Electric to IFA - Special Coverage
Travelling to the IFA Trade show in Berlin by only Electric Means
Your Software Solution is our Passion
Chapter 4 Day 1 - Who needs sound anyway
So today the challenge began with an early start to head to London to pick up the Model S from White.car. After a pretty comprehensive briefing I was handed the keys and set off back to Peterborough to pick up the crew and luggage.
I was getting hungry at this point and realising the traffic on the M11 was really bad I pulled off at Birchanger Services. I probably didn't need much of a charge here but decided it would probably be wise to have a go at SuperCharging before the rest of the crew had a chance to laugh at me. I need not have worried. SuperCharging is amazingly hastle free and is definitely a huge advantage for Tesla over other charging infrastructure.
Charging is something Tesla just gets from the ease of use of the chargers - just pull the lead out of the stand, open the charge flap (by pressing a button on the charge lead!) and plug it into the car - to simple things like the inbuilt navigation telling you if you need to charge en-route.
I have to say though, I was a little disappointed with some elements of the Model S. I had taken build quality issues with grain of salt, but from bits of glue on the headliner through to a very noisy air hiss from the passenger side window at speed, I would expect more from as expensive a car as this is.
I certainly couldn't fault the drive though. With the regen braking, where the electric motors are used to slow down the car and provide the battery with more charge, I soon mastered the art of one pedal driving hardly touching the brake.
What I could fault was that when I started out I had no audio, no radio, no spotify, no warning bongs and most worryingly no indicator noise - I'm guessing my indicators were actually working but without noise it was hard to tell.
A bit of googling suggested a control unit reset by holding down the two buttons on the steering wheel. I'm told I could do this while driving but I didn't want to risk that so waited until I got to the aforementioned SuperCharger stop. Thankfully that did seem to work and as I left the indicators ticked reassuringly.
The Birchanger Green stop over all was a doddle with a well signposted route to the SuperChargers (which were actually in the Days Inn car-park rather than the actual service but a simple and short stroll to the main services building) I would say that there was only one slot at the charger when I arrived and by the time I went back - having grabbed a coffee and snack quickly there was a queue for the small number of chargers but the turnover seemed pretty quick. Indeed as I got back mine reached the desired charge level so I unplugged and moved my car out of the bay to free it up for use, with a quick thumbs up, by a waiting driver.
This high usage was probably due to the bank holiday weekend and was predictable before arrival with the excellent in car supercharger mapping actually indicating how many people are at each charger.
So now with audio blaring (but at a way lower volume than i would have needed it at equivalent speed in an Internal Combustion vehicle) it was off again and I was soon back in peterborough to start the challenge.
The Tesla is very spacious in the boot and it was easy to fit everything - we didn't even have to resort to using the front trunk or as it is commonly known Frunk (this is a storage space under the bonnet where the engine would normally go - the mechanics of this car are way smaller)
I arrived back wih about 60% charge which the route planner was telling us would be enough to get to our overnight destination in Ashford but only if I drove at 70MPH and under. We had decided we would stop for Dinner (and a bit of last minute shopping) at Bluewater just passed the Dartford Crossing and looking at the in car map there was a supercharger there so why not kill two birds with one stone and charge there too.
The drive to Dartford was pretty uneventful with time to play with AutoPilot and in particular the AutoSteer element. It surprised my how much better at keeping centred in the lane this was than I am! I was slightly less enamoured with Auto Lane change. Supposedly you just indicate and it changes lane for you if it is clear. I found this worked very inconsistantly sometimes not moving where there were large gaps.
Once we got to Bluewater things were a bit more fraught. Frantically searching for the Supercharger there were not sigms like at Birchanger. I had to end up googling and had a post on the Tesla Owner Forum to thank for pointing out which of the many car parks the SuperChargers were in
Even once we got in the right car park (yellow) they still proved elusive but eventually we found them. Sign posting would have really helped here.
Charging was again a lot less stressful and after a fairly quick dinner we returned to a nearly full charge. We actually didn't leave straight away as we started chatting to another Tesla driver who had just pulled into charge. There seems to be a real sense of community around EV drivers and the SuperChargers are where that community meets in person. Whether this community will last as charging goes mainstream remains to be seen but for now it is lovely to see.
Getting out of the car park was easier than finding the way in and we were soon on our way to our overnight stop of Ashford. We arrived with nearly 80% of charge but decided it would be worth slow charging on the hotel's PodPoint charger for a few hours so we didn't need to charge at the tunnel on a busy bank holiday. This was a major faff. The PodPoint chargers came with a type 2 socket - they dont have a cable you need to use your own. We did have one of these supplied with the car so I hefted it out the boot. Hefted being the operatuve word - it is heavy! I'm really not sure how someone with any form of physical limitation could handle this.
Once hefted out and I had worked out which end was which I plugged it all in and it started charging. So far so good but PodPoint chargers will only charge for 15 minutes without confirmation. To do this confirmation I had to then scramble around in the dark finding my phone. Then scramble some more finding the app that needed to be on my phone to confirm. Then searching in the app to find the PodPoint I was at then choosing the correct port I was using and then tapping confirm... hoorah... hmm boo - I needed an account to confirm. So again in the dark I register an account. It then says I have to top this up with real money (a fiver) to use the charger. Reading numbers off credit card in the dark is no fun but i got there in the end. This needs to be a lot simpler for real, non early-adopter, people to use. One the other side this charge wasn'r gong to cost us too much - under £20.
If it wasn't the bank holiday I wouldn't have worried with this charge and just gone to the Tunnel Supercharger and charged once again for free.
So all told except for the enforced silence at the start a pretty good day we've reached our destination without once feeling we were stopping for charge (we stopped for snacks and meals but not just to charge) Some niggles and certainly some ammunition for our sceptic team members around non-tesla charging. Having said that all agreed Tesla's charging was to coin a phrase 'Super'