A day in the life of a Canberra Tesla owner

James Coleman 2 October 2020 81

Tesla

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

False.

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

False.

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.


What's Your Opinion?


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81 Responses to A day in the life of a Canberra Tesla owner
waldorf waldorf 3:26 pm 14 Oct 20

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.

Carla Laroco Carla Laroco 7:11 pm 08 Oct 20

Jim Reid all the more reason to get one!

tim_c tim_c 9:00 pm 06 Oct 20

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…

    Grail Grail 11:31 pm 11 Oct 20

    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.

Julia Riley Julia Riley 4:39 pm 06 Oct 20

Madison Potter look where it is

Paul Wilson Paul Wilson 1:16 pm 06 Oct 20

Don’t forget they also use 4 times the amount of copper a normal car does. We have to mine for all the metals

    Paul Johnson Paul Johnson 1:23 pm 06 Oct 20

    That's OK, copper is recyclable like a large chunk of the other materials used to produce vehicles. But keep trying to use that as an argument why EVs aren't better while you continue to purchase and burn a non-renewable finite source of energy. But drilling for oil is completely fine, same for extracting gas. These are acceptable pollution, but mining copper is not?

Capital Retro Capital Retro 12:23 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.

    nickwest nickwest 6:43 pm 08 Oct 20

    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.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:50 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/

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 9:10 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 Retro Capital Retro 10:00 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.

Candace Hepburn Candace Hepburn 7:09 am 06 Oct 20

Joel James this doesn’t include u guys towing them around 😂

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:42 pm 05 Oct 20

That car is very low. What about corrugated and potholed dirt roads? And speed humps?

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 1:25 am 06 Oct 20

    The standard height on this car is set lower than normal. 4 level height adjustable suspension is standard on Model S. It even geo-locates, that is remembers the location and raises automatically. We had it out on dirt roads down the coast last weekend.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:40 am 06 Oct 20

    Adele Craven Some dirt roads are very good. I asked about corrugated and potholed dirt roads. How rough were those dirt roads you went on? Were there eroded channels for instance? I really can't see that car being able to go on very rough roads.

    Dick Friend Dick Friend 11:23 am 06 Oct 20

    Two years go I drove my 2015 Tesla S (2-wheel drive saloon, no height adjustment option) to Alice Springs - a leisurely trip in just 4 days. To get to Uluru, I went on the north side of the Macdonnell Ranges via St Helen Gorge and took the Mereenie Loop route, which includes 180km of corrugated dirt, to re-emerge on tar at Kings Canyon. It's not passable all year round, but I had no problems at all. That's not to suggest that it should be taken everywhere, as it is a saloon car, not an off-road vehicle. But it is a versatile car that I've also enjoyed around Tassie, in Queensland, and on annual trips for a week in the snow!

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 1:16 pm 06 Oct 20

    Julie Macklin Because our car is lowered from the standard we avoid potholed dirt roads. We did need to navigate some large dips in dirt car parks and eroded sections, which is where the adjustable suspension is good. The fact that a car that rides so low can handles uneven surfaces is excellent. We decided not to drive up a dirt road to a lookout just before sunset because of low light on an unfamiliar road, not because of the capabilities of the car. Admittedly, it would not have been a decision we would have taken in our Subaru Outback or Landcruiser. But we probably would not have chosen to take the road in low light in our Caprice either. In an unmodified Model S with the extra clearance, I doubt we would have hesitated at all.

Andrew Fahy Andrew Fahy 8:45 pm 05 Oct 20

Carl Kynaston are you a member?

Peter Clapham Peter Clapham 7:48 pm 05 Oct 20

Does power to charge the battery mainly come from coal?

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 9:06 pm 05 Oct 20

    We charge from our solar panels, or from ACT's 100% renewable electricity. On the very odd occasion we charge at a location with a larger share of fossil fuel generation. Sure beats - by a long way - burning fuel that comes from overseas and pollutes when it's drilled, shipped, refined and trucked etc

    Peter Campbell Peter Campbell 7:04 pm 08 Oct 20

    Not in the ACT. For every extra kWh my car uses, the ACT is committed to purchasing as much extra renewable generation. To the extent that EVs add to the total demand on the grid, that new generation will all be renewable - nobody will build another coal power station. When outside the ACT on a longer trip, I would generally charge at NRMA chargers or from other supplies, all of whom source renewable generation. Even when charged on the average Australian grid mix with a fair amount of coal, the emissions are lower than a similar distance driven on petrol.

