FIRST FAMILY TRIP TO FRANCE IN AN EV
We’re not the Griswalds and we didn’t win this trip in a game show called ‘Pig in a Poke’ but I can’t help feeling slightly nervous about our first all-electric family drive to Paris and the chaos that could result. We’re used to ‘Carcationing’ but not the electric variety and to add to the trepidation the odd friend planting the seed of doubt with comments like, ‘your not worried about running out of power then, you know, with all the kids in the car?’. Great, thanks, and with that we adopt our pioneering attitude, charge our phones, car and my electric cigarette. There’s a theme occurring here, as we set course for France – God help them.
Electricity powering a car is not something I ever cared for since building Tamiya RC cars as a kid, my passion for the drama and majesty of the combustion engine left me bewildered when a guy called Elon Musk set about taking a rolling chassis from Lotus and adding batteries and electric motors. Why would he do that, I thought. Engines are great and all previous attempts to get electric cars working had floundered and been confined to the history books. A few years along that road (and incredibly it is only a few) and it’s clear his vision was brilliant to say the least.
Tesla Inc. is now valued higher than most of the traditional automotive giants like Daimler and Ford and watching the way these automotive Goliaths are scrabbling around to play catch up to Tesla is both jaw dropping and heart warming. It’s great to witness the status quo get a shake-up.
Tesla’s rapid ascendancy is nothing short of astounding. In the time it takes a traditional motor company to turn around a new model, Tesla have conceptualised, designed, tested and launched three completely new cars, and at the time of going to press, announced a huge Semi-Truck and a new Supercar that will be the fastest production car ever by a long stretch, more of a hyper-car if the stats are anything to go by. Nikola Tesla, the pioneering electrical genius from whom the company name derives would have been mighty impressed.
NO SUCH THING AS RANGE ANXIETY!
The Model X 100D we’re driving to France is a great looking car and far larger than pictures would have you believe, it’s so refreshing that the design does not compete with the arrogant lines of Range Rover, Audi and Mercedes, it just seems a bit cooler than that which marries well with the future tech vision of motoring that it represents. As we approach the X, the elegant falcon wing doors open for a dramatic entrance, the kids and bystanders alike fix a jaw dropping gaze, the car is starting to remind me of the leap when Apple upset the cell phone industry with the iPhone. I’m getting the feeling I’m starting to be won over by this car and the company’s vision.
The drama continues when you take the driver’s seat and feast your eyes on the enormous 17-inch touchscreen monitor that controls everything on, and in, the car. The futuristic approach to the interior just adds to excitement.
With great admiration for Tesla and Elon Musk I’m still going to take some convincing so we needed to give the Tesla a real world test which involved packing the car with a family of six plus luggage and making our way out of the UK and into Europe to replicate a trip we’ve made in old fashioned oil burners many times without problem and witness first hand the calamity of electric powered long distance family travel unfold. I was in for a shock, no pun intended.
The journey through the UK and onto Paris via a lovely seaside town, hotel and some sightseeing was uneventful. Most of the problems you perceive with owning a Tesla have already been solved, these cars have their own 4G connection and the car receives regular updates that improve the car – we had one the morning we left which enabled an easy exit from the car by raising the steering wheel and pushing the drivers seat backwards amongst other system upgrades. For anyone new to this or considering buying an EV might have heard of range anxiety, Tesla owners I’ve spoken to say it’s not an issue and it’s all down to the ever-expanding charger network and the way the systems allow you to plan ahead, add to that the comfort of knowing when you’re sleeping, the car is charging and you always leave home with at least 80% charge, more than enough for most daily journeys.
The comprehensive navigation allows you to plan your trip with accuracy and in addition to highlighting the Supercharger network it also shows the latest resident charging network which are normally hotels and restaurants. The Energy App displays your energy usage whilst navigating to a destination – allowing you to plan your stops and remove any of that so-called range anxiety, it didn’t exist. If you do buy an EV it also pays to download an app called zap map on your phone which opens up a plethora of other charging locations covering the UK.
ELECTRIC IS THE FUTURE
Charging breaks were not an issue and were no different to our usual stops, maybe a bit longer but anyone who’s traveled any distance with a four-year-old might know you make these stops anyway and the extra time for charging was a welcome leg-stretching opportunity. There’s also the Tesla Mobile App which manages the car remotely and monitors the charging progress amongst some other awesome features like pre-conditioning the temperature or sounding the horn and flashing the lights if you can’t find your car in a busy car park. If your car has full Auto Pilot then the app can also be used to summon the car to you from where ever it was parked or just ease it out of a tight space so you can open the doors. Very cool.
Ok, this is impressive stuff indeed, a true re-invention of car ownership and motoring, I really like the idea of owning a car that constantly improves throughout the ownership so Tesla have won me round so far and the only part of this experience that could be a stumbling block would be the driving part. Well, of course it’s different but not in a disappointing way. You quickly get used to not hearing or feeling an engine and I have to say it’s a pleasant experience. Power delivery is instant and rapid with 0-60 in 4.7 seconds which is basically ‘benchmark fast’ and for a 2.5 ton SUV this is without doubt the fastest SUV I’ve ever driven and the handling is to be applauded too. Despite the lack of feedback through the steering wheel, the Model X is a very quick and capable car on back roads and the instant power delivery is rewarding and perfect for safe overtaking.
There’s little or no body roll from the hydraulic suspension set up and with the weight of the batteries sitting lower than any traditional engine the X flies through corners at a pace that would put a lot of fresh air between the Tesla and any traditional SUV/MPV.
Inside, the X feels light, airy and modern due to the size and the large panoramic windshield, we had the 6-seat layout but the X comes with a 5 and a seven configuration depending on what suits your needs.
It’s time to concede that the Model X is as incredible as the story of Tesla so far. My fears of electric cars being dull and annoying have been proved wrong and if anything I started to relish the stealthy delivery of warp speed and the ease of charging.
I’m a total convert to the idea of owning an EV. The Model X is the best family car we’ve ever had. Everything just works and you get a real sense of being part of the future. And as for the chaos and anxiety of running the Model X over long distances it turned out to be as laughable as a National Lampoon film itself, even the Griswalds would find it a breeze.
Modern, delightful, clean, fast and great to look at or sit in, the Model X is not just a great electric SUV, it’s the best SUV in the entire market.
BATTERY CAPACITY: 100 kwh
RANGE: 190 – 375 miles dependant on conditions and driving style
0-62 mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph
Power: 311 kW (417 hp)
Torque: 487 lb/ft
Charging port: Type 2 (Mennekes – IEC 62196)
Charging time at 1-Phase 7.4kw: 17 miles/hour
Supercharging time 145kw: 270 miles/hour