Driving a Tesla through France
This summer I experienced the true sense of e-mobility. What I thought might be a challenge was already well thought through by Tesla. It was an incredible feeling to drive purely on electricity for 750 miles and an experience which I hope will be common to everyone in the near future.
Range Anxiety: On
When I bought my Tesla model X, I thought that the 75kW battery will be enough as we don’t tend to do long drive journeys. At the time, it was the least of my worry but I was about to drive 750 miles.
All Tesla has a built-in navigation. It’s like Google map tailored for Tesla as it shows superchargers, calculate the charging stops, how long you should stop at a supercharger and, more importantly, how much battery you’ll have left when you reach your supercharger.
As much as I trust technology, there’s always the fear that you’re going to run out of juice, be stranded with your family under pouring rain, waving at truck drivers who refuse to stop and drive through the nearest water puddle. I was back to my range anxiety mode. Only for a short time.
Range Anxiety: Off
Tesla thought about everything to mitigate these risks. First is the extent of the superchargers network. It’s amazing. There’s one supercharger site roughly every 150km in France with each site having about 6-8 stalls, I was amazed at the underlying work that has taken place. Tesla is definitely not just about cars!
Secondly, there’s a function where you can highlight charging alternatives. Essentially places where you can charge which are not Tesla Superchargers. This is useful where you didn’t charge enough during your previous stop or you simply skip a Tesla supercharger mandatory stop.
Finally, if you’re stranded under a pouring rain, you’ve got the Tesla roadside assistance. You press a button on the screen and a Tesla-branded helicopter with Mr Musk in it will come to your rescue. If it’s not a helicopter, it will be a lorry that will be able to take you to either a supercharger or a garage. This is the last resort and you should probably not end up in this situation (unless you want to meet Mr Musk).
Once we set off, I was really amazed by the accuracy of the directions. We reached (almost) every supercharger without any problem. We charged roughly the time indicated and we resumed our journey reaching each stop at the time initially indicated.
Naturally, I had a tendency to overcharge a bit more, just in case. Sometimes it just happens: by the time I grab a coffee, relax and change the baby I’ve charged 10 minutes more than I was supposed to. The longest I had to wait was 40 minutes for a longer charge.
Like every software (a Tesla is a software in a hardware), there’re some minor glitches. For some reasons, if you enter a destination while driving, it will suggest one route then if you try again, it will suggest another route. The biggest glitch for me was that the Tesla is really good at predicting stops on a fairly flat road. However, as we drove through the centre of France, the motorway is going up and down a lot and the prediction of battery left varied a lot. Our prediction was 11% and we ended up with 6% left.
Charging takes time and it took us about 3 hours more than with a petrol car. Adding to that is the fact that superchargers aren’t usually on services, so you have to get out of the motorway, pay the hefty motorway toll and get to the supercharger site. Is that really a problem? of course not, I’m driving on electricity and it’s awesome!
Preaching the electric revolution
Once we’ve reached our final destination we had a charge point on site. That was very helpful and made our life easier. You can still use the granny cable but it’s painfully long.
The most enjoyable thing is that people there have no idea about the performance of a Tesla. It is a fast car with a fast acceleration. The technology, the silence and the speed blew away everyone I took for a test drive.
The other great thing about owning a Tesla (and travelling in places where there’s not a lot of Teslas) is that you draw quite a lot of attention. Especially with the model X and the falcon wings. People there have heard about Tesla, know the brand but are still very intrigued. I stop counting the number of people who pointed at us or took pictures of my Tesla (Yes, I enjoyed it!). It triggers conversation, people are curious and come to have a chat. It’s a chance for me to spread the word and educate them.
People are positive about electric cars. It’s becoming a reality. Although most are still worried about the range and the cost, I’m convinced that everyone considering buying a new car in the year to come will consider at least buying a hybrid or a pure electric.