    Alex Satrapa Alex Satrapa 11:41 pm 11 Oct 20

    Sounds like a 2000-era Koch brothers talking point Peter.

    The idea of this anti-EV propaganda talking point was that if you run an electric car on coal-fired electricity, suddenly the EV isn't "zero emissions" anymore. But it turns out that even running an EV on 100% black coal fired electricity makes it cleaner than a petrol or diesel, and that's before you consider that the emissions aren't happening on your city streets but in a highly efficient power plant somewhere else which has much better emission controls than a car.

    But ultimately, if you want to know why people are excited about electric cars you should go drive one.

    The folks at Lennock Hyundai would love to introduce you to a Kona Electric - they're really nice cars to drive.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:31 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.

Jesse Richards Jesse Richards 2:43 pm 05 Oct 20

Jordan Taylor do you have anything to say haha 😂

    Jesse Richards Jesse Richards 2:44 pm 05 Oct 20

    Like what are the cars made of and how they where made haha 😆

    Jordan Taylor Jordan Taylor 2:46 pm 05 Oct 20

    where does the plastic for the rest of the car come from?

    Jesse Richards Jesse Richards 2:54 pm 05 Oct 20

    Or what about the deaths from people using autonomous mode

Stevo Tomato Stevo Tomato 12:52 pm 05 Oct 20

Do Tesla owners have anything else to talk about apart from about owning a Tesla?

Garry Dodds Garry Dodds 9:44 am 05 Oct 20

Who can afford them?

    Tyler Cudmore Tyler Cudmore 10:34 am 05 Oct 20

    Garry Dodds someone that works at a college

    Glenn Beaumaris Glenn Beaumaris 5:15 pm 05 Oct 20

    especially like the one featured in the article that has been modded. how much for a Commodore or Patrol sized one??

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 9:04 pm 05 Oct 20

    Glenn Beaumaris The car is a full-sized five-seater. We fold that seats down and carry bikes, furniture, and equipment for events. More practical space than a Commodore

    Glenn Beaumaris Glenn Beaumaris 9:10 pm 05 Oct 20

    Adele for $200k, pass.

    Paul Johnson Paul Johnson 1:10 pm 06 Oct 20

    All Model S are over 100k, the Model 3 is cheaper, the top model 3 is 100k onroad, base is about 75k onroad, still not super affordable but getting better. There are other EVs on the market though.

Simon Gray Simon Gray 8:30 am 05 Oct 20

Maybe not but surely there would be a supercharger on that route, and it wouldn't be a matter of having to to fully charge, just a splash 'n dash so to speak. Don't know but guesses.

jsm2090 jsm2090 8:02 am 05 Oct 20

“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 Coleman James Coleman 7:26 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.

    cycladelec cycladelec 1:58 am 06 Oct 20

    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.

Samantha Leonidas Samantha Leonidas 7:48 am 05 Oct 20

It’s like driving an iPad 🥱

    James Coleman James Coleman 8:07 am 05 Oct 20

    Samantha Leonidas That’s half the fun - plenty to play with

    Glenn Beaumaris Glenn Beaumaris 5:14 pm 05 Oct 20

    just what we need more distractions for drivers

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 8:52 pm 05 Oct 20

    The larger-than-my-12.9in-iPad screen is the navigation while driving. It is used to adjust the suspension in the Model S, Controls like opening frunk and boot, charging port and sunroof, music and airconditioning are all on the screen. Only those things needed for driving are available on the screen. When parked there are multiple games and a web browser. The car gets regular software updates.

    Samantha Leonidas Samantha Leonidas 9:07 am 06 Oct 20

    Adele Craven yes I am familiar with the car

Harry Vallianos Harry Vallianos 7:13 am 05 Oct 20

I’ve heard $30,000 cost to replace batteries ?

