The full story on the Tesla Model S in Australia, now at Chadstone

Tesla Motors recently launched in Australia and now has a very prominent display in the middle of Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre. This display features the Models S in it’s...

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Tesla Motors recently launched in Australia and now has a very prominent display in the middle of Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre. This display features the Models S in it’s showcase red, examples of a supercharger and regular wall charger, as well as the innovative chassis. There’s also a 4-bay parking bay for owners to recharge and as an added bonus get immediate access to the shops. Only if you had a disabled sticker could you park this close.

Before flying out to Vegas for CES, I had an opportunity to meet the Tesla guys in Melbourne and quiz them on the company, the cars and their introduction in Australia.

The Tesla Model S is a car like no other, with sports car looks and performance to match, the car achieves a range of up to 500km with the 85kWh version. Inside the legacy knobs and dials are done way with in favour of a 17” touchscreen, representative of a new company, bathed in technology rather one built on top of generations of legacy.

There is one problem with the Tesla, the one thing people can knock them on, that’s price. The desire to own is certainly strong as represented by the swarm of people stopping, looking and getting hands-on with the car at Chadstone. That desire turns to reality for most who can’t afford the $100,000 price tag, but when we look deeper, there are some justifications for that price.

To be precise, the cheapest you can own a Tesla in Australia for is $91,400 (60kWh and 390km range), but by the time you put it on-road in ACT that’s A$97,245. All other states and territories have different rates of registration and stamp duty that make it more expensive, the highest being WA that has the drive-away at A$103,134. You’d really have to be a committed Tesla fan to own one in Perth and there’s currently no plans for their supercharger network in WA.

The top of the line Tesla is the all-wheel drive P85D with a 85kWh battery. The price of this version is $133,500, but by the time you drive it, you’ll be missing a breathtaking A$161,421 in WA. It’s worth remembering that Australia is a wealthy country and while $100-$150K is a lot for someone with a $30K budget, it’s worth remembering there’s plenty of AFL stars on million dollar contracts that wouldn’t sneeze at the price, especially not when it can take you from 0-100km in just 3.4 seconds.

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When we dive deeper on what a right-hand-drive, Australian Tesla Model S really contains, we discover there’s actually no Australian tax from the country, it’s essentially the US price converted to Australian dollars. Then of course the government takes their cut and things get a little more uncomfortable.

Included the Australian version is a recharger for home, which in the US is an additional $1,200-$1,500. This is an appreciation of the limited recharge locations currently available in Australia. Given the long distances between locations, say, Albury to Melbourne (around 350km) this seems like a nice compromise.

Autopilot

The car itself is packed with technology, the combination of which can also help you justify the price tag to your accountant. To start with you have auto-pilot (part of the technology package option which costs A$5,200), which includes adaptive cruise control, lane guidance, and we can confirm it will read Australian speed signs. I’m told even the LED speed signs, so approaching temporary speed zones like that encountered around road works, should also slow the vehicle, meaning you’ll never get a speeding ticket.

My brother has epilepsy and over the years has had fits that seen him crash into a tree at around 100km/h. We’ve nearly lost him multiple times, but thankfully, he’s never impacted anyone else. He has lived with the condition since he was 3 years old and day-to-day, medication keeps it controlled, but every few years it seems his body builds up a tolerance and he’ll fit. If he happens to be behind the wheel, this risks his own life and others he may inadvertently hit.

Autopilot is a set of safety technologies that are racing us towards a point where these vehicles are driving themselves. If the acceleration and braking is taken care of by adaptive cruise control and the steering is handled by a combination of GPS nav and lane guidance, we’re basically there already.

In my brother’s case and the case of thousands of other Australians, our roads could be safer if we wake up and realise technology is surpassing human (or at least some) human abilities.

It’s not really practical in most locations, but newly build Model S’s will have the ability to command your car to come pick you up, with no driver inside. This is only available on private land, so yeah, not really useful, albeit an incredible technical achievement. I’d start to get nervous if I had Valet listed on my resume, it’s just a matter of time.

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Recharging

To recharge the tesla, simply pickup the recharger plug, press the button and the door covering the recharge port will open. when the adjacent lights glow white, you can connect the plug. It will initially turn blue in colour while it checks if you’ve set schedule charge times and if the current time falls in that window. If it’s time to charge, it turns green. Simply lock the car and walk away.

