The Tesla Model 3 just went on sale here in Australia. I know some of my crazy tech nerd friends know how much of a big deal this is and have already mashed order (if you haven’t, and you want some free supercharging kms, now’s the time I should nudge you to use my promo code). For those that haven’t and are genuinely wondering what it’s like to own and drive an electric car down under, well, I have a confession to make. Meet Wattson:
Back in September of 2018 he arrived in Adelaide. He and I met in Port Adelaide and every day we travel together, hand in wheel. Creepy friend analogies aside, it’s been an amazing experience. I admit I’ve always been an early adopter and I while I did some research before buying, I still had a tonne of un-answered questions. There aren’t that many Tesla’s around in Australia either, so I’m also used to fielding questions from interested random people I meet on my travels. So I thought what better way to kick off the launch of the Model 3 in Australia than to answer some!
How long does it take to charge?
By far the most common question I get from people. From completely flat to full at a supercharger, about an hour. You rarely if ever do that though. Most times you just plug it in at night just like your phone and top it up with your home charger. Depending on whether you have single phase or 3 phase power your home charging speed will vary from somewhere between 35km/h to 80km/h. If you’re desperate you can also just plug it into a stock standard plug and charge at 10km/h.
Tesla superchargers are located all around the coast of Australia and driving from say Adelaide to Melbourne like I did a few months back was a breeze. Worth noting that the Model 3 is capable of charging faster than that, so expect to see those times at superchargers and other charging stations go down.
What’s the range like? Do you get anxious about running low?
Tesla sell different models with different ranges, my Model S has roughly 500kms of range. I’ve never really been anxious about that because in a typical day I drive at most 50km. Then when I get home every third day or so I might plug it in. You can even schedule charging to be at off-peak times if you get cheaper power at different times. It actually turned out to be quite the opposite of what I expected, charging is really convenient and never having to go to a petrol station again is a huge win!
How do you service it?
Well unlike a traditional car there’s no engine. This means no oil changes, no filters changes, no spark plugs to check, no drive train to maintain, and well, the list goes on. Imagine all the money you spend servicing your car now, and remove every cost except replacing tyre’s and brake pads and you quickly get an idea of what’s involved. Also because when you lift your foot off the accelerator the car regenerative brakes using the electric motors, your brake pads will last far longer than on a normal car. On a typical drive to work I barely use the actual brake pedal at all.
Has Elon turned you into one of those crazy Tesla Zealots?
Ha, no. While it’s an amazing vehicle it does have some downsides and quirks. The auto parking feature is very badly designed. I can’t figure out how to activate it half the time and every time I’ve tried the car has failed to park itself. My 2009 Golf never had a single issue finding or parking in spots by itself. The software in the car while of a high standard, has crashed on me twice in 6 months. The first time it did both screens went black, which is quite a scary thing to see in a car. The driving systems work fine when this happens, but it doesn’t really excuse it. The second time just the autopilot function crashed, beeping loudly at me to take over because it had a brain freeze. Tesla are aggressive about software updates and with that comes occasional quirks.
Autopilot you say, does this thing drive itself?
Yes, but also no. If you’re on a highway you can activate autopilot and the car will steer, accelerate, brake all by itself. I made heavy use of this on my last trip to Melbourne and it was a surreal experience. Imagine you’re in the car with a learner driver and while you have to keep an eye on everything they do, they drive you along the highway quite happily. It was honestly quite refreshing to not have to worry about all the tiny details and just focus on the road and enjoying the trip. Even weirder is if you want to change lanes, the car will happily do that too, just use the indicator and it will change lanes when it sees that it’s safe to do so.
If you believe Elon these things will be fully self-driving anytime now. Don’t believe Elon though, he’s a crazy optimist who is constantly wrong about the timelines on these things. I fully believe Tesla’s will one day drive you door to door, but I have a hard time believing that’s anywhere in the next 5 years or so.
Speaking of smarts, what tech stuff can it do?
A lot as it turns out. Firstly it has its own Internet connection which is really handy. Navigation via Google Maps, Spotify integration and companion app for iOS and Android that can do everything from reverse the car out without you in it, to unlock it, to turn on the climate control. You can even share a location straight out of your favourite maps app to the car via the phone app.
How much does it cost to run?
In a normal car I could tell you how many litres per 100 km’s you’ll get, and you’d know the price of petrol in your area and you’d happily do that maths yourself. In my golf for example there was (and I’m going off memory here) a 55L tank, which would cost about $90 to fill and could do between 800-1000km. The Golf was a small, efficient beast so your mileage may (literally) vary here.
Electric cars are no different. In my case (and lets round the numbers to keep it simple) I can do 500kms with 100kWh. If my power price is 25c per kWh, then it would cost me $25 to “fill up” my car.
Where things get really interesting though, is if like me you have solar panels on your roof and maybe even a home battery as well. In this case you can literally take free power from the sun, and put that straight into your car. I do this regularly in summer when I have way too much power being generated than I need, and in most cases get roughly 200kms of free range straight from the sun every week. Imagine if you could put something on your roof that could literally refine petrol for your car. Insanely cool.
I’ve read a lot about Tesla potentially going under, couldn’t this be a bad investment?
With every car you buy that comes with a warranty, you’re relying on the manufacturer remaining in business to fulfil that warranty. Ditto in general for parts and repairs. Tesla is a much newer, much less established car maker so that might seem like an unsure bet. To me though, I don’t think there’s any actual risk here. The company is selling a lot of cars and while Elon is a volatile influence at the helm, I’m fairly confident that if things go south for them what they’ve built out is valuable enough for another company to buy out and continue running. As I said above I’m not some rabid Tesla fan, they have a lot of faults but I really do think they are a good 5 years ahead of the rest of the automative industry and if you’re already in that space, or a giant tech company that wants to be, Tesla would be the perfect acquisition to take you from nothing, straight to the #1 EV maker position.
What about the battery wearing out?
This was a real concern back when EVs where new. How long would the batteries last, would you have as much range 5 years later as you did on day 1? The good news is that the Model S has been around for long enough for us to know the answer to these questions: and the answer is all good. You’ll lose a few km’s of range over the years but the batteries in cars aren’t built the same way the ones in your phone are, they won’t lose half their capacity in 3 years or anything crazy like that.
Any parting thoughts?
Yes! If you’re on the fence and have the means, just frickin do it! It will be the best damn car you’ve ever owned, I promise you that.
Does Wattson like wine?
How about the beach?
Are you just asking yourself questions to post more photos?
No! How dare you! This definitely isn’t Wattson in Keith porn.
Does Wattson have any relatives?
Yes, Ampy…his umm…great grandfather who started it all, when he drove to my house way back in 2015. I thank and blame Mat Peterson for doing that and sparking my interest. He proved to me in seconds that not only were electric cars good, but superior in almost every way to their petrol ancestors. From that moment on Wattson turning up was a when not an if.