The Simpler Tesla

Have you seen our Tesla Model X around the streets? Lots of people stop us to ask questions about owning a Tesla in general and the experience with this particular vehicle, and if we hire it out for functions (not officially, but you can speak to the driver about personal terms!). Anyway, if you’ve seen us around and had some questions you’d like answered you’re in the right place – my name’s Jeff and I’m going to take a few minutes to answer those questions.

What is that thing?

Without word of a lie, lots of people do ask that first up. They don’t recognise the badge on the front and even some that do are unaware that Tesla makes an SUV. This particular one is a Tesla Model X 100 D with six seats, 22″ black turbine wheels, white interior, tow kit, and a few bits and pieces. The “X” means it’s the SUV model (you’ve probably seen the “S” sports sedan around town and heard about the “3” coming soon), 100 is the capacity of the battery in kw, and D is for Dual Motor – there’s an electric motor on each axle meaning more power straight on the wheels essentially.

How far can it go on a single charge?

This is the single biggest question I get asked by far. They sell a variety of variants with different capacity batteries and other features that can contribute to this overall value but what I usually tell people is “about 450kms” of normal driving in average conditions. In winter we got less when we drove into the freezing gale-force headwinds. When we travel to Merimbula we could go almost indefinitely when it recharges down Brown Mountain. I’m sure I could squeeze a bit more if I didn’t drive it like it was meant to be…

How long does it take to charge?

This depends on how you charge it and how big your battery is. At a Tesla Supercharger you it will get to 80% full in about half an hour (from empty), and after that 80% mark it slows down as the battery management maximises the life of the battery. A Supercharger literally pushes about 450km worth of charge per hour, so if you “top up” when it’s convenient you really only need 10 minutes. I am starting to make a habit of taking lunch at a Supercharger once per week and letting the solar at home cover the weekend.

At home we have a wall charger that came with the car and in our case it’s only wired into a single phase of power. This gives us up to 30km worth of charge per hour at home, with the theory being that you plug in every day to simply top up what you used that day while it’s home overnight. A three-phase charger is roughly three times as fast, give or take.

In emergencies there’s also an adapter for charging from a standard 10amp power socket like you have at home – this really only trickles in about 8km of charge in an hour, so it is a last resort (yeah that’s two full days of charging to get back to full like this)

Where can you charge it?

Fortunately the answer to this question is growing rapidly. As I mentioned above I am able to charge more than I need at home. There’s also Superchargers positioned to allow even the smallest range models to get from Melbourne to Brisbane without fear of being stranded, plus a bit more. We routinely use the Goulburn, Cooma, and Canberra Superchargers. There’s also Gundagai, Euroa, Heatherbrae, Bathurst, and of course Melbourne and Sydney just to name the closer ones.

In addition to the Tesla infrastructure the NRMA is also rolling out their own charging stations all over the place which are similar in capacity and speed to the Tesla ones, although an adaptor is required (that’s the thing about standards, everyone has their own).

There’s also a growing number of shopping centers or other “destination chargers” that are popping up all the time, for example Allianz stadium has a few in the main car park, Majura shopping center, the Belconnen Markets etc. This is up to the shop owners to supply as a way of encouraging the use of electric vehicles, so it can be a bit random. Lots of hotels are also installing these so Tesla drivers don’t need to leave the premises to move their car overnight.

What kind of grunt does it have? Is it fast?

I always laugh at this one, because “grunt” is a noise word and of course a Tesla is very quiet. This question also tends to come from people driving loud sedans like a Clubsport or an XR8 for some reason. Anyway, the answer always surprises them and I doubt they believe me – this 2.5t SUV will leave all of those in the dust over the quarter mile. There’s no gears, the torque is instant and direct on both axles, it launches off the line like a jet. In fact, someone lined up a fighter jet, a Model S, an F1, a V8, and a sports bike on a runway recently and only the fighter jet had a clear advantage in acceleration.

But while it is super fast to get started it is probably not suited to racing – the top speed is respectable but not excessive and the acceleration curve really backs off somewhere around 150kph (not that I’ve tested that one) whereas that Clubsport or XR8 will continue accelerating easily over 200kph (even though it took an extra two seconds to get up to the 150kph)

Is it roomy?

I’m a big guy, I’m 6’4″ and skinny is a word that nobody has ever applied to me. I wouldn’t want to do any serious distance in the third row, although with the space in the middle it’d be okay. The second row is fine to travel in, and the front has plenty of space to stretch out. In fact even at nearly 2m tall I don’t have the drivers seat all the way back.

Adding to the convenience in this sense is two really clever design elements that everyone sees as cool-factor: the falcon wing doors and “easy entry” mode. With the falcon wing doors open you can stand upright directly in front of the second row, you don’t lose any space to the door in your way (it’s also high enough for my aforementioned 6’4″ frame to stand upright under it). To get into the third row, one press of a button on the back of the second row seat and it slides forward out of the way so you can literally step right up into the back.

… those doors…

Yes I realise that’s not a question in itself, but it’s a whole category of question. Yes, they have a bunch of sensors so they don’t open out into something like another car parked beside you. Yes, they also detect an obstruction overhead so they don’t hit that either. This can mean the doors open lower and wider than normal, or higher and narrower, or a combination. The buttons are easily accessible and allow you to override the sensors when you can see the situation is clear. The falcon wings need only 30cm of clearance sideways to be able to get in or our comfortably – try opening a conventional door so the outside edge is only 30cm from the frame and see how hard that is to squeeze into.

Speaking of squeezing into conventional doors, the front doors are like any other car so to make life easier here there’s a feature called “Summon”. Hang on that probably deserves its own heading…

Summon

If you’ve ever walked up to your car in a car park and wondered how in blazes the other car got that close and the driver got out without hitting anything, this is a godsend. Using the app on my iPhone I can make the car roll forward or backward, so in this situation I “summon” the car forward far enough for me to open the door normally and get in like it’s parked in a paddock. This was also gold in a hotel car park once where I parked it right up against the pillars – I parked it, then drove forward enough to get out, then used  “summon”to back it straight back where it needed to go. This also meant it wasn’t too close to the car on the other side…

And it drives itself, right?

Erm, kinda. Not completely, that’s not ready yet and it’s not legal in Australia anyway. What it does do is “auto steer” for you. This effectively turns on cruise control and the car will keep itself as centered in the lane as possible, which is brilliant for highways or major roads. It doesn’t (yet) stop for red lights or stop signs, that’s still up to the driver, but it does brake behind other traffic and then resume, and the lane tracking does work across intersections and other odd scenarios pretty well. It’s also wonderful in peak hour traffic when you’re staying on the same road for a while, just sit back and let it do 20kph all on its own while you keep a watchful eye on the road, of course. In fact it will bug you every now and then to put pressure on the steering wheel so it knows you’re still holding on. The whole self driving concept is exciting, and it is really useful, but it’s not perfect – you have to know when to use it.

Can I borrow it for my formal/wedding/function?

Maybe. It’s not our core business here to hire out cars, but you’re welcome to send an email and discuss arrangements personally. I have done a few, and the crowd do love the falcon wing opening on the red carpet at formals, but my availability and terms are case by case. If you would like more than one I do have some contacts with similar vehicles who are also open to ad-hoc inquiries.

 

I hope that’s helped a few people out. If you found this post because you’re considering buying one, please do get in touch for a referral code (we both get freebies!). If you see us around don’t be afraid to say hello!

~Jeff