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Aug / Sep 2017
Electric Revolution

WRITER: Neil Curry, Executive Producer, CNN International

France announced that by 2040 every car on its roads would be electric. India has plans to transition a decade sooner, while Norway is already 30 per cent there. CNN’s ‘Supercharged’ host Nicki Shields finds out if EV’s can go the distance.

Volvo’s recent announcement that all of its new models from 2019 will be electric or hybrid makes it the first traditional carmaker to take the plunge. Of course, there are those who have been fully plugged-in from birth – the most famous name among those is Tesla. The California-based company began selling EV’s in 2008, and in 2015 opened its first factory outside the US, in Tilburg, Holland, in an attempt to ramp up sales in the European continent and realise its goal of producing half a million cars a year globally by 2020. (Analysts estimate that more than half of Tesla sales currently come from the US, about 30 per cent in Europe and just above 10 per cent from China, although they see China as the biggest potential market.)

Meanwhile, BMW launched its “i” electric sub-brand in 2013, Audi and Porsche are all now promising a range of upgraded electric options, while Mercedes-Benz has pledged ten new electric vehicle models by 2022.

Formula E – billed as the motor racing championship of your electric dreams – has been going since 2014, and CNN’s ‘Supercharged’ show covers every twist and turn of the series. In between races, we explore stories related to green technology and recently, host Nicki Shields was given a chance to test Tesla’s Model S, the world’s best-selling plug-in car, by taking it on a four-country road trip. The challenge? To drive it from the UK to the company’s European ‘home’ in the Netherlands on a single charge.

 

The new Model X in the light tunnel at the Tilburg factory, which is a quality-control station for paint work.

 

In truth, the Tesla model S 100D comes with a reputation as being the king of long-distance electric performers, so this was a case of seeing it to believe it. The distance from Tesla’s supercharge station in Maidstone in southern England to the factory in Tilburg was measured at roughly 400 kilometres.

Surprisingly, the journey from Maidstone to the ferry port at Dover made little impact on the battery charge and the calm crossing beneath sunny blue skies allowed us to recharge our own batteries before the drive ahead.

After disembarking in France, we soon switched our high-tech wheels to ‘Autopilot’ – a self-drive setting in which the car calculates speed, distance, acceleration and braking. The law there however, requires the driver be in control of the car – and that is a good thing, as that includes remembering to switch lanes to drive on the right on the European continent after beginning the journey on the left in the U.K.

 

The new Model X in the light tunnel at the Tilburg factory, which is a quality-control station for paint work.

 

The amount of battery power used in an EV depends on how the car is driven, use of the radio, electric windows and air-conditioning and of course, average speed and efficient handling. So the car’s ability to calculate how much power will remain once you reach your destination is vitally useful. If it’s insufficient – maybe you’ve hit traffic congestion or a diversion – it will re-route you to the nearest supercharger (provided there is one). And as we punched the destination address into the navigation system, the software predicted we would arrive in Tilburg with 21 per cent battery remaining.

After silently traversing northern France and Belgium, and eventually crossing the border into the Netherlands, we arrived at Tilburg with 400 kilometres added to the clock and – low and behold – 25 per cent of the battery charge left. Tesla’s new battery, interestingly, is just about right for a drive from Dubai to Muscat.

Proving this car has both stamina and speed, we arrived in time, with battery to spare, for a guided tour of the Tesla factory – and you can see it all on ‘Supercharged’ at cnn.com/sport/motorsport.

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