I’d Love To Try This Road Trip In A Tesla Model S

Last week I wrote about a family trip to the north of Israel that got a bit complicated. The following week Better Place opened another couple of switch stations, one of which puts Tiberias on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) easily in range from Tel Aviv.

Despite this I managed to talk my business partner (and brother in law) into us using my Better Place electric Fluence Z.E. for a big trip the next day. A newly opened battery switch station to the north east of Haifa called Vulcan Junction (seriously yes, we have a place called Vulcan in Hebrew) made this trip possible.

At the bottom of the post is the Google map trace for most of the 306km 190 mile trip.

A post over at Green Car Reports about a particular forthcoming owner of a Tesla Model S high performance electric car made me think of an angle for this post. The author is asking if he really needs to spend an extra $10,000 on top of the $50,000 base price of the car because of a range drop in cold weather (heating the car takes power from the battery). This made me think of how far that $10,000 extra would get me!

After my usual few km of kindergarten run in the morning I had a 95% full battery. With this we set off for the first destination, Vulcan Junction and a battery switch.

This took around an hour with a little traffic through Haifa but nothing unusual. It’s just shy of 100km or 60 miles and we arrived with more than 25% battery. We switched quickly and carried on

The next leg up to a local office of my company is a relatively short distance but a big climb. Vulcan is at sea level and the destination near the town of Ma’alot is at 640m or 2000ft. The distance is 50 km or 30 miles.

That leg took the best part of an hour (which is completely normal as there are a few traffic pinch points). All in all the trip took us only 15 minutes longer than the best time possible with a petrol car.

At the top of the hill we had more than enough battery to reach the same Vulcan station outside Haifa for our way home but, for traffic reasons in the afternoon, we’d rather come back on the Kvish 6 toll road. The most reasonable station for that is Elyakim right at the start of the toll road. To reach that from Ma’alot is around 66km or 40 miles.

Public charging spot at a hotel in Northern Israel

Going down is easier but I was still a little nervous about this stretch. I looked around and 4km away was a hotel with charge spots. I called up customer service to really confirm they were there and decided to take a chance on them. Had they not been available to me the extra 8km return trip to check them would have caused me some issue. As it was they were fine and my colleague brought me back.

My car charged for 3 hours while we did what we needed to do and when we were done (and following a great lunch in an Arab shipudim (skewers) restaurant with a view toward Lebanon) we picked up my car from it’s happy stay at the beautiful looking Hacienda Forest Hotel and Spa.

We drove easily the 66 km  40 miles to Elyakim and arrived with enough battery to know that while the Hotel stay helped, we could have made it without that. A learning point. From Elyakim back to Tel Aviv is easy and fast on the toll road and we were home by 17:00.

All this was done in a loaned Better Place car as mine had been taken for a couple of days. We arrived right on time to find a car transporter waiting to give me back my car and take the loaner.

Total drive that day was 306 km or 190 miles. Unless you started with a full tank of gas, most petrol cars would need to refuel once on that trip or just after. I had to stop twice for batteries.

Is there any other electric car that could do this? My Renault Fluence Z.E. has a 22kWh battery. The Nissan Leaf has a marginally larger battery but can’t swap. It can fast charge to 80% in 30 minutes so my two 5 minute swaps could be replaced with two 30 minute charges if suitable infrastructure existed, but I’d rather stop for 5 mins not 30 mins.

There is one car that could do this today without stops: the new Tesla Model S. But not the base model. Tesla offer this car with a choice of battery sizes. Some aspects of performance change between the models but leaving that to one side your choice is 40kWh / 160 miles, 60kWh / 230 miles or 85kWh / 300 miles. The base prices are $50k, $60k or $70k.

So we can drop the 40kWh model as it couldn’t do that day’s drive and move up to the 60kWh model. We gain a slightly quicker 0 to 60 time of 5.9s instead of 6.5s and it can go a bit faster. But essentially it’s $10,000 more to make possible a journey I did with a far cheaper electric car coupled with infrstructure outside the car.

And the complete Better Place subscription cost for 4 years 80,000km or 50,000 miles is around $9,200 and that is all the electricity and switches I’ll need. Less than the battery price difference. So if you want to carry around $10,000 extra worth of huge battery even when only driving 20 miles a day, Tesla is your dream car.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the Tesla S. I would dearly like to own one, but it’s a luxury, high performance, small volume car for now. And even though it is a wonderful demonstration of engineering excellence, it does almost nothing to change the way we drive. It is the car the big car companies should have produced, and probably will start producing, but it’s not a new way of travelling. It’s just a better mouse trap, not a better transport solution.

