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Roadtrip Tilburg-Monaco, February 2014

Hello there,
After we picked up a Tesla S from Tilburg and drove it down to Monaco we decided to write "a few" sentences about it and to share it with you. It's quite detailed, but I hope it's also full of relevant information or at least interesting and/or entertaining :wink: Any inputs, ideas of how you would have done it etc. is welcome of course.
Enjoy reading:

2014 started promising. Right at the beginning of January the delivery of the Tesla Model S was confirmed for February. What sounds like a quick delivery was the result of a long wait: The order process started on 19 June 2013, then it took around two weeks to confirm car colour and all other extras.

Soon we were promised a delivery time frame. The car should arrive in Europe by 19 November 2013. It turned out to be a desired date only. In October the delivery date was moved back to 25 November, then to 2014.

However, there was another challenge coming up. Initially the final destination of the car – Monaco – had not caused any additional challenges. Then the Tesla situation in Monaco obviously changed. There was no more show room hence no more Tesla branch and most probably this was the reason that the delivery to domicile was no longer possible. There were two solutions: A delivery from Tilburg to Monaco by a third party supplier (costs including insurance approximately 3.000 EUR) or personal pick-up from Tilburg and driving down to Monaco.

The idea of the road trip was born.

Six working days before the trip we still had to solve a different issue. Originally Tesla made us sign a warrant for a company that was supposed to organize customs plates. They are valid for ten days and enable a “legal drive”. The major advantage is that with such a registration you are not listed as a second owner after arriving in your country. The already mentioned six days before the trip Tesla told us that another Tesla driver was stopped by the police and they then found out that the governments do not accept those particular temporary plates. To cut a long story short: We managed to organize new Monaco plates in the quickest possible registration process. It was aggravating and involved a lot of praying – but we made it.

As simple as it may sound to just drive the car from Tilburg to Monaco, we can now assure you: It isn’t. At least not at the moment. People might be laughing when reading this in a few years time or even earlier, but more details on this later on.

As far as the route is concerned, we decided to drive from Tilburg – Brussels – Lyon (via Luxembourg) to Monaco, whereas Brussels and Lyon represented two overnight stops. All in all the distance between Tilburg and Monaco is around 1.340 kilometres, not taking indirections due to charging stations along the road into consideration.
The roads through Germany might have been more efficient because of the supercharger situation. However, we wanted to get to know the French network well and even after Germany there would have still been a long route to go without superchargers.

Probably the most valuable sources of information to prepare the trip were online forums. People willing to share knowledge and experiences have helped us to find out about some very important tasks beforehand:

- Additionally get a type 2 cable. It is a very common plug for fast charging throughout Europe.
- Additionally get a type 3c cable when travelling through France. Many of the charging stations only had a type 3c (not a type 2) socket.
- Check which charging stations you want to use before the trip and if any access cards are needed.

The next step involved the website chargemap.com to plan the trip in detail. We followed the rule not to plan any segment longer than 250/280 kilometres. This gives a more secure feeling as you can never know if a charger really works, if the power reduces quicker than expected or if there was a long waiting queue with other users. The latter, by the way, never happened which might have been due to the times during the day (always mornings or afternoons on normal working days).

We noted down 19 charging stations along the whole route which is a lot and although you know you will only be using a very few of them, it is always good to have a plan B and C. We even called all 19 of them to go sure they are all up and running. Anyone can modify information on chargemap.com and this was the only way to ensure the information was correct. I can now confirm that indeed all details were accurate (at least for the six charging points we used).

As you can see it was not just simply ordering the car, waiting for it to arrive and picking it up. It involved quite a bit of work beforehand. Nevertheless, the day should come when all of this would become secondary:

We had our meeting point arranged at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. It was a Monday afternoon and the weather as well as aviation conditions were ideal. No strikes, no rain. The flight from Nice even arrived around 25 minutes in advance and the one from Vienna was on time. We met at 14:35 and had plenty of time to reach the train at 14:47. Trains depart directly below Schiphol allowing a quick access. In order to reach Tilburg you need to change trains at least once. In our case we only needed to change in Hertogenbosch. There was a small delay and if I tell you we had 45 seconds to change connections, it is certainly no exaggeration. Again, we made it. The remaining drive was around 15 minutes (the whole train trip took around 1:30h). First Class tickets enabled us to use the slowest internet connection in a long time. In return we had a whole carriage almost for our own.

We arrived in Tilburg a few minutes earlier than expected. If we had known that there was only one cab waiting at the taxi rank we wouldn’t have filmed the train station from different angles. Still it all went well and our taxi ride took around 15 minutes.

