What kind of person really, really loves the Tesla Roadster? Not the sort of person who can afford one
Peilow normally works as a satcomms engineer, and as such is not enormously rich and cannot afford to own an £88,000 car like the Roadster Sport (an enhanced version of the normal Roadster, itself very much in the supercar price bracket). However he has been lent Roadsters by Tesla in the past for use in publicity-stunt journeys. He drove one from London to Land's End and back in 3 days last year, going so far as to install high-powered 32A power sockets at various handy locations en route beforehand and personally building an armoury of special recharging cables and power bricks ("I think I could have connected to a lamp post if necessary").
As will be apparent, the Roadster driven by Peilow is a very different vehicle from the Mini E used by Milligan. It uses a Lotus body instead of a Mini one, and the Tesla power train inside is hugely more capable. It can't offer high top speeds (the Roadster is governed to a maximum of 125mph to avoid damage to the battery) but it has neck-snapping acceleration and its powerpack will hold 56 kilowatt-hours, for a rated range of more than 200 miles from fully charged.
Cutting a somewhat shorter story short, Peilow's Tweets tell us that having set off shortly after 6am on Wednesday he reached Edinburgh just before 1am the next day, a day and change ahead of the Beeb's Milligan despite having departed a day later. The Roadster's greater range meant that Peilow was much less constrained in his choice of places to charge up, so he could take a shorter route: probably a trifle over 400 miles, judging from his description of the journey, as opposed to the 484 miles covered by Milligan.
The average speed of the Roadster over the whole journey was approximately 20 mph as compared to the Mini E's 6 mph. Road speed will have been higher, of course. By Peilow's account he stopped twice to recharge, spending 9 hours in total plugged in: he therefore averaged about 40mph on the road.
Tesla - and electro/green motoring enthusiasts all across the internet - hailed Peilow's journey as a triumph, a devastating riposte to the lying BBC and its suggestion that "mass-market" electric cars are impractical for long journeys, and probably will be for some time.
But in fact, Llewellyn's fulminating aside, the Mini E is a lot more like the type of battery car ordinary people will be able to afford than a Roadster Sport is. And even once there are charging points everywhere (which there could be soon, the government has supposedly assigned tens of millions in funding to boost EV infrastructure) there will be serious issues for people trying to make long journeys in such cars - Mini E or Roadster.
This is because e-car batteries can't be charged up at all quickly. Using a specialist 240V, 32-amp supply - representative of the sort of charging point that could be widespread very quickly, and the rating that its users' home charge points have - a Mini-E can recharge in 4½ hours. The maximum amperage it can take, according to the makers, is 48: thus the fastest it can possibly, theoretically be juiced up without damage is 3 hours. If the luckless Mini E driver is compelled to use a normal UK wall socket, it will take well in excess of 10 hours.
The story is not dissimilar with the Roadster. The quickest that its bigger battery can safely be charged is 3½ hours, using an extremely powerful 70-amp specialist charging station which Tesla will sell you for a four-figure sum and which must then be installed in your garage by a qualified electrician. Using a more normal but still high-power 32-amp outlet will be an overnight job for a full charge, and if reduced to using a conventional UK wall socket a Roadster driver will require 20 hours or more (a couple of days if it is a feeble US one).
These lengthy charge times are the great weakness of EVs. Even with 32-amp charge points everywhere, Mini-E style mass-market-ish vehicles would take at the very least 8 hours on the road to Edinburgh (8 being the fastest possible time to cover 400 miles at a not-ideal-for-the-battery steady 50 mph) and at least 13 more hours charging. A day's journey would have become at least two days' (not many would want to go for the optimum cycle of two hours driving followed by four hours charging sustained for say a day and a half) and the saving of using cheap 'leccy as opposed to heavily taxed motor fuel would be wiped out by hotel bills.