Mike Granoff, one of the founding VC investors in Better Place and the man who gave the demonstration one night in January that got me hooked, gives a great example. Remember the first cellphones? They were huge, heavy and they didn’t have very good battery life. Today in the same form factor we could make a phone with a 6 month standby time but you still wouldn’t want it. You’d rather have something slim enough to slip in a pocket but that you can recharge in a short time! It turns out that occasional maximum range isn’t nearly as important as how fast it can be recharged.

But don’t get me started on the mess Apple created by fixing the battery inside: I used to love having the ability to carry a spare battery for my Nokia!

For the rest of us, investment in infrastructure outside the car, the use of which we rent, is definitely a better option in my book.

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About Brian of London

Brian of London is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy. Since making aliyah in 2009, Brian has blogged at Israellycool. Brian's interests include electric cars, world peace and an end to world hunger. Besides blogging here, Brian of London now writes at the Times of Israel. Brian of London also hosted Shire Network News

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  • David Rose

    And I was glad to be of service as well by having a “Glympse” at your route!

  • Ad van der Meer

    Ok, let’s assume the 40kWh Model S which has a theoretical range of 160mi. Your trip is 190mi so indeed outside the range of this model without charging.
    If we take the EPA 5 cycle range of the 85kWh model (265/300=0,88) and translate this to the 40kWH model (160*0,88) only 141mi of range remain under “normal” circumstances leaving us 49mi short of our destination.
    141mi/40kWh = 3,5 mi/kWh, 49/3,5= 14kWh
    This calculation shows that you would need to charge 14 kWh to complete the trip. Now, you said you charged for 3 hours while having a meal and some other activities. During these 3 hours your BP Fluence charged its battery with 10,5 kWh. Dang, Model S would still need another hour to get the 14 kWh needed to complete the trip.
    But wait! Model S (European version anyway) will be able to charge 3-phase, meaning at least 11kW. This would mean that you can charge the 14 kWh in less than 1,5 hours. Charging for 3 hours would give you 19kWh or 66mi to spare and it would not require the 2 stops to swap the battery.
    Now I don’t know about the availability of 3-phase charging in Israel, but in the Netherlands about 3000 charging points are available at at least 11kW and that number is growing every day.

    Now please stop promoting Better Place by pushing Tesla Model S down. Better Place is a great alternative and doesn’t need this kind of promotion. The same could be done with Better Place, but it does not help the cause which is the promotion of EV’s in general and not just Better Place or the Renault Fluence.

    • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

      I’m not meaning to denigrate the Tesla S so hard. I love it and almost everything about it. If there is a perfect EV solution visible in the next 3 years its a “cheap” Tesla S with a 40 or even 30 kWh swappable battery. It’s certainly possible because of the placement of the battery on the bottom of the car already.

      I do agree, anything much beyond a 3.3kW charger and you could do that journey in a small battery Tesla. We do have 3 phase power in most industrial settings in Israel so it could be done here (though because of the peculiarities of the grid here you couldn’t do this today: we almost had a grid collapse on Sunday).

      We’re still with a fundamental shift between infrastructure in the car or outside it. I like the outside choice but agree that the US is probably the last place that will get it. Europe is a much better fit. I just want to see as many EVs as fast as possible and I guess we’ll only know in a year or two more the relative popularities of the different approaches.

      • Ad van der Meer

        So we agree that neither Tesla Model S nor the Renault Fluence will be the end point in the EVolution.
        Model S still costs too much for too many people and Renault has to find a better place (pun not intended) to pack the battery.
        3 phase charging will not change the grid integrity that much, as I assume BP uses the same grid to charge its batteries.

        • http://www.israellycool.com/author/brianoflondon/ Brian of London

          Yes: I only whine about the Tesla S to make them make it better.

          The Renault is a dynamic mess and the battery shape and location is a poor compromise. It is, however, a damn nice long distance cruiser.

          Israel’s electricity system has been completely mismanaged and widespread fast charging of EVs during the day time would absolutely mean we would need more power stations. No doubt.

          Better Place is uniquely kind to the grid because even the batteries at the switch stations are most generally charged in off peak hours as are the sleeping cars at their owner’s homes. Better Place completely manage all aspects of charging and they can delay or even stop charging cars if a grid segment is approaching peak load.

          In this aspect Better Place is the only holistic solution to all really mass adoption of EVs without any detrimental effects on a weak grid. In the case of Denmark, with too much overnight wind power, Better Place will act as a very high value dual use storage system with its distributed array of advanced lithium batteries.

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