Birmingham to Edinburgh Round Trip in a Tesla Model S P85
To help challenge some of the myths about electric vehicles, and more specifically with Teslas, we took it upon ourselves to do a long range drive with the press car that we had on test, the Tesla Model S P85.
Our plan was to drive the full electric car from Birmingham all the way to Edinburgh, and back, in two days. During our trip we would be reliant on the UK’s electric car-charging infrastructure with the added benefit of some of Tesla’s Superchargers to charge the car. Keep reading to see how we got on.
Charge up – Birmingham Hyatt Hotel
Our starting point was the Hyatt Hotel on Broad Street in Birmingham, home to Birmingham’s two Superchargers. Our first leg of the trip was driving from Birmingham to Warrington, where the next Supercharger was on route, this meant that we didn’t need to leave Birmingham on full charge as it was only a short trip. Charging the top end of the battery takes longer than charging the bottom end, which meant it would have been unnecessary time spent if we were to fill the car at this point. With the car on charge it gave us a bit of time to confirm our driving plans for the day ahead, phone up the public charge stations we were going to use to ensure they were active, and also set up some camera gear.
Drive – Birmingham to Warrington
We left Birmingham at around 8.30am with 77 miles to cover to get to the Warrington Supercharger and 160 miles of range “in the tank”. The first leg of the journey went exceptionally well; being a Sunday morning the traffic on the roads was minimal and we had no anxiety about the amount of miles we had to cover with full knowledge that the Supercharger in Warrington would fully charge the car in no time ready for the next leg. This leg of the journey just flew by.
We arrived in Warrington with 60 miles range left in the tank meaning that I had lost about 30 miles because, knowing we were on the way to the Supercharger, I wasn’t really driving the car too efficiently. No harm done. It is hard not to use all the performance of the Model S P85, it’s addictive trust me.
Charge up – Warrington
Once in Warrington we put the car on charge at the Tesla Supercharger, this time we were after 100% battery before we continued our journey further north; this took around one hour. We took the time to have a snack and a quick walk around the hotel and spa that the Supercharger is based at in Warrington. Before we knew it we were fully charged and good to go.
Drive – Warrington to Carlisle
This was going to be one of the most difficult legs of the journey; we had 225 miles to Edinburgh, with 248 in the tank. But the trip to Edinburgh is an exceptionally hilly ride and it was unlikely that we were going to make it without losing at least 50 maybe 60 miles of range because of all the inclines. To take some pressure off we planned a stop at an Ecotricity 50kW charger just south of Carlisle. This meant that we only had 115 miles to cover on this leg and should arrive with around 44% battery left, so the sat nav told us. Using the public charger is nowhere near as fast as a Supercharger and you can only expect to get around 60 miles range for every hour on charge, but the extra juice was essential to this journey.
We set off on the journey, driving in full economy mode to try and get the most out of the batteries and not waste a spark. It was during this leg that I found out that the traffic aware cruise control in dense motorway traffic seemed to use more energy, due to the heavy braking and harsh accelerating, than manual, so I took the opportunity to switch over to manual control to try and extend the range as much as possible.
Myself and co-pilot, Ross Jukes, found ourselves mesmerised by the Tesla’s 17-inch centre console. During this leg of the trip we learned loads about the efficiency of the Tesla Model S. We tested different cruising speeds and inclines searching for the optimum cruising speed. Annoyingly there were a lot of inclines meaning that the stop just south of Carlisle to charge up was becoming more of a requirement than a luxury.
We arrived at the Carlisle services at around 1pm with 107 miles range left in the battery. Knowing it was another 109 miles to the Edinburgh Supercharger from this point, it seemed like a very good decision to have a well-deserved rest, treat the car to some more juice, and grab a bite to eat ourselves.
Charge up – Carlisle Services
To use the Ecotricity chargers at the service station requires you to be a member of the service, meaning you need a swipe card to turn the charger on. Knowing that I was going to be doing this test a few weeks before, I had signed up for an account (free of charge). To use the charge station you simply swipe your card, pick either AC or DC charging cables, and plug in. We were using AC charging cables with a Type 2 connector at the time, and leaving the car on charge for around one hour gave us another 70 miles range in the battery, giving us a bit of buffer on our final leg to Edinburgh. The charger was completely free to use and stopping for an hour at a service station isn’t that much of a hassle really; by the time you have stretched your legs, used the facilities, had a snack, been through a few emails and checked the charge, 40 minutes has soon past. Anything after that really just depends on how many miles you want to get in the tank before you set off.
