ELECTRIC vehicles may be the future yet they are still surrounded by mystery – but the New Forest has top myth-buster in New Milton-based Tesla specialist Richard Symons.
The businessman is probably the country’s top expert in Teslas in particular and electric cars in general. And he wants to share his knowledge and enthusiasm.
When used model prices start at £40,000 for a five-year-old car, you know that you are in a premium market. Yet the picture becomes appropriately more sustainable and affordable when you combine very low running costs with equally low depreciation and zero emissions.
It is just a couple of months since R Symons electric vehicle specialists opened in a freshly businesslike and unassuming refurbished centre at 10 Queensway on New Milton’s Stem Lane industrial estate after moving from Bournemouth where it started in 2015.
No flash showroom – the cars are the stars with a couple on display at the front alongside a couple of charger points.
But more importantly, this is a warehouse with at least 25 pre-owned Teslas always in stock, making it probably the biggest used Tesla centre in Europe.
Owner/director Richard’s team includes managing director Simon Jones, head of sales Jo Webb and Sergiu Cociuba on customer service.
There might only be two model styles on the moment, with the Model S coupe followed by the Model X sports utility (SUV) now being joined by the smaller but just as sleek and high performing Model 3.
But there are plenty of derivatives on the used market, from a 2016 seven-seater Model S 70D with the attractions of free supercharging and free road tax and Autopilot enabled – part of the move towards autonomous motoring – with a £45,000 price tag.
Other Teslas are priced through to top £80,000 with the Tesla tags to delight converted petrolheads including ‘Insane’, ‘Ludicrous’ and ‘Performance’, a variety of power and range specifications, features like panoramic sunroofs, full leather, Alcantara roof lining and the ‘bio weapon defense mode’ to guarantee clean cabin air.
But at R Symons you are just as likely to find a Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3 or a Toyota hybrid, with prices as low as £8,000 – or a 4.7-litre petrol Maserati or Focus ST.
Richard (40) smiles as he describes himself as a “self-confessed petrolhead – with no petrol!”
On the electric car front he says there are “lots of misconceptions”.
“There are lots of myths and I’m happy to dispel them to anyone who cares to ask. Electric cars are far less likely to catch fire than a petrol or diesel car, depreciation is minimal and the cars are so simple that there is virtually no servicing.
“There are no concerns over charging – those who have concerns don’t see the full picture. Forget the myths about taking hours and hours to charge.
“When venturing away from work or home, the Tesla Supercharger network covers the whole of the Europe for easy long distance travel and charge at speeds giving 50% charge top up in approximately 20 minutes – for those on those long journeys it’s just a quick coffee break.
“The chargers are becoming more plentiful, with charging speed increasing all the time, although it’s already at the point where it doesn’t really need to be any quicker.
“Those with full electric Teslas will ideally charge at home and then unless they are driving over 200 miles they don’t need to charge again in a day, and for most people the range of over 80 miles in a Nissan Leaf is plenty.
“Personally I don’t charge at home, I charge the car at work, and more and more workplaces are providing charging. And some supermarkets and other businesses as well as councils are providing free charging.”
Richard says the Tesla charger and supercharger network is unrivalled by other car manufacturers whose customers have to use the myriad of new stand-alone charger companies and regular filling stations start providing the service.
He explains: “Regarding supercharging, it’s totally free for many Teslas, and only small charges for some of the newer ones.
“I have never had a Tesla charger that did not work and if you have a pre- 2017 Tesla Model S the owner does not pay to use them. Although second owners don’t always enjoy this benefit, it only costs about £10 to £12 for about 250 miles range.”
If you have a pre-2017 Tesla, the superchargers are free to use for any owner of that car (and road tax is free).
For post March 2017 Teslas the supercharging may not always be free, but will never cost more than £20 – typically more like £7-£12 for a top up. Premium vehicle road tax of £320 a year – less than £1 per day – also then applies to those cars registered from April 2017 with a list price over £40,000 from the second tax year for five years.
Richard explains that charging at home typically costs £7-£12 for a full charge in a Tesla, £2-£6 on smaller battery EVs like Leafs, adding: “But many owners have their own solar generation and home battery storage so their motoring is both 100% green and at no additional cost.”
Far from the typical used car salesman, Richard gained a degree in design before moving into a successful software project management operation which expanded from Bournemouth to offices in London.
He explains: “My hobby was always cars but my work, while very successful, entailed too much travel and when my mum died and having a young daughter I couldn’t continue living in airports and hotels.
“So I converted my hobby into a living, going to auctions to see what I could buy, clean it up and sell it, starting with a £1,000 Passat and moving up.”
Over seven years at Bournemouth he dealt with all kinds of cars until he bought his first EV at auction, a Vauxhall Ampera – “And I thought it was amazing!”
“I love electric cars. I’d got BMWs and Audis and then I got a Nissan Leaf EV. This was in 2015 and they didn’t really sell but gradually the market interest grew. Then in December 2015 I bought my first Tesla, cashing in everything else in stock to get it, and that was how it started.
“Even now I think I’m the only used car dealer who owns a Tesla, and the Tesla owners;’ group is a strong community.
“Ours is our family car with a range of well over 250 miles on a charge that we use for anything from camping holidays in Cornwall to visiting Dad in Scotland and charging it is never a problem.
“Many hotels have Tesla destination chargers that use can usually use for free = they promote it as a service. Across the country there is a growing network of superchargers, for example on the M3 at Fleet services, with up to a dozen bays.
“And the Welcome Break chain are putting them in too, so that there are proper facilities while you take a break from driving.”