Could a Tesla test drive cure Abbott government’s deep denial?

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A test drive in a Tesla – and a collective “Tesla smile” in the conservative ranks – might give the Abbott government an insight into the future. And how the confluence of renewables, storage and software will shape the future. It is not so scary, and not some part of a green plot or climate hoax designed to bring down their society.

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A couple of months ago, in a conversation with some clean energy types, the topic was the despair about the politics of climate change, and uncertainty about how the new minor party Senators would line up on the subject.

Tesla-Model-S_1I suggested that someone should organise for Ricky Muir, the newly elected Senator, to test drive Tesla Model S. As the representative of the Motorists Party, surely he would be interested in driving last year’s Car of the Year in the US.

And it might just blow away any prejudice he held about new technologies – the confluence of renewables, storage and smart software which promises a revolution in energy management across the world.

Now I’d like to broaden that suggestion. We should get a fleet of the Tesla vehicles and leave them at the disposal of the Coalition MPs and Senators for as long as it takes to erode some of that deep denial and prejudice that this conservative government has about the future.

The past week has revealed just how deep those prejudices lie within the Abbott government. It has happily endorsed the coal industry’s propaganda that coal is good for humanity, it has rejected point blank the data that shows the country is – after Luxembourg – the highest per capita emitter in the world, and reinforced its hatred of wind turbines and its disdain for renewable energy – and it’s admiration of nuclear. Worst of all, it has attacked those who suggest or decide to move their savings from industries in decline to the technologies of the future.

As one government relations officer told me last week: Even when you go and talk about wind farms to an inner city Coalition MP, they come at it from the point of view that climate change is some sort of hoax and a green plot. Wind farms are offensive and dangerous because “that is what I read.” And presumably, what the likes of Joe Hockey have told them.

How would a Tesla possibly cure the deep denial that lies deep within the Abbott government? Because it might just explode some of the myths that are buried within the conservative psyche – one that confuses fears about “intermittency”, “unreliability” and environmental protection as an affront to the modern society; one that inspired even the environment minister Greg Hunt to suggest that those who suggest solar is a better option for the energy poor in third world countries than coal are “against electricity.

I recently took a test drive in one of the four Tesla’s currently in the country, and it was an exhilarating experience. Teslas are unlike other EVs because its founder, Elon Musk, deliberately targeted the luxury end of the market. He was determined to make an impact; and he has, becoming the first EV to win Motor Trends “Car of the Year” award.

As the magazine noted:

“It drives like a sports car, eager and agile and instantly responsive. But it’s also as smoothly effortless as a Rolls-Royce, can carry almost as much stuff as a Chevy Equinox, and is more efficient than a Toyota Prius. Oh, and it’ll sashay up to the valet at a luxury hotel like a supermodel working a Paris catwalk.” And in Australia, many of its first clients will charge their car with solar.

Quite apart from the fact that the Tesla is silent, safe, swift and a sign to the future – at one point, you are invited – on an open stretch of road – to “put your foot to the floor” to experience the extraordinary acceleration of an electric vehicle, and this one in particular.

The effect is profound. At the end of the stretch, as the Tesla slowed and regenerated its charge, the salesman turned and noted the expression on my face: “That is what we call the Tesla smile.”

Tesla is not cheap. In Australia, it will cost around $100,000, and it is competing in a luxury class against BMW’s, Audi and Mercedes. But, the salesman notes, it is faster, cheaper, cleaner, safer and more technically advanced than any of its rivals. It can go more than 400kms on a full charge, and that full charge may cost just $10 of electricity.

The battery – 85kWh – is enough to power an average house for three days, although it should be noted that Teslas will not be used to burn toast or watch TV – they are not designed that way. The battery can be “super-charged” to 50 per cent of its capacity in just 20 minutes at stations that will be sited along the routes between the major cities. That charge will be free, and so will intercity car journeys.

The Tesla is also significant for what it will do in the broader industry, the trillion-dollar energy systems that have influenced economics and geo-politics for more than half a century.

Not only has it changed the consumer perception of EVs, its planned “giga-factory”  (which will be run on renewables) will likely more than halve the cost of battery storage. This has implications for EVs and the internal combustion energy, and the transport fuels markets. In combination with solar, it may wrestle control of the transport fuels market from Big Oil, as some investment banks have suggested.

It has implications for stationary storage, and distributed generation and the incumbent electricity industry – and fossil fuels in particular – as numerous other investment banks have suggested.

