Road Trip: 3000km Around Australia In A Tesla Model S

It has been 5 weeks since we received our Tesla Model S and we’ve been fortunate to spend around three weeks with the car (we lost two weeks due to an overseas holiday). During that time we’ve completed one major road trip to Canberra and a few shorter trips of a couple of hundred kilometres. Here's what it's like behind the wheel.

Mat Peterson is the founder of Sydney-based app development studio Shiny Things, which makes great education apps for kids aged between 2 and 12. Mat is also one of the very first Tesla Model S owners in Australia. Over the last month, Mat has been driving the Model S around our great nation. Here are his thoughts.

Our first trip was to the Hunter Valley, about 120kms north of Sydney. Using the EVTripplanner website we calculated that we should be able to comfortably complete the return trip but you ultimately don’t know the veracity of a tool until you’ve used it.

Thankfully all was well and the car performed brilliantly, cruising very nicely on the highways, and we arrived home with 330km on the odometer and 50km remaining in the batteries. It definitely whet our appetites for more road trips so we started considering something a bit longer.

Supercharging at Star City Casino - free parking!

Once we arrived home from Japan, we began planning our first trip and immediately encountered an issue: the necessity of charging the car means we must travel somewhere that has either a supercharger or a High-Powered Wall Charger (HPWC), both of which have so far only been installed in Sydney. As we live in Sydney, this isn’t terribly helpful. However, we did hear that Hotel Realm in Canberra had received 2 HPWCs so I called them and asked if they could install them by the following Friday and they said they would. We booked and proceeded down as planned.

Our first stop on the way south was the Capital & Woodlawn Wind Farm. It was the very first time that a pure electric car had visited and the wind decided to put on a show with steady speeds of 60-70km/h allowing the combined 90 turbines to produce electricity at their maximum capacity. The turbines themselves are truly stunning pieces of machinery capable of generating gargantuan amounts of power with seemingly little effort. With all the noise complaints you hear about them I was surprised that, when standing directly underneath one, you could only hear a faint “whoosh” as the blade went past. As you can see by the photo below, the turbines provide a stunning backdrop to the Model S and as someone who buys only renewable electricity, it was great to be able to see where it was being generated. Special thanks to Infigen and Ketan for allowing us to visit.

Due to some heavy traffic outside Sydney, hot weather, headwinds and climbing up to the wind farm, we were starting to run a little low on power so we made a beeline for our hotel to charge up. Upon arriving (with 19km to spare) we discovered that we had the dirtiest Model S in Australia with a nice smattering of bugs on the nose cone and a layer of dust from the dirt roads. Thankfully the chargers were ready and waiting for us and the car settled in for a long charge overnight. As a side note, Hotel Realm is an excellent hotel with spacious and well appointed rooms. We are very happy that they chose to install a charger and will be visiting again soon.

The next day we awoke to a full charge (we received a push notification from the car at around 2am that it had completed charging) and decided to explore Canberra. We dropped in to see a friend (who is also a lucky recipient of a Model S) and then proceeded to the Canberra Deep Space Network (DSN) complex. Upon arriving we were greeted by the sign below...

Please stow your tray table and place your seat in its original upright position

We promptly proceeded to set our phones to Airplane Mode but for the life of us we couldn’t work out how to disable the 3G in our car, which meant it spent around an hour bleeping away in the car park - a stones throw from the telescopes. Oh well.

The drive to the DSN gave us an opportunity to really test out the car on the windy valley roads and it was an interesting experience. Whilst the car proceeded through all corners with ease, it never never felt graceful. I guess there’s only so much you can do with the suspension setup to hide 2.1 tonnes of vehicle. However, it was a joy to blast out of the corners and it ate up the hills with aplomb. Amusingly we were greeted in the carpark by three Lotus Elises, the drivers of which all loved the Model S, and we spent a good 20 minutes discussing the car with them and showing off all the features.

On Sunday we visited the amazing James Turrell exhibition at the National Gallery and then headed back to Sydney. Once again the car was amazing on the highways and over the 280km it took to travel from Canberra to The Star it averaged 181Wh/km, its lowest level ever. We dropped in for a free charge, grabbed some lunch then headed back home. In all we travelled 880km on this trip and spent about $6 on electricity to charge before we left.

