I am a nerd by trade, specializing in Microsoft technologies such as Azure, SharePoint and Office 365 as well as other content management systems. I also enjoy graphic design in PhotoShop and tinkering around with Arduino's and Raspberry Pi's.
Tesla Model X 2400 Mile Road Trip for "Free"
We have recently had a couple of road trips in our Tesla Model X 90D to Bordeaux, France, a round trip of 1400 miles using the Euro-tunnel and Royan-Le-Verdon-sur-Mar ferry, as well as a 2400 round trip to Budapest, Hungary. This gave us a good opportunity to go through the pro's and con's of doing long trips in an EV.
We collected the Tesla Model X from the Milton Keynes Service Centre on the 19th July 2017. The delivery experience was excellent, and the passion for Tesla from the staff came across. They couldn't get the second key programmed on the day, and only a few days later we noticed that the enhanced autopilot hadn't been enabled (they subsequently enabled it - so some improvements to their delivery process could be made).
We then went straight to R-Tec Auto Design in St Albans to get some Calibre 21" alloys fitted (that are significantly cheaper than the 21" option from Tesla and in my opinion look just as good and something a little different).
A few weeks later we set off on our first road trip to a last minute AirBNB booking in France! We had a full car of 6 people (2 adults and 4 kids). With all seats in use, it doesn't give all that much room for luggage despite a boot and frunk.
The car has a 100% range of around 245 miles, although you have to drive with best behaviour to get that kind of range (certainly less than 70mph). So we charged up to 100%, and then set off on our way. We arrived at Folkestone and made use of the well positioned charges right at the entrance to the shops. However, on boarding the train, our first mistake was not pre-booking the single deck (during booking you should select that you have a roof box to get on this apparently), which resulted in approximately 1.5" clearance each side of the alloys, and resulted in curbed alloys to the front when trying to traverse the loos. Not a great start :-(
On the map, the Tesla superchargers are evenly spaced to allow the required refills to make a trip possible. However, in France at least, most supercharger stations seem to be in hotels that are not as close to the highway as a petrol station would be. This adds to the journey time somewhat and can be a bit annoying trying to find the superchargers.
In general, we found the trip was significantly longer for us than a journey by a petrol/diesel engine. This is because we would not normally stop as often as required by the range of the Tesla (and if you go at an appreciable speed, range is significantly reduced). In fact, we found we drove at a speed as determined by the range needed to reach the next supercharger. In a combustion engine - we would normally just have the peddle to the metal! If we didn't have a car full of kids, we would definitely want to drive for longer with short stops to change over driver.
Although the in car large screen is pretty good, the Tesla navigation is not very good. In the showroom, the navigation should us all the Superchargers we would need to stop at on a long journey. On this journey, it would show us the next Supercharger stop, but then say we wouldn't reach our destination. It also tried to take us down a cycle path in the middle of some woods. We then started using Waze which seems much better. Hopefully with the over-the-air updates, this should improve with a future update.
On the whole though, the centre console dash has great functionality, such as InTune, Spotify, digital radio, phone and bluetooth connectivity. Connecting the children's iPad to the car and getting a hold that fits in the cup holder worked great to have a full surround sound experience. Things have come a long way for holiday journeys from when I was a boy!
For some reason the autopilot kept saying it was unavailable shortly after leaving Calais. A call to Tesla support and switching the car completely off resolved the issue. However, the enhanced autopilot does feel like a teenager driving your car that you have to keep your eyes on closely! It certainly did not deal well with blind summits on the French dual carriage way in which it suddenly wanted to veer left. You soon learn where it is suitable to use it however, but still, it makes you feel fully autonomous is a fair way off yet.
We had a ferry journey at Royan-le-Verdon-Sur-Mer. The cars were closely stacked which I wouldn't recommend for a 100,000 GBP car, and the Tesla alarm doesn't like a rocky ferry (in hindsight I have found out you can switch the alarm off). After coming off the ferry, the sensor in one of the doors insisted there was an object in front of it and we couldn't open it without taking the speaker grill off and pulling a release cord. This did make me think that in terms of safety, I would much prefer an easily accessible release mechanism for these doors in case of an accident where there was no electricity to open the doors.
For this long journey, we did find the seats are very comfortable, however, they are not great for sleeping as the headrests are very narrow, and your head flops off it! So we did stop to buy some neck brace pillow things.
We had a fantastic time at the villa once we arrived. The owners very kindly let us charge our Tesla from the house. With lack of suitable chargers nearby, this saved us a lot of time. We had previously purchased some extensions and adaptors from Xavelec which came in very handy.
The front boot is really too thin. I presume this is a weight saving exercise for efficiency, but when you are given special instructions on where to place your hands to close it, you know it's pushing it. If you've got one hand full of shopping (as you quite likely will have), you will inevitably try and close it with one hand where you can feel the bonnet flex under you hand - hopefully not permanently. If the boot is open, you need to make a dash to the bonnet before an "untrained" person tries to close it :-)
Hardened EV drivers will tell you there is no range anxiety. However, we beg to differ that this is the case for everybody. We've had a couple of instances where we've been cutting it a little fine that we wouldn't have had any concerns in an ICE vehicle. The first was doing a lot of short stints around the A12 region when visiting friends and family where there weren't any superchargers (to be fair we have only charged using the Supercharger network). The second was on the way back from Hungary when we were a little behind getting out Eurotunnel train and no time to charge, on getting to the UK, we had less than 14% battery and had to make it to Maidstone (the Supercharger at Folkestone is for departures only). We actually made it with 6% remaining so no issues, but we were trailing an articulated lorry to see how efficient we could be (we managed 248Wh/mi).
We have also subsequently been on a road trip to Hungary (where we have family) and back that is a 2800 miles round trip journey going through France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovenia and finally Hungary. Yes, we booked the Eurotunnel this time saying we had a roof rank, and when questioned (we were) the excuse of being able to open the falcon wing doors worked well. The supercharges on this route were much closer to the highway (compared to France).
The acceleration of even the 90D (that doesn't have ludicrous mode) is very impressive. It gives instant acceleration and makes overtaking a breeze. On the autobahn I have got this up to what seems like a limited 255 kph.
In our Q7 this journey would have cost in excess of 600 GBP in diesel approximately, or if we had flown, for a large family this can cost in the region of 1000 GBP in peak season, whereas, we were able to do this without any fuel costs (we have free supercharging).
If you look at the Supercharger map, you'll see that there aren't any superchargers in Hungary, so we had to charge at our families house. We did go out for day excursions, even with 5 and a half hour driving trips (at low speed through villages) so I was very impressed with range at low speeds.
We're looking forward to making this journey autonomously … however, I think I think Elon is a little over optimistic with the car being able to drive completely autonomously in the next few years. I could see it dealing with highways, but we're a long way that I can summon it to pick me up from the pub, drive around London, or where we can sleep on the way to visit our family in Hungary.
Would we recommend a Tesla? Yes. Is it for everybody? No, not yet anyway, they need faster charging (~350kW) in locations as frequent as regular petrol stations (I think most petrol stations will start offering EV charging soon too), and longer range (400 miles / 150kWh batteries). But, if you don't want a referral code to get free supercharging, and we get a toy electric car, feel free to use http://ts.la/ben2279.