Gas2 Week in Review: Tesla Is Tested — In Model 3 Production and In Person during a Middle East Roadtrip

Usually, the “Gas2 Week in Review” is a summary of recent, important stories in the media about zero emissions transportation. Tesla often is at the forefront of these stories. The CNBC report about Tesla employees who divulged problems with Model 3 battery production and quality control absolutely caused a media frenzy this week, including at our sister site, CleanTechnica.

The idea to summarize, synthesize, and interpret the big stories about green transportation in the “Gas2 Week in Review” makes sense as a general rule, especially about EVs. We are near to the moment in time when EVs will have both a range of 200-plus miles as well as a friendly price tag. ICEs (internal combustion engines) are to be a thing of the past in major countries by 2040 — the US as the embarrassing exception unless radical changes occur in the executive branch. Big corporations are coming to the realization that renewable energy is a business opportunity, and stalwarts of the fossil fuel industry like Shell are opening up, asking, “How will the world produce more and cleaner energy to power our homes and fuel our vehicles in coming decades while reducing CO2 emissions that cause climate change?”

I saw real evidence of the epiphanies that are taking place around clean transportation this week when I joined in with the Middle East 2018 Global EVRT (Electric Vehicle Road Trip).  I had a chance to get up-close-and-personal with an EV fleet which, for 9 days, traveled across the UAE to Oman and back to demonstrate the possibilities of electric transportation. With the fleet comprised of 4-Tesla Model S’s, 1-Tesla Model X, 4 Chevy Bolts, and a BMWi3, I was both participant and observer, driving my first EV as well as collecting impressions how the Middle East is beginning to think differently about energy production and usage.

Tesla

So allow this edition of the “Gas2 Week in Review” to digress from its usual weekly format, please, so that we can explore some of the excitement, curiosity, and questions that arise when a new people and place are exposed to EVs.

My first ever ride in a production EV was on this trip in a deep blue Tesla Model S. Driver and instructor Charlie Fraser explained, “What Tesla captured, first and foremost, was that they built a car rather than a solution to a problem.”

And quite a car it is.

A week of test rides in Teslas allowed me to see the car that continually sells well among its class to “drive itself” on a long and straight highway. A Tesla’s sensors give the car the equivalence of reflexes, with low centers of gravity allowing good cornering. Numerous cameras determine its lane position, using radar, GPS, and other inputs. “It wants your hands on the steering wheel,” Charlie noted. “So it tests you.” After an evasive maneuver, it “asks if it’s all right to continue.” Autopilot in action was quite impressive and topped any other EV feature that I encountered on the EV road trip.

Tesla

He described how, in an EV, “getting the best efficiency is very different than driving a petrol car. We can power back into the batteries.” Regeneration was certainly on each driver’s mind during the Middle East 2018 Global EVRT, as each km saved brought us closer and with less range anxiety to our destinations of the striated Jais MountainMotorCity, the RAK Track at Ras Al Khaimah, The Sustainable City, and several 5-star hotels along the way, among others.

At its core, regeneration is utilizing an onboard generator, usually the primary drive motor, to slow the car and convert that power back to electricity. Charlie used the touchscreen to check the charge, which read at 437 km. With the knowledge that our destination was 57 km, we had ample energy for this jaunt. A “consumption” graph monitored the EV’s average usage. On a previous day, the destination km had exceed the charged range, but, with regeneration, the car arrived with 9 km more than needed. Charlie noted that regeneration is “more about how often we accelerate” than anything else.

And yet accelerate we did.

Charlie’s admiration for Tesla power was clear. He exclaimed, “The Tesla charging is like…” He finished the sentence by snapping his fingers in a gesture of speed and efficiency.

