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Jarvis Smith’s Tesla road trip

Three days, three countries – and not a drop of fuel!
tesla Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

tesla5When you’re going on holiday, planes are always a temptation: they’re quick, convenient and cheaper than many forms of transport. There are also some destinations you simply can’t reach any other way.

But on top of the carbon emissions, jumping on a flight means you can end up missing out on all the breathtaking surprises hiding 35,000 feet beneath that thick layer of cloud.

If there’s any way to get where I’m going without taking to the sky, you can be sure I’ll choose it – and if the journey can be made without using a drop of fuel, it’s a no-brainer.

For me, driving a Tesla P85 from Milan to Gatwick, through Geneva and Paris, was the holiday highlight of my year.

There are a few important things to mention. I did the driving, and my beautiful fiancée and co-pilot did all the translating and speaking. Brittany Ferries played an Oscar-winning role for the Channel crossing, providing a brilliant and delightful way to travel back to Britain.

One rule only

On day one we collected the P85 from the Tesla showroom in Milan. It was, of course, a fiery Italian red – something my beloved had annoyingly guessed beforehand. I had predicted black or grey (to me all Teslas are black or grey – and usually guided by the hand of James Bond’s cooler brother).

This journey was about enjoying the sunshine, the mountains, the food, the wine and, of course, each other – with the smallest carbon footprint possible. Road trips have a tendency to serve up opportunities and surprises that can’t be squeezed into the boring and predictable journey through an airport.

Road trips allow – and invite – spontaneity; you can decide where to stop, when to stop and which snake pass mountain road to take. You can even decide which view you’d like to enjoy while you take a pee. There’s just one rule: every 270 miles we needed to be at a plug socket or charging station to recharge the Tesla’s battery and have a rest.

Teslas and Ferraris

tesla3We’d decided to drive straight from Milan to Geneva: it was a three-and-a-half-hour journey of just under 200 miles. Our destination was the Beau Rivage in Lausanne, on the edge of Lake Geneva. It’s one of the country’s finest hotels in one of the country’s fi nest settings.

There is something about the Tesla that makes me feel quietly excited. It’s a strange feeling, one that I’ve never felt from any other car. Its quietness keeps me calm, but the life force that gets you from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds (2.8 seconds if you have a ludicrous speed upgrade on the four-wheel drive P85D) creates inner excitement.

Surrounded by Ferraris in the centre of Milan, I knew this was going to be fun! We headed out of town quickly and efficiently; the satnav in this car is extremely accurate – and the huge screen means you’ll rarely miss a turn. Once we hit the highway we could see the glorious snow-capped mountains – what a treat. We glided off with huge grins in our silent electric chariot.

All aboard the car train

tesla10Never, for one minute, did I imagine having to board a car train and be taken on a 20-mile journey through – yes through – a mountain. This was becoming really magical. I couldn’t think of many new modes of transport that would help cut our energy use, but the gods had served this up and it was a wonderful experience.

We boarded with great big smiles, dipped the seats back and relaxed in the dark as we were drawn into the heart of the mountain. How does it get better than this?

After we drove off the train we had a 40-minute journey of absolutely stunning scenery before reaching the palatial Beau Rivage, a breathtaking 19th-century hotel. We pulled into the driveway about an hour before dinner, which gave us just enough time to enjoy a glass of fizz and sweet, fresh strawberries as we admired the lake and mountains from our extremely privileged vantage point.


We tried the snazziest and newest of the hotel’s restaurants, L’Accademia. It was right on the lakeside, just a short stroll through the sweet mountain air. The Italian menu featured classic dishes bursting with local ingredients; I’ll never forget the perfect al dente pasta with fresh pesto and wild garlic flowers.

Our waiter recommended a local white wine as a perfect dancing partner, and it was absolutely delicious. I couldn’t decide which dessert to have, so I opted for a café gourmand while my gorgeous wife-to-be went for the cheeseboard. The selections – in both cases – were delicious and extremely indulgent.

I’ve stayed in some pretty cool places in my time, including the grandiose and ostentatious, and if I’m honest a beach hut in Goa is where I’m happiest. But this suite was pretty special; as I watched Katie lounge on the sofa sipping the last of the champagne we both agreed we could get used to this!

Rush hour in Lausanne

An early rise to a glorious sunny day and breakfast on the famous terrace. Now, if Carling made breakfasts… We sat for hours grazing and feeding the birds, gazing out at those snow capped hills and feeling very happy indeed. We knew we had the bulk of the drive to do today, but the 336-mile journey ahead – plus the one-hour stop for a charge along the way – wasn’t enough to move us from the poolside before 5pm.

With hindsight we might have left a little earlier, but we were high from the fresh air – and still full from breakfast – so we didn’t stop to think that this could be rush hour.

We sat in traffic for nearly two hours on our way out of Lausanne, but in this Tesla nothing mattered – we just sang, danced and drove. I got to open this baby out on the wide and fast roads through France: 150mph feels like driving at 60 in my Nissan LEAF – just with blurred lines.

Driverless tech

This P85 had upgraded tech features compared with the last Tesla I drove, and scarily it nearly drives itself on the motorway. It keeps its distance from the car in front, tells you – with a modest shudder of the steering wheel – if you come out of your lane and speeds up when you indicate and overtake.

I love how cars are evolving; some say it will make us lazy and this may be true, but the new driverless technologies that will stop simple accidents from happening must be a good thing. Let’s not stop to consider computer hackers at this point, we’re having too much fun!

Just after midnight we reached our last European stop on the road: the rapid charging station at the Ibis Senlis hotel, just outside Paris. We had a decent room in an extremely convenient location, making this a perfect place to recharge (ourselves and the car!) before the final 127 miles to Le Havre the following morning.

The way to travel

The ferry crossing to Portsmouth and the last leg of the journey – from the coast to Gatwick – were both great. Alongside walking, cycling and EV driving, Brittany Ferries offers one of my favourite ways to travel. It was a smooth crossing and we had a cabin to stretch out in after we’d enjoyed a coffee on the deck.

With a feast for all the senses, this journey was what living is all about. I don’t think humans were ever meant to travel at the speeds reached in planes – why do you think we get jet lag?

Some say it’s the time difference, but I beg to differ. If energy and matter are not travelling together we get out of sync and it can take us a few days to reunite spirit with body.

If this resonates and you know what I’m talking about, the P85 is the mode of transport for you.

If it doesn’t, you might be convinced by the fact that this beast of a machine looked just as at home as those Ferraris as it wound through the streets of Milan.

Brittany Ferries

Crossing the Channel by boat is one of the most convenient ways to get to mainland Europe – and you don’t need to be driving a Tesla P85.

We took our Nissan LEAF on the Pont Aven to visit family in Névez, and have also driven a LWB VW Crafter on the Armorique in a hunt for antique Breton furniture – covering an unbelievable 700 miles on less than £80 of diesel.

Crossing prices with Brittany Ferries start at £165 for a car in August and September. Visit for the full schedule and prices.

Both the LEAF and VW Crafter were courtesy of the brilliant Greenhous Leasing group. Find out
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Click here to find out more about Tesla’s range of EVs.

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