The RACT General Manager of Member Assist is testing the range of electric vehicles over the next few days on a journey around Tassie to determine if they will be a viable alternative transport for use in the near future. Follow his journey below.
Finally clear skies and the sun. Cradle Mountain Hotel presented a picture perfect morning to admire over breakfast. You can sometimes be fooled by these types of mornings in the highlands, but not today, but not on this occasion outside temperature was a balmy 12Deg C.
We headed down the road to the Parks offices, received a comprehensive overview of what we could do for the day, purchased our passes and headed down to the gate. I was warned if the lights were flashing at the gate the road beyond had reached its quota of cars as it was virtually a single lane with the odd wait area while a vehicle in another direction passed. Sure enough the light was flashing so we headed back to the main car park and grabbed the shuttle bus which was included in our park admission.
We virtually hopped straight on a bus and headed beyond the gate. On the 20 minute trip into Dove Lake my wife mentioned that four letter word again, “walk”. I thought I’d had my quota the day before, but apparently not. We got off at Ronny Creek which left around a 3kms walk to Dove Lake. We commenced on a well-constructed board walk which is incidentally the start of the famed overland track, the first kilometer was easy going through button grass plains, then an intersection that sends those wanting to spend six days walking the overland while those wanting something shorter a turn left.
The boardwalk turned to a track but it was still pretty easy going. The further we went the more interesting the scenery became. Creeks running beside the track with the clearest water you have seen, a sort of mini waterfall at Lake Lilla which also gave our first glance of Cradle Mountain. A little further on and we caught a glimpse of Dove Lake and soon enough we were there. Was it worth the walk? Definitely and made some much better with the weather so perfect. Getting into this walking thing I thought we could extend a little so we made our way around Dove lake to Glacier Rock. Wildlife was a little light on today but we did see lots of evidence that wombats are flourishing, (did you know wombat droppings were sometimes cube shaped?) and the tail of a smallish tiger snake making its way away from the path no doubt looking for a quiet place to get some warmth into his body after recent snow. We headed back to the Dove Lake car park to grab the shuttle back, but decided to get out at Ronny Creek again and walk in the other direction to Snake Hill, another 2.5kms all on boardwalk with bridges traversing river crossings on bridges, again a pretty easy walk. We grabbed the shuttle from Snake Hill back to our starting point and called it a day. Would I have preferred to drive in? Yes. Would I have experienced some of Tasmania’s best scenery? Probably not, so my recommendation is to leave the car and catch the shuttle.
The run back to Devonport to catch the Spirit is virtually the only time on this trip I’ve been able to access the potential of the Tesla without fear of getting caught short. We had virtually a full charge and less than 100kms to use it with some fantastic roads along the way. The Cradle link road starts off as a rolling relaxing drive on a fantastic road surface, I muted the music, tyre noise was low and the Tesla almost silently snaked its way along. I was wary of wombats on this section of road as we had seen at least three wandering across the road on the way in. We again saw a few, but this time they were in the paddocks away from the roads. The last 10kms down to Moina provide plenty of challenging corners. Some have you as low as 30km/h, but its exhilarating to blast out of them with the Tesla’s huge torque. Then it’s down to Cethana which is a Targa Tasmania stage in the other direction. As I’ve found before I almost immediately pull up behind a truck slowly navigating its way down to the bottom of the hill, I thought my day was ruined however I got a passing opportunity and shot past the truck in the blink of an eye. This has to be the best car for passing ever produced. The run to the bottom and back up the other side is a combination of slow in fast out which suits the Tesla perfectly. The regenerative energy system helps reduce momentum as do the huge front and rear brakes, the massive 21” tyres offer plenty in the way of grip and never once complained (squealed) .
Despite the extensive use of aluminum in the construction of the Tesla it’s still a heavyweight 2,100kgs because of the batteries located under the floor area. You sometimes get a feel for this in some of the tighter bits, but their placement under the floor helps a low centre of gravity. The combined power output of the front and rear electric motors is a thumping 568kW with a massive 1,000Nm of torque available immediately you stamp your foot on the accelerator so it deals with the weight effortlessly. Just to put that into comparison, a V8 SS-V Commodore weighs around 360kgs less, and has engine output of 304kW and 570Nm.
We work our way back to East Devonport and the Spirit terminal; we pass through check-in into Quarantine. I’m immediately recognized as that guy who came over the other day to drive the Tesla around Tassie. Doesn’t buy me any special treatment, can I check under the hood and in the back? Mmm… the back is easy, but I might have to have another look in the “if all else fails” to find how to lift the bonnet. We have a look in the back and have a chat about the electronic manual and decide I’m probably OK.
In the lineup waiting for the Spirit I park among a large group of early R and S series Valiants that had been doing an eleven day tour of the state. We exchanged stories about our travels, a couple had said they had been to Mona and seen two Teslas in the car parks marked “God and God’s Mistress” and that they belonged to David Walsh and his wife. Acting surprised I asked what they thought of Mona, the reactions were many and varied, but overall massively positive as was the rest of their tour of Tasmania despite some pretty challenging weather conditions.
So what is my verdict of Tesla touring in Tasmania?
Firstly the car is great and I was getting to know something new about every hour I drove it. I think you would still be learning new things about the car three months into ownership. The performance in “Ludicrous” mode is something you will only experience in a theme park ride (think Tower of Terror). It is absolutely comfortable, 1,200kms+ over five days and not one complaint from me. Autonomous mode is good but not perfect, I don’t like the cruise control activation and resumption all that much but could get used to it. The electronic interaction whether it is the mapping/navigation, vehicle management and settings, or the multimedia, it is first rate.
To the range, on a full charge it says it has a range of just over 500kms, I’m not sure where you would get this, maybe a flat road driving at 90km/h? In Tasmania I put the range limit not much more than 300kms for anything that includes serious hills which is a lot of roads down here. Even at this range it’s going to be a conservative drive which isn’t the way these vehicles need to be driven. So how do we fix it? A charger on the west coast around Tarraleah providing up to 90km/h range in an hour would give you that security you need to drive normally, a cuppa and a scone, a quick tour of the old hydro village and you’re away again with more than what you need to get to Hobart.
The other obvious one for me is a super charger at Campbell Town. This could service vehicles from the east, north and south providing enough range to get them where they need to be. Would I have one? A tentative yes at the moment, if they could guarantee me another 90kms range allowing me to drive those 300km Tassie stretches at a speed I want to drive then I’d have one in a heartbeat.