You could immediately see that the Tesla area was huge. I thought the area in Vienna was extensive, but Tilburg was easily ten times bigger. Not surprisingly really, considering that all cars ordered in Europe have to go through this location as we were told later on. Cars are shipped from the States in three parts and assembled in Tilburg. Why? Tax advantages because of spare part deliveries.

Michael van Esch, our Delivery Specialist, greeted us. Tesla has grown fast and there is bound to be difficulties at some stage of the order or delivery. Employees like Michael, however, know how to make you feel that everything will go smooth in one way or another. He has to be thanked for his time and efforts.
The car was already nicely positioned right after the reception with a plate next to it mentioning the lucky owner’s name. It looked good – very good! We did not expect to spend a lot of time there, but it took around two hours to go through explanations about the car including a short, guided tour through Tesla’s halls. It was all very interesting, but the anticipation to finally start the trip was huge. That’s why two hours felt like quite a long time.

Curiously, one of the specialists who mounted the car plates has never seen smaller plates than the Monaco ones. Monaco laws require installing the plates directly on the car. So the front plate was mounted with rivets that came together with the plates in Monaco. For the rear plate they used a double-sided tape. This way you can always remove it without leaving any damage to the car.

The car’s configuration is fantastic. Performance Plus Package, Tech Package, Cold Weather package, Sound Studio package, Twin Chargers and wonderful 21 inch Silver Performance Plus Wheels. For the trip they installed a winter tire set of Pirellis (19 inch; also looked very good on the car).

During the planning process of the trip many times you say to yourself “Don’t drive too fast”, “Don’t accelerate too much”, “Do everything to save battery”. These are the few thoughts you will forget as soon as you finally go on to the roads. We were stunned by the power of the car. A moment of force of roughly 650Nm takes care you will be pressed back into the seat deeply; reaching a speed of 100 km/h is not hard work at all.

When you pick up the car you will realize that it is not charged 100%. Michael recommended us to make a first stop at the Tesla supercharger in Tilburg, which we did. There were a few other Tesla cars as well. The last ones we have seen during the whole trip. What is great with these places is the fact you have something special in common with the others and of course this gives the chance to chitchat. It took less than a minute after our arrival that another Tesla owner came over to talk about the car and the exotic Monaco plates.

We spent around half an hour at the supercharger station (or rather at the McDonald’s next to it). The charging process slows down significantly during the last 10% of the battery charge, so the car was not fully charged, but certainly over 90%.

It was dark already with good road conditions all way through. The huge display in the middle required some modification. It was very bright and distracted from driving.
We passed by Antwerp towards Ikea Zaventem which is right next to Brussels. It was our first planned stop to charge batteries. We did not consider it as really necessary as the hotel reserved a parking spot close to one of their electrical outlets, but we wanted to try it. We knew already before the trip that we would not be there during their opening hours, so we contacted them a week prior ensuring the security staff at Ikea can hand over the necessary access card for charging. There would also have been a possibility to send a text message to “4242” to start the charging. This, however, would have only worked with a Belgian phone number.

It took some time to find the actual charging spot. Then we had to figure out how to best charge the car. It was the first time one of our cables became useful. It was a type 2 socket (11kw – very slow indeed).
The remaining possible kilometres to drive displayed on the screen were at around 180. Be aware that there is a difference between the “typical” versus the “rated” range. The latter represents an ideal range. We never used this one, as it does not reflect various driving conditions (wind, ups and downs etc.).

The remaining charging time was more than four hours. We charged 15 minutes only, knowing that we have the hotel option ahead of us and a faster charger in the south of Brussels for the next morning. So we were happy with our first charging test, put the cable back into the boot and headed to the city centre. We parked the car at the Stanhope parking garage and one of the valets made everything ready for charging. Finally “starting to charge” was written on the display and off we were to check in at the hotel and have some rest.

The next day we met in the lobby at 8am, checked out and then found out that the car has not charged one additional kilometre over night. At this moment we probably did not want to realize how much time this would make us lose over the whole day, if not the whole trip. We were not happy about it all. There could have only been two reasons for this: The socket was combined with the lighting or any other switch in the parking garage, or very simple: They turned off the power. No other reason is possible as with every other plug it has always worked.

Anyways – problems are here to be solved. So we continued driving to Hoeilaart, south of Brussels. At Gementeeplein 22 Bluecorner installed charging facilities. With great foresight we have organized a Bluecorner access card enabling us to use this facility (type 2, 22kw). Very unfortunately Tesla limited the charging maximum to 26A, even though much more (at least 32A) would be possible. It may not sound a lot more, but you could easily gain one hour waiting time, if not more.

