Tesla Model S: The electric car that goes the distance, for a price
The Tesla Model S is Tesla's latest Electric Vehicle. (Bill Wang/CTVNews.ca)
Published Friday, July 26, 2013 5:38PM EDT
When people think of electric cars, the first thing that comes to mind is the vehicle's range.
Relying solely on electricity stored in a battery, some drivers question whether they'll be able to get from Point A to Point B, with enough juice to get home again.
It's almost never about performance or comfort. But Tesla, known for its Roadster, have come to challenge that.
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a sunny afternoon driving the Telsa Model S, the company's latest electric vehicle on the market.
There are three variants of the Model S - the Model S 60, 85 and P85. The number denotes the kilowatt power of the electric motor.
On the road, the Tesla is as quiet as a ninja, and just as quick and responsive.
The model I was driving was Tesla's top-of-the-line vehicle: the Model S P85.
With careful, consistent driving, the P85 can do 480 km on a single charge. That's enough to drive from downtown Toronto to downtown Ottawa.
Then once there,plug the Tesla into a standard household outlet and charge the vehicle using the mobile charger that comes included.
But to charge up your vehicle faster, drivers will need access to a supercharge station.
Tesla is in the process of setting up supercharge stations across the U.S. and Canada. These facilities will allow Tesla owners to get an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes for free, enough power for 321 kilometers of range. That’s about the same amount of time as you’d spend having lunch during a road trip.
During the cold winter months, the car will lose roughly 10 per cent of its battery power. Tesla, however, says that as long as you charge the car overnight, it will be ready to drive the next day.
So for those who think the electric car is a fad that only works for people who live 3 km away from work, think again.
A tech enthusiast's car
When picking up this car, I was given a brief tutorial on how each part of the vehicle worked.
Other than a few usual controls on the steering wheel, there were only two physical buttons inside the car. One was for the four-way emergency lights, required by law, and the other was to open the glovebox.
The heart of this P85 was the 17-inch touch screen that replaces the standard centre console.
You could adjust practically every setting in the car using the touch screen, from the navigation system to the radio to the temperature controls.
And unlike some other touch screens, this one was as responsive as any tablet on the market.
The design was easy to understand and the response was fluid. It was also large enough for more additional apps to be added by Tesla at a later date.
If you don't like to use a touch screen, you are able to adjust almost everything through a control on the steering wheel – thereby keeping your eyes on the road.
Once I was shown how to start the car, by stepping on the brake pedal, the Tesla was an amazing car to drive. The only noise it made was the hum of the performance tires on the highway.
And this car could definitely go the distance on the highway and keep up with any car on the road.
The acceleration was amazing. As one passenger said to me, it put his Nissan 370Z to shame.
With its perfect ride height, the Model S can be easily used through snow that could limit, or even prevent, a competitor performance sedan from driving around.
The P85 model has the option to adjust the ride height, so if you wanted to sit lower, or higher, you could.
The Model S decelerates as quickly as it accelerates. The moment you lift off the accelerator, the car immediately starts to slow down. Because there are no gears to go through, there’s no lag.
This is also how the Tesla regenerates its power, not by applying the brakes, but by just letting the car slow itself down. And slow itself down it will.
With enough distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, you can slow down to almost a complete stop without ever having to touch the brakes.
Though the Model S is designed for performance, it is also designed for real life.
The ride is very comfortable, and you could go a long distance and not feel like you’ve gone very far.
Unlike some of the other pure electric vehicles, the Model S has both a workable trunk, and what Tesla calls a “frunk” – a front trunk, kind of like the original VW Beetles. That’s because the electric motor is located in the back to power the rear wheels.
Like old station wagons from the '80s and '90s, the Model S also has an optional rear-facing back seat, turning this five-passenger sedan, into a seven-passenger school car-pooler.
Honestly, what child wouldn’t want to watch where they’ve been while riding in the car?
Due to the position of the rear wheels there is almost no head room for occupants in the rear-facing seats. So unfortunately, only a child can sit back there.
And with both the rear-facing seats stored and the back seats folded flat, the Model S can be used to do the hockey run, or even a trip to the ski hills.
The Model S is not only a great electric car, but it’s also an electric car that shows how you can still have fun and go the distance that you would on a regular car, without pumping any exhaust out of the rear.