It’s a great hook – pit a Tesla Model S against Holden’s most powerful Australian-built production car ever, the Holden HSV GTSR W1.
As a teaser for the upcoming electric vehicles night on the ABC’s popular new Fight for Planet A program on Tuesday night, it is nothing if not a compelling show of power from the Tesla Model S (spoiler alert: it smashes the HSV supercar).
But there’s more behind the display of speed and grunt, says Craig Reucassel, the show’s host who previously fronted the War on Waste and was a key member of The Chaser.
“The purpose of driving the Tesla was two points,” Reucassel tells The Driven.
“The first was responding to the notion that Australians like cars with a bit of grunt. It’s interesting to show that’s not really the issue,” he says.
But the other point of course is the vastly different carbon footprints the two vehicles have.
“One of the things that often comes up is that people often say, ‘Hang on, if you’re charging an EV off a coal-powered grid that’s actually worse.’,” he says.
The thing is, as Reucassel points out in the video teaser posted on Twitter, is that if you charge the Tesla (or any electric vehicle for that matter) from Australia’s coal dominated grid, carbon footprint is still better than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, because it is so much more efficient. Charge it off solar and the carbon footprint of charging is zero.
Shouldn’t admit that the main reason I did this was to compare their carbon footprints ????. But it was very fun/slightly frightening. https://t.co/WiWe0gnaMQ
— Craig Reucassel (@craigreucassel) August 17, 2020
It is an important point, says Reucassel, because although the efficiency of ICE vehicle gets worse from the moment it is driven off the lot, an EV can only get better as renewable energy sources become an increasingly important part of the grid mix.
“If you buy an electric car, your car will get more efficient as the grid gets higher rate of renewables into it,” says Reucassel.
The Tesla Model S is not the first EV Reucassel has driven – he reveals that he once drove a Renault Zoe across Sweden, an experience that was both great, but also a bit disappointing because the Zoe is not a long range electric vehicle built for road trips.
But it’s these little things that are important to understand about EVs, not least because of the misconceptions and misinformation many people have that EVs are underpowered, can’t drive far, and cost more to run and maintain than ICE vehicles.
For that reason Reucassel says that tonight we’ll see how non-EV-drivers react when given an EV to drive.
Although in Nordic countries electric vehicles have become a very common sight, Australia is lagging in electric vehicle uptake due to high prices and lack of supportive government policy.
This, says Reucassel, has a follow-on effect for local uptake.
“So few people have battery operated cars – you don’t have that thing of talking to someone who owns one,” he says.
But he says the reaction of people who got try and EV in the show was one of “pleasant surprise”.
“People say they’d never go back not just because of [the lower cost of ownership and maintenance] but because it’s great to drive,” he says.
But the higher purchase price is still a barrier to uptake for many, and for this reason Reucassel thinks the recent success of the Toyota RAV4 hybrid, which accounted for four in five RAV4s sold in July, is a significant milestone in the local market.
“In terms of cars that have the capacity to change carbon footprint in Australia, we’re seeing more Tesla Model 3s but … when range anxiety is still a bit of an issue, [hybrids and] plug-in hybrids can be a really good solution for that,” he says.
This is because although there are a number of EVs available in Australia with driving range exceeding 400km, they are outside the budget of many drivers. As the gap in price between hybrids and PHEVs and their petrol ICE counterparts is less, they are considered a useful transition choice.
As for the Model S? Reucassel says it’s “an incredible car and beautiful to drive.” It’s just a shame it costs about as much as the HSV supercar.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.