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Tesla Model S 85kWh
Click to view picture gallery“Tesla is charging along in the UK
  with their all-electric, four-door
  premium class
Model S. This is no
  timid eco car
power specs vary
  between 297 and 681bhp with
  0-60mph acceleration times from
 
3.2 to 5.9 seconds and between-
  charge ranges of 240-310 miles...”


CLEARLY 'GREEN' CAN BE GOOD for driving enthusiasts too. The current five-car Model S line-up kicks off with a 60kWh battery version with a 240-mile range powered by a 297bhp electric motor. It costs £55,335.

From July this year there will be a range-topping 85kWh dual-motor Performance D model with all-wheel drive punching out a monstrous 681bhp. Its range will be around 300 miles, its maximum speed 155mph, and zero to 60mph in a supercar-club 3.2 seconds. This one will cost you £86,435. All prices include the Government's £5,000 plug-in vehicle grant.

“Not only is a Tesla’s
range reassuring
but you can, thanks to
its Pony Express-like
Supercharger relay stations, drive not just all
over the UK but all over the Continent
in your clean, green
(and very fast)
machine...
And to keep the power flowing, Tesla has set up a fast-charging network across the UK that lets owners realistically undertake longer-distance travel. This month Tesla opened its 21st such Supercharger station here and it expects to have full UK coverage by the end of 2015.

Currently UK Supercharger stations span routes from Exeter to Edinburgh with the latest being in Leeds close to the M62. In Europe there are already 130 Supercharger stations with over 670 points. Not only is a Tesla's range reassuring but you can, thanks to its Pony Express-like Supercharger 'relay' stations, drive not just all over the UK but all over the Continent in your clean, green (and very fast) machine.

Seeing, road-testing and buying one in the UK means a trip to one of seven Tesla Stores you'll find them in 'high footfall' locations such as shopping centres. Alternatively you can visit the Teslamotors.com website which gives potential customers an insight into the very modern world of Tesla; the technology, the specification, the options and the pricing. In fact, booking a test drive or even ordering a car can all be done on-line.

The Tesla Model S will have strong appeal to business users as well as London commuters or residents. All customers will benefit as the Model S costs nothing in road tax, is exempt from the London Congestion charge, and has a 0% Benefit-in-Kind company car tax rating (plus, for businesses, it is eligible for the 100% First Year write down allowance). Note that Benefit-in-Kind tax rates are due to be increased in the March Budget this year, so in April the Tesla's BIK will rise to 5%.

Tesla's S models have a range of up to 310 miles per charge more than enough to cover daily commutes and the majority of daily driving requirements. For longer trips, the Superchargers can replenish half the charge in as little as 20 minutes and are relatively conveniently placed along well-travelled routes enabling stress-free long-distance travel. In your garage you can have a high-powered electric wall box that costs around £95 on the government incentive scheme, and which will charge the Tesla at a rate of 30 to 40 miles range per hour. Using a regular three-pin domestic socket the charging rate is around six miles per hour of charge.

“The Model S has its own
iPhone app that lets
owners communicate
with their cars anytime,
anywhere to use it to
check on the charging
progress, start or stop
charging and heat up or
cool down the car before
driving it, even if it’s
parked in its garage...
Other public electric car charging points can be used but with varying degrees of charging rates and costs.

The Model S has its own iPhone app that puts owners in direct communication with their cars anytime, anywhere. They can use it to check on the charging progress, start or stop charging and heat up or cool down the car before driving it, even if it's parked in its garage.

The car's software can also be upgraded with free downloads using a 3G mobile network or Wi-Fi connection. Look on this function as the same as Microsoft updates for a PC or similar for a Smartphone.

UK customers have so far been slow to take up buying an electric-only powered car due to range anxiety, durability and, to some extent, the residual values. Reassuringly the Model S has a guaranteed 50% residual value after three years of use and while it requires an annual inspection, without a combustion engine the servicing is minimal. As for warranty, there's an 8-year cover for the battery and drivetrain with a 125,000-mile limit for the 60kWh models but unlimited mileage for the 85kWh single- and dual-motor versions plus 4-years'/40,000-miles for the body for all variants.

2,512 electric cars were bought in the UK in 2013 but this went up to 6,697 last year as more models like the Tesla joined the market. Slowly but surely more customers are becoming more confident in the practicality of all-electric cars and, of course, are also attracted by the current tax savings and low running costs they offer.

However, all that could change in the longer term when or if there is a change in the Government or their motoring taxation policies after the forthcoming General Election.

The all-electric car market is spearheaded by such models as the Nissan Leaf, the Renault Zoe and Twizy plus the BMW i3 non range-extender version and now the Tesla Model S. This has quickly become the third best-selling plug-in vehicle in the UK after the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi's plug-in electric-petrol hybrid, the Outlander PHEV.

“In the all-electric car
market the Tesla Model S
has quickly become the
third best-selling plug-in
vehicle in the UK after
the Nissan Leaf and
Mitsubishi
s plug-in
electric-petrol hybrid,
the Outlander PHEV...
My Tesla experience involved picking up a Model S 85kWh version from their Pop-Up store and Supercharger station situated in The Mall shopping centre at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol. This was followed by a 77-mile drive on the M5 to the Tesla Supercharger location at Dart Farm Village in Exeter, and then back again.

