So, 10 days have now passed now since Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent his Tesla Roadster on it’s way to Mars (via the Asteroid Belt). Aside from the obvious enormous publicity stunt that inevitably comes with sending your prized electric sports-car into the vacuum of outer-space, what was the real benefit of one of luanching one the world’s largest rockets into space and returning it to Earth (ably assisted by the timeless voice of rock legend David Bowie)?
Although extremely successful, SpaceX MUST continue to prove that their rockets are both reliable and REALLY cost effective to launch. In order to do this they are ramping up launches from the Falcon 9 to the Falcon Heavy on the journey to the launch of the BFR which will (when completed), be the largest and most powerful rocket ever launched from our planet.
The Falcon Heavy is currently capable of carrying 64 metric tons which positions SpaceX as the obvious choice for resupply of the ISS and eventually transporting astronauts to the station. Falcon Heavy launches are in space terms ‘cheap’ at about $90 million per launch compared to the eye watering $500 million that the new NASA rockets are projected to cost!
The new BFR will be able to carry evening heavier payloads of up to 150 metric tons, a seriously large amount! Enough indeed to be able to partake in interplanetary missions to The Moon and Mars.
So, why launch Musk’s prized Tesla Roadster into space at all? Again this is all about delivering a service to NASA and proving the rockets capabilities in the long term. SpaceX HAD to take a large payload as part of this test flight, so rather than packing the bay with concrete blocks, they chose his Electric Sports Car as it added (as it turns out) a massive amount of theatre to the mission, not only were SpaceX launching three rockets and returning all of the main launch rockets back to earth (with some stunning images of the two boosters landing together at Cape Canaveral), but also successfully unloading a $100,000 Electric Vehicle into orbit and then on to Mars (via the Asteroid Belt).
So after the theatre of the 6th February, Starman continues on his journey strapped into the Tesla Roadster, his armed resting on the window ledge, relaxing as he begins his Billion year journey through outer space. Currently (as of writing this), he is 1,817,804 miles from Earth with an mere 139,926,200 miles to go before he reaches Mars, travelling at a speed of 43,400 mph, way beyond Tesla’s service range! (http://www.whereisroadster.com/)
I am now sure that we really might see man set foot again on the Moon and then continue on to Mars in the next 10 years. Something that I personally can’t wait to see.
Images: SpaceX, Wikipedia
Music: David Bowie, Life on Mars.
In the lead up to the East West Road Trip in October I was looking for a smartphone to enable me to document the trip both with photographs and video and was particularly keen to live stream the video where possible.
Initially I was looking to live-stream the trip using a 360° camera, unfortunately this didn’t come off and I was faced with a last-minute race to find an alternative literally 2 days before we were departing!
Fortunately, I was offered the Sony Xperia XZ1 phone with 30gb of data from EE. This solved by data anxiety problems immediately and having used Sony Xperia devices in the past, I was confident they would step up to the plate with image and video quality.
Sony are an extremely well-established tech companies, in fact for many years they were ‘the’ tech company of choice and it’s no secret the mobile phone market is dominated by two other big tech brands, so I was interested to see how the XZ1 would differentiate itself in an ultra-competitive industry.
Out of the box, the Sony XZ1 is a sleek, smooth, black device, with Gorilla Glass 5 front facing glass and deep black aluminium at the back, a departure from the super-sized XZ Premium from earlier in the year which was covered from and rear in glass. With dimensions of 5.83″ x 2.87″ with a thickness of 7.4mm, this is not the most gigantic handset and its smooth edges make it comfortable to hold, although it is very smooth, so hold on tight! Aside from black, the device is also available in Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver and Venus Pink, so plenty of choice.
The phone is preloaded with the Google Android™ O (or Oreo) operating system and Sony have been very sensitive by not trashing the ideals of the OS by avoiding in the addition of their own ‘enhancements’ in the most part.
The phone packs a very bright 5.2″ TRILUMINOS™ display driven by BRAVIA® TV technology given HDR compatible playback X-Reality™ producing 138% of standard display colour spectrum, the companies experience in the display market really comes through. The display is noticeably brighter and colour more natural that other phone displays and playing HDR video from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime is incredible. X-Reality™ intelligently removes noise and from videos produces exquisite results, it really is impressive. Some people would criticise the use of a Full HD screen HDR screen instead of the perceived standard of UHD and above, but I would beg to differ, having tried both UHD and 4K mobile devices, I see no real benefits, even when using VR Goggles.
