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Six months living with Elon

No, this article isn’t about my (Alex Ramsey) twitter experience post Elon’s acquisition, rather we took the plunge to buy a Tesla (Model Y Long Range) earlier this year and my daughter named the car ‘Elon’.

A little about me and our use case for the car. The Tesla basically replaced our larger SUV family car which mainly did weekend trips. We have a second small car which, prior to Elon, my wife drove to work. I ride a bike to work. I’m not a ‘car guy’ – I can appreciate the machinery and I know how to ooh and ahh when a mate had bought his latest twin

turbo (insert name) sports car – cars just don’t excite me. To emphasise the point, this is the first time I’ve had a car in the garage worth more than the sum total of our bikes (Rule #25 is a good rule to live by – note this says more about my enjoyment of cycling than the value of the cars I’ve owned.

But I must say, Elon just rips – there’s just no shortage of power, there’s no flat spot in the acceleration when overtaking, and the battery (primary mass) is spread across the floor of the vehicle, so the handling is brilliant. The driving experience is further enhanced by the various driver aids – it’s just a really easy car to drive – it’s the only way I can explain it.

Having now financed a number of utility scale batteries - I’m a huge fan of the technology. Utility scale batteries are the absolute work horses for the power system – they can do it all – fast response, arbitrage etc. So it’s no surprise that the car performs so well - the battery cells in your standard Tesla Model 3/Y are exactly the same chemistry as the cells in the Neoen Capital Battery or the Genex Bouldercombe Battery.

But it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. EVs certainly have a few limitations, and you are forced to change your behaviour. For example, on long trips it simply does require more planning. Elon’s range (normal Australian roads) is probably about 400km. This distance to empty is fine, what matters is how/whether you’ll be able to charge to continue your journey. Take skiing as an example – a day trip from Canberra to Perisher is 400km return – add in cold weather and a decent climb from Jindabyne to Perisher, and Elon doesn’t have the range to complete the trip without charging. For a ski trip this is fine, there are fast chargers enroute and all you require is a 10 minute charge. But a more recent trip to Eden (far South Coast of NSW) necessitated more planning as there are no destination fast chargers in Eden, the nearest being in Bega (60km from Eden). Of course, you can use a plug in wall charger (simple 10Amp charger) at the hotel (we did) but this charges at a max rate of 2kW/h (the battery is 80kWh).

This is the limitation of EVs today – there just aren’t enough fast chargers for switching to an EV to be ‘convenience equivalent’ to having an ICE vehicle (you know there’s a petrol station everywhere). It’s not impossible – it just takes a little more planning and thought.

Where I think for many people the lack of charging infrastructure will be most keenly felt is during peak holiday periods – there could be some impressive queues on Boxing Day at some chargers. When will this change? Well, it’s happening now, and as more EVs go on road, the market opportunity will drive more supply, but I think it will be a

complete non-issue if/when trucking transportation shifts to electric (I know this is not happening soon) – once this occurs you will have high capacity charging everywhere particularly along major arterial routes.

So what about the operating cost? Over 5 months, or 6,800km (just over 1 MWh of consumption) we have spent a grand total of $23 directly (fast charging), indirectly we have spent another circa $80 on outside solar hours charging. The rest of the time the car is charged from my roof. I don’t mean for this to sound smug (I get that it does) – but the

point I want to emphasise is that owning an electric car is cheap and its convenient. People often talk to the upfront cost being high, but the median car price in 2022 was $52,000 vs a new model 3 of $62,000. As we pump more and more renewables into the grid (and excess supply drives down daytime electricity prices), as we electrify more of our living, more households will install solar (it makes sense even without a feed-in-tariff) and there will be excessive generation relative to household need so why not fill your car? The other compelling economic incentive is the Federal Government’s recent changes to FBT making it very compelling from a capex perspective.

So would I recommend an EV? Definitely. The Tesla itself is a definite upgrade and more than compensates for any inconvenience when travelling far (a very small percentage of the use case). We sold our SUV (family car) but kept our small hatch (which basically did around town commuting before we purchased the Tesla). We are now considering selling it too, as we’re not using it and having to actively take it for a drive to stop the battery going flat.

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