We decided that we would only charge up to around 280km ensuring we would arrive at the Auchan store close to Metz in France. In Hoeilaart we also realized that we forgot a camera at the hotel. It would not have been wise to go back to the city centre considering the loss of time and energy. Therefore we organized a taxi to bring it to us (56 EUR, but it was worth it).
At least we were not in a hurry and could wait for it. The camera arrived around half an hour after calling the hotel. Meanwhile we had breakfast at a pub called “Sportecho” and watched people drinking beers and schnapps in the morning hours. We were glad to finally leave in the early afternoon.

After Brussels we realized that there was no proper connection to the car’s mobile network, because we were not able to retrieve Google maps on the screen. Only later we realized that you could reset the system by pressing and holding both scroll buttons on the steering wheel for around ten seconds. The system reset and you would have access to the 3G network again making the download of the map possible again.

We arrived at the Auchan store in northern part of Metz (Semécourt) in the afternoon. Our average speed must have been between 95 and 100 km/h. We wanted to keep the battery usage as low as possible.
The charger (22kw), which is located directly opposite to a restaurant called “Le Flunch”, worked perfectly fine. For the first time we used the type 3c cable. There was only one spot with a 3c socket.
We spent around 4:30h at this station charging at 26A hence 84km per hour. Our goal was to fully charge the car so we could spend less time in Dijon which was the next charging target. Time flew as work could be done in the meantime. We had many conversations with Tesla technical support, amongst others to finally activate the app. The Tesla S app is quite useful. Very useful is the possibility to see the charging status from anywhere through your phone. We tried many different things and could only make it work the next day. We strongly believe that the malfunction was due to the missing 3G connection.

“Le Flunch” was our office during that time. We had an ideal spot where we could see the car, had immediate access to a buffet and internet. There was not much more we could ask for.

Next stop: Dijon. We arrived at our next charging station at around 9pm after 280km and an approximate three-hour drive. Our target was a charging socket at the Toison d’Or, a large store in the northern part of Dijon. In the parking area we found the facilities as expected (24kw, type 3c). We were glad that we arrived before 10pm. Shops close at 8pm already, however restaurants are open until 10pm. We took advantage from a pizzeria that was located somewhere in the middle of this huge and very modern store.

From today’s perspective we could have made the second overnight stop already in Dijon. Leaving the car overnight at this parking garage would not have been a problem and the batteries would have certainly been fully charged the next morning. We could have taken a cab into city and enjoyed French wine and Dijon mustard. But we are hard workers so we continued the trip! The car was charged to a “typical” range of around 190km at around 10:30pm.

The challenge now was to make it to Lyon (approximately 200km) and it really was the first stage of the trip where we would watch the remaining driving range in a very frequent interval. By the time we reached Lyon it was around 1am, but due to the very low battery level we felt an adrenalin rush and were as awake as you would be after a cold shower in the morning hours. Once, already in Lyon, we missed an exit forcing us to drive an extra few kilometres. It really felt very close to having to push the car.
Generally Lyon is not a good city to charge an electric car. The best spot shown on chargemap.com is a private one which you cannot use (Port du Lyon – I was told so over the phone). The Sofitel (where we charged our human batteries) would have been helpful. Like at the Stanhope in Brussels they reserved a parking spot next to a socket. Probably because of our bad experience in Brussels but also due to the fact that one of the chargers we found on chargemap.com was double as fast as a normal household socket (3 versus 7kw – still slow) we decided to go to Auchan Saint-Priest, in the south of Lyon. The plan was to leave the car there over night, get a taxi to the hotel in the city and reach a sufficient level of kilometres to reach Avignon the next day.
Yes – there are certainly better ways to do this considering that the place there doesn’t seem to be totally safe (it is located in an area with big shopping malls around, hence very lively during the day and like a ghost town during night).

As the display already showed “Charge now” we didn’t want to waste a lot of time and just went there directly. Fortunately we found the charging station quickly. There was one 3c socket all alone and ready for us.
We ordered a taxi through the hotel. At around 2:30am we could finally call it the day.

8:30am was a very early time to get up considering the challenges of the day before. We woke up in the second biggest city of France – a city that is well known as the capital of gastronomy and lights. Due to the very short stay we can unfortunately only confirm the latter. Both of us well-travelled individuals have never seen so many traffic lights on the streets from and to Saint-Priest. It took us around 20/25 minutes to get back to the car by cab. After leaving the car around eight hours in the suburbs of Lyon we were happy to see that it was in the same condition as we left it and that the battery level was perfectly fine to reach our next target:

With a range of around 250km and an actual distance of approximately 220km we could finally take it easy. Still we kept the average speed at around 100km/h. We were tired but happy that the charging process went well and that the final stages of the trip were right in front of us.
The charger at Ikea Vedène is well located right next to the entrance. Once again we had no problem at all to obtain a spot for charging. The charging socket was as good as it can be if it is no supercharger (type 2, 43kw, cable is already attached). During the planning process of the trip the idea was to fully charge the car here. However, on this last day we just wanted to reach enough kilometres to be able to drive to Monaco. Monaco was another 280km to go, so after three and a half hours, some Köttbullar, salmon and working we got back to the car. On that day the Tesla S app worked after we reset the system so we could easily check the status from the Ikea restaurant.

