Simon Hackett's Tesla Roadster on the Global Green Challenge in Australia. (Photo via Simon Hackett)
Simon Hackett is the managing director of Australia's national broadband company Internode, but he doesn't spend all his time behind a computer. He is the proud owner of a Tesla Roadster, which he just drove 313 miles on a single charge -- at least a tentative world record.
The record was set on the Global Green Challenge, an Australian solar car race (from the Northern Territories to southernmost Adelaide) that goes back to 1987, when it was won by a General Motors/AeroVironment entry called Sunraycer. The solar car race, open to electric vehicles charged by photovoltaics, was won by a team from Tokai University in Japan. American teams from the University of Michigan and MIT did well, too, but that's another story.
The Challenge also includes a division for production cars, and that's where the Tesla was competing. Hackett points out that his drive smashes a record set last April by another Tesla Roadster, which completed the 241-mile Rallye Monte Carlo d'Energies Alternatives on just one charge (with more than 38 miles left, apparently).
From the road, Hackett and co-driver Elilis Prelgauskas sent Tesla an email: "Emilis and I have decades of experience flying gliders competitively, and we applied the same energy conservation techniques to our driving, with significant results! The car had about three miles of range left when the drive was completed. We traveled 501 kilometers [313 miles] on a single charge. Let that sink in for a minute."
On his blog, Hackett said, "We wanted to prove a point about the ability of EVs to drive truly large distances--and we have done so! This ends any contention that EVs aren't practical cars. They're more than that--they are the future of motoring."
Sealing the charge port door. (Photo courtesy Tesla Motors)
The team's secret was slow and steady--they seldom traveled more than 35 mph, though we all know the Tesla Roadster can reach 125. Don't gliders go faster than that? I'm sure this will start a run on Teslas down under.
The security of the charge was established with a seal affixed to the charge port door when the team took off from Alice Springs. It was still there when they arrived in Coober Pedy (they have crazy town names in Australia). A film crew was on hand to document everything.
Hackett emailed me at press time, to praise what Tesla has been able to do on the market--sell 900 cars so far. "Tesla have taken the 'Silicon Valley' approach with electric vehicles," he said. "They have started at the high end with a sports car, and are working 'down the stack' toward progressively more affordable and mainstream cars. For decades EV manufacturers have tried to do it the other way around and failed to get their business model to work; I believe Tesla are doing it the right way around and their success is already obvious, with external investment now flowing toward them..."
Hackett said he has already ordered a Model S sedan, and will enter it in the next Global Green Challenge two years from now. "The Tesla Model S Sedan will equal or exceed the performance of my current family 'people mover'--a Subaru Tribeca--in every axis (city driving range, space, capacity to carry people and luggage)," he said. "And it will do it at a comparable price."
The Tesla runs on lithium-ion batteries, more than 6,000 of them, and it is the first production EV to have more than 200 miles of range. The company's battery guru, JB Straubel, is amazingly confident about the future range of battery cars. In an interview I did with him for the New York Times, he said that battery tech is improving roughly eight percent a year, and energy density has doubled in the last 10 years. He predicted that a "rich improvement trend" is on the horizon in the coming decades, By 2015, he said, the cutting edge for automotive battery packs will be ranges of 350 to 370 miles.
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