I was asked on Twitter if there was a chance someone would disconnect the power cable in a public place and you’d return to a flat car. Thankfully Tesla had thought of this and actually lock the cable when the car locks. I tried to remove it, you can’t. Short of cutting the cable, it’s absolutely secure, but if someone tries cutting through a power cable, they’ll have bigger issues.

Tesla Superchargers are external chargers designed to replenish over half of a charge in as little as 20 minutes. Tesla is planning to build a network of Superchargers in Australia which by the end of 2016 will allow owners to driver from Melbourne to Brisbane for free. The idea here is that you’ll pull in for lunch, or a toilet break and plugin, rapid charge and be on your way again.

To enable your Tesla with supercharging support, it will cost A$2,700 which certainly isn’t cheap, but totally worth it. If you buy the 85kWh version, you get this included as part of the price.

240 volt charging being testing now, at home you can get between 10-15kWh per hour, which means you’d be charging for more than a day if you need to fully recharge. Basically this almost never happens.

Tesla founder Elon Musk has recently announced on twitter, the company is working on recharger that would automatically attach itself to your car. The experience would then be, drive into your garage and go inside, let the car and charger sort it out.

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Auto height

Automatically activated headlights and windscreen wipers have been around for a while now and are relatively common place, of course the Model S has these, but it also has something extra special in terms of automation. The height of the vehicle can be raised and lowered. In typical Tesla fashion, this simply touch-screen setting wasn’t enough, they added the ability to remember locations where you raise the car.

This means if you have a driveway at home or work, that’s angled in a way that means the car would normally scrape, you set it to raise to the highest suspension mode, and it remembers that. From that point on, whenever you return to that location, you just drive in and the Model S is smart enough to raise up and you keep driving. That’s awesome.

There’s another auto-height feature and that’s a preset auto-adjust based on your speed. This is useful when you’re on the highway, you can set the car to hunker down to the lowest setting to create the best aerodynamic profile possible, extending your range. Once you come under that speed, the suspension automatically returns to normal. That’s just bloody smart.

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Always connected for free

Telstra has the most comprehensive network in the country and Tesla have partnered with them to include a 3G connection, for free, for the life of the vehicle. Sadly there’s no browser in the Australian version, not exactly sure why that is, but the always-on connection is useful. Updates are done over-the-air and the Tesla software is now up to version 6.

In fact, Australia requires warnings about read-seated passengers not wearing a seatbelt to be made to the driver. This feature was added and has demonstrated by placing a box (enough weight) on the rear seat. A visual display at the top of the screen was shown to indicate 1 passenger didn’t have their seatbelt buckled. Interestingly this safety feature was rolled out to Tesla’s globally.

The connection is used for map information, with one of the options the aerial photography, overlayed with route and traffic data. Currently there’s no Facebook, Twitter or email integration, which is disappointing and I expect to see a number of companies at CES try and solve the challenge of staying up to date while on the road.

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Driver profiles

Each unique driver can have their own driving profile. This means the temperature, the seat position, the steering responsiveness, are all stored against the driver. Each driver is recognised either by their own key, or their smartphone. When the numbers around km remaining are displayed, there’s two options, but the most accurate by far is one that leverages your driving profile. Basically it learns if you’re a leadfoot and predicts your distances based on the assumption you’ll continue to drive that way. You can also switch to a standard prediction algoritm that uses typical driving as the metric.

There is no limit to the number of driver profiles you can have with a Tesla.

Phone integration

Most things you’ll find with the Model S have been well thought through and logical jumps from one idea to the next and the next have already been executed by engineers and software designers. Take the calendar integration for example, seeing a list of your contacts and appointments leveraged from your phone is neat, but initially not that useful.

When you realise meetings contain location information of the meeting, the next thought is, it’d be neat to tap on a calendar appointment and get directions, well, the software does just that. This has huge business applications, imagine you’re a travelling salesman, or just in a job profile that means you travel to unfamiliar destinations often, this will save you massive amounts of time, plugging in one location after another, just tap and drive.

Side note, Bluetooth pairing works great and is one of the easiest vehicles I’ve synced with. The pro tip is to search from the car, not your device. Phone contacts can be synced with the car and then accessed from the display or by voice.

