Jessica Taunton had never owned a car as fancy as a Tesla Model 3. She had only ever purchased second-hand, older vehicles, mostly 4WD vehicles, so purchasing a brand new Tesla for Navigate Expeditions was a difficult decision. She was only convinced after perusing many spreadsheets designed by her partner who compared and contrasted the running costs of several vehicles — new and second hand; electric, diesel and petrol powered. The idea that this car could also be used for her new business sealed the deal breaker. The purchase was made.
The New South Wales (NSW) rebates were also a timely incentive, and calculations have shown that in about 7 to 10 years, the vehicle will have well and truly paid for itself. The business is saving over $200 a week in fuel costs alone. But will it be tough enough?
“A lot of the driving we do for Navigate Expeditions is on a dirt road,” Jess tells me. “This means there is potential for running over sticks, lots of gravel rocks and more recently large puddles. We did have an incident while driving through a deep puddle on a dirt road where parts of the skid plate tore off. We have since replaced this with the aluminum skid plates and already feel a lot more confidence when driving on dirt roads.”
Jess leads the team at Navigate Expeditions. She is responsible for overseeing all operations. She has worked as a photography guide, managed one of Australia’s most luxurious all-inclusive lodges — Swell Lodge on Christmas Island, and sailed the Northwest Passage on a 29ft junk-rig.
With qualifications and experience in climbing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, abseiling, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities, Jess brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in outdoor guiding and tourism to Navigate Expeditions. She loves nothing more than being in nature, meeting likeminded people, and eating white chocolate.
All the guests of Navigate Expeditions have been impressed with the Tesla. It is a novelty to find a luxury EV being used for tours. But once they take a ride and hear about all the practicalities, they begin to understand that it’s super practical, efficient, convenient, and comfortable. It is a good fit with eco-tourism on many levels.
“My partner and I both hate the fuel station smell, and of course during times of COVID we wanted to avoid frequently touched surfaces and frequently visited places. We have been charging at home, overnight, on off-peak when needed, or we drive 15 min to our nearest supercharger that is provided by the NRMA and is free for now. While we wait for charging we do our grocery shopping,” Jess says.
On a personal note, “During COVID we have enjoyed many dates in the Tesla, from driving up to a lookout and watching the rolling ocean with the fireplace screen on display, to even getting cozy in the swag and watching a movie while viewing the stars above us in the glass roof,” Jess confides — ah, romance mode!
“While guiding a tour in Ben Boyd National Park, I had one guest travelling with myself in the Tesla and another two vehicles following me. These guests wanted to travel in their own vehicles for logistical reasons. Towards the end of the day, when we started to make our way towards our accommodation for the evening, Cape Green Lighthouse cottages inside the Ben Boyd National Park, the other two vehicles needed to refuel before the remote drive. This meant they had to backtrack to the nearest fuel station, so they arrived at the accommodation about 40 mins behind. We were able drive directly, as I had charged the Tesla to 90% the evening prior. On our way, we saw a lyrebird who didn’t seem at all bothered by us when we stopped to try and take a photo, a bandicoot, and once we got to the accommodation we saw a spectacular humpback whale display. The other guests who arrived 40 mins after us didn’t see any wildlife on route and missed the very best of the humpback display, all because they had to turn around a refuel their vehicle.”
Jess uses the Tesla for private guided tours for between 1 and 3 guests on the Sapphire Coast, NSW. If she has larger groups of guests, she uses a combination of a Toyota Troop Carrier, an 11-seater for short off-road tours, or a Toyota 12-seat mini bus. In the future, she would like to invest in a 12-seat electric vehicle. However, due to the remoteness of the locations, she would need to have a long-range vehicle like the Tesla Model 3 of up to 500 km (311 miles).
Jess works full time in her business and has two casual guides. Email jess@NavigateExpeditions.com for job enquiries.
Her partner also helps. He frequently uses the vehicle for camping trips. He loves heading out to the bush on his own. He loves that the swag fits in the back of the Tesla, and there is nothing better than looking up at the stars through the glass roof in the evening before falling asleep.
Cleaning has been an issue of course. Jess finds a Dyson flexible extension hose — super handy to clean those hard-to-reach spots! The armrest storage tray is great for pens and loose change.
She recommends all-weather floor mats, boot mat, and trunk mat. These have been fantastic and saved them so much time on vacuuming and cleaning. Due to the nature of their tours, invariably, their guests clamber back into the vehicle with dirty and muddy feet. She was spending a long time vacuuming this out of the standard floor mats, but now she just has to take out the mats, give them a shake (wipe or hose if needed), and put them back in.
“Next on the list is the door-sealing kit to prevent the dust from the dirt roads sitting on the edges of the doors,” she adds.
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