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Heads turn as the shining red Tesla from Cairns Luxury Car Hire pulls into the circular drive of the Sea Temple at Palm Cove, our accommodation for a week-long family holiday.
Zac, from Cairns Luxury Car Hire, has delivered our car and is about to run us through the functions of the first electric vehicle (EV) available for car hire in the region.
With EV chargers being incorporated into many new hotel designs, and travellers considering sustainability more and more when they travel, Zac said there’s never been more demand for hiring an EV.
First things first, the biggest worry on my mind is: “What if I run out of charge?”
I’ve never driven an EV and I am nervous, but Merryn King, the owner of this luxury car rental business, has already sent me a list of all the tourist locations that are set up with charging stations.
There are dozens of places that we can visit this week without getting stuck.
She has assured me that we can travel up to 400 kilometres without recharging and our resort has a Porsche electric charging station in the car park, which is exactly what we need, so there is nothing to worry about.
Zac runs me through the touchscreen which controls the whole car, then starts to show me the fun stuff – the ‘Toy Box’, the car’s entertainment system.
You can make fart noises (ranging from standard to ludicrous) ring out from all different speakers of the car and blame it on your passengers.
Also in the on-screen toy box is a full suite of entertainment options for passengers: a drawing sketchpad, sudoku puzzles and other games, as well as Netflix.
When the car is stationary and in park, the kids can even play car-racing games using the steering wheel.
For a more romantic moment, the screen becomes a cosy fireplace and the heater cranks up, making the car a toasty little space for an off-road sojourn.
Ms King told us that the heritage-listed tourist attraction Paronella Park in Mena Creek, a 90-minute drive south of Cairns, now has a charging station that is powered by the old hydro-electric station on the property.
A visit to the Catalan-style castle and a walk through the curated tropical rainforest is highly recommended.
Ms King said that we can drive as far north as the Daintree Village and charge our vehicle at stations in the district. But we have other plans.
We hit the Captain Cook Highway which runs 75 kilometres from Cairns to Mossman.
My friend Sam is at the wheel, and head up the Queensland Electric Super Highway (a tourist itinerary designed for EV drivers) to the Port Douglas Markets.
While we wander around the stalls selling locally made arts, crafts, clothes and fresh fruit, the car waits for us, in a safety/power off mode, conserving energy.
The car’s top speed is 130 kilometres per hour but we follow road speed rules.
On arrival at Mossman Gorge Visitor Park, we park at the charging station to give the Tesla some juice while we walk the 2.4-kilometre Circuit Track through the forest.
The car remains locked while the charger is on, so it’s perfectly safe and we have no worries leaving it there while we explore nature’s bounty.
Later that night, we drive to the main street of Palm Cove and set up the light show – a two-minute extravaganza where the car channels cult TV show Knight Rider’s KITT – its boot and windows raise and lower, lights flash in a disco-esque display, music booms from the speakers and there is a general kerfuffle.
Passers-by stop to watch, of course. There is absolutely nothing subtle about this. Our teenagers walk away, faces shielded, embarrassed by the attention.
After our quad-biking adventure, we head to town to find the Skyrail charger so we can plug in while we eat lunch but it’s a quiet day, shops are still closed due to staff shortages, and we can’t find anyone to help us when we can’t locate the charger at the station.
We’ve hardly used any charge at all so it’s not necessary, but I’m risk averse and like to be safe, not sorry.
The interior of the Tesla has a practical flat storage console that charges my iPhone, wirelessly (of course).
The car has rear- and side-vision cameras and an extra side camera appears when the indicators are flicked on. It’s a bit disconcerting at first but it only takes a few turns to comprehend how useful it is – it’s a head check done in the flicker of an eye.
An electric car designed by a billionaire has many design features that make it a pleasure to drive and I find myself convinced that this would be a great next car for our family.
We feel delighted to be exploring a UNESCO World Heritage area in a car that’s not having an environmental impact.
* Cairns Luxury Car Hire rents a Tesla Model 3 for self-drives from $279 per day.
Explore more: cairnsluxurycarhire.com.au
Where to find a Tesla charger in Cairns
*Supercharger available which offers a full charge in 40 minutes.