The 77-mile trip would never cause a range anxiety issue for a more or less fully-charged Model S. We left Bristol showing a range of 220 miles and arrived with 120 miles left in the battery. So cruising at 70mph with the electric heater working plus SatNav, etc, took 100 miles out of the battery for the 77-mile run. Obviously motorway driving gives limited opportunity for the very strong braking regeneration needed to boost battery range.

Heading back to Bristol after a short Supercharge, the potential range was shown as 202 miles. At the end of another motorway cruise at 70mph (this time into a stronger headwind), the range left in the battery was down to 95 miles.

While the charging times might be fast, my drive showed how mileage predictions can change en-route depending on speed, weather and the demands placed upon the electric system for in-car 'services' such as heating and heated seats, radio, and so forth.

The vast majority of early Model S adopters in the UK charge their vehicles at home overnight, and only use the Supercharger points for en-route top-ups. It all works, but it just needs a little extra planning for longer journeys. The good thing is the huge amount of comforting information supplied to the driver by the car's computer system, showing exactly where Tesla charging points are located.

As for driving the Model S? The pictures tell you more than words can it looks stylish, substantial and classy. Inside it's relatively roomy although being a six-footer I found the headroom through the door frames a bit low. The fact that this model is being used by business chauffeuring companies, mainly in London because of its Congestion Charge exemption, says much about the roomy rear seat space. And for luggage, you get a boot at each end!

“Business chauffeuring
companies, mainly in
London, are using the
Model S because
of its Congestion Charge
exemption and its
roomy rear seat space.
And its two boots — one
at each end!
The most noticeable interior feature is the 17-inch vertical touchscreen it's massive and it has numerous display and set-up options. It's also easy to read and logical to use providing you understand computer or mobile phone touchscreens.

All the Bluetooth and other connectivity functions, SatNav, regenerative braking response, sound system, Autopilot and much more is operated via the touchscreen while for navigation there's a second display contained within the instrument panel.

The interior is a mix of high quality leather, some suede on the top of the fascia and some hard and non-European style textured plastic trim that's also used on the dashboard areas and some small parts of the doors. A particularly likeable feature is the polished zinc exterior door handles which automatically extend and retract into the doors when the key-fob is close by.

It's easy to drive just turn up with the fob, open the door, engage the Drive setting on the steering wheel-mounted short stalk, depress the accelerator… and glide away. The same stalk selects Reverse gear and Park. There's nothing to turn on or turn off with a key or push-button.

As for the driving experience, it's somewhat eerie. I've driven plenty of all-electric cars before but the performance offered by the Model S is unique. The BMW i8 plug-in, petrol-electric hybrid comes close but it's not an all-electric car.

Press the Model S's accelerator and the response from the electric motor is instantaneous. There's a distinct lack of noise and some people, like me, will miss the 'noise theatre' of a sports combustion engine and its exhaust note. Due to the absence of a conventional engine, cruising at 70mph in the S is hushed with only a slight whine from the motor and some more obvious wind and tyre noise intrusion.

The handling seems well planted the heavy lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under the car's platform and the rear electric motor is positioned between and below the rear seatbacks. This means the centre of gravity is very low, so the ride is flat and level.

“Press the accelerator
and the response from
the electric motor is
instantaneous. Some
people, like me, will miss
the ‘noise theatre’ of a
sports combustion
engine and its exhaust
note but cruising at
70mph in the S is hushed
with only a slight
whine from the motor...
The air suspension generally does a good job of ironing out poor road surfaces although aluminium platforms tend to allow impacts to resonate through the body rather than absorb them as efficiently as does steel. The steering is light and precise, although it lacks feedback.

Overall the driving experience was a tad sterile it lacked the usual high-performance thrill and characteristics of a turbocharged petrol or high-torque diesel engine but there can be no argument it is very modern and efficient and technically a 'greener' way to travel.

But, and there is a big 'but', whilst CO2 emissions from the Tesla's exhaust (if it had one), would be nil, most non-nuclear energy power stations supplying electricity are not CO2-free.

Do we really want more solar and wind farms to meet the demand for more electricity to charge more electric-only cars? That said, the higher potential driving range and performance you get from the Model S does make it the most efficient all-electric car to date and that probably off-sets to an extent the negative aspects of its true CO2 emissions.

The main 'against' has to be the limited number of UK sales, service and Supercharger locations. Also adjustments need to be made to compensate for its range limitations, and there's some cheap-feeling textured plastic trim inserts.

That aside, there's a great deal to like about the Model S a worthy alternative to conventionally-powered executive saloon rivals, stunning exterior design, clever interior layout, packed with computer-age driver support, information technologies and connectivity, effortlessly fast cruising speeds with brilliant acceleration performance, seems well made, and low for all taxes.
David Miles

Tesla Model S 85kWh
| £62,735
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-60mph: 5.4 seconds | Range: 310 miles
Power: 357bhp | Torque: 324lb ft | CO2 0g/km