My friend Marco “Speedy” Jeanrenaud, a resident of the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland, has been a lifelong car enthusiast – over the years he has owned, among other things, a 1976 Cadillac, a Dodge Charger, several Ford Mustangs , a Range Rover SUV and Harley and BMW motorcycles. In 2016, he bought a Model S, and quickly became an ordained Tesla EVangelist. In 2021, he swapped his S for a Model 3 because it had the latest technology and because he found the small car easier to handle on the narrow streets of Europe.
|The rough roads of Corsica. Image courtesy of Charles Morris.|
Speedy has been vacationing in Corsica since he was little and I’ve been hearing about the island’s Mediterranean charms since I met him 20 years ago. This year, I was finally able to make the trip. My wife Denise and I joined Marco and a woman Dadou for a week on the island. I write this on the porch of a rustic cabin just steps from an incredibly scenic beach near Calvi.
Naturally we came from Switzerland in the Speedy Model 3, and There you go – my latest addition to Tesla’s road trip literature!
Corsica is – shall we say – not the most modern region in Europe, so Speedy has taken every precaution to ensure the battery stays topped up. With around 450km of range we could have made it from Vevey in Switzerland to the Italian port of Savona where we took the ferry to Corsica, but just to be sure we stopped at two Superchargers along the way.
Usually, Speedy sets its Model 3 to only charge to 80%, to maximize battery life. However, on a long road trip, especially in an area where charging infrastructure may be lacking, it plays it safe and charges up to 100%.
We climbed through spectacular Swiss alpine scenery to the dog-famous St. Bernard Pass. It’s still possible to take the old road that winds its way to the top of the pass, but Speedy, who has ridden this way several times, says the old road, with its hundreds of switchbacks, is fun on a motorbike but tedious in a car. We paid a $50(!) toll to go through the three-mile-long tunnel, and quickly descended the Italian side of the Alps past crenellated medieval castles.
In Aosta, the Supercharger station is near a complex road intersection and can only be accessed from the east side of the highway – a fact that has overwhelmed the Tesla navigation system. Getting there involved several wrong turns, a long detour to head in the right direction, and quite a bit of profanity in French. Once we arrived the experience was efficiency itself – within 20 minutes it took to recharge we went to get lunch. At some nondescript pizzeria in a mall, I had an outstanding pizza (it’s hard to find a bad one in this part of the world), followed by my first ice of the trip (I recommend at least one a day in Italy).
Italy’s Ligurian coast is less glamorous than the Riviera to the west and less spectacular than the Cinque Terre region to the east, but it’s a beautiful part of the Mediterranean, with sidewalk cafes and fashionable people who cross in Ferrari, Maserati, and Vespas. The seaside town of Varazze has one of the prettiest superchargers I’ve seen – it’s set in a small parking lot lined with vine-covered stone walls, with stunning views of the sea and mountains. We hooked up, strolled along the yacht-filled harbor (these aren’t the yachts of the Russian oligarchs – just the half-million-dollar kind), sat in a cafe for a round of spritzers Aperol, and we got back on the road.
|All European superchargers are now equipped with Tesla and CCS connectors. Right: Another scenic Supercharger location.|
A few kilometers from the coast is Savona (Savonne in French), where we took our first dip in the Mediterranean, enjoyed our first seafood pastasand took the ferry to Bastia in Corsica.
The ferry ride was more of a character building experience than a highlight of the trip. It was a huge RoRo (roll-on/roll-off) ship that carried about 1,000 cars on three decks. Crowds of people thronged there – the well-to-do spent time in cabins, while the less fortunate spread blankets on the decks. The cars were packed like sardines, and when we got to the port, getting back in the car was a contortionist adventure. I’m not overweight by any means, but that was all I could do to squeeze in. There must be more than a few dented and scratched doors on every trip.
Because we had an electric car, we could sit inside in air-conditioned comfort while the others choked (or throttled their motors to run the AC—thank goodness for Tesla’s HEPA air filter). After half an hour of claustrophobia, we got off the ship and drove through the mountains to our destination.
|Not glamorous, but it works!|
We spent a week in budget bungalows just steps from the beach. Keeping the Tesla charged turned out to be no problem – there was an outdoor electrical outlet right next to our cabin, so Speedy simply plugged the car in each evening and got a trickle charge overnight. (Getting connected was another matter – we paid extra for WiFi access, but despite multiple frustrating attempts, it never worked.)
|My office on the road.|
Corsica is stunningly beautiful, with crystal clear waters and wild, rugged mountains, and the culture is a delicious mix of French and Italian influences. The coastal regions welcome many tourists during the summer season, but there are very few ugly high-rise hotels that spoil much of the Mediterranean coast of Europe. Locals have a reputation for – shall we say – mischievous behavior, and legend has it that developers gave up building mass resorts years ago after several were blown up.
The Corsicans are not really early adopters. I’ve only seen a handful of EVs in a week – a few Renault Zoes and tourist Teslas – and not a single solar panel. There are currently no Supercharger stations on the island, but there are a dozen destination chargers at upscale hotels.
On the way back, we did the trip in the opposite direction. The ferry ride was even more nightmare – the notoriously inefficient Corsica Ferries lost our cabin booking so we joined the huddled masses sleeping on deck and arrived home stiff and frazzled (which I guess is what one should feel after a very good holiday). Once again we stopped at Superchargers in Varraze and Aosta. The latter has a less idyllic immediate setting – a parking lot crowded with tractor-trailers – but is surrounded by dramatic mountains.
|The power consumption screen after climbing and descending a 7,000 foot mountain. The shaded area in the lower right indicates that the battery is in regeneration mode, which adds range.|
This trip provided a great example of how speed and terrain affect range. Zooming down highway at 140 km/h, the battery drained quickly (Speedy didn’t get his nickname for nothing), as did the ascent of the 7,000-foot St. Bernard Pass. Descending the other side, however, took the motor deep into regeneration territory—we added about 60 miles of range from the top of the pass to the valley below.
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