The beating heart inside of the device is provided by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Processor, positioning the phone in the same bracket at the competition. In addition, storage comes as 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of super-fast UFS internal memory with support for an addition of a up to 256GB micro SDXC. It’s pleasing that support for additional memory has been included with the phone, although it’s quite fiddly adding and removing both Sim card and SD cards with the phone, but on the plus side it’s very accessible. It should be noted that around 9.5GB is used up by preinstalled firmware and applications.
The phone is powered by a 2700 mAh battery, featuring Smart Stamina 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive Charging which prolongs the life of the battery by ensuring it is charged quickly and safely with the addition of Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0. I’ve come across battery charge management in the past with electric cars and particularly the Tesla Model S, this too allows for quick charging, but upon reaching around 80% full, charging speed is tapered off to ensure the lifetime of the battery. Sony does a similar job with the Xperia XZ1 by intelligently noting owners charge habits and adjusting the charge rate of the phone if for instance you are sleeping and don’t begin using your phone until 7.15am. It is also possible to use the phone to charge other devices using an Android OTG adapter, but in fairness mobile phone battery is at such a premium that use of it for anything other than for the phone itself is rare.
With normal use the phone easily provides a days use with something left over at the end and this will be using all of the phones features, even some of the cooler ones which I will talk about later. Charging is provided by a Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 charger and USB Type C socket.
Moving on the the front and rear cameras, Sony has yet again infused the phone with their high quality optics and sensors. The rear facing 9MP Motion Eye™ camera with 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ with 1.22μm pixel pitch. The lens is a 25 mm wide G Lens F2.0. Sony again use their own BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to give superb results. There’s a ton of features such as Predictive Capture (motion / smile), Autofocus burst, x8 Digital Zoom, HDR Photo, 0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Anti-distortion shutter, Triple image sensing technology, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablisation) and 4K recording at 30fps.
However, the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the inclusion of a 960 fps Super slow motion video capture. This is achieved by the inclusion of addition hardware installed directly into the camera sensor in the form of hyper fast dynamic memory which allows for raw footage to be saved directly into the sensor and then drip feed and standard speed back to the standard hardware. Due to the colossal amount of power required to pulling 960 frames per second, the sensor only actually captures .18 of a second at 720hd, stretching it to around 6 seconds of footage.
This is called Motion Eye technology and personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops for the future, because it’s really impressive. As expected, you need bags of light to capture at this speed, so it works best outside in daylight, I also noticed light flicker in my office due to the refresh rate of our lights. Normal lighting does not cause his problem though.
The front facing camera is a saner 13MP 1/ 3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor with 22mm wide angle lens at F2.0, again Sony includes it’s proprietary SteadyShot™ 5-axis stablization technology.
There is one simply AMAZING feature included with the XZ1 which is the 3D Capture mode. This uses software developed by Sony, utilising both processor and camera to allow you to 3D scan objects, share them and even have them 3D printed. It takes a little practice and Sony actively limit the modes available to give you time to get used to simple scans until you are ready to scan ‘freehand’. My initial results were ok, but I soon became adept in scanning some great objects, from peoples’ faces, heads, food and any other object I could think of. This is a tipping point in this industry, no longer do you need super expensive scanners and solutions, you can now use your Sony Xperia XZ1 (and now XZ Premium) to scan 3d objects. It truly is incredible.
Sony has chosen to stick with traditional Xperia design, this means that the trend of big screens and no bezels isn’t a feature of this phone, instead the phone packs stereo speakers at top and bottom of the phone which in landscape mode gives supreme stereo sound, making use of the Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio features, the phone can ‘upscale’ lower quality audio to a near uncompressed sound when streaming across Bluetooth. There are a host of other features such as High-Resolution Audio, DSEE HX™, LDAC, Digital Noise Cancelling, Clear Audio+, S-Force Front Surround, Stereo Recording and Sony’s Virtual Phones technology. The speaker volume has also been increased by 50% over previous models.
Gaming wise, the phone is going to be able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it at the moment due to it’s highest end spec, but also included is PS4 integration using Remote Play. this allows you to connect to your own PS4 remotely and play your installed games, you can even pair a PS4 gamepad if that appeals.
