Every time my parents come to visit, they rave about the new (ish) services just south of Gloucester. They’ve used the restaurant when they’ve been early in coming to visit and know we won’t be in. They stop at the deli and farm shop on their way home to Devon to stock up on some of their favourite items. So I’ve wanted to go there for some time – strange to desire to visit a service station, but why would you stop at a service station when you’re only 4 miles from home? You wouldn’t. But this weekend I had the perfect excuse to take the family there for lunch. I needed to charge up the car.
I had a Tesla Model S for the weekend, and to be honest I had mixed feelings… as a petrol head, a wholly electric car shouldn’t really excite me should, but my undergraduate degree (some years ago) was Environmental Science, so maybe reducing CO2 emissions should be a priority…
But lets be honest – this isn’t just an electric vehicle, this is an electric supercar… with the equipment, performance (and price tag) to match.
Normal terminology such as miles per gallon doesn’t apply for the Tesla, the first indication that it really isn’t a normal car. Things are different from the moment you walk up to it with the key. The car detects the key is close and the door handles emerge from the body – this reduces drag at speed and increased energy efficiency… it’s the little details that count after all. Then you sit behind a chunky, sporty-feeling wheel and realise that despite the lack of noise, it’s on and you’re ready to go. Press the brake, select drive and off you (silently) go.
Now you have a choice… drive it as a car, gently pressing the accelerator, or give it a bit more of a ‘push’ and engage what my son took great joy in calling ‘fast mode’. And my god, is it fast. 60mph will come up in little over 5 seconds, with constant power all the way. Thanks to the lack of gears, there’s no lag and jump like you get in an automatic, just power (and almost no noise) for as long as you press the pedal… I mean until you reach the national speed limit.
Equally impressive as the power, is the deceleration. In a bid to maximize energy, the Tesla recovers energy and dumps it back into the battery when coasting, so the effect is regenerative braking. With this on the higher of the two settings, you don’t actually find yourself braking much at all. So it goes – fast – and stops quickly. The steering is responsive and light, and the cabin is a fantastic place to be – expensive feeling materials, high gloss wood, soft leather and suede are present in abundance, and the 17 inch touch screen that controls everything really is excellent.
The controls were intuitive, simple, quick to respond and logical. One of my friends remarked that it was as if Apple had designed it because it worked perfectly, and she had a point. As it happens, there is an app that you can log into with the car’s individual details and you can control a great deal from the comfort of your sofa. Pointless I hear you say? To an extent I thought so too. But if you’ve ever tried to strap a baby into a car seat when it’s 30 degrees and sticky, you’ll appreciate the ability to put the air conditioning on half an hour before you need to get in, so it’s a cool 18 degrees inside before you’ve even got in.
Charging, it would seem, is the only issue then. And to be honest, without instruction, I found it a simple task to plug in at the services, and if you are ever caught short, the built in web browser will point you to the nearest charging station, and the Google map navigation should get you right there without issue. With the right charger, it can be swift too. Tesla is installing superchargers around the country, and if you’re close to one of them, you can get 80% charge inside of 40 minutes.
So all in all I was incredibly impressed, and even the charging wasn’t too much of a hassle – plus it gave me the excuse to go to the fantastic restaurant at Gloucester Services.
The final ringing endorsement came from my wife, posting a photo to Facebook, saying ‘I’ll be sad to see this one go’.