This is why these major investment banks are signalling that energy systems around the world are likely to be transformed dramatically in the next decade, with a high risk of stranded assets. Even Australia’s energy market operators conceded this.

Which, in turn, is another reason for investors and the managers and trustees of super funds to reconsider their investments – and not blindly follow the pack into fossil fuels as they have done for decades. For this, their acts have been branded almost as “treasonous” by Team Australia, as the Abbott government likes to be known.

There is no doubt that Tesla has and is pissing off many powerful people. The oil industry doesn’t like it because Tesla ain’t using any oil; the car repair and second hand parts industry doesn’t like Tesla because it’s engine is the size of a watermelon and has just 30 moving parts, as opposed to more than 3,000; the dealership network doesn’t like them because Tesla sells direct to the client, often from stores in shopping malls.

But it represents the future – the Teslas of the world, renewable energy systems such as solar and wind, battery storage devices that can store power and regulate the electricity market, and the influx of clever gadgets and software, and new competitors for the incumbents: clean energy, smart software, innovative business models – a different way of using electricity and energy.

A test drive in a Tesla – and a collective Tesla smile in the conservative ranks – might just give then an insight into that future, and reassure them it is not so scary, and not some part of a green plot or climate hoax designed to bring down their society.

Note: Personally, I’d like to imagine a Tesla road trip. The back seat folds down to create a double bed 2m long .(That’s important when you are 1.88m). Yes, it can even have roof racks. Quite like the idea of a surfing road trip with no fuel – or charging costs. And on a hot summer’s night – the deep battery charge means air conditioning can continue without switching the engine on.


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  1. JET Charge 5 years ago

    Well one of the best ways to convince people that EVs are the future is to just get them in one. JET Charge would be more than happy to offer test drives in Canberra when our Model S arrives.

    If it can change one politician’s mind, that’s good enough for us.

  2. Craig Allen 5 years ago

    For that road trip perhaps we should wait for the Tesla campervan. Or perhaps they’ll release the panel van first.

    • Giles 5 years ago

      Really no need. I’d happily in go in the Model S. Can even watch the stars from the bed!

    • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

      With 85kWh of energy, i think a Tesla 4×4 would happily tow your caravan all day.

  3. Slim 5 years ago

    “Could a Tesla test drive cure Abbott government’s deep climate denial?” Maybe. Tesla paying more to the IPA than the coal/oil/gas industries would probably seal the deal.

  4. johnnewton 5 years ago

    And it’ll make sweet FA difference to the urgent problem of ACC. We need to consume less, not more

    • WeaponZero 5 years ago

      You would consume less.

      • johnnewton 5 years ago

        But still buy a new imported car that coughs out greenhouse gases to make

        • WeaponZero 5 years ago

          Production only accounts for 20% of the car. 80% is driving.

          In the case of the Tesla, it is made in California which has the strictest greenhouse gas regulations in the world.

    • coomadoug 5 years ago

      Extreme right people say what you have said. It is rubbish. The tesla battery factory is totally renewable. Within 10 years every aspect of the car in construction and
      running will be 100% green. The car industry will provide a 40% storage window for the national grid. There will be no need for coal or any large base load generator and they will be seen as a joke. The energy system will run as described in this article and in the hydro for example, they will be able to run on optimum efficiency 24/7. So will everything else. This alone will make available enough energy to supply half of the entire transport industry.

      • johnnewton 5 years ago

        Might I suggest a careful reading of This Changes Everything.

        • JonathanMaddox 5 years ago

          Eppur si muove!

          • johnnewton 5 years ago

            What moves? The earth? The car? Your mind? A little cryptic Jonathon

        • Miles Harding 5 years ago

          Heretic! Capitalism will have to be done away with and replaced by a new god, or should the be ‘good’?

          Many are already on this path and are adjusting their expectations for a world where there is much less and we are happier for it. Others have yet to climb out of the tar pit to see what is in store.

          In this brave new world, the electric car as we think will have no place and it’s counterpart looks suspiciously like a bicycle, possibly with some additional wheels.

  5. Mags 5 years ago

    Go Tesla, just bought some shares!

  6. swozzle 5 years ago

    The only way Abbott would get in a Tesla is if Elon Musk came here himself with some lucrative deal, e.g. jobs for Australian workers etc. That might be enough pressure to make Abbott show up and risk threatening his standing with his industrial supporters. Otherwise Abbott would avoid being seen within cooee of a Tesla like the plague.

