25 September 2020

A family holiday to the south with the Tesla Model S

For many of us, Covid-19 has shaken up the plans for the summer holidays. The same goes for me and my family. We were to go on a road trip through Canada and the United States for a month. Suddenly, however, that was no longer possible. Fortunately, we had an alternative: a family house in the south of France. All we had to do was jump in the car and drive 1.000 km to enjoy all pleasure French.

Only issue: we don't have a family car to go on holiday with. We live and work in the city, our children go to school within walking distance, and we also choose our hobbies carefully by bike or on foot. We do have an old-timer (Porsche 944 S2 for the connoisseurs) in the garage (a hobby of my husband), but it's not really suitable to take 4 persons to the warm south for 3 weeks. And taking the train didn't seem like a valid option under the circumstances.

Before we started our adventure

And then VitaeMobility gave us the opportunity to go on holiday with the Tesla Model S P85, a Model S of the first hour. Quite an adventure, because although my husband had already made a test drive with an electric car, going on a journey of 3 weeks and making sure the battery was charged (on the road and on the spot) was unprecedented terrain. And how does that work when you have a 7 and 8 year old in the back seat? These are all questions to which this holiday would provide an answer ...

Fortunately my husband received an extensive explanation from Kristien of VitaeMobility. Because an electric car like this, with about 6 computers on board, is just a little bit different from an ordinary car. The day before we left, we already tested the charging at the local supercharger, so we could start our journey early on a Sunday morning with the battery fully charged.


An unknown to us before we left was where, when and how long we would have to stop during our trip (1.000 km in one day) to recharge the battery. That turned out to be a piece of cake. You tell the car where you want to go, and the car tells you how to drive, and where, when and how long to stop to charge. Theoretically, the trip then becomes a piece of cake, and you can even reserve a spot in your restaurant of choice for diner, as you exactly know what time you will reach your final destination.

That is the theory, now the practice. Because we were travelling with an older model, charging took on average 1.5 times as long as the car initially indicated. It is clear that the battery technology is still improving every year, and that the computer does not really take the age of the car into account. So in the end, our total travel time was a lot longer than planned, but on the other hand, there is the absolute comfort of driving this electric car. So relaxed and spacious (which was an absolute plus, especially for the back seaters). However, next time we'll do it in 2 days, with an overnight stay next to such a supercharger. 2 birds with one stone!

Furthermore we didn't like all Tesla supercharger stops. Superchargers are built near facilities (toilets, and potentially a place to drink or eat). But if the hotel next to your supercharger is closed due to Covid-19 (read: no toilets), and another supercharger has toilets but not a bit of shade (at 34°), then that doesn't leave you very happy. So next time we will definitely take a look at the route ourselves beforehand, and google the stops. That will give us the opportunity to go for more pleasant stops.

It's not all doom and gloom: our last stop on the way was next to a restaurant, and that was convenient because it was dinnertime. And then, of course, the charging is over in no time. Or on the way back a stop at a shopping centre, well-timed for a small coffee break and a haircut for our youngest daughter.

Charging locally

Once at our destination (the cosy Provencal village Vallabrègues) we had to be able to load the car. I'm writing "we" here, but fortunately for me, my husband had taken on the task of "the full battery". Our visit to Vallabrègues last year had already taught us that there are 2 charging stations there. And, with a phone call to the operators of the charging station, my husband managed to get it working smoothly. And we were rarely alone there! On the coast, too, loading at a public charging station worked reasonably well for us (again after a phone call with the operator on duty).

In another place we had less luck. Apparently you had to have a specific loading pass for the charging stations in that town, and we didn't have one. So let's go to the nearest supercharger. France is clearly still in favour of harmonising the use of public charging infrastructure.

Our conclusion …

The Tesla Model S is a fantastic car to go on holiday with. Especially if you have 2 daughters on the back seat. The further apart, the less they argue. Mission accomplished. The grown-ups also enjoyed the ride. Sometimes it takes a little getting used to how wide the Model S is (suddenly the public car park you are used to seems very narrow), but obviously the size of the car makes for a travel comfort. And the fact that the car has 2 trunks is a bonus when you want to stock up on some good wine.

The next time we'll put a bit more effort in preparing our trips, especially in choising which supercharger to stop at and which local charging point to use. And that will make that trip a real pleasure!

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