Last year (2019) I got the idea of hiring an electric car in to my head and started looking around for options. I spotted that EVision Electric Vehicle Hire had a collection point in Durham and started planning a weekend away involving a weekend hire and travelling by train to Durham.
When I got to the latter stages of my plans I reached out to EVision and they explained that the iPace that I had set my heart on was only available from their head office but that they had a Tesla Model S or BMW i3 available. I started considering the former.
Then a circular email drops from Enterprise Rent a Car saying that they hire Teslas and I was able to confirm that the local Livingston Branch (to which I can either walk or get a bus from my door) could hire one for the weekend. Unfortunately for EVision (who are really really helpful, respond quickly and have great communications) the prospect of picking the car up locally meant I could build a drive in to the road trip (a slight benefit for my wife) and I could save on the rail fare.
I’m just back from returning the Tesla to Enterprise Rent A Car in Livingston (March 9th, 2020) and here are my experiences (ok it was awesome but I want to ramble).
Presales and Sales Support
As I mentioned above EVision were excellent and the main reason I didn’t go ahead with them was down to location. Their head office (where the full range of vehicles is available) is in Strood, Kent which is almost but not quite the other end of the country to Scotland.
I booked the Tesla through the enterprise website and being an IT person allowed me to verify that the location, dates and type all matched. Of note was that the booking was for “Luxury Elite Electric” which was teasingly “Model S or similar”. As with most hire companies they don’t generally guarantee a specific model.
As this was my first drive of an EV (and I like planning) I started wondering about the Tesla and pinged an email asking about charging and cabling. The reply explained that the Tesla would be coming out from Edinburgh Airport and that cables would be included.
On the morning of the hire I popped up to “check a couple of details” and was delighted to see a grey model s charging outside (model confirmed!) with the mobile connector through the window. The quick glance confirmed that the standard cables were included for what was a March 2018 Model S 75D. This is basically the so-called mobile connector with it’s two plug options, a picture of which you can see on the Tesla Owner’s club knowledgebase.
The helpful chap at the hire centre confirmed that Supercharging was included and the car also had a card for ChargePlace Scotland.
As it was, in my preparation I’d signed up for a ChargePlace Scotland RFID car as it was only £20 and I was a bit excited at the prospect. As it was this was useful for later.
Having searched about and read some poor reviews about Enterprise “loaners” for Tesla Service in the US I was relieved to see the spec of the car when I picked it up. Forgive me if I get the details wrong but the salient bits where:
- Tesla Model S 75D Dual Motor Registered in March 2018 – the two times I checked the firmware it was up to date.
- Autopilot working – I had to sign an “Addendum” to do with GDPR and telematics. The team were at pains to point out that it was the car, not Enterprise that would be watching me. I didn’t turn all things on but there were a couple of moments when the car was “unhappy” and indicated this through the steering.
- LTE Maps – I think this is known as premium. Basically the routing took traffic in to account and showed busy roads in Amber or Red.
- Leather Seats – the interior was slightly quirky compared to German cars but had leather seats and bits of brown “wood”.
- Reversing Camera and Parking Sensors – these are a saviour when driving an unfamiliar, larger car.
- Mercedes Automatic Controls – when I was travelling via Heathrow Terminal 5 on a weekly basis I got to drive a lot of Avis Mercedes hire cars and the controls on the Model S were very familiar. Interestingly the wiper and cruise controls were also the same. The steering wheel adjuster is also down there on the left of the steering wheel!
- Supercharging included – now I understand one reason why Telsa have been successful. Supercharging was included in the rental and you just turn up and plug in.
What I Learned
This was my first hire of an Electric Vehicle and my first drive of an Electric Vehicle ever, so this is a mix of both sets of learnings:
- Hire cost varies by location – I’m not sure if Edinburgh Airport has a premium or Livingston has a discount but the price differential between the same hire at either location is significant. For instance, while I look at the base hire cost for a weekend in April it is coming through online at £690 vs £360.
- Telsa Navigation knows superchargers – The navigation (which appears to be based on Google Maps) will give you the option of selecting a supercharger en route if it works out that you will not reach your destination with your current rate of charge. What it doesn’t appear to do is be able to factor in that your destination will not have charging. What I ended up doing is anticipating my needs and diverting to a supercharger to prepare in advance.
- It would be great to have a Type 2 charging cable – I had a couple of fairly long conversations about this with the people at Enterprise Rent a Car Livingston (who have all been really engaged and helpful). I found a number of non-tesla destination chargers in Durham that were un-tethered i.e. a type 2 7kw charger that could have been used to add charge while shopping or out for a meal. Unfortunately Tesla only recently started providing these with their cars.
- Charging rates vary – you will see a lot of mentions of the speed of charging in modern EVs and how long it takes. For reasons I’ll admit I probably don’t understand completely, the charging rate of Rapid chargers like the Superchargers is not constant and reduces as the battery fills. At the superchargers I saw a maximum of 106 kW and a minimum of 11 kW. Things tail off as you reach full capacity so the best use of time is to only charge to “Daily” as the level said on the car I hired. Unfortunately on the 75D this meant about 180 miles range which ran a bit close for the travelling I was doing.
When I confirmed that my EV was likely to be a Tesla I took a look at the supercharger map on the tesla website. When I made the booking there were a couple of new sites scheduled in Scotland at Eurocentral and Berwick but the latter is still shown as being planned almost 6 months later.
What was reassuring was that our hotel in Durham was inbetween two Superchargers with Washington to the North and Richmond (Scotch Corner) to the South. I also discovered that Edinburgh Airport has a two space supercharger in one of the car parks near the terminal – in my previous job I travelled weekly from Edinburgh Airport and knew the car park well as the Taxis would pass it as a short cut to the drop off area.
