Tesla Model 3 owner Nathan Merritt has completed a 5,000km road trip and estimates he saved $1,300 in fuel costs in just two weeks.
Travelling completely for free thanks to Supercharger credits gained from referring new customers to Tesla, Merritt decided to take the interstate journey from Brisbane to Warrnambool in Victoria and back to use up some of his free charging credits.
Tesla’s free Supercharging credits scheme was a driving force behind the success of the EV maker, which has not spent on single dollar on traditional advertising.
Tesla no longer operates the free charging credit scheme, but before cutting it in late 2021, every owner received 1,500km for every buy that used their referral code to purchase a vehicle. Every new customer would extend the cut off date for the free credits by six months.
Merritt’s free credits end in 2024, but he still has 9,000km worth of charging to use by then.
Not that he will find this difficult to do.
Merritt, who operates a private Tesla chauffeur business, has driven 80,000 kilometres in his Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus (SR+) since taking delivery in March 2021.
Much of it has been driven completely for free, and he estimates he has spent just $2,500 in electricity (excluding solar feed-in tariffs from his home solar system) when not using Superchargers.
His recent road trip saw him using only Superchargers, something he says was easier than most people might think.
“I have lots of free credits so it cost nothing to do, so I (thought I) may as well use the credits or they’ll expire.”
His Model 3 SR+ realistically gets about 350km on the highway. “Most jumps between Superchargers are less than 300km,” he says.
“I met a lot of people (on the road trip) that have the Long Range, that didn’t realise the infrastructure is there all the way from Brisbane down to Warrnambool.”
Electric vehicle uptake is on the rise. In 2021, a little more than 20,000 new electric cars were sold in Australia. Of those, 12,094 were Tesla Model 3s.
And though there are several groups on Facebook dispelling myths about electric cars “ruining the weekend”, Merritt says they still came across some who were surprised at how far he could drive in his “basic” electric car.
“When we were at Number One Beach at Seal Rocks (in NSW) – it was a detour – we met some locals who were surprised we were there from Queensland,” he says.
Merritt says there was very little trouble on the entire trip, particularly because using Autopilot meant that driving on the highway was less tiring.
“The only challenge was that …. every time you change lanes you have to deactivate Autopilot unless you have Full Self Driving.”
Autopilot is an advanced driver-assist feature that comes standard with all Tesla electric cars. It includes steering assistance within a lane, adaptive cruise control and road user awareness alerts. Drivers must at all times have their hands on the wheel, and the car will turn the Autopilot feature off if they don’t after a certain time.
Drivers can pay extra for Full Self Driving (FSD) – at the moment priced at $10,100 – but it is not full-featured yet in Australia. At a recent earnings call, Tesla boss Elon Musk said the EV maker currently has around 100,000 drivers using the beta version of the full-featured program.
Coming from Brisbane and not having driven in zero temperatures before, Merritt also noticed on the trip that the car’s regenerative braking did not work as well in cold weather.
Canberra was three degrees,” he says. “The car gave a notification that (the regen) was limited, maybe because the battery pack was too cold. After a while, the full regen comes back.
He added that in Canberra, “When the car (battery) was at 20%, we got a message that if it gets any colder the battery would be severely depleted,” putting it down to the car’s battery thermal management.
Merritt said he also liked being able to pre-warm car via the Tesla smartphone app.
Meeting people along the way he found many asked about the driving range of the car. One was surprised to hear that the wait times for new Tesla cars in Ausrtaoli now stretch out to 2023.
“You’re telling me if petrol goes up to $2.60 I can’t go out and buy a Tesla tomorrow?” Merritt says one person asked.
Having owned his car for a year in March, Merritt had driven 65,064.42 kilometres. In that time, he had the following costs:
- One Tire Rotation $55.00
- Four New Michelin Tyres $1,005 ( done just before 50,000km )
- Windscreen Fluid $6.00
- Estimated $2,548 in Electricity chargers (does not include any solar Credits or offsets)
With 80,000 now on the clock, he says his total driving range status has dropped from 424km on the car and is now down to 415km – a drop of only a little more than 2%.
Over the lifetime of the car so far it has used 11,997kWh; an average energy consumption of 151Wh/km.
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.