Within Without Skyspace by James Turrell

So what’s next?

We will likely make a trip to the Blue Mountains and another trip to the Hunter Valley but for now we are waiting on more charging options. Tesla have stated that they will be supplying a Universal Mobile Adapter (it allows you to plug into a regular 240 volt outlet) soon and they are of course feverishly working on their supercharger network. We’ll keep you posted when we complete future road trips and I’ll be posting a comprehensive review of the Model S soon. But first, the car is off to get tinting and Opticoat, so I’ll be providing some photos of that later in the week.

Read more on Mat's blog.


Comments

    Great story. I'd love to own one of these things myself.

    But I still baulk at the "3000 km Around Australia" being simply Sydney and its vicinity. There is so much more to Australia than that.

      We did manage to cover a large chunk of Australia's population! But I digress, you're right, we've barely touched Australia and one of our goals is to truly test the limit of electric cars in these early days of adoption. I'll let you know how it goes. :)

        do u charge it at home or at the supercharger? how long does it take to fully charge at 240v?

          Both. You receive a High Powered Wall Charger with the car which allows you to treat it like a mobile phone: you plug it in when you get home and it is full in the morning. Installing our charger in our apartment cost around $700.

      Matt is just wetting the appetite of what will be easily achieved (by himself an many others), without compromise and a whole host of fun....remembering we drove the Roadster from Melbourne to Port Douglas back in 2011 (3,600kms plus) - stoping and charging when required, overnight and some trips upto 394kms on a single charge - (Mackay to Townsville) - fast forward Supercharger Highway and these distances will be the adventures Tesla Owners take....and beyond! - great article Matt and thanks for sharing :/)

      My husband is driving a P85D from Sydney to Melbourne to Perth. Over 4000km in a single trip.

    As someone who lives in Canberra! Great review :) Those roads out near the Dishes are amazing, beautiful country out there and nice twisty roads! Realm is just down the road from where i work and is turning into an amazing IT business hub, so i would expect to see more Tesla's in the carpark there in the near future i'm sure.
    Looking forward to seeing more stories!

    That makes for a good story, definitely something potential buyers would be interested to read about - however it seems like once you've forked out for the car (not cheap) your options to travel are generally cost-related events too - at this stage anyway. Meaning it might not suit a lot of doting families that would love the car, but be restricted by the travelling options. With a wider network, that problem would probably go away - maybe 2016 will see a big influx of Telsa owners once new charging stations are built in the neighbouring states.

      Agreed. We knew that being an early adopter would have its challenges but it was a bit of a chicken and egg situation: without people like us buying the car, Tesla are loathe to make the long term investment. So far we are very happy with the compromise and look forward to stretching the limits of the car (and to a certain extent ourselves) in the coming months.

        Chicken and egg is right - and perhaps one of the other aspects of being an early adopter of this kind of technology is in ongoing costs beyond the initial purchase, but when you're not paying for petrol, I guess it's all relative isn't it?

          Unfortunately the early adopter tax completely outweighs any savings in fuel. However, prices are coming down sharply and I expect mass market cars to appear within the next 5-7 years.

      I suspect plug-in hybrids will have more of an impact in Australia than pure electrics for that exact reason.

    You have to be wearing your tinfoil to hear the wind turbines properly.

    why the clickbait?
    I'm interested in an article about the Tesla but where is the 3000km road trip?

      It seems like Mat has not finished his thoughts of the car and his travels (3000km) in it.
      That would explain why he will be waiting for more charging stations before he goes too far?
      I understand it as a story that will be spread over multiple posts. Starting with this first one.

      I may have misunderstood it all though.

    Interesting perspective however I too find the "3000 km around Australia" title misleading, more like 3000km around Sydney.

    Respectfully disagree that the notion of adding an artificial noise would defeat the design of the vehicle.

    Done properly it would make no difference, and indeed the lack of an audible engine sound is likely a safety issue for other road users who can't hear a silent car approaching.

