Driving's future comes to a car park in Co. Laois

Tesla's electronic super cars have arrived on Irish roads...

Driving's future comes to a car park in Co. Laois

Ballacolla Tesla Supercharger

Accelerating in a Tesla is a unique and at times gut-wrenching experience.

The fully electronic cars don't depend on combustion for speed, they mainline electricity creating a surging sensation when you push the accelerator.

The company opened its first Irish showroom yesterday and is currently rolling out its charging networks across the country.

The first thing that strikes you about the appearance of its cars is how normal they look.

The Model X SUV could pass for any number of upper-mid range SUV's and the sleeker Model S could be mistaken for any sporty saloon. But then you take a second look. If you did mistake a Model X for a Hyundai or Ford then seeing its 'Falcon wing' rear doors pop open in a supermarket carpark will let you know that this car is something different.

They arch up from the spine of the roof before fanning outwards. Tesla highlights the fact that they offer great access to the back seats (it can carry up to seven adults) - but they also serve as a standout design feature for the car, which has a starting price of €110,042.

Inside things start to heat up. The car is dominated by a massive 17 inch HQ screen nestled in between the two front seats.

It's intuitive to use and can function as a split screen with a Google Maps-style GPS tracker and an entertainment system offering Spotify, a web browser, and lots more to keep divers entertained and passengers busy.

It's paired with another smaller screen on the driver's dash offering a more detailed GPS than the main screen, as well as a speed tracker, battery monitor and a graph illustrating your energy consumption.

Having the speedometer in the driver's face is a good idea. The lack of any engine noise and its seamless acceleration mean it feels like you're travelling much slower than you actually are. This is probably something which you just need to get used to.

Once you get on the road and have a few miles behind you the massive screen is not as distracting as you might expect.

Both cars have lots of room. Their power comes from a compact battery unit between the rear wheels. Under the bonnet, there's extra storage space instead of an engine.

The Model X also features the world's largest all-glass panoramic windshield, extending more than a foot beyond the point where a standard windscreen ends.

Sitting in the driver's seat you need to arch your head back as far as you can to see where it ends. Meanwhile, the Model S has a tinted transparent roof.

 

These cars also already have the capacity to act as driverless vehicles.

Power

Our test route took us from the company's showroom in Sandyford, south Dublin, to the opening of its first Irish Supercharger at Ballacolla, Co Laois. We then drove down to a Destination Charger at the BrookLodge Hotel in the south of Co. Wicklow and back to Dublin.

The idea is that the driver will do most of their charging at home. The maximum ranges for the Model S is between 450km to 572km - while the Model X can cover up to 542km on a single charge.

To put that in context, Malin Head to Mizen Head (Ireland's most southern and furthest north points) is a 612km drive.

Superchargers are used on long journeys - a 20 to 30-minute charge will give you more than enough power to get to your destination (or another supercharging point if you are on a longer journey).

'Destination' chargers are located at hotels and offer overnight charging.

Ireland's first Tesla Supercharger

The cars are also compatible with the ESB's chargers. Combining these landmark Tesla chargers and the ESB's infrastructure the company hopes to eradicate 'range anxiety' - the fear that you will end up stranded with a flat battery.

More Superchargers are on the way - the company is cagey about the details but they will be located at strategic points to service the island's motorways.

Tesla chargers around the country - Red is the Supercharger, and future Superchargers are in light grey - the darker grey markers are Destination Chargers 

The Laois charger is between Dublin and Cork - and additional charging points are coming to Limerick City and Enfield (serving the N4 between Dublin and Galway).

Ludacris

I got the chance to experience a D100P Model S, the highest spec model on the Irish market, between Ballacolla and BrookLodge.

An info sheet in the glove compartment listed it at £147,330. It retails here for more than €160,000 and it certainly is an experience. 

From a standing start, it hits 60MPH (that's 96.6km) in 2.28 seconds - and it's not normal acceleration.

"The car can accelerate at 1.1g ... That's faster than falling" Elon Musk, the company's founder (who also has sidelines in space exploration and developing technology to fuse AI with human brains) said when Tesla introduced 'Ludacris mode' - the setting with provides this extreme acceleration. Two taps of the car's touchscreen and it's ready to go. 

It's enough to push you back into your seat (and to push your stomach into your ribcage like a rollercoaster) - going 'Ludacris' is like the part in a Batman film when he hits the Batmobile's turbo button.

The pick-up in speed is immediate and it's unlike anything else on the market - let alone any other car which seats 5 adults and has two boots.

Who's going to buy a Tesla?

With the Model S starting at €88,000 and the Model X setting you back at least €110,000 - these cars are only a viable option if you have some money to burn.

83,922 cars were shipped by the company last year - so it is finding a niche (7 were registered in Ireland during 2016 - which must have been imported from elsewhere).

When I asked Georg Ell - the head of Tesla in Western Europe - why drivers should choose a Tesla over other cars in the same price bracket he first discussed the low running costs and other financial incentives to 'go electric' - before quickly adding that the decision also has to be an emotional one - highlighting the power and the comfort they offer.

Beyond all the green logic and corporate environmentalism, the cars' acceleration, space and 'otherness' feel like the real selling point after a day with these cars.