SO much for electric-car “range anxiety”.
An Australian limousine service has become the first to clock up more than 1 million kilometres with a fleet of Tesla electric vehicles.
Starting with just one Tesla sedan in 2015 the limousine start-up now has a fleet of eight vehicles that have travelled the equivalent of more than 25 laps around the earth.
Three years and 40,000 passenger rides later the company claims not one customer has been left stranded due to a flat battery — but admits one driver ran out of range just 1km from a charging point when returning back to base.
“A lot of people had misconceptions about electric vehicles … they were worried about range and if they could book a long distance trip with us,” says Pia Peterson, who left the banking sector in 2015 to start the Evoke limousine business exclusively using Tesla electric cars.
“We’ve certainly broken down some of those barriers and some of those customers have gone on to buy electric vehicles themselves.”
The Evoke limousine fleet has five Tesla sedans and three SUVs, and plans to boost the fleet in Sydney before expanding into the Melbourne and Brisbane markets.
Electric cars work well as limousines because they spend so much time waiting for passengers, either at the airport or in the city.
“There is a lot of down time so we use those gaps in the day to charge the vehicles using Tesla superchargers or back at our base,” says Peterson.
It takes 40 minutes to recharge the battery to 90 per cent capacity using a Tesla “supercharger”, and between three and eight hours on a special “three-phase” charger.
That’s enough for the Teslas to make the 400km return journey from Sydney and over the Blue Mountains to the Emirates luxury retreat in Wolgan Valley on a single charge.
The other benefit, says Peterson, is the low maintenance costs versus conventional petrol or diesel powered cars.
“One of the great things about electric vehicles is they have so few moving parts, from a repairs and maintenance perspective it’s a lot lower than conventional vehicles on the road,” says Peterson. “And in terms of experience for the customer, it’s a quieter and smoother ride than a conventional vehicle.”
As for simply shifting vehicle emissions from the tailpipe to coal-fired power stations, Peterson says her company always uses “100 per cent green power or carbon-offset electricity”.
Regular passenger Sam Mostyn, who sits on the boards of Virgin Australia, Transurban Group, Mirvac, Citibank Australia and the Climate Council, has been using the Tesla limousine service from its early days because of its “commitment to zero-emission transport”.
Other hire-car companies also use Tesla vehicles, but Peterson says her business was the first and is the largest fleet.
The 1 million-kilometre milestone comes as Tesla in the US continues to face an uncertain future after lengthy production delays of its new mid-size sedan, and its struggle to turn a profit. Insiders claim the company makes a loss on each model it builds.
Tesla has also faced criticism for placing too much faith in semi-autonomous vehicle technology, with at least two deaths in the US when cars have been driven in semi-autonomous mode.
Against this backdrop, mainstream automotive companies are about to release a range of electric vehicles including affordable hatchbacks, limousines, SUVs and performance cars.
Some observers claim the arrival of new electric vehicles is a direct response to Tesla — but in fact stricter emissions standards in Europe and China have accelerated the development of electric cars by mainstream and luxury brands.