My friend Marco “Speedy” Jeanrenaud, a resident of the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland, is a lifelong car lover — over the years, he has owned, among others, 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 soon became an ordained Tesla EVangelist. In 2021, he traded his S for a Model 3, because it had the latest technology and because he found the smaller car easier to handle on Europe’s narrow streets.
|The rugged roads of Corsica. Image courtesy of Charles Morris.|
Speedy has been vacationing on Corsica since he was a boy, 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 sa femme Dadou for a week on the island. I’m writing this on the porch of a rustic cabana a few steps from an incredibly picturesque beach near Calvi.
Naturally, we drove down from Switzerland in Speedy’s Model 3, et voila — my latest addition to the Tesla road trip literature!
Corsica is — shall we say — not the most modern region of Europe, so Speedy took every precaution to make sure the battery stayed topped up. With around 450 km of range, we might just have made it from Vevey in Switzerland to the Italian port of Savona where we caught the ferry to Corsica, but just to make sure, we stopped at two Superchargers along the way.
Ordinarily, Speedy sets his Model 3 to charge only to 80%, in order to maximize battery life. However, when on a long road trip, especially to a region where the charging infrastructure may be lacking, he plays it safe and charges all the way up to 100%.
We climbed through spectacular Swiss Alpine scenery to the St. Bernard pass of canine fame. It’s still possible to take the old road that winds to the top of the pass, but Speedy, who has driven this way many times, explained that the old route, with its hundreds of switchback curves, is fun on a motorcycle but tedious in a car. We paid a $50 toll (!) to take the three-mile-long tunnel, and were soon descending the Italian side of the Alps past crenellated medieval castles.
In Aosta, the Supercharger station is near a complex highway junction, and accessible only from the eastbound side of the Autostrada — a fact which overwhelmed the Tesla nav system. Getting there involved several wrong turns, a long detour to get pointed in the right direction, and no small amount of profanity in French. Once we arrived, the experience was efficiency itself — in the 20 minutes it took to top up, we went looking for lunch. At a non-descript pizza place in a shopping mall, I had an outstanding pizza (it’s hard to get a bad one in this part of the world), followed by my first gelato of the trip (I recommend at least one per day when 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 stretch of the Med, complete with sidewalk cafes and fashionably-dressed people cruising by in Ferraris, Maseratis, and Vespas. The seaside town of Varazze has one of the most beautifully-situated Superchargers I’ve seen — it’s located in a small parking lot bordered by vine-covered stone walls, with an expansive view of the sea and the mountains. We plugged in, took a stroll along the yacht-filled harbor (these aren’t the Russian oligarchs’ yachts — just the half-million-dollar kind), sat down at a café for a round of Aperol spritzers, and got back on the road.
|All European Superchargers now have both Tesla and CCS connectors. Right: Another picturesque Supercharger spot.|
Just a few miles down the coast is Savona (Savonne in French), where we took our first dip in the Med, enjoyed our first pasta frutti di mare, and caught the ferry to Bastia in Corsica.
The ferry ride was more of a character-building experience than a travel highlight. This was an enormous RoRo (roll-on/roll-off) ship that carried about 1,000 cars on three decks. Mobs of people milled about — the well-to-do ones passed the time in cabins, while the less fortunate spread blankets on the decks. The cars were packed in like sardines, and when we arrived in port, getting back into the car was an adventure in contortionism. I’m by no means portly, but it was all I could do to squeeze in. There must be more than a few dented and scratched doors every trip.
Because we had an electric car, we could sit inside in air-conditioned comfort while the rest sweltered (or idled their engines to run the AC — thank goodness for the Tesla’s HEPA air filter). After a claustrophobia-inducing half-hour, we rolled off the ship and headed over the mountains to our destination.
|Not glamorous, but it works!|
We spent a week in some budget bungalows just a few steps from the beach. Keeping the Tesla charged turned out to be no problem at all — there was an outdoor electrical outlet right next to our shack, so Speedy simply plugged the car in each evening and got an overnight trickle charge. (Getting online was another matter — we paid an extra fee to have WiFi access, but despite multiple frustrating attempts, it never worked.)
|My office on the road.|
Corsica is incredibly beautiful, with crystal-clear waters and wild and rugged mountains, and the culture is a delicious mix of French and Italian influences. The coastal regions see plenty of tourists in the summer season, but there are very few of the ugly high-rise hotels that mar much of Europe’s Mediterranean coast. The locals have a reputation for — shall we say — mischievous behavior, and legend has it that developers gave up on building mass resorts years ago, after several were dynamited.
The Corsicans are not exactly early adopters. I saw only a handful of EVs in a week — a few Renault Zoes and some tourist-driven Teslas — and not a single solar panel. There’s currently no Supercharger station on the island, but there are a dozen or so destination chargers at upscale hotels.
On the return trip, we made the trek in reverse. The ferry ride was even more of a cauchemar — the notoriously inefficient Corsica Ferries lost our cabin reservation, so we joined the huddled masses sleeping on the deck and arrived home stiff and frazzled (which, I suppose, is how one should feel after a truly great vacation). Once again, we stopped at the Superchargers in Varraze and Aosta. The latter has a less-idyllic immediate setting — a parking lot jammed with semi trailers — but is surrounded by spectacular mountains.
|The energy consumption screen after ascending and descending a 7,000-foot mountain. The shaded area at lower right shows that the battery is in regen mode, adding range.|
This trip provided an excellent example of how speed and terrain affect range. Zooming down the autostrada at 140 km/hr quickly drained the battery (Speedy didn’t get his nickname for nothing), and so did climbing to the 7,000-foot St. Bernard pass. Descending the other side, however, brought the motor deep into regen territory — we added about 60 km of range between the top of the pass and the valley below.
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