As I press the accelerator further to the floor and nudge the car's nose into the next bend, I'm acutely aware that the air filtration system in the Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle (EV) at my command is keeping the air I breathe clean and comfortable.
The Model 3's bigger siblings, the Model S and Model X, have HEPA (hospital operating theatre-grade) air filters, which can turn potentially deadly air into clean in about two minutes. The Model 3 doesn't have this level of biohazard removal, but ol' mate Elon Musk suggests you can still get constant clean air in the Model 3 with the fan speed set to 5 to recirculate interior air.
Why am I leading with this information?
Because right now Australia has spent a summer burning turning the air in some parts of the country to poison.
The reality is that EVs like the Model 3 will play a pivotal role in helping us and the planet recover from the centuries of unchecked industrial revolutions that have led to this situation.
The Model 3 I've been furnished with is the dual-motor AWD Performance option – 20-inch performance wheels and brakes, lowered suspension, a carbon fibre spoiler and 560-kilometre range. The top speed is a tad over 260 kilometres per hour.
At roughly $94,000, it's a supercar in all respects except the price. The standard Model 3 comes in at $67,900, with a long-range version available at $85,900, which affords you 620 kilometres range as opposed to the standard 460 kilometres.
The road to luxury
On the road to Clifftop at Hepburn – a clutch of luxury cabins perched on a small valley ninety minutes north-west of Melbourne – I put the steering, acceleration and other features to the test, cutting through the smoke haze like b-roll footage from the movie Blade Runner.
The journey ranges from long stretches of highway – say hello to your new best friend, Autopilot; Tesla's driver assistance feature – to tight forest bends where the road slims down to a single lane. Make no mistake, the Model 3 hugs the road with confidence; aided greatly by an extremely low centre of gravity thanks to the 480-kilogram battery pack in the base of the car.
Instant torque is a hallmark of EV drivetrains and this car does not disappoint. The Performance Model 3 does 0 to 100 in 3.4 seconds; the type of response you get from a Ferrari or a McLaren.
With regenerative braking – a process that brakes the vehicle as the motors harness momentum to return power back to the battery – it's possible to handle corners and straights without ever touching the brake pedal.
With Autopilot engaged, it's also possible to spend an entire commute simply steering in city traffic while the vehicle handles the tedium of repetitive acceleration and braking, and lane keeping.
Power to the people
There's a period of anxiety that approaches as you drive an EV outside city limits. A hybrid electric-petrol motor vehicle still uses petrol. You run low, you fuel up and get back on the road. But an EV runs solely on electricity. No power source, no EV power.
While recharging any EV is a process that can take between minutes to several hours, thanks to a national network of Tesla's own Superchargers and third-party charging options, there's little range anxiety with the Model 3 – you're never far from a quick charge. Some are free, others take credit card.
Here comes the sun
Clifftop at Hepburn has amazing views. It faces north east, on the edge of a valley, and is perfectly positioned for the solar panels on the roof to get maximum sunlight.
Attached to an outside wall is a Tesla Powerwall; a lithium-ion battery around the size of an air-conditioner split system. Fed by the solar panels, this high-capacity battery charges across the course of the day to provide power when you need it. The property is still attached to the power grid, but an app allows you to dictate the split between grid and battery supply. You can even feed power back into the grid and earn a little pocket money.
Musk has said that having solar panels is "like having a money printer on your roof". When you look at the solar panels charging the Powerwall, which is charging the Model 3 in the driveway, the future feels a little brighter.
Have your cake
It's easy to think of the Model 3 as just another luxury EV from Tesla. The features and performance alone place it above the league of many vehicles at its price point.
As more automated driving features become available in Australia, we'll eventually see cars like this replace hire car fleets (looking at you, Uber) and grow to dominate the consumer landscape. We'll need a wiser government before that happens though.
In this age of flight shaming and bowser guilt, EVs like this could help us all return to a greener state of being, albeit in both style and comfort.
The writer stayed at Clifftop at Hepburn as a guest of the property.