The phone retails at £599 off contract, but at the time of writing there are some pretty appealing deals including some nice add-ons, but in the UK you are still looking above £50 per month for two years and more if you want better data allowance.
Although the XZ1 doesn’t pack the 4K display of the XZ Premium, the screen is quite possibly richer, especially in HDR mode, the sound it great and performance very very quick. In a world where it is perceived we only have two choices, Sony have yet again produced a solid handset capable of sitting amongst the best.
I did end up streaming a fair amount using the Sony Xperia XZ1 during and after the trip and found it to be a very capable device and coupled with an effectively limitless amount of data, it worked well.
On a side note, EE’s 4G network is very impressive and we were able to live stream both through Glencoe and arriving at Ardnamurchan, they pretty much had us covered.
A little over a month has passed since we arrived back from the Scotland and as promised, we have donated the remains of our Gadget Road Trip fund to British Red Cross.
This afternoon, I transferred the remaining balance of £42.32 from our Monzo Card to the British Red Cross charity and thus rendered the account empty.
I was personally extremely upset by the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, which I know also affected Paul. The British Red Cross were on the ground there immediately after it happened and provided much need assistance to the poor families that had lost their loved ones, their homes and everything they owned in a matter of minutes. It is because of this, that I wanted to donate to this charity. Since Grenfell, other disasters have continued to affect the people of our planet and the British Red Cross have continued to provide much needed support for these people who have lost absolutely everything they own and still lack the basics of clean water, electricity and food. If you would like to continue to help them, you can also donate via this link
Thank you so much again to the following people and organisations for their kind donations of funds or services!
XSItems Ltd ACPlus Favorite Fried Chicken Free Reign Internet Coderus Gavin Dadd Patrick Lohan Jackie Robinson Ian Brown Olive Porter Sandra Grilli Callum McGilvery.
We wouldn’t have been able to feed ourselves during the trip and have something soft to sleep on. Thank you again.
Thanks also to Hillcroft Park in Ullswater for allowing us to stay at their lodgings for two nights (They will be featuring in the upcoming sitcom ‘Home from Home’ with Johnny Vegas, so keep an eye out!) and Far View Bed & Breakfast in Kilchoan (I won’t forget little Gracie exclaiming “My wellington boots fell over!!” as I took her and her dad on a little test drive).
I was sitting in my office in Martlesham on the 10th July 2017 chatting to a colleague about Tesla cars. The conversation had started after he noticed the framed artists sketch hanging on my wall.
I have driven a number of Tesla Model S cars in the past from the excitable P85+ to the ‘Insane’ P85D. They are very exciting cars to drive, not just because they are fully electric and pack extremely powerful single gear motors, but because you feel your are riding on the coattails of automotive history, participating in an irreversible shift change in motorvehicle technology. It’s very exciting!
The conversation moved on the the Model X and Model 3, Tesla’s entries in to the SUV and ‘affordable’ markets. The Model X has recently appeared in the UK, the Model 3 is two years away from being available. We continued to chat for the rest of lunch, but the seed was planted.
That evening I wrote an email to Tesla’s press office requesting the loan of a Model X for review. Nothing specific, simply available dates.
The next day I received a reply from Tesla, it’s explained that things were very busy with the Model X, but the 5th and 6th of October was available for a test drive, did that suit? I puzzled for a while, in the past I had been loaned vehicles for a little longer, to give me time to get to know the vehicle, two days seemed a bit short to get a proper review in place. So, I followed up with an email, requesting a little longer.
I quickly received a reply from Tesla asking what my plans were? OK, good question, time to put on my thinking cap.
15 July 2017
My initial idea was driving from Lands End to John O’Groats, but after a little bit of Googling, I discovered that this had already been done in a Tesla and well documented on YouTube, there was nothing original to achieve in travelling down this this ‘road’.
But wait a minute! Was there? I live about 40 minutes from Ness Point, the most easterly point in the UK. Nestled in Lowestoft, Ness Point at first glance seemed a little unloved. Some thought and effort has been made to build a stone circle, with plaques showing distances to well known points in the UK. It’s quite nice, but the surroundings aren’t that impressive, but it seemed like the obvious starting point for a challenge and wasn’t too far from home.
