At 3:30am on 1st April 2016 I was sat up in bed, refreshing a stubbornly unresponsive web page. Five thousand miles west, it was early evening in California and still the last day of March.
Tesla had opened reservations for their new Model 3 before the launch event had kicked off. Even though no details, or even a photograph of the new car had been released, I was bashing away at my keyboard trying to put down a £1,000 deposit to reserve a place in the queue for one.
Rewind to The Noughties
To understand what brought me to this point we need to rewind a bit.
I had always treated EVs with a large serving of scepticism, I even remember having a chuckle to myself when the Nissan Leaf was launched. Who would ever drive such a thing. And anyway, surely they just moved emissions from the tailpipe to the power stations.
As a confirmed petrol head I had filled the first decade of the new millennium with a couple of Japanese rally replicas and one of BMW’s M cars. All great fun, entertaining driving with wonderfully charismatic internal combustion engines.
By 2009 youthful exuberance had given way to a search for comfort and family practicality and I spent the next five years in a German SUV. Towards the end of my time with the X5, my love for new technology had piqued my interest in the BMW i3 and so 2013 was the year I took my first test drive in a full battery EV.
While I was still very much in the sceptic phase it was definitely an eye opener, especially in the performance department. Looking back, whether I knew it consciously or not, this was the point that I stopped sniggering at EVs and realised they were the future.
By 2014 the X5 had been replaced with another large SUV, but after around a year of ownership I was feeling increasingly uneasy about the environmental impact of driving such a monster oil burner.
By 2015 everything I was reading was pointed towards an unhappy ending for diesels too. It was clear that even if a specific carbon tax wasn’t going to be introduced in the UK anytime soon, the economics were going to be painful in the future.
There was (and still is) so much FUD surrounding EVs and renewable energy and I wanted to get the truth. I can heartily recommend this book (plus this more recent one on air quality) if you want to read some facts yourself.
No Turning Back
So this brings us to early 2016, back where we came in, placing that Model 3 reservation.
While 2013 had been the year that the seed had been planted, 2016 was the year that my cognitive dissonance had well and truly worked itself through to a resolution and I began to act on my intuition.
April was the month I had put down my money on the Model 3 and I was craving some time (my first time) in a Tesla. So I booked a place for the next test drive day in Belfast that July.
Even though I knew it was going to be years before I got my Tesla all I could think of was getting the changes underway and in the autumn of that year I pulled the trigger on a 4kWp solar array at the Automated Home.
Just a few weeks later I sold the Range Rover, still getting a decent price for it (before the diesel hit the fan) as I changed to a slightly different vehicle. I leased a 24 kWh Nissan Leaf, taking a PCP deal over three years, my best guess at how long I’d have to wait for my Model 3 to arrive in the UK.
When the Leaf arrived, I think most of my friends thought I’d lost the plot. But it was an incredibly inexpensive and practical way to try out an EV.
I knew that if I could get by with a first generation EV with a real world range of 85 miles then anything in the future would be easy. People often deride the Leaf for its weird looks (myself included), but I think history will judge it as an important break-through car that helped introduce EVs to hundreds of thousands of drivers.
I started www.NIEVO.org in late 2016 with a good friend and in the spring of 2017 we both got an invite to spend a day driving Teslas, to celebrate the opening of the new Dublin Store. This turned out to be an epic day of hooning about in a P100D Ludicrous Model X and a 90D Model S. Unsurprisingly this did little to quell the Tesla lust.
By January 2018 it was clear that diesel sales were in big trouble having dropped by almost a fifth. On the last day of February of 2018 Tesla launched the $35,000 version of the Model 3, just a month shy of the 3 year anniversary of the cars announcement.
On the Tesla website the delivery estimate for UK orders remained stubbornly as ‘Early 2019’ even though Musk had said that RHD production would be mid ’19.
But then things suddenly started moving in late spring of this year. Orders went live in the UK on the 1st of May 2019 at around 7:00am and by 7:25am my order was in.
I had invoice number 117 out of around 4,500 orders in the first 30 days and the configurator suggested June as the delivery date which turned out to be right, just 🙂
UK reservation holders have had one of the longest waits for their Model 3’s. However the delay in right-hand-drive cars, while painful, has also been beneficial. Tesla have ironed out most of the build quality issues in these cars as well as giving them different seats and suspension.
In addition there’s been a raft of new features and improvements with over the air software updates including sentry mode, dog mode, better braking performance and even a power increase.
A reduced feature set of Autopilot has now become standard too while the more advanced features have been moved to the Full Self Driving (FSD) package.
So then, what originally began as casual distain for EVs, developed into curiosity and eventually morphed into a bit of an obsession.
I’ve never really mentioned having a reservation for all these years, not wanting to count my chickens or jinx the dream. But today after 3 years, 2 months and 28 days of waiting I have arrived at the Edinburgh service centre to finally collected my Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus.
While I’ve been a full-time BEV driver since 2016, the Model 3 is quite a different vehicle to my Leaf and I’ll be reviewing the car over the coming months.
My trip from Belfast to Edinburgh today marks the completion of my journey from Petrol Head to full EV Evangelist.
It seems such a shame to go straight home when you’re sat in your new electric weapon with some of the UK’s most celebrated tarmac just a few hours to the north. So as we leave the Tesla Service Centre we are heading the long way to the ferry, on a 5 day road trip via some of Scotland’s most epic roads.
The Atmosphere is Electric.
Use my referral code to buy a Tesla and we both receive 1,000 free Supercharger miles.