Christchurch to Dunedin in a Tesla Model 3

In December I received a call from Tesla to schedule the delivery time for my Tesla Model 3. I’d ordered the car earlier in the year and the anticipation of getting behind the wheel was through the roof! I couldn’t wait to get it on the open road! Since then, I’ve had many people asking me all sorts of questions about Tesla’s and so I hope this blog post will help answer them.

Let’s start with the car itself, I went for the bottom of the range Model 3 Standard Range in Midnight Silver. It has the standard wheels and no additional features. The price is $62,000+GST and is eligible for the $8625 clean car rebate. The brochure says it has a range of 448km’s and more importantly can get you from 0-100km/h in just over 5 seconds.

Tesla also have performance and longer-range models, that are more expensive but increase the range by approximately 120km’s and get you from 0-100km/h in 3.1 seconds.

Christchurch to Dunedin

I booked a couple of nights at the Scenic Hotel Dunedin (one of two hotels in Dunedin listed as having Tesla destination chargers). The distance from my driveway to the Hotel is 368km’s, so well within the range indicated by Tesla. The trip starts with 20 mins of urban driving, followed by motorway and state highways before a short urban drive into the hotel. The last hour of the drive has hills including a couple of big ones as you reach the outskirts of Dunedin. It was a hot day, so the air-conditioning was on for the entire trip down.

Before leaving I charged the battery to 95% and entered the destination into the Tesla Navigation App. It calculated that I would have less than 5% charge at the destination and recommended stopping for 10 minutes at the Tesla Super Charger in Timaru to ensure I reached the destination with plenty of capacity. There are plenty of alternative charging locations along the way in most towns including Ashburton, Geraldine, Oamaru and other spots with cafés and views.

We arrived in Timaru with 58% in the battery. I plugged in for a charge, popping into the Robert Harris Café (just south of the racecourse). 20 minutes later, we had finished our coffee and returned to the car. 96% charged, sweet! Did I mention the air-con keep the car at a nice 25 degrees inside? The charge cost $19 (so $1 per minute).

We hit the road again, stopping in Oamaru for lunch and a walk around the historic buildings. Oamaru has 5 charging locations most a short walk from good food, coffee, and historic buildings. These are slower chargers, but 1 hour would give you a good top up if needed (I didn’t).

Dunedin Railway Station (Sulthan Auliya – UnSplash)

Next stop Dunedin! A very heavy thunderstorm made the next bit of the drive a little slower, it cleared near Palmerston and now I could get back to enjoying dry roads. Up the hill you could see the battery reducing faster, this was counter acted by the regenerative breaks generating power back into the batteries on the downhill. The navigation guided me to the hotel, and we parked with 42% charge. I plugged in to the hotel’s destination charger and we went for a walk and a drink down at the Octagon. We arrived back at the hotel 3 hours later to find the car 100% charge, we moved to another parking spot so others could charge up (guess what, we were the only EV there).

The next day we drove out to Portabello and on to the Albatross nesting area and did a bit of a tour of Dunedin. We arrived back at the hotel with 75% charge and topped up again so we were ready for the trip home.

Christchurch to Dunedin

Dunedin to Christchurch (via Geraldine)

As we headed north out of Dunedin, I soon found myself at the bottom of a passing lane with a boyracer in a Mazda behind me. It was the last time we saw him. I guess he was still trying to find third gear while we were heading over the crest of the hill. The Tesla is amazing on hills!

We travelled for two and half hours on the open road to Timaru, stopping in at the Super Charger for 15 minutes. Charge went from 48% on arrival to 84% as we departed ($15). It is true, there are two types of Tesla drivers, those who try to be as economical with the battery as possible and those who want to get to the next charge point in the least time…

We did a short side trip to Geraldine adding a little extra time and distance to the trip. Geraldine has a couple of public charging points if needed (I didn’t). We had lunch, visited our favourite art gallery and headed for home.

We arrived back home with 41% charge. Plenty for a bit of travelling around town if needed. I guess this is where my behaviour is different to when I was using petrol. I like to avoid the ‘orange’ light situation, this means thinking ahead and asking myself how much battery will I need at the next location or tomorrow?

Would the trip have been faster in a petrol car? Yes, if I didn’t stop, but these days I want to stop every 2-3 hours for a stretch and a coffee.

More on charging

ChargeNet stations mentioned above generally cost 25cents minute + 25cents kWh. I have a ‘Type 2’ charging cable and typically get 30km range for every hour of charging at these stations, the VeeFill stations offer faster charging, up to 100km/hr. Plugging in to a standard 10amp plug at home, gives me 10km/hr of charging (fine for topping up overnight as I normally drive less than 40km a day during the work week). Some service stations including BP and Z are now rolling out chargers too. These can be found using the Plug-Share App (see below). My local one, charges at approximately 220km range for each hour of charging.

Charges in the South Island

The maximum range indicated on the brochure assumes perfect driving conditions, no air-conditioning, flat roads, and based on my experience no over-taking Holdens (where is the fun in that). I would also recommend giving yourself a margin for error, so I think the practical range of 380-400km is safest.

A few tips for new EV drivers

Get yourself a ‘Type 2’ charging cable, these can be used at many public charging stations (a lot of these are bring your own cable). You can buy these from the Tesla store.

Sign-up to ChargeNet and install the App on your phone. This is essential if you want to use the public charging network. You should also order a key fob, as these are needed to start charging an the majority of stations.

Download the Plug-share App so you can find charging locations with details of the costs, types of chargers and whether they are in use or not. This App also lets you plan trips, including the location of charging stations on the way.

Am I happy?

I read a comment in a Facebook Ad for the Audi eTron, it seems one guy was very unhappy with his eTron and complained that ChargeNet didn’t charge as fast as he was led to believe. I suspect he didn’t understand that not all charging stations work at the same speed and that he might need to change his behaviour to get along with his new electric vehicle. EV’s aren’t the right type vehicle for everyone!

Am I happy with my Tesla? Yes! It is great to drive but there is a lot to learn. I’m prepared to change my habits and learn new ones. The car has spacious, comfortable, has great performance and looks smart. Tesla have great technology and software updates are improving the vehicles. We have a local service centre in Christchurch if needed and there is a friendly wave from other Tesla drivers as we acknowledge each other.

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