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Ultimate mobile phone: the connected car comes of age

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Tesla, the electric performance car maker founded by PayPal creator Elon Musk, is hitting the headlines for rolling out an electric SUV in the US and, at a stroke, upping the ante for electric cars to go mainstream. But the Model S performance saloon that is already on the market is a very exciting proposition – because it is connected to the internet.

I was lucky enough to test drive a Model S around west London, and it is an extraordinary car: it may be electric but it goes like a rocket. It is also roomy, comfy and a pleasure to drive. It also makes BMW owners determined to race me away from the lights. Silly boys.

Check out the test drive video

But aside from all that car stuff, what I loved about it was that it has a huge screen in it and a 3G SIM card so that it is connected to the web. It can also be connected to your WIFI. This is largely used for navigation – it augments its GPS with a Google Maps overlay to make it more human – and for entertainment – again using the web to augment its very powerful DAB radio – but it is also handy for shopping.

As you can see in our video test drive, you can shop from the car using a simple and very familiar user interface and, if you are doing click and collect, you have plenty of space in the car, it has a ‘boot’ at the front and the back as the car has no conventional engine.

Which neatly brings us to the technical stuff about the car. It is powered by two motors – one at the front and one at the back, and has a chassis that carries the Lithium batteries used to power it. It can do around 300 miles between charges, though 250 is recommended, and it takes about 40 minutes to charge up to 80% from empty on Tesla’s network of Superchargers ideal for long distance travel. For real fact fans, it uses about 85% of its energy to actually move the car, compared with about 30% in a petrol engine.

It can do 0 to 60 in some 4 seconds ( 2.8 if you get the insane upgrade) and has a top speed way beyond the legal speed limit. I didn’t put that to the test, officer, honest.

But it is in terms of costs where it starts to look even more appealing. The basic model is around £50,000 but you pay no road tax and your fuel bill for it is very low. It is exempt from a range of taxes and, if you are a business, can actually be an asset that you can write down.

All in all it certainly changed my mind about electric cars. The performance made getting back into my family SUV a disappointment and I loved every minute of driving around in what seemed like a car not from the distant unobtainable future, but one that is from the very near future. This could be what all cars are like in the next few years.

And you too can take a look at one at Internet Retailing Conference 2015 at the Hammersmith Novotel on 14 October. There will be a car on display and they might even show you how easy it is to connect to the web and shop. If you can’t wait that long, go online and check out Tesla.

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