2 October 2020

A day in the life of a Canberra Tesla owner

| James Coleman
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Hey, charger. A Tesla getting a top-up at Majura Park. Photos: Supplied.

A few things must not be said to the owner of an electric vehicle: “You could play a game of Monopoly while it’s charging” is one of them.

I found this out the hard way when RiotACT published my article Canberra’s EVs lead the charge to celebrate the first World EV Day, which contained the claim that it takes eight hours to fully charge an electric car. So come 9 September, I decided to help myself to a large slice of humble pie and went to see the wide range of EVs gathering along Northbourne Avenue.

Adele Craven is the events coordinator for the ACT Branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA). Her husband, Neil, serves as the admin for the private Tesla Owners ACT Facebook group. Together, they are the proud owners of a 2015 Tesla Model S P90D Ludicrous, modified by the Californian tuning house, Unplugged Performance.

Both are keen to bust some myths about electric vehicles.

Neil and Adele Craven

Neil and Adele Craven are the very proud owners of a Tesla.

Myth 1: You could play a game of Monopoly while it’s charging


Matter of factly, Neil asks: “How long does it take your phone to charge?”

And then he answers himself: “I don’t know – I plug it in when I go to bed and it’s charged when I get up. Well, it’s the same with a car.

“Even if you do 1,200 km to the Gold Coast for your holidays … there are fast chargers all the way along. You stop your journey maybe three times. You need to have those breaks anyway.”

A typical pitstop with a Tesla Supercharger takes 20 to 40 minutes.

Myth 2: EVs are really expensive

Not quite true.

ActewAGL and Tesla both offer charging facilities in the ACT. ActewAGL’s casual rates start at $2 per hour or a subscription can be purchased from $10 per month. Tesla chargers are free, and provided you have the correct adapter, the ‘Destination’ spec ones found at many shopping centres and hotels are available to any EV.

According to Zac, the technician at the Tesla service centre in Beard, routine maintenance for an EV is simple and involves checking the battery health, topping up the windscreen-washer liquid, cleaning the cabin filter, and that’s about it.

However, the cheapest EV currently on sale in Australia is the Hyundai IONIQ at over $45,000. The best-selling is the Tesla Model 3 starting at $74,000. Neil admits one like theirs would be about $200,000 new.

“Current ACT Government incentives are stamp-duty exemption on new vehicles only. There’s a 20 per cent discount on the registration component of a zero-emissions vehicle. And they let us drive on the transit lane on Adelaide Avenue, which is not a big deal,” Adele says.

Once more vehicles filter through into the second-hand market, the EV entry fee will drop.

Shane Rattenbury at World EV Day

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury dropped in on the World EV Day event.

Myth 3: EVs aren’t really that ‘green’ at all

The jury is still out.

Without getting bogged down in where the electricity is really coming from, zero-emissions come from the back of an EV.

The real issue is the batteries. A modern one can easily last 10 years and the technology is improving in leaps and bounds. But the volatile elements of nickel, cobalt and lithium all have to be mined and, if damaged, give off toxic fumes. Landfill isn’t an option, but lithium, in particular, is proving risky and costly to recycle.

Myth 4: Teslas aren’t reliable

That depends on the Tesla.

“We’ve had heaps of issues with our car. We’ve done 66,000 km in it and it’s been to Tesla service twice in that time,” Neil jokes.

The American manufacturer does remain at the top of the charts when it comes to things going wrong, but unlike almost any other car, this doesn’t always mean an eye-watering visit to the mechanics.

Neil goes on: “Because the car receives over-the-air software updates, you suddenly get new things that it didn’t do when you went to bed the night before. Minor bugs happen and they’re very quickly addressed in the next update.”

Myth 5: EVs are boring


It’s true that few will find their hearts pounding to the thought of a Nissan Leaf but there is one fundamental advantage EVs have over internal combustion engines. Torque.

“The instantaneous full torque at zero revs that’s available to the electric motor makes all the difference,” Neil says.

“This car’s standing start to 100 km/h is 2.6 seconds, which puts it in the league of supercars. In fact, it beats most supercars.”

Just let me go out and gratuitously redline my little turbocharged VW Polo GTI a few more times and then I’ll be with you, Tesla. Once I’ve finished my pie.

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Only a wanker would drop 200k on a first generation EV. Also he’s illegally drag racing in a public car park.

Elon has admitted that Tesla needs to make a truly affordable EV. I suspect we’ll see something like a small hatchback under $US20k soon. But that brings up another problem – the low Aussie $ in comparison to the $US. On top of that there is still the Luxury Car Tax for the higher end models. $US20k is going to be more like $AUS45K after taxes and exchange rate.

Myth 2 – well and truly confirmed. $74k is an expensive car by most people’s standards, and $200k is so far out of range for most people that it’s beyond expensive. Even the Homebrand edition at $45k for a re-badged Excel/I30 with an electric motor and battery, and suddenly it’s 3x the price! Nah, not expensive at all…

What you need to compare is total cost of ownership. How long do you normally own a car for? For me it’s 10 years.

It’s likely that if you were going to buy a BMW 3 series but bought a Model 3 instead, you’d actually come out ahead over 10 years — between charging at home with relatively cheap electricity, Tesla superchargers and destination charging while travelling, the energy you use to travel costs around ½ to ? for an EV compared to similar petrol car. So if your annual fuel bill is around $3000 and you plan to keep the car for 10 years, that’s $10k you can add to the up front cost of the EV and you’ll break even over the life of the car.

No, a Model 3 isn’t going to compare favourably to a Toyota Echo.

Capital Retro12:23 pm 06 Oct 20

It would be foolish to drive these “devices with wheels” on dirt roads in Australia.

Computers hate dust and no matter how well everything is sealed, dust will find a way to penetrate.

Any car made in the last 20 years has at least one computer, the engine control unit (ECU). Any such car would be just as stuck if its ECU died.

You know what else hates dust? Moving parts. Conventional cars have a lot more of those than electric cars.

It’s much easier to seal electronics against dust ingress than an internal combustion engine.

rationalobserver9:10 am 12 Oct 20

I have never seen an EV parked straight in the charging station, so I doubt EV drivers have either the skill or attitude required to drive off a sealed road.

Capital Retro9:50 am 12 Oct 20

It has happened to my 20 year old 4WD which has an ECU.

Teslas probably have the best integrity with sealing electrical circuits but maybe a bit lax in other areas: https://electrek.co/2019/03/05/tesla-model-3-design-flaw-underbody/

Capital Retro10:00 am 12 Oct 20

A thick layer of dust can act as an insulator and cause higher power chips to overheat. I assume a Tesla would have a few heat sinks fitted?

I drove a VW 1600 about 50 years ago. The air cooled engine failed because leaking oil was accumulating on the underside of the crankcase and road dust was caking onto it leaving a layer of “insulation” about 1 cm thick on the surface. This compromised the cooling and the motor simply overheated. It was a common problem with VWs which were designed for autobahns, not dirt roads.

HiddenDragon7:31 pm 05 Oct 20

“However, the cheapest EV currently on sale in Australia is the Hyundai IONIQ at over $45,000.”

Tomorrow night’s middle income and above tax cuts will be a marketing opportunity for sellers of these pricey vehicles.

“Myth 3: EVs aren’t really that ‘green’ at all
The jury is still out.

Without getting bogged down in where the electricity is really coming from, zero-emissions come from the back of an EV.”
Nonsense. The scientific jury is in. While manufacturing an EV still has higher emissions than an equivalent petrol car, overall life cycle emissions are 18-20% lower. And that’s on a grid powered by fossil fuels. Petrol and diesel cars are just inherently inefficient; only 20% of the fuel burnt actually goes to propelling the car. The rest is lost in heat through the combustion process. EVs use 80% of the consumed electricity to propel the vehicle. Then there’s the simple fact of tailpipe emissions. Wouldn’t it be nice for all the cars and heavy vehicles in our communities to be quiet and emissions free?

James Coleman7:26 pm 05 Oct 20

Still depends on who you ask – the scrapping and recycling at the end of a car’s life still count and batteries are tricky.

Actually the claims that EVs generate more emissions in production is a bit of a Chinese whisper starting before the vast majority of current models were produced. The writers of papers have just accepted the findings of previous papers when the landscape has changed significantly. A recent report also made it clear that the emissions generated in the production of all the parts for ICEV have not been included in the calculations because they are too hard to quantify. Anyone interested in Tesla processes and emissions should read their Impact Report.

A Nonny Mouse11:27 pm 04 Oct 20

“The real issue is the batteries. A modern one can easily last 10 years and the technology is improving in leaps and bounds. But the volatile elements of nickel, cobalt and lithium all have to be mined and, if damaged, give off toxic fumes.”

Congrats for the humble pie eating but this comment is still a bit over the top. Ni, Co and Li are all solid metals and not remotely volatile. Sorry, I studied chemistry! Reactive, yes. Volatile, no.
Yes, these elements have to be mined. However, you have small amounts of these in a battery and they are reused over and over as the battery is recharged. In contrast, vastly greater amounts of fossil fuel are mined and burned never to be used again. It is unfair to compare something reusable and recyclable with a fuel that is burned once and never used again.
I expect to get very much more than 10 years out of my Hyundai Kona electric car battery because it is liquid cooled. Even the ancient battery chemistry of cars from 8 years ago is holding up well with little loss of capacity so long as those batteries had good thermal management eg. Tesla and GM’s Holden/Chevy Volt. The ones that have not lasted well lacked good thermal management. They are not a good indicator of what to expect now.

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