A brief introduction to the Tesla Model S / X (for the complete novice)

Last modified: 17/02/2017
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[Source Pete Smoothy]

What is it?

It’s a Tesla Model S. An all-electric family sports car made by Tesla Motors in Fremont, California, USA.

Wait, all-electric? So it’s not a hybrid?

Correct. No fuel, just a massive battery under the entire floor of the car and an electric motor between the rear wheels (and another between the front wheels for the AWD version). The front where an engine would normally go is just free storage space.

How far can you go?

The model with the 60 kWh battery can go up to 250 miles on a single charge. The version with the larger 100 kWh battery can manage up to 380 miles.

Does it take long to charge?

A 30 minute charge can add up to 170 miles of range when using Tesla Superchargers which can be found across the EU. Other chargers can be found at most motorway services, car parks and shopping centres. A DC rapid charger “CHAdeMO” adds roughly 2 miles per minute, or 120 miles range added per hour of charging.

How much does charging cost?

Tesla Superchargers are free, non-Tesla chargers vary in price although some are free. Overnight home charging should cost you between £5 and £10 for a full charge depending on your electricity provider and battery size.

Can I charge it at home or work?

Of course, although it will be much slower if you only use a standard 13a UK mains plug. If you have a charge point fitted (typical costs around £500) it’s faster – around 20 mph, so more than enough to recharge at work during the day and / or at home overnight. Grants are also available.

How future-proof is it?

Traffic-aware SatNav, a web browser and Spotify Premium internet music streaming come with the car as standard. Also, high-tech convenience features such as Autopilot make long journeys a lot less tiring than in a traditional car. As all Tesla cars have a built-in 4G modem, you benefit from frequent Over-The-Air software updates and new features.

How fast is it?

Very! The entry level model has a top speed of 130 mph and does 0-60 in 5.5 seconds. The recently announced P100D does 155 mph and 0-60 in a ludicrous 2.5 seconds.

Is it expensive?

The Model S starts at around £60k and goes into six figures for the top end models before incentives. PCP starts at under £440pcm for a 24 month period with 10k miles/year.

Is there an SUV version?

The Tesla Model X is based on the same battery and drive system as the Model S but can seat up to 7 adults, depending on configuration. Costs are approx. £5-10k more than an equivalently-specified Model S.

Are they making a cheaper car?

Yes, the Tesla Model 3 was announced in March – it’s due to be roughly half the cost of the Model S and a RHD model will be available in approximately 2-3 years.

How safe is it?

The Tesla Model S is one of the safest production cars you can buy, with a full 5/5 star EURO NCAP safety rating in all categories. It includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, and electronic stability control as standard.

How is it greener if the electricity still comes from fossil fuels?

Aside from the fact that wind and solar power provides a lot of green energy here in the UK, even when fossil fuels are used to produce the electricity, the Tesla is roughly 3x more efficient. Power plants are far more efficient than cars’ combustion engines at extracting energy due to their size, economies of scale and the fact that they don’t have to be portable.

Running costs and battery reliability?

Tesla (and EVs in general) require virtually no maintenance – there is no oil or complicated moving parts. Washer fluid is the only top-up! All Tesla come with an 8-year, unlimited mileage warranty on the Li-Ion battery pack.

By Xavier Walker

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