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Tour operator reveals how the electric Tesla measures up

June 6, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

In the challenging world of off-road touring, how does the all-electric Tesla Model X compare to traditional back-country touring vehicles like the Toyota Landcruiser and the Land Rover Defender? One tour operator knows – he operates all three – and this is his verdict.

First, some perspective. New Zealand’s Nomad Safaris operates 4WD tours using a fleet of modern off-road vehicles on both half- or full-day tours. The company runs off-road 4WD adventures around the Queenstown area – everything from Lord of the Rings tours to historical gold mining tours.  Tours explore locations around the Wakatipu basin, including Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Paradise and backcountry locations such as Skippers Canyon and Macetown.

About six months ago, Nomad Safaris acquired two Tesla Model X electric cars. At last week’s CINZ MEETING in Auckland, Nomad Safaris’ managing director, David Gatward-Ferguson, was happy to chat about his new acquisitions.

“They’ve out-performed everything we have ever had,” Gatward-Ferguson said on Thursday.

In words that would be music to the ears of Tesla co-founder and chief executive Elon Musk, Gatward-Ferguson said the Tesla cars so far had proved to be good performers in every way.

They were slightly more expensive to buy than the other vehicles in the fleet (there are 23 of those) “but not a lot more expensive” and they were licensed to seat five people rather than six. But everything else was a win.

Out and about in a Tesla Model X with New Zealand’s Nomad Safaris

Clients like them because the zero emissions aspect perfectly suits New Zealand’s “100% Pure” image. The Tesla’s have “more glass in them” so give better viewing of the scenery for tour participants, Gatward-Ferguson said.

Nomad Safaris conducts only small-group tours and doesn’t use microphones, so the absence of microphones in the Tesla is an asset, not a problem. The vehicles are quiet. Not using microphones lets Nomad Safaris show clients “the beauty and magic of real New Zealand” in a personal way, so travellers feel really connected with what they experience.

Gatward-Ferguson said the Tesla was “a better, more comfortable 4WD than anything we’ve ever had”. Drive units are sealed so the cars have struck no problem with water. He said Tesla gave a warranty for eight years, unheard of in other vehicles. They are economical.

Gatward-Ferguson thinks the reliability of the Tesla may have something to do with its comparative lack of moving parts. There’s fewer things to break down. While petrol and diesel 4WDs have thousands of moving parts, Gatward-Ferguson says the Tesla has possibly less than 100. It gets rid of sometimes problematic components like gearbox and brake lines.

The amount of mechanical parts that an electric vehicle gets rid of is impressive.

Nomad Safaris managing director, David Gatward-Ferguson, holds a model of one of the Tesla Model X cars in the firm’s fleet, while a more traditional Nomad Safaris 4WD touring vehicle is visible on the desk behind him

As one mechanic put it, a typical four cylinder petrol-driven engine has “two camshafts, a crank, 16 valves, 16 lifters – or buckets/shims, 16 valve springs, 16 valve guides, 12 or more piston rings, eight main bearings, eight big-end bearings, eight gudgeon pins, four pistons, four spark plugs, either four coils or a distributor which contains regular service parts (cap, rotor) and its drive unit from the camshaft, sprockets or belt wheels, camchain or belt plus tensioner(s), eight or more camshaft bearings, four injectors, two fuel pumps, two pressure regulators”.

And so on.

Written by Peter Needham in Auckland, New Zealand

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