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New electric car and the slow boat from China

The cat is out of the bag: Mike's Jaguar I-Pace makes way for cultish "Designed in California, Made in China" touch of technological wizardry

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The Macfilos Model 3: Blue with white interior. The dechrome, noticed partiuclarly in the window surrounds and on the door handles, is now standard for 2021 models. The white "vegan leather" interior is both woke and rather luxurious in appearance. Those Aero wheels look odd, but they have plastic covers to improve the aerodynamics and improve range; they can be taken off to reveal normal-looking alloys.

When we published the one-year review of the impressive Jaguar I-Pace on January 15, the car in question was no longer in residence. It had been sold the week before. But I did hint in the article’s conclusion that I was ready for a change and a new challenge.

Since then, I have made it clear that I was not about to abandon electric traction. I am totally sold on battery electric vehicles (BEVs), not primarily for environmental reasons but because they are fun to drive. It’s probably a mistake to market electric cars on their woke credentials; it’s like telling people apples are good for health instead of stressing the enjoyment that comes from eating them.

I hinted that my next electric car would not be made in the USA, Europe, or the UK. My thoughts were turning east. This was a little disingenuous and somewhat misleading. My new car, my computer on wheels, is just like an Apple device: Designed in California, Made in China.

The Macfilos Model 3: Blue with white interior. The dechrome, noticed partiuclarly in the window surrounds and on the door handles, is now standard for 2021 models. The white "vegan leather" interior is both woke and rather luxurious in appearance. Those Aero wheels look odd, but they have plastic covers to improve the aerodynamics and improve range; they can be taken off to reveal normal-looking alloys.
The Macfilos Model 3: Blue with white interior. The dechrome noticed particularly in the window surrounds and on the door handles, is now standard for 2021 models. The white “vegan leather” interior is both woke and rather luxurious in appearance. I’ll accept luxury. Those Aero wheels look odd, but they have plastic covers to improve the aerodynamics and improve range; they can be taken off to reveal normal-looking alloys.

First from China

You’ve guessed it, a Tesla. Interestingly, though, the Model 3 Long Range, finished in blue with a white interior, happens to be part of the first batch of cars to arrive in the UK from the Shanghai factory.

At the end of last year, Tesla closed down the right-hand-drive production line in Fremont and designated Shanghai as the source of all right-hand-drive models. Shanghai is pretty well situated for Australia, New Zealand and the other South-East Asian countries which drive on the left (including Hong Kong). Slightly less so for European left-paws, but it probably makes sense to concentrate production in one place.

The United Kingdom will henceforth get Model 3 and Model Y cars from China. I’m not sure about S and X models, but they could follow. It is also likely that, while most of Europe will draw on the new Berlin factory, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus will most likely be supplied from Shanghai.

Before I decided to go for the Jaguar I-Pace, I ordered and then cancelled the Tesla Model 3 twice. I was in a quandary, mainly because I felt I wouldn’t like the one-screen-fits-all control system. I didn’t doubt the rest of the car. After a couple of test drives, I was sold on the handling of the Model 3, however. It is right up there with cars such as the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4. And the minimalist interior is actually very inviting.

Hankering

I chose the Jaguar at the time because it had a more familiar control set. This turned out to be a mistake, and throughout the year I continued to hanker for a Tesla. Every time I stopped to charge the I-Pace, I cast envious glances at the unrivalled Tesla Supercharger park. I came to realise that ease of charging is of paramount importance to the BEV owner. Tesla got it right: Build the charging infrastructure to sell the cars. Other manufacturers are doing it back to front, and they are suffering as a result.

This is what I've ordered. There was much hand-wringing over the colour. Standard white is free, but I decided to pay a little more for the blue. I was strongly tempted to red but eventually decided that it could draw unwelcome attention in car parks and on the road. Better to blend in and be unobtrusive...
This is what I’ve ordered. There was much hand-wringing over the colour. Standard white is free, but I decided to pay a little more for the blue. I was strongly tempted to red but eventually decided that it could draw unwelcome attention in car parks and on the road. Better to blend in and be unobtrusive…

All this apart, why did I choose a Tesla because, as a brand, it is not without its problems and certainly not lacking in critics? We have all heard stories of indifferent panel fit, allegedly poor paint finishes and so forth. Yet the Model 3 is the world’s most popular electric car and owners are messianic in their praise. Even those who have had quality issues are still convinced that this is the best car they have owned and would buy again. A recent survey disclosed that Tesla leads the way in brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Much of this support is down to Tesla’s unique approach to technology. I am increasingly convinced that technology holds the key to the future of the car industry. Tesla, just like Apple, has had the guts to take a radical approach to car control. The single-screen of the Model 3 is there not only for the economy in production, which is valid, but for the practicality of versatility.

