. The car has a usable (to the driver) capacity of 72.6kWh and I have averaged 180Wh/km. EV energy consumption can take a while to get your head around when you are used to dealing with L/100km. For daily use, I charge the car to 80 per cent overnight (off-peak at 16 cents/kWh), which gives me over 300km of range every day. Using off-peak rates, the car costs about $11.60 to fill. I have solar on the roof, but no home battery.
I have done a couple of Brisbane to Newcastle road trips. Superchargers on the Pacific Highway make these quite easy, and with the wife, two kids and the dog on board for an 800km trip, we spent about an hour charging. I don't pay for electricity as free Supercharging was included with the car.
If the other manufacturers (Jaguar, Mercedes et al) are going to crack the EV market, they will have to invest in DC fast charging (100kW plus). They can offer long-range EVs, but if you can't take interstate road trips in their offerings, I can't see the take-up rate being high. If I am staying over at a friend's place, I will use the mobile charger and pay them for the electricity. I haven't noticed any significant battery degradation in 14,000km.
Technology – I work in the tech industry and the features in the car are easy to use, not covered under layers of submenus, and add value to the driving experience. I originally didn't purchase Autopilot (Active Cruise, Auto Steer, Auto Lane Change, Summon and Auto Park), but caved after five months of ownership and purchased it. As long as people understand that Autopilot doesn't equal self-driving, it is a valuable set of driver-assist features that makes driving more relaxing and less fatiguing. I now use it extensively, with a hand on the wheel, and it continues to improve with the OTA software updates.
In summary, I have no regrets buying a Tesla Model S. For where and how I drive, I think I would probably stay with an EV for my next car. I will look at the competitors on the market in four or so years' time. If there is an EV that is a better overall package than the Tesla, then they will get my money. If not, I will probably downsize to a Model 3 or Model Y.