It may sound impossible, but one Tesla owner has shown that it can be done, driving more than 400,000km on a single set of brake pads and a single battery.
Nigel Raynard, who owns a 2018 Tesla Model S 75D, and runs an airport pick up business in the Byron Bay/Ballina region with partner Louise, has shared with The Driven the insanely low running costs for his vehicle as well as the thrilled reactions he gets from his customers.
Having previously owned a camera shop in Byron Bay and intending to start a chauffeur business with a luxury BMW, Raynard says after watching “Dirty Money: Hard NOx”, a documentary about the 2015 Dieselgate scandal, he was compelled to change tack and instead decided to buy a Model S, the premium electric sedan made by Tesla.
“What originally inspired me was a video series called “Dirty Money”, and an episode called Hard NOx…about the Dieselgate situation and not that it was just Volkswagen, it was many automakers that were trying to maximise their ability to make cars without really doing the right thing,” Raynard tells The Driven.
“I looked at a BMW, found one in Sydney, I drove some diesel vehicles on the Gold Coast in Brisbane and really like some of the luxury vehicles,” he says.
“I was ready to make a purchase of a second-hand BMW but after I watched Hard NOx what was really hitting for me, is that although most people discuss carbon and the difference between the footprint of a petrol vehicle, diesel vehicle, electric vehicle, what was more concerning for me was air quality.”
“A year earlier, I’d watched my mum pass from cancer and seeing someone take their last breath, someone struggling with their health was really hard-hitting. It was the same seeing the impact of air quality and how basically Dieselgate unrolled and how they try to deny it.
“My background is environmental science so I understand soil testing, testing contaminated sites, and understand what you can’t see … most people only react to things that can see.
“I saw in Hard NOx this thing where people’s health was compromised and it was basically accepted as the norm.”
Having owned the Model S since August 2018, Raynard is just shy of three years of ownership. But sitting in the vehicle it looks brand new, despite the fact it has been driven almost 400 kilometres every day.
For comparison sake, he says there are vehicles in California he’s aware of that have done 600,000-700,000km but are older models. The Driven has also reported in 2019 on German Tesla owner Hansjörg Gemmingen who passed the one million kilometre mark in his 2014 Model S, with a battery replacement at 500,000km and $21,000 in servicing costs.
Raynard has driven the most distance in any Model S of that age in Australia, he says Tesla staff have told him.
“Talking to the staff at the Tesla service centres in Brisbane and now the Gold Coast has been a great experience because they admit that they don’t have a model this new with this many kilometres.
“This is on the original battery. I’ve gone from 379 km fully charged to 343km so I believe it’s about a 9 or 10% loss of battery,” he says.
“When I went into the servicing they were quite surprised at how many kilometres and every time I show up are they always very interested in knowing how the car goes because unlike all the other cars I’ve owned you just don’t have scheduled servicing.”
His records, which have been viewed by The Driven, show that Raynard has spent under $5,000 in servicing and repairs in that time.
“The first service was $451 – that was after calling many times and Tesla was saying you don’t need a service.”
“I’m still on the original brake pads to give you an idea of how the vehicles going. It has driven on highways a lot, but given the terrible roads around here I should have had a lot more issues.”
Raynard says that all that he has had to replace in that time is a camera, the front driveshafts, an air conditioning compressor and a door handle.
“That has cost under $5,000,” he says.
“There was one repair at 210,000km. That was the camera because I was high pressure cleaning it, I was cleaning it too often, it wasn’t the fault of the company” he says.
“The door handle is a well-known issue, that was under warranty. It wasn’t until 330,000km that I had an air con compressor changed and 360,000km until I had a driveshaft replacement.”
While Raynard isn’t interested in buying a Model Y, which has just gone on sale in fellow RHD market Hong Kong, he has put an order in for a Model S Plaid, Tesla’s high-performance tri-motor electric sedan recently unveiled in California.
“A lot of the enjoyment of the business has been picking people up who have beautiful high-end cars,” says Raynard.
“The first thing they say is, ‘you can’t charge these in this area, can you,’ and then I go straight to show them that less than 15 or 20km away is a huge piece of infrastructure – 6 fast chargers, that is rarely at a third capacity,” he says referring to the Knockrow Supercharger station. There are also fast chargers at Byron Bay Library, The Farm on Ewingsdale road and in Ballina.
In Australia, the Plaid Model S will cost from $186,990. That’s a high price to pay but with specifications you’re more likely to find in far more expensive supercars, such as acceleration from 0-100km/hr in 2.1 seconds.
“Having a Plaid… I think it’s it’s just absolutely unbelievable that you can have such a high-performance car without the running costs,” says Raynard.
“I’ve always been into Motorsport and I’ve been around as a photographer shooting cars at race tracks and all of those cars that are Supercars, the running costs in maintenance are easily $35,000-40,000 a year. When they’re replacing things like ceramic front discs on a Porsche they are spending $28,000 replacing the braking systems.”
That’s an extremely salient point considering Raynard hasn’t replaced his brakes yet.
“A lot of the braking is done via the regenerative braking,” he says – which means the brake pads hardly get used at all.
“In this car the fact is I’ve still got quite a lot of materials left on them. Every time I drive someone who’s a mechanic, someone around cars, they’re like that’s impossible you can’t do 400,000 km on one set of brake pads.”
“The thing is you’re hardly ever braking,” he says adding that “I feel like the Autopilot (Tesla’s standard advanced driver-assist feature) system teaches you to be a more level driver. I see a lot of silly driving but you realise you have no effect on other people and you’re better off to just let every situation diffuse.
“When you’re on Autopilot and someone does a crazy overtake in a four-wheel drive on the wrong side of the road and flicks gravel up at you, Autopilot doesn’t react. So you just learn to be a calmer driver which is great for your customers too, because they pick up on that.”
This especially makes sense when driving customers to and from the hospital. After being dropped off for a procedure they often decide they’d prefer to be driven home in a Tesla too, says Raynard.
“It feels safe, it’s like flying, it’s just smooth sailing,” he says. “They get home and say ‘I’m so glad that you’re available to pick me up.’.”
Raynard says that apart from business and medical customers, a lot of his business is driven by the obsession children have with the Tesla brand. Parents often call asking him to drive their child to school as a present for their birthday.
So I usually arrive at their house in the driveway – I then take them to school the long way and I find it’s nice to take them to something like a charger because so many people of wondering about that process.”
“They experience plugging the car in and seeing how quickly you can add kilometres. Then they play around with YouTube or Netflix, or all the kids are looking for the “fart” mode and then you take them to school and they think it’s funny – they say it’s a ‘massive flex’,” he says laughing.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter 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.