Updating the driving experience of a more traditional vehicle (as I found with the Jaguar) is not always possible. With its almost monthly over-the-air automatic software updates, the Tesla approach ensures that drivers of older vehicles can easily access the latest systems and enjoy a similar experience to the new model owner.

Community

It’s the technology and Tesla’s Apple-like approach that turned me into a customer. I feel that I am joining a community. Just check YouTube, for instance, and the number of hands-on reviews of Teslas far exceeds the attention given to other BEV brands. It’s comparable with Apple versus the rest. I am now a convert, and you know what they say about converts.

The lack of physical controls and the dominance of the 15in tablet is such a radical departure from normal practice that you either love it or hate it. For me, the jury's out but I believe I will come to love it...
The lack of physical controls and the dominance of the 15in tablet is such a radical departure from normal practice that you either love it or hate it. For me, the jury’s out but I believe I will come to love it…

I will collect my new Model 3 on March 1. It’s already in the country, but there’s no point in putting it on the road in February when it would get the old “20” plate because of the UK’s rather ridiculous registration system. Instead, all cars that might have been sold in January and February are standing in line to hit the new “21” plate from March 1. It’s silly, but it’s something we have to live with. The year designation changes every six months and creates irrational blips in the market. It should be scrapped, but the motor trade seems to like it and will lobby for its retention.

Incidentally, apologies if you are not interested in cars. They are one of my little passions, alongside cameras and Leica. So I hope you don’t mind the occasional update on battery electric vehicles. It might encourage you to think about your next car.

So far, my contact with Tesla has been exemplary. The online ordering process is a breeze. And whenever I have needed to call for updates, the phone has been picked up immediately. Enthusiastic, helpful and knowledgeable people answer. Again, just like Apple. In March, I will recount the delivery procedure; because of Covid, it is a low-contact operation which, I suspect, is simply a matter of picking up the keys and driving away.

In the meantime, if you are thinking of buying any model of Tesla, don’t forget to use someone’s referral code at the point of order. You will get 1,000 free Supercharger miles to give you an initial boost. If you fancy giving a little support to Macfilos, by all means, use our referral code since it’s as good as any. Just quote the following when ordering and 1,000 miles will be credited to your account:

https://ts.la/michael12301


15 COMMENTS

  1. Mike: I hope you enjoy the car. I have had a Model 3 (also blue) for about a year and a half, and I love it. I traded in a Volvo wagon to get it, so as you can imagine, the acceleration and performance are a big improvement. It took a while to get used to not having the speedometer and other controls right in front of me, but now I appreciate the simplicity of the interior. One thing I found interesting when I was buying the car is how the colors are priced here in the States. The basic model is white; to get black you pay $750 more, for blue or grey you pay $1000 more, and for red you pay $2000 more. Does it work that way in England? I have never experienced that with any other car. I wonder if there is a logical explanation for it.

    • I hope to be impressed. I’m sure I’ll enjoy driving it. When I did the second test drive I managed to get out of West London and found it feels like a go-kart, especially with the absence of a binnacle.

      The colours are the same here, but more expensive. White is now the “free” colour. Black, midnight silver and blue are £1,000 extra and red is £2,000 extra. I remember that last year the free colour was black and there was a £1,000 charge for white. It all seems very arbitrary and I’m not sure there’s any real cost difference to Tesla. Except, I suppose, the “free” colour is going to be the most popular, so cheaper overall to schedule. However, the only metallic paints are blue and midnight silver. Black is solid, while white and red are termed “multi-coat” whatever that means. However, white is what most people go for because it is nice and it is free (at the moment).

    • Glad to find you are interested. I will certainly do updates. In fact, having something to write about was one of the motivations. There is so much hype associated with Tesla that it’s important to ask if it’s all justified. It’s a different class of car to the Jaguar (and much cheaper) so I’m not comparing apples with apples. I’m looking forward to getting to know the car and to so some long road trips (Covid permitting). I certainly have more confidence in driving to, say, Berlin than I ever did with the Jaguar.

  2. Hope you like it Mike. I have to admit, when I test drove one and sat in a few, I was not overly impressed. Quality control seems very hit and miss on the few I have looked at at the dealership and of friends at work. I know you had the Jaguar, and I loved that. Felt worth the money. I almost got one right before covid hit but have since held off which was a good idea since I have not driven anywhere in the last year!

