Interview With YouTuber Tesla Tom, AKA Ludicrous Feed

Tesla Tom runs a popular YouTube channel called Ludicrous Feed, that aims to encourage others to look at an electric vehicle for their next purchase, as well as invest in renewable energy such as solar panels and battery storage for their home.

He also does a live stream and podcast that highlights the current state of electric vehicle adoption in Australia, and does interviews with special guests from the EV and renewable space.

This time the tables are turned. SolarQuotes is doing the interview, while Tom is the guest. Here is a transcript of the interview…

SolarQuotes: Tom, can I start by asking you where does the name “Ludicrous Feed” come from?

Tesla Tom: “When Tesla first brought out their Model S back in 2012 there was a mode called Ludicrous Mode, which was essentially a launch mode that got you very quickly from zero to 100km per hour. Back in the day, Elon Musk used it as a play on Ludicrous Speed from the movie Space Balls.”

 

“When I launched my YouTube channel EVs were also a bit ludicrous. There was some negative feedback about owning an EV, so I thought I’d play with that. I called my social media feed Ludicrous Feed as a play on words.”

SolarQuotes: Can you tell me what sparked your interest in electric vehicles and renewable energy?

Tesla Tom: “The journey started back in 2013 when I purchased a hot water heat pump. At the time I thought that was fabulous as it only used 20% of energy compared to an electrical element hot water system. That made me think about what more I could do to make my home more efficient.”

 

“From there we invested in some solar panels for the roof. The next thing was a Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery. I also needed to change my car because it was causing some discomfort for my family members, being a diesel SUV. Naturally, an electric vehicle was on the agenda, and so when I test-drove this Tesla Model S back in 2016 I fell in love straight away, and the rest is history.”

SolarQuotes: I’ve spent quite a few hours watching some of your many videos and only just scratched the surface. Can we talk a little bit about your YouTube journey? How long have you been doing it, and what got you started?

Tesla Tom: “When I purchased my EV in 2016, as I mentioned, I got some negative feedback from people I knew. I also had many curious people who were very interested in why I made the purchase. I started to answer the same questions over and over again, such as, “How long does it take to charge?”, “What’s the range of the vehicle?”, “Can you make road trips with it?”

 

“I thought I’d record my thoughts, and decided to start a YouTube channel. This was initially me driving around Sydney in my EV with a GoPro and chatting to people about the car. I showed that as an average family man, it’s viable to own an EV in Australia.”

 

“For some reason, people wanted to watch me, so I kept going. I listened to the feedback in the comments and tried to improve the content on the channel, and now I’m lucky enough, four years later, to have almost 20,000 subscribers.”

Here’s Tom’s first ever Ludicrous Feed YouTube video, uploaded in 2018. (sorry Tom)

SolarQuotes: Can you tell me a bit about your solar system and battery setup? For example – the size of the array, inverter, battery and EV chargers, etc.

Tesla Tom: “I have two solar power systems on my three-phase supply. In 2013 I had a 3kW system installed on one phase, then an additional 5.4kW system installed later on a second phase. These are Trina panels with Enphase micro-inverters. So that’s a total of 8.4kW. I have a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery and a three-phase Tesla Gen 2 and Tesla Gen 3 charger.”

SolarQuotes: Why does your system have micro-inverters? Do you have shading issues, or are there other benefits?

Tesla Tom: “We’re lucky enough not to have too much shade. I was interested, and sold on the fact, that you could monitor on such a discreet level. If there was an issue with one panel, you could find out which one was the problem. It’s also great to be able to see how much each panel is producing.”

SolarQuotes: Does the Powerwall backup all of the circuits on its phase, or essential household circuits only?

Tesla Tom: “The Tesla Powerwall 2 is not a three-phase battery. You could put one on each phase, but it won’t support a three-phase appliance, such as an electric motor, or three-phase air conditioner. I only have one battery, which is on the same phase as my 5.4kW solar system. My essential circuits, such as kitchen appliances are also connected to that phase.”

SolarQuotes: Can you tell me about your current electricity retailer and whether you are on any plans such as VPPs or EV charging plans?

Tesla Tom: “I’m with Powershop at the moment. I chose them because they have a good EV charging plan, which is very cheap between midnight and 4 am. We make sure to charge our EVs at that time. I also use an app called Charge HQ, which is a software-based system that matches excess solar and off-peak electricity to charge my EVs.”

SolarQuotes: Which other apps do you use on a day-to-day basis to monitor your solar, battery, consumption, and EVs, and how much is automated?

Tesla Tom: “When I first got my system and my car I used to monitor it daily because I’m a bit obsessive that way. Now it’s come to a point where it’s almost set and forget.”

 

“I noticed that the AI on the Powerwall 2 has improved a lot over the years. I was worried when I installed the home battery that the EV would consume the home battery first, before taking the grid energy. This would have been an issue during off-peak times, as I wanted the battery to be available to power the house later during peak periods.”

 

“Somehow Tesla has worked it out with their AI. Also with the Tesla app, you can set the tariffs to prioritize charging times.”

SolarQuotes: I’ve watched your video comparing fuel cost savings in 14 months of owning a Tesla Model S compared to a petrol vehicle, which shows a saving of about $2,500 p.a.

That’s pretty impressive, but how about a breakdown of the full cost of ownership of an EV compared to a petrol vehicle, including other running costs and depreciation? Is that something that’s in the pipeline?

Tesla Tom: “Yes definitely. I love doing those comparisons. I’ve done two or three already, comparing a Tesla Model 3 with a Toyota Camry, and also a Toyota Camry Hybrid. Against the Camry Hybrid, the Tesla Model 3 comes out on top after five years, taking into account fuel costs and maintenance savings. If you can afford to invest the capital upfront you’ll be winning after five years.”

