Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Tesla P85D and the A3 E-Tron


Just seen the details for the Tesla P85D to be launched in December with all-wheel drive and 3.2 second 0 to 60 mph. It's also claimed to be more efficient than the current Model S.  Range will be a claimed 275 miles on a charge. Answering recent criticism the car will offer active safety features like adaptive cruise control and the ability to read speed limit signs, stop itself if a crash is imminent, stay in its lane, and even park itself in a street spot or in your garage. It doesn't yet have the car's charger automatically plug in. Coming up soon there will also be radar that can see through fog and snow; a camera with image recognition capability to spot traffic signs and lights, as well as pedestrians; 360-degree ultrasonic sonar; and a system that combines all the data those produce with navigation, GPS, and real-time traffic systems.

So we are told that the net result will be a car that can be put on "autopilot," if not fully autonomous mode although it's not clear if that's the P85D or some putative future model. Tesla isn't ready to make the jump quite yet, Musk said, since the safety system can't be fully relied on, and regulations to handle self-driving cars have to be figured out. But, Musk said, if you fall asleep while driving, the car should be able to get you home safely. If you try to steer into danger, the wheel will resist. Owners will also be able to summon the car to pick them up autonomously, as long as they're on private property, where DOT and other regulations don't apply. "The car can do almost anything," he said.

Looking at my own use cases i'm still waiting hopefully for the cute little A3 Sportback e-tron to be released in the UK - and I guess the reason why is that I quite fancy combining it with solar panels on the roof of my house and really enjoying a "self contained" carbon neutral (well except for the manufacture) transport system.

To me the E-Tron seems to be much more a relevant advance than the original Prius which was still dependent on fossil fuels and at 40 mpg that many users reported used more gas than a lot of standard cars. What is more it's probably less likely to let you down miserably than the Tesla in real life.

So let's say I can get the car charged quickly at home at least then:
Use case 1 - I want to drive to the nearest high speed train station from my home to get to London (although I could use the same trip to get to Paris on the EuroStar). Round trip 30 miles (50km) no long term charger at parking bay. Both A3 and Tesla can both do this on a single charge. Both therefore highly acceptable.

Use case 2 - I want to drive to the nearest large shopping mall from my home. Round trip 30 miles (50km) with possible long term charger at parking bay. Both A3 and Tesla can both do this on a single charge. Both therefore highly acceptable.

Use case 3 - I want to drive from home to Glasgow, or Cornwall or Paris - all regular trips. The A3 will switch to petrol (ICE) about 35 miles into the journey and complete without problems. A Tesla P60 will run out part way at 230 miles (370 km) unless I can find a charger that isn't boxed in by other cars parking which from my own observations so far is problematic. Even if the best possible facilities - a Tesla Super Charger, are actually on route (which is unlikely) its going to add an hour and a half to a six hour journey. With ordinary charging we are making an evening's drive into one that needs an overnight stop which means Cornwall or Paris are no longer weekend destinations.

Use case 4 - I want to drive from home to Chamonix or Provence - again not irregular  trips and all normally a long day's drive. Again the A3 will switch to petrol (ICE) about 35 miles into the journey and complete without problems. with the Tesla P60 we are extending things to a  three day journey each way so if I'm just down for the week things are not so good.

That's why we hear that Tesla recharging problems are not uncommon at present.

So back to the Audi A3. We are on to the next generation now and A3 turbo petrol engine driving in conjunction with an electric motor claims to deliver 35g/km CO2 emissions, 188 mpg both pretty much dependent on what cycle you test them on and a range of up to 600 miles which could be very useful. 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds seems about right. On battery power alone, the A3 e-tron can cover 31 miles without the need for the petrol engine - which just about works for me for trips to town (well it's probably marginal) and the claim is that it can be fast charged to full power from near flat in 40 minutes - if you can find a charge that someone with a normal car hasn't just parked in front of without thinking. I'm still very impressed with what Tesla have achieved - but for now the infrastructure, high battery prices and social habits of treating the charge stations as free parking make an ICE a necessary addition.

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