In the end I used three Superchargers:
- Edinburgh Airport – The car when collected had about 50% charge and wouldn’t make it to Durham. Navigation on the Tesla knows this and offers Superchargers to include on the route. The nearest to my home in Livingston is Edinburgh Airport. There was a model 3 charging in one position and unusually the chargers are not at the back of the spaces i.e. you park nose in. Access via a rather narrow entrance is to buzz through and the helpful security folks will raise the barrier.
- Washington – there were 5 cars already charging when we got to Washington and the car set the charge limit to 85% saying that it was a busy station. I didn’t contradict this and popped in to the Campanile with my wife for a comfort break and a cup of tea. The service was friendly and really cheap (£2.40 for two mugs of PG Tips tea) and I have no complaints. As my first experience of a “normal” reverse in supercharger I was too far away in my first attempt (and there was a Tesla dealership guy doing something on his laptop and I didn’t want to run him over) but had no problems once I figured out how close to run the reversing camera. We ended up going back to charge up the night before we headed home and the Toby Carvery along the road was awesome. What was interesting for this was how much longer it takes to charge a battery to 100% – the charge estimator was way out.
- Scotch Corner – we visited this twice, once each on the way to York and on the way back. It was quieter each time and I carefully observed the etiquette of parking on a different unit (they are in pairs). These Superchargers are in the car park of the Holiday Inn which we stayed in a couple of years ago and is a handy location for the A1 down to York from Durham. From a tourism perspective, Richmond is well worth a visit as a lovely market town.
My wife and I have been to Durham several times to go to the local police event bikewise so when I discovered that EVision had a collection point in Durham I started planning combining this with a stay at our “usual” hotel Bannatyne – my wife really likes the Sauna that you can use as a resident.
I seemed it was meant to be when I discovered that the Bannatyne Health Club has an Instavolt charging station which with CCS would have been perfect for keeping the iPace charged.
When it turned out that I would be getting a Tesla instead I did lots of reading and discovered that CCS is an adapter and dc fast charging retrofit for the Model S. But I also discovered that Jedburgh and Consett (on our normal route to Durham from Livingston) had charging.
My plans had to ratchet down when I confirmed on the morning of the hire that the only cable the car had was the mobile connector and as a 2018 car was unlikely to have CCS support. The only other connector in the bag was for the round type of socket that I associate with building sites.
Apart from a few visits to superchargers, the only public charging point I used was in the Cannongate car park in Jedburgh. For information this is the car park beside the tourist information office and the little bus station. The charge point is on the immediate left as you turn in and has two parking spaces with a 45 minute restriction. The unit looked really new and had three connectors; CCS, Chademo and Type 2 and all tethered so I was able to use the latter and my wife and I popped up to the main street for a snack.
The unit was free with ChargePlace Scotland and I tried the card included with the hire which didn’t work. My own card (brand new and still stuck to the card!) worked immediately. It was interesting to see the different statistics to Supercharging that AC charging presents on the screen. I was a relief to see the route planner had gone from a predicted 9% battery on arrival to 22%.
Having done a bunch of research beforehand my wife indulged me a little in checking a couple of the local public charge points. We parked in the Prince Bishops multi-storey car park to go for a meal at the Fat Hippo and they have just installed several pod point chargers on Level 1. I had been hoping to try that one out had I had a Type 2 cable. I had a look to see if the Tesco Extra at Dragon Lane had charging under their charging scheme and it didn’t but was able to find a couple of pod point chargers in the car park of Lidl across the road in Damson Lane. For our trip to York we used the Poppleton Bar park and ride and there was a single charger in the actual car park. This park and ride is interesting in that there are “public” chargers in the bus lane to charge the electric buses that take you in to the city centre. Although you could probably use them for your own EV, they were in busy use when we were there with an attendant running up and down plugging the buses in.
My personal car ownership journey has been fairly conventional (and European), starting with Ford, then Vauxhall, then Audi, then a couple of Fiats (which both blew up) and back to German cars with Volkswagen were I’ve been since. As such I have a bit of an attitude towards American cars (too big, can’t go round corners) and therefore Tesla (too big, can’t go round corners). And from a gadget and environment perspective really want Volkswagen to build a golf-like car that handles and is electric and deals with my range anxiety.
The Tesla Model S was a revelation – yes it was big, but the handling was fine and reminded me a little of the Audi R8 I drove last year without the noise. I now see why the fans like them despite the eye watering cost. As with most cars, the interior fades away once you get on with things.
I’ll admit the range on the 75D had me concerned and it took a bit of management to deal with the gap between Edinburgh and Washington. The Edinburgh Supercharger is at the Airport and has only two bays so a bit tricky. The distance is 140 miles so not far off what an 80% charge gives on the 75D. I found myself spending 3 times as long and charging to 95% instead. On the way back we took a shorter but more rural (and narrower) route and charged at Jedburgh for comfort.
The hire wasn’t “cheap” at just over £400 with all the bells and whistles but for a weekend for a car of that cost was comparable with an E Class Mercedes for something with a lot more performance and technology.
Would I do it again ? Maybe – I’d really like to try the Model 3 but the Model S appears to be the only general option at Enterprise though I believe they may have some Model Y on their prestige range. The weekend price was as about as high as I would go for a discretionary spend but worked really well for my wife and I to get a full feel for Tesla. I really hope Volkswagen manage to make the ID.3 as interesting to drive as my Golf GT.