SolarQuotes: In your solar/ battery payback videos from 2018, 2020, and 2021, none of them include an EV in the calculations. Is this potentially another video that you’re likely to make?

Tesla Tom: “Yes, I’ll have to do another update with the battery included. I did those videos without the battery at the time because I was on a very cheap EV plan with AGL, which was only a dollar per day. That plan doesn’t exist anymore. At the time I left out the EV to give a better comparison.”

SolarQuotes: You say it’s questionable whether payback times for a product with 10 years warranty is sufficient. However, you quite rightly say there are other reasons for owning a home battery such as energy security, helping grid stability, getting off fossil fuels, etc.

Could owning an EV also be one of these reasons? Do you think that owning an EV changes the equation when looking at payback times for solar with batteries?

Tesla Tom: “I think so. EVs help with excess solar production, so instead of sending that electricity to the grid for a low feed-in tariff, you can charge your vehicle during the day, which is far more efficient.”

 

“Does it help with the payback of the battery? Yes, I think so. You have to look at the whole ecosystem including not only solar and battery, but also car petrol and running costs, so it’s a much bigger conversation.”

SolarQuotes: Most of your payback videos show roughly a 10-year payback for $25K spent. I noticed one of the YouTube comments saying that you may be making a mistake by lumping solar and battery together to get a ROI, as the vast majority of savings will come from the solar, not the battery.

What do you think about that? Is it best to split those conversations up, or lump them together?

Tesla Tom: “Yes I’ve seen those comments and I have to agree that the solar payback is very good. You can pay back a solar system in three to five years, depending on how much you consume. So yes, the vast majority of savings comes from the solar rather than the battery.”

 

“However it’s hard to just use the battery as a payback comparison because not many people would buy a battery in isolation. They would usually buy solar as well. As you mentioned before, there are other, non-tangible benefits as well.”

SolarQuotes: You’d probably agree that calculating accurate payback periods without real-world data is very difficult due to the multitude of variables. One of those variables I can think of is the round-trip efficiency of batteries.

So for our audience, round-trip efficiency is the percentage of electricity put into storage that is later retrieved. For example, the Powerwall 2 datasheet says it has 90% round-trip efficiency, so from every kWh used to charge the battery, only 90% of that is available to discharge. The rest is lost as heat.

Do you think the average person buying a battery or an EV (which is a battery on wheels) should consider this when estimating payback periods, or is this diving in too deep for a back-of-envelope calculation?

Tesla Tom: “90% is actually pretty good. I wouldn’t say this is negligible, but considering the other potential cost savings, it becomes quite a big picture, and possibly a bit too deep for the average consumer to worry about.”

 

“Having said that, EVs are about 90% efficient, compared to petrol vehicles which are only 25% efficient. So if you put that into perspective you suddenly realize that renewable energy is far more efficient than energy from fossil fuels.”

SolarQuotes: Elaborating on that – if you’re charging an EV battery from a home battery, the round-trip efficiencies of two batteries would be compounded. At what point would it be a bad idea to transfer energy this way?

Tesla Tom: “Yes, I know what you’re saying. If you compound the two of them that would be 90% of 90%, down to 81%. What’s the solution there? Obviously, you’d want to charge directly from the solar or grid to the car if you can using software or hardware to do that using excess solar production.”

 

“That segues to the next conversation, which is, should we be using our cars as storage for the home, which is V2H (vehicle to home), or V2G (vehicle to grid)? I wish Tesla batteries had that capacity. Other EVs like the Nissan Leaf I think have that capability. Other cars like the Ioniq 5 has V2L (vehicle to load), with special adapters in their charging ports. I think that is the future.”

SolarQuotes: I like the video where you did an experiment on EV charging times. You concluded that charging your EV beyond 80% was inefficient, as it takes a lot longer to charge the last 20%. You had a couple of very interesting graphs that you constructed.

I’d be interested to know if the discharging follows the same curve but in reverse. For example, does your EV get a better mileage when the battery is fully charged, and then perhaps uses more energy per kilometer for the last 80%? Do you know if this is what happens?

Tesla Tom: “That’s a very good question. I’ve never actually thought of that, but I probably should be thinking about it. I would have to work out how to monitor that. The Tesla EV shows the energy consumption over a trip, but there are so many variables, such as climate, road conditions, and driving style.”

SolarQuotes: Can you give us a scoop on your next video? What’s coming up?

Tesla Tom: “I can tell you that I’ll be taking a loan of a Genesis GV60 in the next week or so. These are considered a luxury or high-end EV. Hyundai which is the parent company has kindly agreed to loan it to me for a week.”

 

“I’ll do my usual thing where I take it out for a drive, check out the efficiency of the vehicle, charge it up, and do a full review, so look out for that.”

Tom beat us to it. The video is already out…

SolarQuotes: Winding up – Tom, apart from subscribing to your YouTube channel and watching your live streams and podcasts, do you have any advice for someone sitting on the fence waiting to get into an EV?

Tesla Tom: “My tip would be – if you haven’t gone for a test drive, just do it. Get your bum into a seat. If you’re like me you’ll fall in love straight away. Maybe even take it for a few days if you can find a rental or car-sharing company. The more you drive it, the more you’ll realize why have you waited so long to get into an EV.”

SolarQuotes: Fantastic, I think I’ll book my test drive as soon as I finish this call. Anyway Tom, thanks for your time today. I’ve really enjoyed watching some of your videos and having a chat. Next time I’m on holiday I’ll set aside a week to watch the rest of your videos.

Tesla Tom: “Thanks Kim. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.”

You can check out Tom’s YouTube Channel Ludicrous Feed here.

Tom’s website also has links to live streams and podcasts here.

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