    • Sean 5 years ago

      Please! Abbott doesn’t care about workers, or industry, only capital, and flogging off whatever isnt bolted down. The only way you would get him to give a shit was if tesla decided that it wanted to give $1000 to every household in western sydney, because it would make tesla more popular than him.

  7. coomadoug 5 years ago

    I have been saying this stuff for 6 years. At first they said I am nuts. Now they are telling me as if it is news. The libs will grab this when they screw things up to a complete mess. They will grab it and say here we have solved your messy problem you dumb lefties.

  8. Peter Campbell 5 years ago

    It’s not just the ‘Tesla grin’. In the days of DIY as the only option we talked about the ‘EV grin’ always seen after the first time someone puts their foot down and for some time after.

  9. Macabre 5 years ago

    I think the only thing that would persuade Abbott and the rest of the COALition to support Tesla would be to tell them that it is running on coal.

  10. F1orce 5 years ago

    Will a 10kWh solar system be enough to fully charge the Model-S?

    • Bob_Wallace 5 years ago

      85 kWh battery pack. At 10 kW per hour it would take a bit over 9 hours to fully charge. There’s some energy lost in battery charging.

      Perhaps the better question is how large a solar array would one need to cover their daily driving? Not many people are going to use up all their charge every day.

      In the US the average daily drive is about 36 miles. A 3 kW solar array would provide that power in the average part of the country A smaller array would be fine in a sunnier part.

      • JonathanMaddox 5 years ago

        Despite our long distances, the average daily drive in Australia is much shorter, only 38km vs. 36mi=58km. And most daily commutes are shorter still, because there are plenty of trips that are longer — a significant number of people have daily commutes up to 200km (driving from places they can afford to buy a house, to places that afford them the income to do so) and of course nearly everyone does the occasional big road trip.

    • RobS 5 years ago

      Do you mean a 10kW system or a system that will produce 10kWh a day (ie a ~2kW system)?
      The average person in Australia drives ~35km daily, the model S uses ~220Wh/km so for 35km of driving needs ~7.5kWh of power daily. Depending on your latitude generating 7.5kWh daily will require about 1.5kW of solar panels. A 10kW array will produce ~40kwh daily which will take a Model S ~180km daily.

    • Miles Harding 5 years ago

      Yes, but its overkill.
      The issue is more how far it is driven each day. For most if us, this will be less than 50km, in which case the Tesla will need about 8-10 kwh, or about 1 hour from those solar panels at noon.

      There is a problem with this approach; the car is frequently away during daylight hours. Problem solved by going the whole 10 yards and putting a battery in at home. This allows the house to be semi or completely independent of the grid and charge the Tesla at night from the battery. Battery size is important, but it doesn’t have to charge the car completely in one session.

  11. wooduck 5 years ago

    Ricky Muir should buy a Tesla S, as my Senator he could do some heavy lifting and take some direct action

  12. oic 5 years ago

    You’re engaging in a non-sequitur. Having a good driving experience with Tesla does not lead one to think global warming exist. It only proves that electric cars could be better than gasoline cars

    • JonathanMaddox 5 years ago

      That’s a major mental leap in itself. Once you’ve cracked the door …

  13. Petra Liverani 5 years ago

    Tesla is a massive phenomenon. I’ve always had zero interest in cars, never owned one or wanted to own one but as I approached the Model S at the Hunter Valley EV Festival a big smile came over my face, which felt sort of strange considering it was caused by a car. It’s amazing how it has affected certain norms, especially of the male gender variety. The “You might be a Tesla owner if …” forum thread ( ) reveals the Tesla driver is perfectly happy to drive in the slow lane to conserve battery power while being honked at by passing ICEs (internal combustion engine cars) and will happily stop at a yellow light so he has pole position for the green light. He returns from driving his wife’s ICE with the verdict, “it’s too complicated”! Just the noise of his seat belt retracting is annoying and he turns the volume of his music up at the lights to drown out the neighbouring ICE noise while turning it down on the open road.

    We have an oversupply of electricity. Why on earth isn’t the government pushing EVs? In Norway, in some months, the Model S is the highest-selling car. That oil-rich country exempts EVs from taxes and tolls, allows them in bus lanes and gives them free parking. But us …

  14. Michael Rynn 5 years ago

    Drool, drool, beyond my lifetime’s expectations. A lot of energy is used up in order to mine all the materials necessary to build a Tesla car. As fossil fuel energy is becoming harder to supply, mining industries will need to convert to renewable energy just to keep going for a while longer. And the car’s materials need to be entirely recycled. It can be done. But not under this Abbott government.

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