Now to find the most westerly point of the UK.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse sits on the most westerly mainland point of the UK accessible by a short ferry ride at Corran and a two hour drive along single track roads across an extinct volcano. There even appeared to be a ‘rapid’ charge point a few miles away at Kichoan Pier, which would set a challenge outside of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network.
The plan was hatched, but it was just the beginning.
The Gadget Man - Episode 105 - Gadget Road Trip - On the Sofa with Sarah Lilley at BBC Radio Suffolk[ 34:29 ]Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (1474)
As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!
I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.
Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!
A ‘Gadget Man’ Road Trip would be nothing with a car stacked full of technology, here’s a quick summary of the gear we are rocking for the trip.
This is of course an ‘Electric Challenge’, so we are driving a Tesla Model S 100D. A 4 wheel drive, twin motor electric car, packing a 100 kWh Lithium-ion battery with a projected range between charges of more that 300 miles. We can also take advantage of Tesla’s very own Supercharger network, meaning our charge times will hopefully be under 30 minutes. Enough time for a coffee and meal on our long journey. The car is packed with driver assistance technology and always on 4G connection for maps and music streaming.
We will be taking along a DJI Mavic Pro for aerial shots. The Mavic is an outstanding, foldable 4K drone with a 25 minute flight time. It boasts the most advance stabilisation technology available today, combining GPS, Glonass and Optical stabilisation and obstacle avoidance.
As a backup, we will be taking along a DJI Phantom 3 Standard with 2 batteries.
Our filming will be carried out on a DJI Osmo+ 3 axis stabilised camera with 3.5x optical zoom and 4K video recording. This will be backed up by a GoPro Hero camera, Panasonic Lumia G3 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge smart phone.
On board the car, we have a Transcend DrivePro 230s dashcam and hopefully a Samsung Gear 360 (2017).
Editing and Blogging
Our editing will be carried out on a Dell Latitude Rugged with Core i7 and SSD drive, this will be complimented by a Transcend SSD drive and SPS Rugged USB3 1GB Hard drive.
We are looking forward to confirmation that EE will be providing us with 30gb of data and a in car wifi hotspot, to allow us to Live Stream, and Vlog during the journey.
Our trip tracking is being provided by Coderus. Custom built apps on our mobiles will transmit our GPS coordinates to our server in London, this information will be pushed to www.eastwestroadtrip.co.uk and www.thegadgetman.org.uk to allow for our friends, families and supporters to view our progress in real time. This is looking to be a fabulous addition to the trip and will encourage interaction with Paul whilst I concentrate on driving.
Of the amazing electric and hybrid cars I have been fortunate to review, by far the coolest was the Tesla Model S. Driving the Tesla really feels like you are riding on the coat tails of automotive history and due to it’s active over the air updates, you actually seem it improving and developing before your eyes.
Since testing the Model S P85D, the car has continued to evolve from ‘Insane Mode’ all the way to ‘Ludicrous’ and ‘Ludicrous Plus’. Tesla have also introduced the Model X and more recently the Model 3.
The most regularly asked question people ask me about electric cars is ‘What is it’s range?’. Tesla has always lead the pack with their excellent range along with their network of ‘Superchargers’ . Tesla owners can expect in excess of 300 miles per charge, refuelling with electricity in around 30 minutes.
All of this has led me to challenge the cynics when they say “Electric Cars don’t have the range of my petrol car”.
On October 6th 2017, I embark on my biggest challenge to date as The Gadget Man. So big in fact, that I will be taking my father along for the ride!
Together we will be driving from the most Ness Point in Lowestoft (the most easterly point of mainland UK) to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse in Scotland (the most westerly point of mainland UK) and back again, a total journey of around 1200 miles. All of this will take place over the weekend of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th October 2017 and will be completed on electric only in a Tesla Model S 100D.
Aside from being able to complete the 1200 mile trip under electric power only, we will also being travelling through some of the most amazing scenery our nation has to offer us with overnight stays in ‘Camping Pods’ in the Lake District and Ardnamurchan during our journey and a short trip on the Corran Ferry! We will we ‘re-juicing’ the car using Tesla’s Superchargers and a couple of rapid chargers and DJI are loaning us photographic equipment to help us document the journey.
We also hope to ‘live stream’ the challenge as often as possible and hope to make lots of new friends on the way!