    • I am not expecting the detail of this car to be up to Jaguar or Audi standards and I hope I am not disappointed. I’m motivated by the desire for change, to try out the Tesla ecosystem and see if I like it. Belonging, as I feel I belong to the Apple world, is an important consideration which I want to experience. I will be objective in my assessments and, if I decide I’ve made a mistake I will say so and move on to something else. I have friends in Washington DC who own an I-Pace and wouldn’t even consider a Tesla. They think I am quite mad!

    • I think I’d be a sucker for a Leicamobile except for the manual gearbox and split-image autopilot. But then I’d be a sucker for an Apple car as well…

  3. I have an Audi diesel estate that is almost 5 years old and has just over 20,000 Kms on the clock. I suspect it should be good for another 80,000 Kms. I won’t change until there is a clear direction in the market and governments display some kind of clear thinking and leadership. That 1,000 free supercharger miles offer sounds ominous. Will such vehicles go the way of electronic goods where they sucker you in and make their real profit on the upside charges for software, cloud space, charging, recurring license fees etc. I can see some young recently graduated college types sitting around a table in California thinking up ideas about how to make Mr Musk even richer and to earn their first step up the corporate ladder.

    Good luck with the car, Mike. I admire your fortitude as an early adopter.

    William

    • Thanks for your good wishes, William. I have a list of around five cars I’ve owned in the past six or seven years that would have been perfectly happy to carry me through to the last post. For instance, I had a wonderful Porsche 911 in 2013 which I foolishly sold. It would still have been going strong and would have cost me relatively little in depreciation, considering the amount I sold it for. But this is beside the point. I need a bit of variety and I’m on the hobby horse of a new (to me) car every year until I can no longer drive. I don’t normally buy new cars, but the Tesla is an exception.

      Subscriptions for services are already here, not just from Tesla but also (for instance) from Porsche. Buy a base Taycan and you can subscribe for features such as lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The features are built into the car, you just have to pay to activate them. Tesla’s base Model 3 comes without heated rear seats (that’s real hardship, of course). But pay them an extra £300 after taking delivery and the heating elements (which were there all the time) are miraculously enabled by software update. I am afraid all car manufacturers are going down this route, so you are probably wise to keep your Audi…

      It remains to be seen whether I will get bored with the Model 3 in twelve months. I suspect the monthly software updates with the latest driving features may keep me entertained for longer. The other question is whether, after the Model 3, I would go back to another EV manufacturer or just stick with Tesla. Mr Musk’s creation and eco-system has much of Apple’s appeal and I’ve been loyal to Apple for 16 years now.

  4. I will watch this one with interest.

    If it helps I keep mentioning in places that I can reach, that we need a decent charging infrastructure, if we are to convince the masses to adopt leccy cars.

    • Thanks, Dave. Someone needs to realise that it’s not enough to have thousands of slow chargers. What we need is fast 100+ kWH chargers along main routes. And we need to stop Ecotricity’s neglected monopoly of motorway service areas. It is nothing short of a scandal.

      • Yep I am with you, I am trying to feed in to the right people, how we need to invest in charging infrastructure, and how it is critical to our greener lower carbon future.

        One can only see what arrives after this.

        I am having interesting fun with my M1 macbook air, I have found my first application that doesn’t perform under rosetta 2 conditions as expected. I have a work around, but boy it is painful, and has now introduced a three staged process to every image i do.

  5. Congratulations! I think in Britain Tesla is a smart buy and you should get lots of enjoyment out of driving it and a sense of smug satisfaction when you check your credit card bills at the end of the month. I can’t remember whether you already have a Tier 2 charger at home or whether you rely on Tesla’s network. I guess it’s a bit like having your coffee at Starbucks rather than making it at home.

    I still wish the range of BEV’s could be 300 miles in weather like the Midwest in winter (a couple of days ago it was a solid -15C without windchill. So journeys need heat seaters, steering wheel heaters, windscreen heaters, headlights on in snowstorms, etc. If you have that lot on and you’re driving at “normal” interstate speed of up to 75mph (on winter tyres) I suspect you quickly burn through your claimed range.

    You also tend to need a vehicle with increased ground clearance (or air suspension) – again 4-6″ snow on unploughed roads will cause normal saloons to struggle with ridges of packed snow. If Tesla want to produce a Q5/X3/GLC/XC60 sized vehicle with a guaranteed range of 300 miles in cold weather I would jump at it.

    • Thanks for the good wishes. I do have a 7.5 kWh charger at home, so most of my charging will be done at the night rate of 5p per kWh. None of your reservations in connection with climate are relevant here, as you know, and southern England is probably ideal for a BEV. Never too hot, nor too cold.

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