Tesla Model S Road Trip – Day 1

– See Electric Road Trip – 4 days in a Tesla Model S for introduction

So the big day finally arrived! On July 14th, 2016 we found ourselves in the lobby of the Mercure Hotel in Salzburg, Austria waiting for the delivery of a Tesla Model S from Greenride.at which would be ours for the next 4 days. Finally, out of the torrential rain the distinctive shape of the Tesla appeared…

First sight of Telsa Model S – ours for the next 4 days!

I was pleased to see that the car was dark blue, not black as I had expected – although Kasia would have preferred bright red! However I had mixed feelings when I saw that it was a 70D model, and not the 85 that I was expecting when I booked the rental. On one hand, it would be fun to have a “D” – which means it has dual motors, one in the front and one in the rear, for all-wheel drive. On the other hand, the 70 kWh battery would give a shorter range than the 85, and we had a lot of kilometers to cover. Would this be an issue? We would find out…

Destination Nuremberg

After a lengthy handover process it was finally time to take the wheel. I set the navigation for Nuremberg, Germany and it showed a route of 308km with a 20 minute stop to recharge at the Tesla Supercharger at Regensburg. The navigation system conveniently routes through Superchargers if you don’t have sufficient range to reach your destination, and shows an estimate of the battery level you should have at each stop, and how long you will need to charge in order to continue.

Plotting course for Nuremberg

The 17 inch touchscreen is fantastic for navigation – it uses Google maps and it is connected to the Internet at all times, which means the maps are always up to date and it can use live traffic information to find the fastest route, avoiding jams. Entering the destination is easy, using an on-screen keyboard like a tablet. It also has voice recognition, although I could never get this to work.

It’s not perfect of course – the biggest omission at the moment is the ability to navigate via waypoints – if you don’t like the route it calculates, you have to manually break down your trip into separate segments which makes it difficult to see the overall distance you will cover. In fact we had to do this as I wanted to go via Munich, so I had to change the destination to the Schweitenkirchen Supercharger, which was on the way.

Hopefully Tesla will address this in a future software update. Yes – the car receives software updates just like a smartphone!

First drive

The weather in Salzburg was terrible, with torrential rain which made for difficult driving conditions. We were soon on the Autobahn, which was quite a stressful experience as I was still getting used to the car. Fortunately, the navigation system soon directed us onto smaller roads to avoid a long tailback. On these twisty roads the Tesla was a delight to drive – no engine noise, no gearchanges, just a smooth ride with ample power available instantly at any speed. Overtaking was easy and the only problem I had at first was with the size of the car – it is so wide that I found I was almost driving in the ditch at times!

Autopilot

After some time we were back on the Autobahn and it was time to try the famous Tesla Autopilot for the first time. This doesn’t allow you to take a nap while the car drives itself – it is really just a driver assistance feature that steers the car for you, keeping it centred in the lane while the adaptive cruise control manages the speed. Having said that, it is quite amazing and it will happily drive the car for you for extended periods of time, just occasionally asking you to hold the steering wheel to make sure you are paying attention.

Tesla autopilot
Doing 105 kph on autopilot

When on autopilot, the car will show a representation of the road around it on the screen, including the positions of other cars and highlighting the lane markings in blue if it is following the lane markings. If it is just following the car in front, that will be shown in blue. This helps to give confidence in the system, because you know that the car has “seen” the car in front, so if they slow down, the Tesla will too. In fact the autopilot is very useful in stop-go traffic – if the car in front stops, it will stop and when the traffic starts moving, the Tesla will follow. This makes traffic jams a lot less frustrating!

Tesla autopilot
Dashboard on Autopilot

Supercharging

Although I had set the navigation to Schweitenkirchen, the car was showing that we would only have 4% battery left when we got there, so we decided to charge at Irschenberg, which was on the way.

Our first Supercharger stop in Irschenberg, Germany
Our first Supercharger stop in Irschenberg, Germany

Charging was easy – just plug the car in, then you can either sit in the car or go off and do other things while it charges. At Irschenberg the only place to go was the petrol station opposite, but this being Germany, we were in luck as they served proper hot food and even had tables inside. So I had a nice shredded pancake soup for lunch and Kasia had a goulash. By the time we were ready to leave about 30 minutes later, the car had more than enough range to get us on our way.

Fun fun fun on the Autobahn

Back on the Autobahn and with plenty of battery to spare, it was time to see what the Tesla could do. The Tesla Model S 70D is not a “performance” version, but it does 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds and has a top speed of 230 kph (140 mph). Keeping up with the Audis and Mercedes was easy and we reached a speed of 205 kph (127 mph). I could have gone faster, but the traffic didn’t allow it. I discovered that the Autopilot disengages with an alarming warning sound if you go faster than 150 kph, so if you want to go fast you have to drive – which is the way it should be!

Cruising towards Mannheim
Cruising towards Mannheim

You have reached your destination

At our first Supercharger stop at Irschenberg, we decided to skip Nuremberg because the car had been a bit late being delivered, and that coupled with the handover procedure meant we had set off 2 hours behind schedule. So we set the navigation to Schifferstadt, the town near Mannheim where my friend Matt now lives with his lovely wife Dorothee and three kids. On the way we charged at Ulm, and again at Leonberg, although it turned out that this last stop wasn’t really necessary.

On reaching Matt’s house, he kindly let us plug the car in on his driveway to charge it overnight. The Tesla can be charged from pretty much any electrical outlet, not just at Tesla Superchargers, and Greenride had helpfully included a full set of appropriate cables and adapters in the car. We used the Tesla Mobile Connector cable with the European 2-pin domestic adapter, and plugged into an extension cable from the garage. Unfortunately, we found that the car refused to charge. It turned out that it didn’t like the extension cable for some reason and when we plugged in directly through a window into the house, the lights went green. Success!

Tesla charging
Charging from a domestic 13A socket

So how would I sum up the first day with the Tesla Model S? Well needless to say we were both impressed with the car! We covered 507 km (315 miles) and didn’t feel the fatigue that one would normally feel after such a long car journey. On the Autobahn the ride is very smooth with no engine noise or vibration, and for the driver the Autopilot reduces the mental effort required to drive, making driving long distances far less tiring. The Supercharger stops are a nice chance to stretch your legs, and don’t add much time because on a long trip, one would normally stop a couple of times anyway. And of course, they are free to use!

day 1 route
Our route on day 1, showing charging stops

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1 thought on “Tesla Model S Road Trip – Day 1”

  1. Awesome post James. Would love to see some specific facts you love about the car too. Good job!

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