Erich Meyer driving his 5-month-old Tesla in Creston. Photo credit Lorne Eckersley

Tesla era arrives in the Creston Valley

Erich Meyer pulls out onto Highway 3, comes to a full stop, then presses his foot down on the accelerator. In under 4 seconds the car’s on-screen speedometer hits 100 km/hr. He eases off the pedal and signals to turn off onto a side road.

No speedometer or tach or any of the usual controls clutter the dashboard—all controls are done on a screen that looks like a large IPad. Sleek, stylish and oh-so-quiet, Meyer’s Model 3 Tesla is a perfect example that the future has arrived.

When Erich and Jessie Meyer bought their Tesla in October it was a major investment.

“When we bought the car, it cost us $69,400 before the $5000 BC incentive so it technically only cost us $64,400,” he said. “When we ordered it originally, it was $72,000 (before incentive), but two days before we took delivery of the car, the price dropped and they gave us the new price, which we were obviously excited about.”

It was a big investment for a young couple, but they made it more affordable by getting rid of the two gas-powered vehicles they owned at the time. More than anything, though, they wanted to lead by example.

“We believe in the technology,” he said.

Tesla isn’t the only electric car manufacturer, but it is far and away the leader in this technology, in large part because of the company’s obsession with making batteries that provide a sufficient driving range and power to meet consumer demands.

This particular model, with electric motors powering both the front and rear axles, offers a remarkable 500 km range on a single charge, with speed (it tops out at over 130 mph) and power to burn.

The cost to operate goes a long way to justifying the vehicle’s cost.

“We probably pay about $20-$30 more a month on our home electrical bill,” Jessie said. “We really don’t think much about going away for a weekend—it doesn’t cost much more to drive than to have it parked.”

“I’ve been following Tesla for quite a while,” Erich said. “I want to see a transition to electric vehicles as soon as possible. When it comes to climate change, we aren’t doing enough.

“Owning a Tesla shows people what electric vehicles are capable of. We wanted to put our dollars where our mouths are!”

The spacious interior is made even more roomy with the absence of the traditional drive shaft hump on the floor. The hump is eliminated by the use of two motors, which add to the vehicle’s power and also provide an unusual backup plan if one fails.

“It’s pretty unlikely for ours to break down with the two motors, but overall there are just less things to go wrong on these cars because they have so few moving parts,” Erich said. “Basically, if it (a breakdown) is software related then Tesla should be able to fix it over the air. If it is related to the battery or motor then we’d have more issues, but Tesla would send someone from Calgary to deal with it. It is cheaper for them to travel all that way to do maintenance than it is to open and employ maintenance shops all over the place because the breakdowns are less common with this drivetrain.”

So much for the worry that a break down will require a tow to a repair centre 500 kilometres away.

Tesla routinely updates the vehicle’s performance through the wifi system, and upgrades can also be added almost instantly. When the Meyers purchased their car it includse a free month of automated parallel parking (it worked perfectly), but it was a feature they could do without so opted not to pay to keep that function. If they want to opt back in the change can be made in a few minutes, without having to go to a service centre.

Meyer says that the experience of driving the Tesla in winter Kootenay weather has been only positive.

“We’ve been on a lot of snowy and icy roads (and I may have done some test drives in empty snowy parking lots!) and have been very happy with how it handles. We drove to Oliver BC and back (with no stop to recharge coming back) over the Christmas break and it did great over the mountains. The electric cars are theoretically supposed to be quicker to respond to any slippage compared to internal combustion engine vehicles because the motor is attached directly to the axle so there is less distance for the message to travel through, and the messages are all being sent electronically. I don’t think we notice a difference compared to our old all-wheel drive vehicle. This one handles extremely well in winter conditions. In the parking lot, I wasn’t able to spin any donuts as the traction control wouldn’t let me, which some people may not like, but the goal is safety!”

Erich and Jessie both said the Tesla is a conversation starter wherever they go. Erich enjoys popping the hood to reveal spacious storage where one expects to see an engine. Inside the rear trunk he points to “our only maintenance,” the windshield washer fluid cap. The battery is situated under the interior, where a driveshaft is usually found.

Travel is becoming increasingly easier, with new chargers being installed at a rapid pace. Tesla drivers charge for free at Tesla chargers (Creston has two—at the Chamber of Commerce and the other in the Cook Street parking lot) and for small fees at multi-brand chargers. The only time the Meyers have paid for a charge while travelling it cost under $1. At home, they set the timer to charge the batteries during the night, when electricity demand is at its lowest.

“We both still agree whole-heartedly that we have no regrets of buying this car whatsoever, and we’ve really only had the car for four of the worst driving months of the year,” Erich said. “We absolutely love it, would buy it again, and recommend it to anyone who can afford them at this point. We can’t see ourselves ever going back to an internal combustion engine vehicle.”

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