Rediscovering the road trip

Brian Gilmore, June 9, 2015

We thought we’d just bought a wonderful car but it turns out we bought access to timeless, quality long-distance travel.

After finding out about Tesla and the Roadster some time around 2007, we were delighted.  Finally, the possibility of a fast, stylish looking EV with decent range was a reality.  The two-seater was not workable for our family requirements so, after paying the deposit for our Model S in 2009, we waited expectantly for its arrival. We take more co2 out of the atmosphere than we put in each year, as a family and as a business. We did that already with solar PV, solar thermal and one electric car. We look forward to adding to this with the arrival of the Tesla Powerwall.

We drive it most days but it really comes into its own on long road trips.

We have been overjoyed by how brilliant the car is.  We drive it most days but it really comes into its own on long road trips.  After driving convertibles, motorbikes and campervans over three continents, I thought our days of road trips were over but Model S has brought them to life again.  They’re actually more enjoyable now as it is such a joy to go together as a family.

Model S has been impeccable on every trip

In one year of owning our Model S, we have travelled across the UK and Europe. We have journeyed from Suffolk in the east of England to Ireland – North & South in a 1,000 miles round trip, Carbis Bay in Cornwall, the Alps for skiing and Bordeaux for organic wine.  Model S has been impeccable on every trip.  Why do we love doing road trips so much?  Two reasons: the car itself and Supercharging.

The car itself
When I asked my wife and daughter why they love the car on road trips, the first two things they mentioned were legroom and the quietness. Although having free music streaming of any song wherever we travel does lead us to have the impressive hi-fi cranked up accompanied by some dodgy singing and ‘in-car dancing’.  Ahem!

The legroom in the car for my daughter Amy in the back is wonderful.  She sits in the middle and loves that the floor is flat there.  My wife Laura also appreciates the legroom but loves the peace and quiet of the journeys.  We reckon that is why we don’t feel tired after driving it for long distances – that and the ‘one pedal’ driving for me. Because of the regenerative braking, it is rare to need to use the brakes on a journey so my right foot, when not resting flat on the floor, is always just on or over the accelerator pedal.  Cruising along on the Autoroutes in France at the 130 kph/ 81 mph speed limit with virtually zero noise is such a joy and so easy. I remember when friends used to talk about how hard a slog it was to take the car to go skiing in the French Alps.  As a result, we always flew to go skiing. 

But when we got the Model S, we decided to drive to the Alps.  The wonderful folks at Tesla Service Gatwick put on some winter tyres and off we went. Tesla’s service for customers is beyond brilliant but that’s a whole other story. The journey was so easy – we were shocked.  Even in heavy snow around Geneva and up in the mountains, while other cars and 4x4s were slipping all over the place and being abandoned, the Model S quietly and assuredly made its way past and up to our resort.  The first morning of our holiday was so quiet on the slopes as cars and coaches from the airports lagged behind us.

On the drive back, we dropped off the Autoroutes and picked up some organic champagne from a favourite vineyard on the way home.  You couldn’t do that if you were flying. We have all agreed, as a family, that we are now always driving to the slopes. My daughter used to hate long road trips in the old internal combustion engine car.

Another thing that makes road trips in the Model S so enjoyable is the amount of, what I can only describe as, goodwill that people show towards us and the car.  We have had people gift us doughnuts just for owning the car. People ask to have their photographs taken with us and the car. Taxi drivers on the périphérique around Paris gesticulate at us – no, not like that – with thumbs up signs, huge grins and then adjust to our pace so that they can travel alongside us for a little while.  I’ve had drivers on the M1 do the same.  We get treated the way we imagine cherished celebrities get treated.

We also think that one of us is going to have to train as a chiropractor to help those who are openly turning their heads to catch a glimpse of the car.  One day, one of those people is going to do themselves an injury.  We want to be ready.

It’s so civilised driving Model S on long road trips.  It’s so futuristic, and yet so of its time. With free internet browsing in the car throughout Europe and included ‘over the air’ updates to improve the car future proofing Model S, it’s also so reminiscent of a simpler era – pleasant places to stop, a chance to meet new people, locals, visit places which would normally get bypassed.

Sensibly spaced Superchargers mean that breaks are perfect for family trips.  Just when I’ve had enough of driving without a break it’s time to pull over. Tesla have done a quite amazing job in finding locations for Superchargers which are moments from the main routes yet, in almost all cases, have a quiet charm about them. 

It’s the finest way to travel

My daughter told me to tell you that the thing she loves most about Superchargers is that they don’t stink – unlike petrol stations.  She also loves that she can plug the car in to charge – something that she was not able to do with an ICE car at petrol stations – where she was told by a zealous attendant to get back into the car and step away from the petrol nozzle!!  The bit that Laura and I love is that Supercharging is free ….. for life.  So, for us, it’s the finest way to travel.

The other thing I love about Superchargers is that they are reliable and fast.  they always work.  That is so reassuring – particularly on long road trips.  That is such a key ingredient for our enjoyable long distance road trips.  In addition, the range information in the car is so impressive, useful and accurate that to run out of charge in a Tesla Model S you’d need to have four legs, big long ears and a vocabulary that extends to two words – hee & haw.

Superchargers are the key to our enjoyable road trips.  On road trips, fast, reliable charging means that our family now loves the travelling bit of journeys just as much as the arriving bit unlike when we now take a rare flight.  Without the Superchargers road tripping would be a chore. Model S road trips are relaxed, easy and fun.

An additional beauty of Model S charging is that, despite having access to the brilliant, fast and comprehensive Supercharging network, Tesla have also made the car able to use existing, varied charging infrastructure.  We have access to so many different charging options. So, on a road trip, if there are no Superchargers (increasingly a rarity) we can use the next fastest – CHAdeMO stations – up to 150 mph added charge; type 2 charging stations: 20-70 mph added charge and obviously the humble standard plug charger.  There are so many options with the Model S – that provides total peace of mind.

This summer we’re off to visit a couple of family members in the States.  We’re sad to leave our Model S – it feels like leaving a family member behind!  We’ll have to endure the queueing, the frisking, the perfumed air, the stuffy conditions and maybe even some ICE cars! Airlines could learn something from Tesla who, with its cars and Supercharging infrastructure, seems to have captured the timeless spirit of adventure and a return to the halcyon days when motoring and travel was joyful, fun and adventurous.

*Free Supercharging is now allocated on an annual basis. To see the most current Supercharging rates, click here

Tags: Model S