Author Topic: Electric Vehicles: The way of the future? My Tesla Roadster experience  (Read 1162 times)

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This has nothing to do with Nissans, but it's car related and I thought people might like to hear about my experience
:-)  Oh and it's a cool picture of my wagon with a Tesla!

Definition: Perception

1: The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.

2: The way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.

Perceptions, we all have them. For most people, our perceptions are based on what we have experienced, read, done or heard ourselves or gleaned from others.

What's this got to do with electric vehicles you say, or EV's for the people in the know.

Being a petrol head through and through, I'd never given much thought to what role EV's might play in my future, but after some recent experiences I can happily say the future is here and EV's have more relevance than I ever thought possible.

See my perceptions of EV's were limited, yeah I'd heard of a Nissan Leaf (that's probably the only link to Nissan in this whole story!) but I didn't know anything about them, or even cared to know anything about them as I didn't think it mattered to me.

A friend of mine from high school and his wife, are EV evangelists and through their drive to expose people to EV's, I've been lucky enough to have been invited to a couple of events where I've been exposed to what EV's are and what they can mean in the real world.

Steve and Dee own three electric cars, a Nissan Leaf and two Tesla's, a Model S and a Roadster, oh and a hybrid Lexus thingy.

Yup, they own 66.3% of the Tesla fleet here in New Zealand, soon to be 75% when the Model D Steve has ordered turns up mid year, so to say they like EV's might be a bit of  an understatement.

Dee in passing a little while back said "oh we want to loan you the Roadster for a week so you can see what it's like to drive an electric car". Oh I thought cool, thinking nothing more of it. But true to her word, a few weeks back I was handed the keys to the Roadster for a week for a bit of a test run. Wow!

What better way to change someone's perceptions by giving them the chance to experience it themselves.

Now let's forget for a moment that Tesla's are expensive motors and take a look at what they do. Like any new technology it's expensive and Tesla are like the Apple in the phone market. Sexy! Unlike anyone else in the automotive world Tesla only make EV's. No hybrids and they've never made an internal combustion engine (ICE), but what they have done is make the best EV's they can and I think they've got it right. They have the attitude of "let's not bother with this dual technology platform shite, let's just do one right!"

So what is a performance EV like the Roadster like to drive?

Well first thing there is no engine noise, weird right? There is enough road noise to make it still feel like you are still driving a car. Then there is the engine, revs from 0-14000 RPM. Cool. But there's no gearbox, clutch, exhaust, so direct drive from the engine to the wheels and when you put your foot down, wow! This is the thing that got me, TORQUE! There is no waiting for it, there is torque from 0rpm all the way to 14000! This thing gets up and moves! Honestly it was the fastest thing (bar a very brief drive in the Model S) I've ever driven. But there is all this speed and no noise. Took me like 15 minutes to get used to, but you kind of expect that with all that power there would be some mechanical symphony to go with it. Nope!

The Roadster is based on the Lotus chassis so it handles and stops as you'd expect, awesomely, although the brakes are boosted by an electric pump, you're never wanting for stopping power. Yes you can feel the weight, it weighs just over 1250kg, but it never felt unwieldy to me behind the wheel. The steering is unassisted, so it feels like a go cart on the go and is bloody heavy at low speed. Who needs a gym LOL.

Now this is the next thing that got me. The engine braking is awesome. You can drive around town and basically not use the brakes, as the engine braking is so good that it slows the car dramatically every time you take your foot off the gas (or should that be electrons).  The engine braking regenerates power/charge back into the batteries, so essentially you are charging, or at least extending the range of the charge around town. The same can't be said for on the open road where the constant throttle reduces the range. So I found myself driving around just using the engine to slow down at intersections. Pretty cool.

Now the million dollar question? Range and charging. Charging on my 10amp plug in the garage I was able to put 10km back into battery for every hour it was on charge. Okay not ideal, so 120km in 12hrs. But if you owned one you'd have a 30amp plug in the garage and that would give you 30km/hr or even better at 70amp high power charger which gives you 70km/hr, so you get the idea. A full charge said the range was 300km. So that's pretty decent and more than enough for a nice blast on a Sunday afternoon. But I'll confess, like any performance car that gobbles dinosaur juice, the more you mash the go faster pedal, the more your range reduces and range anxiety starts to creep in.

The lowest range I got to was 90km left and I can tell you when you're only charging from a 10amp plug you're always thinking where and when you can plug it in next. Infrastructure will develop with time and more EV's on the road to justify public charging, but lets take the example of the Model S. It goes 400km on a single charge and a Tesla Supercharger, which Tesla are putting in over the states, you can charge a Model S to 80% battery capacity in 40 minutes. So while you go have a coffee your car will be full and you can carry on with your journey. Something to think about eh!

So over the week of having the car I took at least 30 people for a ride: workmates, family, friends and neigbours. The most common reaction from the passengers was them giggling like little school girls when I hit the accelerator and smiles all round!  People were just not expecting that level of performance from an EV.

Oh and one more thing, EVs are cheap to run. For a full charge it was about $15 of electricity and I reckon it would have cost about $100 in petrol to get the same experience from a similar performing petrol car. Who would like to spend 3/4 less on their fuel bill! Yes please!

There is also the advantage of lower servicing cost, ie no oil changes, cam belts and all that comes with an ICE. Yes I'll concede that there are uncertainties with what happens if there is a fault in the engine or the battery, but by the time these things become mainstream I'm sure those issues will be well sorted. Anyway, more than likely any replacements will be upgrades as you'll literally unplug the old unit and plug in a new one. Oh and issues surrounding battery life and environmental impact on EV's. But that is another whole debate altogether.

But consider this as well, in New Zealand the electricity the generated in 2013  was split between 53% hydroelectricity, 19% natural gas, 14% geothermal, 5% coal, 5% wind and 4% other sources, so 71% of our energy was renewable. All of our oil comes from overseas and we pay other people for that. Dumb eh?

So hopefully this has got you thinking. It certainly has for me. If you get the opportunity to take an EV for a spin, do it. You might just be surprised, even if it's a Nissan Leaf (I hear that they have quite good pick up!)

Who knows, in 20 years EV will be normal and nobody will think it out of the ordinary. The technology is here now.

If you are interested in learning more about EV's search for #leadingthecharge on social media.

And finally, a huge thanks to Steve and Dee for giving me the opportunity. I felt incredibly privileged and honoured to have been given the chance to drive the Roadster for a week and it rates up there as one of the most memorable automotive experiences I've ever had.
« Last Edit: 08 March, 2015, 08:54:43 PM by robbo »