First Tesla Model S Road Trip from Sydney to Melbourne, on 3 phase

Mathew Peterson (@heosat) is the founder of GetShinyThings and has one very special shiny thing, a Tesla Model S. As an Easter get away with his wife, Peterson is travelling...

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Mathew Peterson (@heosat) is the founder of GetShinyThings and has one very special shiny thing, a Tesla Model S. As an Easter get away with his wife, Peterson is travelling from Sydney to Melbourne which he believes is the first time this electric-only trip has been done. The journey will take the couple a number of days, with stops in Canberra and Albury Wodonga to recharge.

The Model S is capable of 500 km on a single charge, but to ensure there’s plenty of batteries, Peterson has done his homework and arranged recharge locations. While the car comes with a recharger that connects to any 240v outlet, he needs faster charging. As we know Tesla have announced a supercharger network along the east coast of Australia, but with that not available till 2016/2017, he needs a fast-charging solution now.

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The answer is to find places that have a 32amp 3 phase electrical outlet. This cable doesn’t come with the car, but for rapid recharging it’s a great solution, because not all 3 phase outlets are easily accessible, he also picked up a 15m extension cable. The regular 10A connector will come for the road trip, just in case, but instead of charging at 22kW, it charges at just 2.4kW, great if you have overnight to charge, bad if you need to stop for lunch and recharge.

Day 1 of the trip started yesterday and before they left home, there was a new Software update available. Thanks to a push notification to the phone, there was plenty of time to apply the update before the drive began.

This is smart, the last thing on a road trip is to be delayed while your car updates itself. The new update was Software 6.2  which adds recharge location information to your journey, easing range anxiety. Range Assurance will compare your route with the locations of known recharge stations. Peterson ignored this.

The current reality of owning an electric vehicle in Australia means you don’t have fast charging options in locations outside metro areas. When a full recharge from the wall takes up to 36 hours, you have to think ahead and that’s exactly what Peterson did. Day 2 began from Canberra in the early hours of this morning, making Wodonga around 11:15am.

After meeting him, you can tell he’s calculated in the decisions he makes, very deliberate and well thought through, things are not left up to chance. Connecting to 3 phase power outlets shrinks the recharge time to just 3 hours so by planning the route, contacting industrial locations like Wodonga TAFE’s Motorsport facility made the trip possible and meant ignoring the Tesla’s warning that he shouldn’t drive where he was planning to.

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Connecting to 3 phase power is not something Tesla supplies a cable for (Tesla please get on this) and this meant embarking on a mission to find one. The Juice Booster 1 was sourced all the way from Switzerland and took 4 weeks to arrive. This device allows safe control of power to the vehicle. Basically the Tesla will accept whatever speed you can feed it.

After connecting it to power, here’s where things got interesting. An electrician was called after the power lights on the Juice Booster wouldn’t light up. Even the best planning couldn’t have foreseen this problem, the one and only fast method of charging wasn’t working. This is literally the difference between making it to Melbourne for Easter, or spending it in Albury Wodonga.

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Thankfully the electrician was able to resolve the issue, which turned out to be a wiring issue with the cable and thankfully not a broken charger. After a few minutes on charge at the highest rate tripped the circuit breaker and the car stopped charging. After resetting the circuit, the power asked for was scaled back slightly and charging continued successfully.

While the car was on charge, Peterson transformed into a salesman. It was beautiful to watch a proud owner explain the decision to own a Tesla, but more importantly an EV. Sure, he’d dropped $200,000 on this P85+ Signature edition, but the way he spoke about it was impactful. One thing was clear, he genuinely believes in EV as the future of the auto industry and coming to Motorsports Training Australia it was a valuable window into the future for a number of their staff.

Motorsports students today are usually elbow deep in grease, but there’s a fundamental shift happening in the industry that will change their career trajectories forever. The number of serviceable parts on electric vehicles could be counted on one hand which means the mechanics of the future need to be programming these computers on wheels.

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The Model S still turns heads, even when it’s baked in road grime and assaulted by dirty rain it’s a stunning vehicle made particularly special by being the deeper red, one of the rare signature editions. After the recharge, the couple are off to Melbourne where they’ll celebrate Easter and take a drive along the great ocean road. Peterson’s amazingly patient and understanding wife says the compromise of not being able to see the entire great ocean road due to range constraints is perfectly ok.

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Whether it’s stopping for people to take photos, or because you have to recharge, this is currently the experience of owning a Model S, undoubtedly the best EV in Australia. Tesla understands the problems in supplying a car to market for such a vast country and are addressing it without help from tax payers or the government. Whether it’s software updates, or improvements in the recharging infrastructure, this car gets better over time and what other car can you say that about, none.

Despite the challenges of distance, the car is a success and it’s success in appearance, technology and range means this Sydney to Melbourne trip is possible at all. Try this all electric road trip in any other fully electric car and you will fail. What an amazing vehicle and it’s testament to how great the vehicle is that owners like Peterson are willing to put up with the downsides for an overwhelming upside of owning a Model S.

You can read more about the road trip on Peterson’s Tumblr.

Update: Peterson made it to Melbourne with 16km of range left. That was a close call, but mission accomplished.

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