Another day’s road trip took us through Sharjah to Dubai in a Tesla Model X. It is an entirely different experience than the Model S, of course, as it is a SUV. To open the Tesla Model X doors, one presses a bar inward. The interior door handles are parallel curved lines like waves. The signature curving, smoky-halved windshield created an optimistic light-filled environment in the front. Two backseat sunroofs — one left and one right — illuminateed and brightened the back seat. A sunroof for the middle backseat passenger isn’t necessary, as the gap between the two from seats allows a pool of light to filter into the middle back area.

Our edition had white & black vegan leather interior styling. High-backed seats were built-in with headrests that were about 6″ higher than my above average height needs.  White leather seats were complemented by black seat belts.

The driver programmed our destination into the touchscreen, which, among its multiplicity of features, noted when doors or trunk were open, or if a passenger was incorrectly buckled in. The music selection was set by syncing with one’s personal technology device. Also, over the posted speed limit, a “Bing!” resonated through the car as a reminder for prudence in speed and good citizenship. A small technology issue was the blinker, which didn’t shut off automatically after 5 or so seconds. White noise from our opened windows prevented the driver from hearing that the blinker was continually left on in traffic.

Perseverating on regeneration, the driver created a bouncy/ bumpy/ back-and-forth riding experience for the passengers. As we sought to draw as few km of our car charge as possible, we kept the windows open — which I prefer in my own driving — and eliminated AC use, which draws down charge in the same way that any electrical system does.

Car wash attendants outside Dubai were fascinated by the Tesla Model X falcon wing doors. It wasn’t that these workers were seeing the falcon wing doors for the first time — each had prior knowledge how to use them. But each wanted to engage the doors by pressing one of a couple buttons to achieve the effect, nonetheless. And, as you can see from the pictures accompanying this section, car wash attendants weren’t the only beings curious about the Tesla Model X. A group of camels crossed the desert road  adjacent to a highway in front of our EV caravan and spent some time sniffing the falcon wings. Such an EV memory!

The rear hatchback area easily had room for 6 carry-on bags or backpacks without impeding the driver’s view when using the rear mirror. I do have a critique of the leg room of the Model X, honestly. One’s feet are placed in the passenger front seat in a relative square depth a bit short in front for my long legs. The 3-passenger back seat has more space for legs due to its left and right space openness. The seat belt constrained the seating space, pinching with the seat belt fasteners. A lithe passenger of small-ish stature, rather than the full-sized US citizen that I am, would likely feel a bit more at ease.

My foray into the Tesla Model S- P100D was brief but fascinating. We headed for an evening of test drives, EV vs petrol drag races, and and all-around-fun at the RAK Track at Ras Al Khaimah.  As Charlie had smiled to me earlier, “Feeling the acceleration in your P100D will really blow your mind!”

And it did — or at it at least took my breath away several times.

Only 45 minutes outside Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah offers winding coastlines and rich terracotta desert planes. Our oceanfront hotel, the Marjan Island Resort & Spa (with fascinating sex-segregated indoor swimming pool) is situated around a peninsula. A 4-lane highway connected hotels, beaches, shopping, restaurants, and the track, so one of the other roadtrippers was delighted to take a turn in the driver’s seat of the Tesla Model S- P100D.

With the night lights twinkling and Orion’s Belt hovering overhead, we dipped down from the hotel foyer driveway and zipped out into the traffic. All that was missing was the sound of a “ROAR” each time the excited youth engaged the Ludicrous mode.  But the rear body snap, adrenaline rush, and heart rate increase that accompanied each Ludicrous mode engagement was truly remarkable. Do I need it in my own daily life? No, I’ve had plenty of speeding tickets already, thank you. But the Tesla Model S- P100D ride was impressive.

You’re probably asking yourself, How did she like driving a Tesla? To be honest, I really didn’t want to take the chance driving the expensive Teslas with the thick UAE and Oman traffic constantly surrounding us. I did, however, jump behind the wheel of the Chevy Bolt… But that’s another story.

 

Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn grew up in Stafford Springs, CT, home of the half-mile tar racetrack. She's an avid Formula One fan (this year's trip to the Monza race was memorable). With a Ph.D. from URI, she draws upon digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+