“How far can you go in this thing?”
Over the last 4 months and 6,000km of ownership, this by far has been the most common question that I’ve been asked. The answer I give is: “I don’t have range anxiety, I have infrastructure anxiety”.
By treating the car like a phone and recharging it every night, my wife leaves for her morning commute with a full battery. She uses about 15-20% of the available capacity each weekday, so it’s not a problem if we forget to plug it in for a day or two.
For longer journeys, there are Superchargers every 200-300km around the Eastern Seaboard. We could drive from Adelaide to Brisbane if we needed to; without fear of getting stranded. Generally we like to have a rest after driving 300km, so supercharging does not lengthen our journey time. But that’s only true if you like the services available near a Supercharger. Is your favourite cafe 30km further down the road? Forget about going there unless you want to double your break time.
Once you reach your destination, what then? Unfortunately, the answer is complicated. I could use a normal GPO plug, which will add around 100km of range overnight, but that limits the next day’s drive. Some places have Tesla destination chargers, which will fully charge the car overnight, but I don’t always want to stay in the 5-star accommodation that offer them, or spend hours at the local shopping centre. If I buy an adaptor, I could use the 3-phase power available at caravan parks and showgrounds, but showgrounds are not usually near the centre of town. Lastly, I could drive back to the nearest supercharger if I’m staying close to a capital city CBD or I’m not far from a major highway.
In time, road infrastructure will improve. For now, none of these options are painless, so planning is a must. I’ve become an expert at using sites like Plugshare and abetterrouteplanner.com to help work out my options. Sometimes nothing special is required. A return trip from Sydney to Moss Vale leaves me with 66% of capacity consumed. At other times, detours must be factored in. As an example, one day trip from Sydney to the centre of Newcastle required a 40 minute diversion to the Heatherbrae supercharger. That allowed me a safety margin to cover the extra driving in Sydney before I got home.
Charging at home makes you realise how much energy is involved in moving a car. Recharging from my wifes commute has doubled our daily electricity consumption, but the installation of solar panels and a battery has somewhat offset the cost. It also makes the car greener, but it will never make it a 100% green car because the car charges at a faster rate than the solar inverter can supply. Thus, the car will forever be powered by coal.
To preserve the battery it’s recommended that you charge the car to 80% on days without long trips, and don’t let it drop below 20%. I charge the car to 95% for long trips, but I have to remember to do that the night before. Fortunately I can’t see myself having to make any long distance drives at short notice.
I’m still in the honeymoon period, so I won’t say much about the car itself, but there are a few things worth mentioning.
Firstly, the build quality seems fine to me but I have low standards. Our previous car was a 2006 Toyota Camry; a car that did what was asked without complaint or excitement.
Secondly, it has had two trips to the service centre. The first time was because it was delivered without working air conditioning (and since the aircon cools the battery, it wasn’t wise to drive it). the second time was to fix the rear seats that refused to fold down. Both were repaired quickly.
Lastly, people come up and ask questions whenever you open the falcon wing doors or put your shopping in the front boot. Word of advice: Don’t own this car if you want to be anonymous.
So, the question being: “How far can you go in this thing?“. As far as I like.