The Gadget Man has never been a ‘paid gig’, so we are hoping that our challenge can be supported by you in order for us to be able to pay for our modest accommodation and food during the 4 day trip, all the funds we raise will be put to good use during our trip.
At the end of the challenge we will donate any remaining funds to the Red Cross.
If you are a business and would like to sponsor us, we will be very happy to put a link to your business on our dedicated website that we have set up for the challenge. If you know of camping gear manufacturers who who like to donate a couple of sleeping bags and pillows that would be very helpful too.
Thanks for taking the time to read about our challenge and we look forward to keeping you up to date with our planning for our road trip.
Last night (or very early this morning if you live in the UK), Elon Musk CEO of Tesla Motors finally revealed the much anticipated 3rd part of his electric vehicle master plan, the Tesla Model 3.
As an established player in the EV market, Tesla were looking for a vehicle with ‘mass market appeal’. In order to do this successfully they needed sell a vehicle with was considered ‘affordable’ to the masses, this doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should be able to purchase one, but affordable in the it’s target market, which in the Model 3’s case would be Audi A3 saloon or BMW 3 series.
Elon Musk has consistently quoted that the Model 3 will be priced at $35,000 which is around £25,000 and he is not budging on this price in the USA anyway. In the UK, I would suggest £30,000 is going to be the starting price minus any remaining UK Government plugin grant that might exist by the time it launches in the UK late 2017 / early 2018.
There is undoubtably going to be several models in the Model 3 range such as the P and D derivatives of the Model S and Model X, the standard entry level model is looking to have a projected range of 210 miles per charge, and accelerate to 60mph in under 6 seconds. It will be available in rear wheel and four wheel drive. Owing to it’s shorter wheel base, I would expect the battery size to be smaller than the current 90 kWh of the current top end P90D of the Model S and Model X, perhaps more likely to be 65 – 70 kWh, but this is simply guessing. However with this in mind, I would expect a Model 3 65, Model 3 P65 and Model S P65D but upon release the battery technology is going to be 2 years ahead of what we have now, so we might be in for a surprise however based on the projected ranges, I would go for a 65 kWh or smaller battery, with much less powerful powertrains than the existing models.
The Model 3 is all about mass market and to achieve this the car needs to be built in a mass market car plant which Tesla already owns in Freemont, California which was used in the past to manufacture GM / Toyota cars but now is refitted to build the Model S, Model X and now the Model 3. Again I would summise that the assembly plant in Tilburg, Netherlands will look after the European assembly of the Model 3 using parts shipped from the USA. Tesla has made an awful lot of noise about the Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada which when fully up to speed will be able to manufacture more lithium ion batteries annually than were manufactured worldwide in 2013. This manufacture by economies of scale is projected to drive down the cost of the batteries needed to power Tesla’s vehicles and consequently bring down the price of the vehicles coming off the production line as well as the Tesla Powerwall home batteries.
The Model 3 can according to Elon Musk, seat 5 adults comfortably, even on a smaller vehicle footprint. Tesla does this by moving the driving position forward into the space that would contain an engine if this was a traditional petrol or diesel car. It retains the centre console screen that graces the Model S and Model X, but is now a 15 inch landscape arrangement rather than the giant 17 inch portrait version. Inside the car, it retains the quality of the other Tesla models, but is significantly more sparse, perhaps similar to the BMW i3 which sacrifices refinement for space. As before, the car includes trunk and frunk (frunk trunk), for British readers, the bonnet area can be used for luggage as can the boot space.
Outside of the vehicle, the design has been refined again completely removing the ‘grill’ of the Model S and taking the smoother front lines of the Model X to produce a completely seamless nose cone. The general design of the car echoes the Model S, but downsizing it in a similar fashion that the BMW 3 series downsizes to the 2 series. The front and rear lighting remains the same as the Model S and X, and the wheels appear to be available in a number of choices as the other current models.
The Model 3 will support Tesla’s Super Charger network from the outset meaning that fast charging on long journeys will be easily achievable.
The Model 3 is still a year away from final production, but that hasn’t stopped the flood of orders which mean’t that in less than 24 hours more that 135,000 232,000 pre-orders (and associated $1000 deposits) have been made with some people queuing around the block from their local Tesla Stores to get their order in first.
Check out the images from last night and launch video, all courtesy of Tesla Motors Inc.