There’s an electric car in your future.
Perhaps a fuel cell vehicle, which turns hydrogen and air into electricity, or, more likely in the short term, a hybrid electric vehicle that uses electricity in urban areas and cranks over a conventional engine on the highway.
Or it could be a pure electric car. A car that has enough range for a week’s commuting and is ‘refuelled’ at your home from a storage system that itself is charged ‘off-grid’ by solar panels on your roof.
Tesla, the upstart US automotive start-up, would have it the logical choice is the latter. And it says, with some justification, the future is now.
The company has made a big noise in a very short period. The brainchild of tech pin-up Elon Musk, it’s gone from ‘lunatic fringe’ dweller to close-to-mainstream car brand in what in automotive terms is a blink of its eye. It jealously guards its production numbers but make no mistake Tesla is selling cars – and much to the chagrin of established auto dealer networks, from its own company-owned stores.
The Powerwall electricity storage technology that will allow you to solar-power your Tesla will go on sale Down Under within months. But the brand’s game-changing Model S large luxury sedan is already on Australian roads. And it’s good. Very good!
Priced from around $115,000, Tesla Model S is a luxury buy that pushes the right buttons in terms of looks, execution and performance.
Some suggest there’s a hint of Aston Martin in styling and although it’s actually a five-door, the profile is, indeed, pure premium. There’s no chance of it being mistaken for mass market hatch. Indeed, parked among high-end Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s it looks at home. I reckon Audi’s designers secretly wish had made their brand’s conceptual similar flagship A7 look as good.
The Model S’s innovative architecture uses compact electric motors front and rear and loads over 500kg of battery under the floor plan, guaranteeing flexibility in terms of interior packaging. There’s genuine room for five and although it show signs of the relative immaturity of the product in terms of interior design, there’s no denying its functionality.
Step from an established luxury brand and you will find the cabin a touch Spartan. You may recognise some switches or other components and perhaps even grizzle that there’s no secure incidental storage. But no other car in the segment provides a ‘frunk’! Instead of an engine under the bonnet there’s another boot — FRont trUNK in Tesla parlance.
No other car has the start-up sequence of the Model S either. The key is almost a metaphor for the car and company itself. There are no markings on it, save for the Tesla logo, but tap it in different places and it’ll do different things. As long as you’re in the know…
Pop the key in your pocket and proximity sensors extend the normally flush door handles as you approach the Model S. Once you’re seated and touched the brake pedal (there are two like a conventional auto), it’s ready to go. No pushing of buttons even. Select D and make your exit.
And in top-spec versions that departure can be fast… In fact, eye-wateringly, supercar-fast.
Although some would argue the point, Porsche’s 911 Turbo S is generally accepted as the fastest accelerating production car on sale today. The factory claims this purpose built 2+2-seater sports-car will go from standstill to 100km/h in 2.9sec. Tesla says in its most potent P85 D form, the Model S can not only match the Porsche, but now beat it. The margin’s just 0.1sec but that’s a lifetime in drag races.
The fastest Holden sedan ever – a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 – takes almost two seconds more!
Of course, the perceived problem with electric cars is not how fast but how far. Auto experts use the term ‘range anxiety’ to describe the factor that currently limits acceptance of EV technology.
Arguably the biggest achievement of the Tesla Model S is that its real world range hits range anxiety for six. In two stints of ‘living’ with the Model S I’ve witnessed ranges in excess of 350km and careful drivers might add up to 100km to that number.
That might not get you from Melbourne to Sydney but therein starts the argument for EV fast-charge infrastructure. Such is the importance of the Aussie marketplace, Tesla says it’s buying into the game via the installation of its own SuperCharging stations at strategic highway locations over the next 18 months.
So that box is ticked. What about this continent’s love affair with the softroader?
Did we tell you Tesla will have an all-electric high-riding seven-seater SUV on sale in Australia in 2016. It’ll be an electric dream come true for some.