    God I love the idea of the Tesla and I've been a massive fanboy for ages. The problem is that 200,000 dollar price tag, which is just so hard to justify. You either need to earn a *lot*, or own a company which can buy the car (which I assume the author has done). I'd take potential resale into account, but I really don't know how I could come up with an accurate figure as the market is changing so rapidly.

    Ah well. I bought a twin turbo Mitsubishi import for $6,000 and will spend a few grand making it run flex fuel later this year. It will satisfy my environmental side for a while.

      Or, as a massive fanboy, you could have bought at $30 and sold at $200 effectively buying the car for $30k. Personally, I wasn't in a financial position to do so (my first kid was born around time of IPO and I took time off work) and I am waiting for WA to get some love from Tesla, not much sign of it so far.

      Last edited 20/01/15 1:51 pm

    So you don't get the Universal Mobile Adapter? In the US, that is part of the car and it allows you to charge at 120V (admittedly very slowly), 240V, and J1772. Perhaps that's due to the different electrical system in Australia?

      Tesla have stated that UMC will be available in Q1 and we are looking forward to that.

    180Wh/km...that's sensational. So, 180watts? If this thing is that efficient, surely its worth Tesla's time and effort to start laminating in solar cells...180 watts is about the size of the main section of the roof with standard solar cells.

      Yes, I was very happy to see that figure. Currently the car is averaging 209Wh/km over its life and it appears to be dropping as I'm learning more about driving the car.

      As for solar panels, if you had 180 Watts of generation on the roof then 1hr of uninterrupted sunlight would only add 1km to range. If optimally located that would only add 5-6km of range a day, which definitely isn't worth the price of the panels being embedded in the car. Maybe that will change in the future.

    Stopping for 40 minutes every 380 kms is probably a good way to stretch the legs or have a quick nap but that's best case, with a broad supercharger network and not being stuck behind someone else recharging. Think you've proven that electric vehicles are way more suited to city living. I'm personally hanging out for an electric motorbike. Has anyone recently calculated the environmental impact between keeping an old car on the road and the environmental damage of building a new tesla carrying tons of batteries and shipping it across the globe? I remember there was a lot of debate about the environmental impact of a prius.

      Problem with a Prius (and the new BMWs etc) is it still has a combustion engine. With a purely electric car there is no combustion engine.

      As a data point Tesla calculated that the environmental impact of building a Model S is no worse than building an equivalent luxury car such as a BMW 5 series. We have also attempted to offset all CO2 produced as well.

      Electric motorbikes are already on the market and have been for a while now. Check out eRider lightningbolt in Melbourne and ELMOFO in Sydney

    Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to driving one in Perth once if and when a service centre finally opens.

    Mat, thanks, great write-up!
    To tackle that next challenge of 3000 km and reaching a bit more of regional Australia, I do hope Tesla will provide us a Universal Mobile Adapter that has flexible current capacities as they provide for some European countries. Here is some info from the Dutch Tesla website where they claim the following charging capabilities for the UMC + adapter:
    Standard Socket (Europe) 230 V / 13 A 3,0 kW 14 km /h
    IEC 60309 blue - Power supply adapter 230 V / 32 A 7.4 kW 36 km /h
    IEC 60309 red - Power supply adapter 400 V / 16 A 11 kW 55 km /h
    IEC 62196 type 2 230 V / 16 A 3.7 kW 18 km /h
    IEC 62196 type 2 230 V / 32 A 7.4 kW 36 km /h
    IEC 62196 type 2 400 V / 16 A 11 kW 55 km /h
    IEC 62196 type 2 400 V / 32 A 22 kW 110 km /h
    So we got to hope we'll get something better than 240 v/ 10 A which was mentioned on the message boards earlier because that type of solution would seriously hamper efforts to go regional!

    Great article Matt, I'm getting similar average Wh/km in my Model S. I have made a number of trips up to the Southern Highlands and have noticed I use quite bit more going up the 700 meters than I do on the way down to Sydney.

    Hi Mat,

    Great article. Did Hotel Realm share with you the total cost of install and purchase of the chargers? I am sure that many regional businesses would be keen to also install once prompted by customers, such as the ski resorts. I wonder if there were any government incentives for businesses to install chargers...

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