Circling Hong Kong on One Charge

Mark Webb-Johnson, Roadster Owner, 17 juillet 2011

Any Tesla owner will tell you there are a few questions they are commonly asked about the Roadster. If someone is unfamiliar with Tesla, the first question is sure to be: “how fast does it go?” The Roadster just looks fast. I typically end my answer with: “and it’s electric!” Shocked, their response is almost always: “wow, but how far does it go?”

There is no avoiding it: the range of electric vehicles is a concept that petrol-powered car owners are still wrapping their heads around. But this attitude is slowly starting to evolve, especially as more EV owners go the distance.

We Roadster Owners in Hong Kong are in a unique position to do our part. We can literally drive the 200km around our island in about four hours, using just over half of our batteries. In our Roadsters, we just don't experience range anxiety.  

Even if we needed to charge away from home, it’s not only possible, but easy. The government, electricity providers, and corporations in Hong Kong have rapidly deployed charging stations throughout the territory. There is already an impressive public network: 300+ charging sockets at more than 100 locations (compared to just 189 petrol stations).

Inspired by Kevin Sharpe and David Peilow -- a duo in the U.K. who recently drove a Roadster from one end of the British Isle to the other using only publicly available charging stations -- the members of the Hong Kong Tesla Club decided to arrange a charity rally to drive all the way around Hong Kong.

Like Kevin and David, we wanted to demonstrate the practicality of the Roadster by driving a long-range route familiar to the people we meet on a daily basis. Just as they now answer the range question in the U.K. by saying “well, you can get anywhere you’d want to go in a day on one charge,” we wanted to say, “I’ve driven all the way around Hong Kong.” At the same time, we wanted to raise money for Civic Force, a nonprofit run by Japan’s first Roadster owner, providing disaster relief in the wake of the recent earthquake.

On June 26, 2011, twelve Roadsters met early at the Star Ferry Pier in the central business district. After a short briefing, we set off in a convoy towards the eastern part of the island. Past Happy Valley (the site of Hong Kong’s most famous race course), we headed into the steep hills. Some extra energy used on the hard uphill stretch was replenished by the Roadster’s regenerative braking as we wound our way down toward the beaches on the south side of the island. After 20 km of hills and coastal road, we arrived at the first rest stop: Cyberport.

We then headed north through the western harbor tunnel (one of three tunnels joining Hong Kong Island to the Kowloon Peninsula of mainland China), and continued west toward Lantau island and the airport. Our caravan passed through areas developed in the 1990s to connect the new international airport on Lantau Island to Hong Kong through a network of expressways, bridges, and rail lines. Making good time on the 110 kph expressway, we cruised around the airport departure terminal before heading to the nearby Marriott SkyCity Hotel for lunch. The Marriott has recently installed a Tesla High Power Wall Connector (and adjoining 13-amp, 220-volt socket) for use by EV owners. Of course, we had no need for them that day.

After our meal, we retraced our route back along the expressway and northwest to the Chinese border. Our destination for the third leg of the journey was the Hong Kong Science Park at the northeast end of Hong Kong’s New Territories. There, we were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers eager to learn about the Tesla Roadster.

The final 45 km leg of the journey was the most enjoyable for me. Passing through the new town of Ma On Shan, then skirting the Sai Kung peninsula and up into the hills around ClearWater Bay, we traveled along the east coast of the New Territories. This is perhaps the most picturesque part of Hong Kong, spanning sandy beaches, green hills, and rural parkland. Passing through the new town areas to the southeast, we drove through the Sunday afternoon traffic in Kowloon’s busy shopping districts, ending up at our destination, the Ritz Carlton hotel in the newly constructed ICC building (the tallest building in Hong Kong at 118 floors and 484 meters). We celebrated with high tea and fantastic sunset views of the harbor from the 103rd floor.

In total, my Tesla Roadster clocked 202.0 km during four hours and 27 minutes of driving. When I arrived home, my battery was a little over half-used, and my vehicle display system showed 163 km remaining. My lights and air conditioning were on the whole time. In total, I used 32.26 kWh of energy, which probably increased my electricity bill by no more than U.S. $4. The same journey in my Prius would have cost U.S. $20 in petrol (and would not have been nearly as much fun).

So, what to make of range anxiety? Well, almost four and a half hours of driving was more than enough for me. Driving in Hong Kong is constrained by relatively low speed limits, hilly terrain, and extreme traffic. With my driving style, a full battery in the Tesla Roadster is good for more than seven hours of driving – far longer than I’d last behind the wheel of any car in Hong Kong’s traffic.

More images from the day can be found on Facebook.