Now I don’t want to ramble on about Clarkson’s review of the BMW i8 too much but the final scenes of his drive to Whitby, where he decides whether to motor back home in the new BMW M3 or the i8, got me thinking.
What would I choose between the Tesla and the M3? I’m not going to scratch my chin here because I know the answer. The M3. It’s not because the Tesla isn’t a brilliant leap into the future – or the celebrity status it gives you everywhere – even in London.
No, it all comes down to issues over battery charging. If there were charging stations everywhere – even the random places I end up in as a journalist – then I’d buy into the idea tomorrow.
The Tesla looks slick, has the most amazing interior and futuristic dashboard lay out and so on but there simply are not enough charging points to make it work for me.
And with all that empty space under the bonnet, why not but another battery in and up the range to 500 miles – then everything would look very different.
I love the Tesla but I don’t love this country for not having the infrastructure to support it. Ask you local MP why when he comes electioneering at your door over the next two months…
If you watched Clarkson faffing around comedy style with an charge point for the BMW i8 on Top Gear then you might be put off electric cars for good. Then again, if you think TG is anything but light entertainment, please send you licence directly fee to us, here in Nigeria.
It’s true that using an electric charge point can be confusing the first time – but you just have to follow the instructions to avoid frustration and feeling like a tit. The slowest way to charge the Tesla is at home via a three-pin plug. It’s simple to do and can even be set up from an app on your iPhone. It took 22 hours to charge the Model S from 61 miles of range to full.
The second type of connector is for use at home too and costs about £95. It boosts the rate of charge to about 68 miles per hour and is what most buyers opt for. It’s no more complicated than charging your mobile phone.
Out and about? Well, you have to know where your charging points are, to be honest. They are dotted all over London and at service stations and supermarkets. But in this age of instant consumerism, if you live in a remote part of the country, you ain’t going to bother.
I found it kind of cool plugging in the Model S in Little Venice this week. Self righteous, moi? But charging is still the Tesla’s one enormous, Size 12, Achilles’ heel. So until there are plug in points everywhere (and I mean, everywhere), I’m not sure the great British public will buy into it. And there, my friends, is the rub…
There’s been so much written about the Tesla’s battery technology that you might wonder how the Model S fares as a car?
I think I’m in ‘like’ with the styling, although it can look Mondeo-ish from certain angles. The interior is so clean and uncluttered it almost redefines cabin design.
So, what doesn’t work? Well, being American, it’s loaded with alerts and warning sounds. The most frustrating is the rear-seat safety belt alarm. A good idea – unless you are carrying a load of heavy boxes that sets it off over every bump.
I can’t get the DAB radio to conduct a search for BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, or any other channel for that matter. It must be possible but it should be intuitive and not a slog through page after page on car’s on-screen manual.
And although the aluminium panels made theModel S lightweight and more economical, aluminium is thin and liable to dent easily. This is especially true when you push down on the bonnet boot-lid. Shove down too hard on the metal and you will leave a hand-shaped dent in the metal…
I hate motoring economy drives – they used to be all the rage, as manufacturers fought to prove their car was the most frugal. Hacks queued up to drive from one end of the country to the other on an eggcup of fuel.
Competitors would remove the windscreen wipers and fold in the door mirror to reduce drag, coast down hills and drive at 55mph to maximise fuel economy. It was bloody dull and most probably dangerous too.
Now you don’t have to do any of that to get massive miles-per-pound in the Tesla. The annual running costs for somebody travelling 15,000 miles a year is roughly £500 – £2,000 less than a fossil fuel car.
However, I’m constantly watching the mileage range – always living in fear that I might not have enough to get home and to the safety of a three-pin plug. There are charging points around the country but even if one is near my route, I don’t want to be stuck there for an hour just to squeeze in a 70-mile charge.
It’s the Tesla’s Achilles heel – as brilliant as the car and technology are, you do worry about simply running out of power. Tesla would argue otherwise but living in the Cotswolds, home is the only realistic option for charging the car.
Where you live should certainly play a part in deciding whether the Tesla is for you or not…
There’s something very relaxing about driving a car with as much straight line power as the Model S. Blip the throttle and the Tesla takes off like a scalded cat. It’s quicker than just about any saloon and with no accompanying engine roar is eerily silent too.
I’m just getting to grips with a car you expect to tootle around slowly in – just because it’s electric. Of course, the Model S has a mighty turn of speed and isn’t just about charge times and cost savings.
Tesla claim a 4.6 second 0-60mph time but you can upgrade the motor and cut that down to 3.2 seconds. Consider the rocket-propelled Nissan GT-R takes 2.8 seconds and you might start to understand why the Model S is such a good car.
The Model S can’t sustain flat out performance for long before the motor’s safety mode kicks and reduces power automatically. But in real-world driving, it has more than enough shove to put a Cheshire cat smile on your face.
Being such a large vehicle, handling isn’t as sharp on corners as a supercar Merc or BMW – plus the power regeneration when you take your foot off the accelerator takes a little getting used too as the Tesla slows down at an alarming rate.
Overall, the Model S is great fun to drive in town or on a country A-road. Just get used to the looks because it has serious celebrity status…
I’ve driven the future – and it ain’t half bad. After the first 48 hours in a Tesla I can tell you motoring in the years ahead won’t be as dull as driverless cars and safety features that just suck the pleasure out of travel.
We all know the Tesla Model S is powered by electric motors and the creation of PayPal guru Elon Musk but what will surprise most people is the amount of technology INSIDE the cabin.
It’s all based around the enormous 17-inch screen which drives everything in the Tesla. And I mean everything! You can swipe open the sunroof with a brush of the finger, show a hugely detailed map of the country, or even log on to the Internet.
The cabin is wonderfully relaxing place to be – apart from when you notice the batteries are starting to run out of juice. And that’s where we will pick this up tomorrow…