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Storage

Not exactly the biggest selling point of the vehicle, but storage is available in spades with the spacious boot already healthy in size, made bigger by an extra lift out section made available by the elimination of a fuel tank. The rear seats offer a 60/40 split so you won’t have to find a friend with a trailer to get that Ikea furniture home. Don’t forget you also get the front trunk as the electric motor is just a fraction of the size of a conventional internal combustion engine.

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Reduced Luxury Car Tax for electric cars

While the federal government isn’t helping the EV industry as much as they could (like building recharge stations), they do offer a savings on the Luxury Car Tax threshold for a fuel efficient vehicle (which includes EV) of A$75,375 compared to AU$60,136 for a conventional vehicle. This means compared to a similarly priced petrol vehicle, you save over A$4,570 with a Tesla Model S.

Electric Vehicles registered in the Australian Capital Territory are exempt from vehicle stamp duty – Save over A$6,770 with a Model S. Something every state government should get on-board with. Electric Vehicles registered in Victoria receive a A$100 reduction in registration fee per annum, it’s not much but better than nothing.

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Massive Sunroof

I’ve been in a lot of vehicles with a sunroof, but none that are as wide and provide a feeling of openness like the model S. It’s not a convertible, but it certainly feels close with the sunroof extending almost the full width of the vehicle.

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Leave the keys at home home

This car is the first I’ve seen that doesn’t require a physical key of any kind. The so called ‘keyless’ cars to date have really still required you to carry a keyfob, which, ok they changed the form factor, but was still something else you needed to carry. The Tesla can be unlocked, configured and started remotely all via the iOS or Android apps.

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The job isn’t done

Tesla got a hell of a lot of thing right with the Model S and with updates to the software and batteries, they’re continuing to push forward, but there’s a lot more that could be done. Right now the company are only allowing first party apps, that means only ones made by Tesla. While that ensures quality, it means you only get Rdio, not Spotify or insert name of favourite music service here. 3rd party development via and API will likely come, but isn’t available yet.

There’s really two halves to the screen on the Tesla and simply dragging and dropping the app to either half switches the display to that. Nav on top, music on top, or vise versa, all configurable.

What I’d really like to see that I haven’t seen from any auto manufacturer is the integration of an IFTTT style car solution. This means if it’s Monday morning at 8am and you’re doing the school run, then the radio should switch to a G-rated, kid friendly station. If it’s Friday at 6pm and you’re in the car by yourself, then turn it up load with Triple J and let the bad words fly.

Right now the interior lighting is only white lights, but you can bet on this being multi-coloured LEDs in no time. When this happens, drivers should have the capacity to set these based on the time of day, day of week, time remaining to next appointment, seriously a crazy amount of customisation to make the car uniquely there’s.

Overall

The Tesla has supercar performance, but doesn’t have a quarter million dollar price tag, but will set you back $100K+ depending on the state. That is a lot of money, or at least it is to me right now, when I’m not too far off a mortgage. Would I love a Tesla Model S.. in a heartbeat, it’s an unbelievable car, like no other.

It’s unbelievable for many reasons, none bigger than the companies aggressive stance on being electric-only. While most companies are screwing around with stop-gap hybrid solutions, they failed to realise one of the biggest benefits.. less serviceable parts. There’s not a lot too a fully EV, reflected by the extra storage available, but realised when it comes to servicing. Of course there’s tyres, brakes and that’s pretty much it save the batteries.

Speaking of servicing.. the Service Centre for Melbourne will be located on Church St, Richmond – http://www.teslamotors.com/en_AU/findus#/bounds/-37.4598457,145.76473999999996,-38.2607199,144.39449209999998?search=store,service,supercharger ,  conveniently positioned near the city just off the Monash Fwy.

For those who’ll never stretch their vehicle budget to $100k, regardless of how much technology, innovation and safety features are included, there’s good news on the way. Tesla aren’t done, they’re just getting started and the company is already targeting a more affordable Model III due around 2017. There’s no final pricing, but it’d be safe to assume we’d look at half the cost of the Model S.

The dream of EV is to be completely divorce yourself from using fuel and with the Model S, there is a scenario where you could never pay to fuel your car again. With next to no servicing and no or very slight refueling costs, the total cost of ownership with all things considered ends up making the Model S a far more reasonable buy than you may initially think.

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This post is authored by techAU staffers. Used rarely and sparingly when the source decided to keep their identity secret, or a guest author who isn't seeking credit.