Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
The problem with electric cars (alongside the cost and the awful public-charging experience), is that you can’t really claim the moral high round, either. Yes, you’re not polluting the air with nasty diesel and petrol fumes, but the electricity to power your car has to come from somewhere, and that’s largely still coal-fired power stations. Plus, it’s just your car – what about the rest of your life?
For those looking to really go the whole sustainability hog, and align their lifestyles as closely as possible to a responsible ideal largely powered by renewables, a little pocket of the Lake District may hold the answer.
Along the shores of Haweswater, right in the deep, dark heart of the Lakes, crouches a solid little warehouse, built of local slate. Inside, it has been fully renovated, in glorious industrial chic, to provide holiday accommodation for six people. The work has been thankfully sympathetic to the building’s heritage – the iron skeleton of the warehouse is still visible, but now surrounded by leather couches, bare wood, brass, glass and rugs.
Outside, winking among the waterside trees in the autumnal gloaming, sits a Tesla supercharger. The link between this Californian car company and a Cumbrian holiday let is Powerwall, which manufactures rechargeable home batteries. In the day, they store solar energy from your home’s panels, and at night heat your home. In typical fashion, the storage units dotted about the house look super cool – simple glossy white boxes with a discrete “Tesla” printed on them in contemporary script.
Typically, a home will produce more solar energy that it can use, so Powerwall stores it and feeds it into the house on demand. The result takes your house off the grid as much as possible, by generating, storing and using solar energy. When teamed up with a Tesla car and Tesla supercharger on your driveway, that solar power will feed into the car. And hey presto – you really do have the moral high ground over the vast, vast majority of electric-car owners out there, because the electric power for your car comes from the sun. If there isn’t any sun for days, Powerwall will eventually draw from the grid, but will use off-peak power as much as possible.
To see what the view’s really like from the sunny uplands of moral rectitude, my partner and I took our four boys from Kent to the little house at Haweswater in a Tesla Model X. That’s a journey of 344 miles each way. Even with the Model X fully charged before we set off, we had to charge again at Charnock Services on the M6 for half an hour. While you can’t shrink the charging time to equal that of refuelling a petrol car, the whole charging process with a Tesla is as pain-free as electric charging gets. For a start, once you programme the route, Tesla’s satnav will pinpoint all the superchargers en route. Touch one on the map, and a little box will pop up telling you how many chargers are there and how many are free at that moment. Thus we knew not to stop at Keele but carry on to Warwick services on the way home, where more were free. Thanks to Tesla’s games arcade on the huge touchscreen, the 30-minute wait is a breeze for kids – ours had just got going on a split-screen virtual race when we had to call time and continue the journey, fully charged. They also loved programming the indicator signal to Santa’s sleigh bells when their dad wasn’t looking. He loved the gag slightly less.
Once up at our sustainable waterside bolthole, one charge gave us plenty of juice for three days of pottering around Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere, munching on gingerbread, cream teas and Kendal Mint Cake, and striding up Catbells and Watendlath in cold sunshine. In the evenings, we ran hot baths, flicked through Sky on the huge TV, cooked roasts in the oven and boiled the kettle for hot chocolates, while watching the Tesla suck up juice in the mountainous darkness outside. The house was warm and snug, with no flicker of weakness in the Powerwall solar supply.
Reluctantly, we packed up and left for Kent on a stunning Sunday morning, the sheep dazzling white dots on the brackish hillside, walkers already stretching their legs on the ridge above us. That evening, back at home, we marvelled at the distance we’d traveled and the experiences we’d all had, for such a small carbon footprint. And understood, for the first time, what the awful cliche, “living your best life” might really be all about.
Erin Baker stayed at Aquila, by Unique Homestays