Electric vehicles are the future, at least that’s the vision of Tesla Motors. There’s something about zero emissions and instant power on tap that’s completely enticing. Thanks to GreenTech Malaysia and Cyberview, I recently had the opportunity to see the Tesla Model S 85 electric premium sedan up-close-and-personal in Malaysia. We know the future’s electric (and hydrogen) but the question is: when and how much?
I’m going to be the first to admit that I find hybrid cars terribly unexciting. They’re clinical, they zip past you in silence, they’re…well boring. No thanks to the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, my impression of hybrids hasn’t quite been positive. Aside from the reduced carbon footprint, that is. Driving shouldn’t just be about getting to point A to point B right? What about screeching tires? Petrol fumes? The aural orgasm of a V8? Huh, what? No?
Hybrid tech, of course, is a transition to much bigger things — like a full-blown electric vehicle e.g. Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe. There’s maximum torque at zero RPM, it emits nothing, it makes the world a cleaner, safer place. That’s got to be good right? Except perhaps for the driving experience, if that’s what you’re looking for. You see, you’ll never see more than 120km/h on your speedo (about 80km/h on the Zoe). And that’s pretty sad.
Well, Tesla has changed all that. First with the Tesla Roadster in 2008 and subsequently the Model S in 2012. The electric vehicle redefined. There’s a glimmer of hope in this skeptic yet.
But before we talk about the Model S sedan, let’s look into GreenTech a tad. If you didn’t know already, GreenTech Malaysia is an organization under the purview of the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA). It’s charged with catalyzing green technology deployment in line with the National Green Technology Policy 2009. The organisation’s key initiatives include flagship projects namely Green Malaysian Plan, Green Procurement, Electric Mobility and Sustainable Living. This spreads across five sectors which are Energy, Transport, Building, Waste Management and Water Management.
GreenTech aspires to position Malaysia as a global hub for green technology by 2020 and subsequently develop the country into a green community by 2030. It’s a tall order and a little unrealistic, but hey, every little step helps.
The EV infrastructure roadmap
KeTTHA initiated the EV Infrastructure Roadmap as part of Malaysia’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions by up to 40% (compared to 2005 levels) by the year 2020. GreenTech is supporting this initiative by partnering with the corporate sector to develop a blueprint to achieve 10% market share for EVs by 2020. This includes the deployment of 2,000 electric buses.
Electric mobility isn’t just about vehicles but also an all-inclusive end-to-end EV ecosystem, and that includes charging infrastructure.
With the support of Tesla Motors, GreenTech has specially imported two Tesla S 85 sedans as part of its working study on EVs.
Tesla Model S 85
The Tesla car really is a marvel of technology. Underneath its almost Aston Martin-like exterior, it’s packed with an impressive array of technology, a cutting edge powertrain and sporty drivetrain.
It looks fantastic and it doesn’t look like a typical tree-hugging-type vehicle. Its lightweight aluminium body is reinforced with high strength boron steel elements. There’s LED daytime running light with LED rear taillights and high-mounted LED stop lamp.
Underneath the hood, there’s an empty space (and Maya Karin). Huh what?
You forgot didn’t you? It doesn’t have your typical fossil-fuel burning engine. Instead, it has a liquid-cooled powertrain that includes the battery, electric motor(s), drive inverters and gearboxes. It’s available in a rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) configuration.
Here’s where it’s impressive. The electric motor delivers 382hp of power and 325lb-ft of torque. This takes the Model S from 0-100kmh in a cool 5.4s. The instant power delivery is simply mindblowing. But, it isn’t just zippy at the lights. When you’re done trying to unstuck your head from the headrest, it will take you up to 220km/h at the top end.
The Model S 85 is integrated with an 85kWh lithium-ion battery, hence the ‘85’ moniker in its name. This is good for a range of up to 430km. A 90kWh upgrade can increase range by up to 6%.
To charge, there’s a 10kW capable on-board charger with input compatibility of 85-265V, 45-65Hz, 1-40A. An optional 20kW capable Dual Charger increases input to 80A. A 10kW capable Universal Mobile Connector with 120V, 240V and J1772 adapter is also standard. So yes, you can plug it into a wall socket, though it will take a longer time to top up.
On the drivetrain side of things, there’s a double wishbone suspension, virtual steer axis coil spring front suspension and independent multi-link coil spring rear suspension. Nothing unusual or different from conventional cars here.
The rack-and-pinion electronic power steering has a speed sensitive, variable ratio which lightens when you’re driving at low speeds, parking; then stiffens when you’re driving quicker for more control.
In terms of active safety and handling there’s ESP (electronic stability control), TS (traction control) and ABS (anti-lock disc brakes) with ventilated rotors and electronically actuated parking brake.
Moving into the inside of the Model S, you’ll find a sleek, premium interior. Exactly what you’d expect from a luxury sedan. Seats are hand-wrapped in microfiber and synthetic leather. Front seats are heated, and are 12-way power adjustable with memory. You’ll get ample room for five adults, with 60/40 split fold-down second row seats.
In the centre, there’s a conspicuous 17-inch capacitive touchscreen (no it’s not an iPad Pro) that gives you central control over media, communications, cabin and vehicle. It’s impressively detailed, yet intuitive. You’ll love that it includes Bluetooth connectivity for your smartphone so you can talk and text in-car (look ma, no hands!) and stream your favourite music. There’s also onboard maps and navigation, with free updates for seven years.
On the subject of audio, there’s a sublime 200W seven speaker stereo system – four speakers, two tweeters and one centre channel speaker.
The three spoke, multi-function steering wheel with built-in tactile controls feels good in the hands.
Visibility all-round is great, and the cabin feels good overall.
Driving or owning a Tesla also means you’re experiencing one of the safest cars on the road. The Model S is equipped with an impressive array of safety features that will give you plenty of peace of mind.
Firstly, there are eight airbags – head, knee, pelvis airbags in the front, including two side curtain airbags.
Next, there’s a forward-looking camera, radar and 360-degree sonar sensors. You’ll get blind spot warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, parking sensors, rollover crash sensor, crash sensor for high voltage disconnect, amongst other things.
Active sensors combined with GPS and high resolution digital maps can help the Model S pilot its way on the highway, staying within the lane. Yes, even in stop and go traffic. This is part of the automatic steering with traffic aware cruise control system. Pretty nifty.
There’s side collision avoidance warning that alerts you when there are objects that get too close.
Impressively, there’s also automatic lane changing. All you need to do is tap your signal and the Model S will change lanes.
As seen on the Ford Focus, the Model S also can automatically parallel park for you on command.
Watch the official walkthrough video:
The future is now… well, almost
So you’re impressed with the Model S and you’ve taken out your cheque book. Where do you place an order for this futuristic piece of kit? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can’t even if you have deep pockets.
The Model S is claimed to cost over MYR400,000. However, it isn’t for retail sale. GreenTech is said to be bringing in 110 units of the Model S. The initial proposal was to have the EVs be made available for Government officials but apparently this plan has been scrapped.
It will be instead be made available for the corporate sector, based on a two-year leasing model.
With EVs like the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf already running (albeit in limited numbers) about currently, let’s hope we’ll see even more on the road in the near future. What’s important is that organisations like GreenTech build the ecosystem to support the electric vision. Services like COMOS and Sunway’s BRT help create awareness and visibility but undeniably there’s plenty more to be done.
The reality is a complete end-to-end infrastructure is required for mass adoption, and not just for the privileged few.