Low-cost electric?

Tesla Model 3

Model on test: £57,690

Okay, I know. £58k is not that affordable or low cost, but the Model 3 from Tesla starts at £42k. Which is still not that cheap when you consider an electric Golf starts at £28k and an electric Mini from £27k, but consider what you get and it starts to make more sense.

Tesla has always been electric – nothing else. VW and Mini are, to all intents and purposes, conventional car manufacturers getting a (decent) toehold in the EV market. And that makes sense as it’s a growing market and both are well-known and loved cars.

But they don’t offer the space, luxury and (above all else) the experience of a Tesla. I hate to use that word – a car should be just that; a car. But there’s just something about a Tesla that has always connected with me. They are intuitive, smooth, incredibly well designed and things of beauty.

The big brother, the Model S, was one of the first cars I reviewed and I was instantly sold. The way they deliver so much power, so quickly and so silently still to this day puts a smile on my face – and a few people in the office were very surprised at the power on offer from a four door family car with two boots and luxurious leather on the inside.

My son especially liked that you could display a map of Mars on the sat-nav instead of the roads you are driving on… not that it was very helpful. He was also quite taken by the ability to deliver a range of fart noises from a seat of your choosing. But again, not lending much to the driving experience.

I’m going to fly through the practicalities because I want to talk about range…

It’s comfortable, fast, smooth, well equipped and incredibly spacious as well as being good looking. Charging is easy, pretty quick and not a hassle at all. Which leaves range, again good. This model offers around 300 miles on a full charge.

I took this Model 3 on a longish trip to a family christening in Hertfordshire – a hefty dive for ‘there and back in a day’ but the comfort was great and it was an enjoyable drive. Later that evening however, driving home knowing the range didn’t have much in reserve after we got home, was a little concerning. The kids had fallen asleep so stopping and charging was not ideal (if I could find a charger) but I had the comfort of knowing that once home, I could stick it on charge and by morning it would have a decent bit of range. So no issues, right?

Wrong. The range indicator is pretty accurate – and of course driving at night means lights, and a little heat being taken from the batteries so slightly less range. With a petrol car, I would have eased off, coasted down the hills and known that I could pull into a petrol station, throw a tenner in the tank and be on my way in less than 3 minutes, sleeping kids none the wiser. But with an electric car, it was different. While the range was showing that there would be a small reserve when iI got home, it wouldn’t take much for that to drop to a negative. And I for one don’t fancy finding out what happens when a Tesla runs out of juice completely.

So there was actually a degree of range-worry that you wouldn’t get in a petrol car, countered by the fact that it would charge while I slept that night. So is a hybrid the answer?

No. I would be wary of buying a hybrid. I’ve found them to be a little lacking – two powertrains adds weight and doesn’t deliver. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Tesla though – the positives far outweigh a small negative that could have been avoided with better planning. And, quite simply, I love them.

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