The range was at around 300km before we left. There were around 20km room to the actual distance, so initially we thought: Nice, no worries today! Roads and landscape became nicer and nicer after we passed Aix-en-Provence. You could feel warmer temperatures (around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius) and it didn’t feel to be problematic to drive at around 130km/h. Only much later, after Nice, we started observing the ups and downs of the roads again. If ever you plan a road trip as long as this one, take the altitude differences into consideration. It is one additional important factor to weather, speed, distances etc.
Nice to Monaco was a very well known route to the driver. Nevertheless you only really realize the ups and downs when running out of petrol or in this case battery energy. Around 15km before reaching Monaco the range was down to 1km and as we haven’t expected it in Avignon, once again we saw “Charge now” on the display. Lyon was nothing compared to the situation at that moment. We saw the warning still on the motorway quite a few kilometres before the final destination. The good thing that saved us from the worst: As soon as you exit the motorway you always drive downhill which gives the car’s batteries the chance to charge themselves. After some distance the range went back to 5km and we knew: We will make it! And we did.

Monaco can claim it has seen any car – no matter how expensive or exotic. The Tesla S, however, seemed to be too exotic even for a place like this. People looked at it – some had obviously never seen it and some were very curious, approached us and asked questions.
A country that showcases Ferraris, Rolls Royces and the like to an extent you’d expect VWs to drive around in other cities appreciates ecological cars more than one might expect. Environmental friendly cars registered in Monaco park for free, owners do not need to pay for the regular vehicle inspections stamp and receive financial subventions.

It was confirmed by different sources that this particular Tesla S was the very first one in Monaco. The owner is a pioneer. Let’s see how things change in the next year and how much we will really laugh about the obstacles we had to go through during this 1.340km road trip. Generally I would say that such a long trip is not very common. How often do you really need to drive distances of 300km or more? Nevertheless things are improving and you can observe that when looking at the expansion of the Tesla supercharger network in Europe. As far as Monaco is concerned, the battery charging situation is indeed not too bad. In Monaco alone you currently find 22 options on chargemap.com, out of which two are fast chargers (type 2, 43kw). Considering its size, this is quite remarkable. By the way, we tested both of the fast chargers and they worked very well.

I would like to add one final note to Tesla’s technical service. Their consultation reflects the service of a restaurant that opened a day ago: There is still a whole lot to learn. Different requests could not be answered correctly or immediately.
Three examples: Remember the lost access to the 3G network hence no map on the screen? The solution to this (à resetting the system) was answered after talking to three agents. The same counted for the Tesla S app. I did not count how many times I needed to request a solution to this particular issue (à resetting the system, once again). Finally we were told over the phone that nothing in the system needed to be adjusted before a car tyre change except resetting the TPMS sensors. Michael van Esch explained something different, but we couldn’t remember what exactly and called the support team for help. Thank god we figured it out ourselves in the end: Model S is equipped with Smart Air Suspension. Active Air Suspension causes the car to self-level, even when powered off. Therefore when lifting or towing you must disable self-levelling (à Jack Mode – see your manual for details).
The new 21-inch tyres were mounted in Monaco and I am glad Jack Mode got back in mind right on time.

Current electric car prices, driving ranges, charging speeds and accessibilities are probably the main challenges to find further buyers at the moment. A lot is going to happen though in the near and certainly far future making electric power more and more attractive. People’s mindset will develop and awareness will grow. The Tesla success story has just started. And if you get the chance to drive it you will certainly understand why.
Thanks millemiglia for the story. I did something similar a couple of months back to collect my used i-Miev… tho not as long - a mere 200m - but… it has only got a 60 mile range at motorway speeds! Your endeavours made me look at the comparative numbers of ChaDeMo chargers in France Vs UK. Your chargemap.com website is a bit out of date as far as the UK is concerned. A better one for the UK is openchargemap.com (I see it has quite a good coverage of much of the EU too - you might like to do a comparison).

According to OCM, we have FOUR TIMES as many ChaDeMo chargers than France - but ours are almost all provided by an electricity supply company called Ecotricity ("turning electricity bills into windmills"). Unhappily, there is only one charger at each location and little incentive to keep them working, particularly so as they are free to use. So on my 200 mile trip I had to queue twice and found 2 of the 6 ChaDeMo chargers not working.

It will be interesting to see how the CCS fast-chargers grow in number - I don't think there are any here yet! MW

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