I noticed that during our time at the charger there were huge amounts of people looking at the car, walking round the car, and just trying to figure out what the car was. The Model S got lots of attention and it still seems to be fairly rare in the UK, or at least in the north of the UK anyway.
Drive – Carlisle to Edinburgh
We left the service station south of Carlisle at 2.30pm with 178 miles range in the tank and 109 miles to complete. This was an overly generous buffer, but we just didn’t know how bad the inclines were going to be, the level of traffic we would hit, and it not being my own car I didn’t want to risk it, nor did I fancy pushing it.
We did around another 60 miles of motorway driving before we got off onto some very nice and very Scottish roads to finish off the journey up to Edinburgh. The biggest annoyance to me was knowing that I had all of that power under the bonnet but having to limit the amount I was using to conserve energy. It hurt me a little bit inside but I knew I was going to get a proper chance to enjoy the car tomorrow when range wouldn’t be an issue.
Throughout the entire trip we had been very conscious of the remaining range of the car. We monitored the projected range and the miles per kilowatt we were doing, and we learned a lot about driving the car more economically. At no point did we feel overly anxious about the range of the car during the trip, and this was mainly down to planning the charging stops before leaving.
We made it To Edinburgh – How was it?
We arrived at Edinburgh Airport at around 4:45pm with 41 miles left in the tank. So the inclines did take more miles than expected off the range of the car but it was a very easy trip and didn’t cause any unplanned inconvenience. And you have to remember that the electricity we received from the charge stations is completely free so where we did have to spend our time, we didn’t have to spend any money on fuel. Not to mention that the car produced zero CO2 emissions whilst travelling between these two countries.
During this 300 mile journey there were lots of other benefits that I learned about the Tesla Model S. Firstly, one of the major benefits is that having no combustion engine makes a major difference to the cabin noise in the car, the car in unbelievably silent, and the knock on effects of this is that it somewhat eases the strain on the driver on an exceptionally long journey such as this one. Secondly, because there is no engine there is a distinct lack of vibration and I didn’t realise this until getting back into a combustion engine car. The Model S has a muted feel which really helps with the level of refinement; it feels as good as some of the best. Over a long journey it is small elements, like not being shaken around, that make you feel a lot more refreshed when you get to your final destination.
Time Lapse of the Journey
This is What We Came For. Let’s Hit the Hills
You have heard the saying ‘when in Rome’ before, right? I feel it’s highly relevant to this situation. We had a 410bhp rear-wheel drive luxury car, some impressive Scottish roads surrounded with beautiful scenery, a car nut, and a professional motoring photographer. It would be wrong not to take the scenic route home, right? Getting caught up in the moment we took the opportunity at the hotel to identify the best route possible to experience and test out the Model S.
We decided on the A708 from Selkirk to Moffat, which is a 30-mile stretch of, in my opinion, some of the best driving roads you can experience in the UK; you can read more about the road here. Take my word for it; it was unbelievably beautiful Scottish scenery, with the most tremendously smooth winding roads, travelling between some impressive hills. With me free to let loose behind the wheel of the Tesla Model S P85 it’s safe to say we got significantly worse range out of the car on the way home, and the experience will stick with me forever. Take a quick look at the video below.
A708 Selkirk to Moffat Highlights
Because we took the scenic route home this meant that we had to stop at Carlisle for just less than two hours to catch up on the additional charge needed to get back to Warrington, where we could hook up on the Supercharger. After another quick boost on the Supercharger we hit the final leg back to the Hyatt in Birmingham. The entire trip home was very calm and relaxing; following the thrill of the Scottish scenery and the open road it was a bit of a disappointment to be stuck in standstill traffic on the M6 only a couple of hours later.
Later that evening, after battling through the traffic on the M6, we arrived back at the Hyatt Hotel in Birmingham and put the car back on the Supercharger before returning it to the Tesla store in Birmingham. What an epic journey we had across those two days, and if I had the opportunity, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
What Did We Learn?
The Tesla Model S, in my opinion, can certainly be used as a long-distance car, just as long as you plan your journey and are happy spending your time to charge it rather than your money to fuel it, that doesn’t seem to be too bad of a decision in my book.
From my trip it was apparent that the publicly accessible charges in the UK aren’t really geared to conveniently enable long-range driving in a Tesla Model S, especially when compared to Superchargers. Tesla have plans to build more Superchargers across the UK which will soon resolve this problem, and you have to remember that we are still in the early days of this technology and you can’t really expect the country to be fully populated with high-power chargers without the customer demand to match it. I would be interested to take this trip again in a few years time to see how things have changed.
Author: Paul Hadley