Why are electric car owners so passionate about electric vehicles?
In this guest blog, Jon Launder discusses his first experience of owning a Tesla including how easy it was to charge on the super highway, using auto pilot feature and how he feels about running his car from solar power.
Buying my first electric car
Hi, I’m Jon Launder I’m 47 and live in Kent with my wife Ali and three sons. I recently joined the Electric Vehicle (EV) owning community having bought a Tesla Model S 75D in February 2018. I had been hankering after an electric car for a couple of years but believed nothing on the market had enough winter range for my occasional 130-mile round trip commute to my work’s head office. With no possibility of charging at work, a Tesla seemed to me to be the only option but was financially out of reach.
I kept scanning the classifieds, including Tesla-info, in vain hope of a second hand electric car. I came across a late 2016 car that was low on specification, high on mileage and most importantly a reasonable price for a Tesla! The previous owner was kind enough to bring the car to me and it only took one test drive to have me convinced it was the car for me. One rather large loan later, I was the proud owner of a Tesla that was officially labelled as ‘unapproved of’ by my wife Ali!
The Autopilot Experience
My Model S has a 75-kilowatt hour (kWh) battery with a real-world range of 200-220 miles. It is equipped with dual motors (four-wheel drive), Traffic Aware Cruise Control, Autosteer Tesla’s level two autonomous driving autopilot feature, as well as free supercharging for the life of the vehicle. In particular, I was looking forward to using the autopilot features to relieve the driving strain on my office commute, which includes 50 miles on the M25 ‘road to hell’. It should take an hour but unfortunately often takes three.
Potentially ‘shutting the gate after the horse has bolted’, our first range test the weekend after purchase was to Cliveden National Trust property only a few miles from my office. We set off, joined the M25 and I engaged Autosteer with the speed set to the national limit. The system handled the light weekend traffic with ease, maintaining the set distance to the cars in front, keeping within and changing lanes when directed, so much so my wife didn’t realise at all until I told her what had just occurred after coming off the M25, 50 miles later. Autopilot gets quite a bit of media attention, often sensationalist and negative, in almost all cases it is later proven that either the driver wasn’t paying the necessary attention or didn’t understand the limits of system properly before using it. Having now driven thousands of miles using it, I can attest it is a fantastic driver aid, greatly reducing driver fatigue.
After our parkland walk and the obligatory tea and cakes, it was time to head back. The car battery still had plenty of charge remaining to make it back home with ease however, we chose to have our first go at using the Tesla Supercharger network (SuC) en-route. This is a free top up and the nearest one was at Heathrow terminal 5. The SuC ‘tombstones’ were at the back of the barrier accessed car park on the site of the Hilton hotel. Another Tesla was already on charge but the owner was not around, so we were spared being observed by an old hand at our first bumbling supercharging attempt. It turned out to be easy enough;
- unhook the nozzle from the charger,
- press the nozzle button to open the charge-port door,
- insert the nozzle and watch the electrons flow on the Tesla main screen and dashboard.
The charge power quickly rose to 82 kW at which point we left the car to check out the hotel facilities and enquire about how to leave the car park when done. A coffee and twenty minutes later my phone pinged to say the car was nearly finished charging, so we collected our free exit ticket from hotel reception and went on our merry way.
Traffic was busier on the return trip but was handled by Autosteer superbly and arrived home with plenty of charge remaining. Pleased with how our first medium-range journey went I asked my wife what she thought, a smile crossed her face as she spoke the words ‘still not approved’.
Free fuel from the sun
I have solar panels at home as you often find with Electric Vehicle (EV) owners and I was keen to make the most of solar energy for charging the car. After buying the car and following a review by Robert Llewllyn on a ‘Fully Charged’ episode, I chose to install a ‘Zappi’ Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). This is the connector you plug into your electric car to charge it at home. The Zappi has three modes of operation; Fast – 7 kW which adds about 21 miles per hour from my standard UK home 32 amp supply; ECO – which monitors the solar output maintaining a minimum charge and tops up any additional power from the sun and ECO+ - which only charges from excess solar energy obtained from the solar panels.
I’m lucky enough to work from home, so the car is generally used for running the boys around for their various activities, weekend jaunts as well as infrequent trips to head office. Therefore, it sits on the drive most of the day and can be charged by the sun giving us 100% free and eco motoring.
As I work in IT, I did a fair bit of experimentation with the EVSE settings in each mode but really needn’t have bothered with the standard settings actually very close to ideal. I’m generally able to charge in ECO+ mode when sunny and in Fast mode at other times or when topping up overnight before long trips.
If you would like to read more about the benefits of electric vehicles then check out the One Home article on the fantastic financial and performance benefits of electric cars.
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