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 8:42 am 05 Oct 20

    Harry Vallianos quite possibly but they have at least 7 years warranty and expert opinion is they’ll last longer than that. Battery prices dropping dramatically so it would probably cost much less when you need to replace. Plus, it’ll likely be more of an upgrade anyway with old batteries reused in fixed installations where weight isn’t an issue and hence a 20% drop in capacity is no big deal.

    Glenn Beaumaris Glenn Beaumaris 5:14 pm 05 Oct 20

    Colin wow $30K for a battery replacement. I could buy a very nice supercharged crate V8 for that sort of money. Not that I expect to replace my engine after only 10 years.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 6:43 pm 05 Oct 20

    Glenn Beaumaris possibly more analogous with refilling your fuel tank once with the cost spread over 10 years 😏

    I heard an interesting comment by motoring journalist that the 60kwh batteries in a Nissan EV were worth more than the cost of the vehicle if compared to a Tesla Powerwall of the same capacity!

    And you can use the Nissan charger in reverse to draw power from the battery and run your house in peak periods.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 9:26 pm 05 Oct 20

    No one knows how much the battery may cost to replace in a. Model S. They first came out in 2012 with 8-year warranty. Hundreds of thousands of them have been sold and some have travelled more than a million miles.

    Paul Johnson Paul Johnson 1:05 pm 06 Oct 20

    Don't see how the price of a battery has anything to do with anything here. How much is a new engine when you blow it up from forgetting to re-fill the oil? How much does it cost when you've polluted enough of the environment that you get pulled over and forced to get an inspection done and find that you need to replace all your driveshafts, and your engine is on its way out and needs a new timing belt/chain, or you've got an engine or gearbox leak that needs to be fixed. Or your exhaust system has a leak. Or all of the above? Or do you just go buy a new car instead, how much does that cost you? Stupid people.

    Peter Campbell Peter Campbell 7:10 pm 08 Oct 20

    $10K to replace the battery of an original model Nissan Leaf, but that is the exception rather than the rule. The original Leaf battery has not lasted well in hotter climates because it lacked thermal management. In contrast, very similar batteries in cars of the same vintage that had good thermal management have held up very well and some have done many hundreds of thousands of kilometres with only minor loss of capacity.

Paul Kvarnberg Paul Kvarnberg 3:54 am 05 Oct 20

well. to be honest, Tesla designs are very boring. also, they have an eye watering, chained to the bank for decade, price tag attached to purchasing the car. also, there is an issue of range anxiety in areas where there is no ev superchargers, considering, in Canada, they still haven't set up "super charger gas stations" across the nation yet. and I don't want to make a simple 1 day trip stretched out into a 2 or 3 day trip because of having to recharge the batteries.

    James Coleman James Coleman 8:05 am 05 Oct 20

    Paul Kvarnberg I’ll admit the Model 3 design isn’t all that thrilling. And the hefty price isn’t helped by the fact we still have to pay Luxury Car Tax on them (a tax designed to protect the local car industry that... yep, just checked - we don’t have)

    Matthew Jenkinson Matthew Jenkinson 8:31 am 05 Oct 20

    Paul Kvarnberg they are 'boring' by design. The original goal of the S was to make it just look like a normal car. Goal met, I guess.

    Paul Kvarnberg Paul Kvarnberg 12:59 pm 05 Oct 20

    true, with the cost of the car, however. with ICE, I do have the option of buying a very cheap car like a Honda civic that cost probably less than 20 grand. but for a Tesla, the cheapest I can find, is 55 grand. and I would rather buy a honda Civic. Even Honda Civic hybrid is cheaper than a cheapest Tesla seeing they sell them for almost 30 grand.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 9:19 pm 05 Oct 20

    What you refer to as boring is aerodynamic. We get plenty of glowing compliments. Lots of Tesla superchargers in Canada/North America. Then there are other fast and ultra fast chargers. We've done 66,00km in 20 months. On trips usually the car is ready before we are.

    Peter Campbell Peter Campbell 7:13 pm 08 Oct 20

    My Hyundai electric has a range of a bit over 400km on the highway. I have driven over 800km in a day taking no longer than I would have taken in a petrol car. The trick is to plug in for partial top ups at fast DC chargers for just as long as it takes for toilet, coffee and meal breaks.

A Nonny Mouse A Nonny Mouse 11:27 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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