Voices

Electric Dreams

Tony Bosworth has a dream… an electric Tesla S dream. But he wonders why, when electric  cars make so much sense do Australians continue to buy gas guzzlers.

THIS IS MY AVERAGE DAY…

I get up, have breakfast, do all the usual stuff, and then go down to my garage. I smile when I see the gleaming red Tesla S. I could have chosen a Porsche Panamera instead or a Jaguar F-Type but the Tesla looks better, performs as well as either of them and, well, it’s different.

I unplug the Tesla from the mains, get in and push the start button. It wakes up but makes no sound aside from the soft whirr of switched-on electricals. The large centre console – it looks like an iPad but it’s bigger and quite beautiful – comes to life.

The Tesla Model S sets a benchmark for electric cars

When I drive out of the garage I put on my sunnies and spare a glance at the roof of my house where 25 solar panels glisten in the sunlight. They’ve been charging since dawn and as it’s a 5kW system it supplies all the power needs of our four-bedroomed house needs. A bank of deep storage batteries fixed neatly along one wall of the garage will store power for the evening too – we are totally self-sufficient when it comes to power, and that power also charges the Tesla.

I check the Tesla’s readouts and see I’ve got full charge – if I’d been connected to mains electricity it would have cost me around $3 to charge it overnight.

I can travel over 600km on that one overnight charge. Yes, that does depend a bit on whether I’ve got the air con on full blast or if I’m pushing the five-seat car a bit harder than usual, but it’s enough to take me on the journey to work and back without any so-called range anxiety. I have learnt that I can even leave it a couple of nights without charging, because I’m like 85% of Australians – I rarely drive more than 85km a day.

I smile to myself as I drive in the sunshine. The Tesla surges along, its instant torque always available, and there’s no exhaust pipe, no oil changes, no 10,000km servicing…and then I wake up.

Yes, it’s a dream, what I might call my electric dream, but it’s not as far from reality as you might think.

The Tesla Model S will arrive in Australia later this year

The fact is, electrically powered cars make a lot of sense today but as we reported a few days ago, sales of these and hybrid cars (fitted with either a small diesel or petrol engine in tandem with an electric power unit) have been driven into the ground thanks to high initial costs. Quite simply, few Aussies are buying electric or hybrid cars.

If you lived in the US, UK or Europe, even China, you would be the recipient of government tax refund or payback largesse which makes the electric car buying experience that much less expensive. Over here, there is little incentive to buy an electric car, aside from the fact they are a good move away from fossil fuels and so pollute less.

I must admit I haven’t yet driven a Tesla S – it really is a dream – but I’ve spent some time behind the wheel of a Holden Volt (I know I keep saying this, but full test coming soon….) which runs on electric power (you plug it into the mains each night) for around 80km and then when that runs out a 1.4-litre petrol engine chips in, and also part recharges the electric motor.

The thing is, I love the Volt and I think Holden should give me one for a long term test, I mention cheekily. I’d go so far as to say – Editor Bober thinks I’m bonkers – that given the choice between a BMW320i and a Holden Volt – both cars cost around $60K in standard versions – I’d opt for the Holden. Why on earth would I do that?

Tony Bosworth reckons he'd choose a Holden Volt over a BMW 320i

Well, during the week I had the Volt I used no petrol at all, it ran completely on electric. I happened to do no more than 80 or so km a day, so the petrol never kicked in, and it provided me with, well, electric performance.
The Volt has instant torque in electric mode, it sits the road firmly and flat (due in large part to the heavyish batteries) and the electric steering is precise and well weighted. The ride is excellent. It is well made too, and looks different inside to most of today’s cars.

Unlike the BMW, which essentially uses engine technology developed in the 19th century (yes, yes, I know, but much improved…), the Volt is 21st century.

The Volt looks different too. It gets people looking, it gets people talking and enquiring, and above all, it can be run by most people without ever taking a trip to a petrol station.

One neighbour did scoff and said, “how could you cross the Nullabor?” and I looked at him and said, “how many times have you ever done that?” Of course he never had, and never will…

Now, the Tesla S is a slightly different proposition because for starters it has no back-up petrol motor, but it does have terrific range, even for long-distance Australian conditions. When it comes here (around June) – and in part no thanks to our federal and state governments, none of which cut it any tax slack or give it any other concessions – it is likely to cost around $150,000 (estimate), a tidy sum.

But if I was in the market for such a car – and some people do spend that much on a luxury car– I’d definitely be looking at the Tesla. Spend around $8000 getting solar and back-up batteries fitted at home and I reckon you’d never visit another petrol station again.

I bet I’d also breathe a lot easier too, what with not producing noxious fumes and using pure, natural sunlight to get around.

Find the best demonstrator car deals for Practical Motoring readers around Australia on our Live Deals website. 


4 Comments

  1. David
    February 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm — Reply

    Why do we continue to buy gas guzzlers? Because they’re cheaper! Most people don’t at all for the environment… only for how much their car will cost to buy and run. I’m in the market to buy a car this year and have considered many diesels and even 1 hybrid, but they’re all too expensive to buy/run or won’t deliver the full benefit of their economical savings for my driving routine. Ergo, back to petrol.

    • David
      February 7, 2014 at 6:13 pm — Reply

      EDIT: Most people don’t “care” at all…

  2. Tony Bosworth
    February 8, 2014 at 7:23 pm — Reply

    Of course it is true that electric cars are expensive here in Australia, partly because there is no government support – as there is in most other countries, even including China – but I’d say if you have $60K to spend and are looking at a BMW 320i then you should also consider a Holden Volt. Ditto, if you have $150K to spend – which it seems quite a few people do – then to me a Tesla S makes more sense than a Porsche Panamera. But of course it’s part personal choice, part willingness to do something for the environment, and if, like me, you’re not able to spend $60K, then the Nissan Leaf is looking not bad at $39,990 driveaway. End of the day though, a decent petrol-engined car with good equipment levels can be had for around $25K, so that’s understandably a choice many may make, often out of necessity, I guess.

  3. February 8, 2014 at 7:24 pm — Reply

    I was going to say too, David, that it is quite depressing if people do not care about the environment. We only have one planet to live on…as do our children.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober