Upgrading my Model S?

In the middle of last month I got an unsolicited email from Tesla headquarters asking me if I wanted to upgrade my Model S.  I have not seen much chatter about this on the web and the email was addressed directly to me.  I have a VIN less than 5,000, so hand soliciting owners with less than 5,000 miles is not surprising.  A Bloomberg reports states that Tesla is strongly pushing to show positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The bulk of the email stated the following:

This is X with Tesla Motors Headquarters. Today, I am writing to you to explore upgrading your Model S! 

Our newest release of Autopilot hardware and software will revolutionize your commute and we’d like to offer you an easy path to upgrade your Model S to a vehicle with these new features.  Model S also features new options such as improved seating, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, Ludicrous speed, range of over 280 miles, new colors, new fascia and much more.  Above all, we have made the upgrading process simple and convenient.   

We are also excited to share that we have reintroduced the Tesla Referral Program! From now until October 15th you will receive a $1,000 credit towards the purchase price of either a Model S/X.

I had not really looked into upgrading, as I tend to hold onto cars for at least ten years unless there is a compelling reason to upgrade.  But I thought I’d look into how much it would cost to upgrade my Model S.  I had no interest in the Model X.

Possible Configuration

Base Model

There are currently four battery sizes available:  60, 75, 90 or 100 kWh.  The 100kWh only comes configured as a P100D with dual drive.  The 90 is also only available with the dual drive but the 60 and 75 can be configured with rear wheel drive.  My main interest is battery range as I like to take long trips and have the most flexibility on when and where to charge.  The following table shows the four battery options, the EPA mileage estimates, the amount of upfront cash required before sales tax, and the cost per mile.  The 60 and 75 rear wheel drive version and the 90D are in the same ballpark; if you have any interest in a longer range vehicle, you are paying the same proportion in cost for more battery cells up to the 90D.


The P100D is a $42,500 jump from the 90D.  The 90D goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, the P100D goes from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds.  If I were to upgrade, I would definitely go with the 90D.  The P100D’s range is not that much more for the extra cost. I live in an area with increasing congestion where it is increasingly difficult to enjoy fast 0 to 60 acceleration.



I’d pay the $3,000 for Autopilot 2.0 hardware.  The primary feature I would be interested in is intelligent cruise control.  I’ve always found traditional cruise control generally more frustrating than anything else because there are always too many cars on the highway to maintain a constant speed.  The rest of the autopilot features don’t interest me all that much.

Smart Air Suspension

I bought the smart air suspension on my Model S in order to improve the efficiency while driving on the freeway.  Unfortunately I have found very little efficiency improvements using the smart air suspension.  For $2,500 and more maintenance issues, I would definitely pass on this option.

Panoramic Roof

I’d definitely configure the car with the Panoramic Roof for $1,500.  I don’t think I have ever bought a car without some sort of sunroof.


After so much hassle with my 21” tires, I definitely would choose 19” wheels.  Low profile tires are just too much of a hassle on a wide vehicle.  I am tired of tight parking spaces, curb rash, and the increased vulnerability and wear of low profile tires.

Ultra High Fidelity Sound

For $2,500, I am a sucker for better sounding music in the car even though I don’t listen to it all that much.  I know there are after market options, but that to me is just a hassle.

Premium Upgrade Package

This $3,000 package includes a lot of miscellaneous things.  I would like to have the filtration system to some agricultural smells, and I like having a power liftgate.

Other options

I don’t have any needs for the Sub Zero Weather Package, Rear Facing Seats or the High Amperage Charger.


Deciding the exact color seat combination would probably be a last minute decision.  I’d probably wait for the grey second generation seats in Mid 2017 that are a $2,500 upgrade.  I’m happy with my black interior, but I’ve always liked grey interiors the best.


Tax Credits

I would be unlikely to get my federal tax credit of $7,500.  I did not get the credit on the Roadster, and I did not get all the credit on my Model S.  I am very fortunate to have retired very early in life, and my investments are tuned to only generate enough interest and dividend income to offset property tax and mortgage interest.  Adjusting this even in one tax year is not that simplistic, and definitely hard to do in the last quarter of a year.

The California state tax credit is a bit more complex and caught up in politics.  Right now if you try to apply you will be put on a waitlist.


For both my Roadster and Model S, the rebate arrived very quickly and the process was painless.  Recently though the California government stopped this incentive for high income earners and increased the incentives for those with low income.  California uses gross annual incomes to determine whether or not you are eligible for the income.

income.jpgI would not count on the $2,500 California rebate if I bought a new Tesla both for political reasons and my personal widely fluctuating income.

Trade In

I have to admit the number one thing I was curious about in this process was the value of my current Model S with 59,000 miles on it.  The process to get a quote took a while but in the end, I would receive $41,000 plus a $1,000 loyalty credit contingent upon an inspection.  I don’t have any scratches on the car but they would likely deduct some curb rash repair fees.


The most likely configuration I came up with was a 90D with about half the options for $102,000.    I would need to add in 9% sales tax and then subtract out my $42,000 trade in. I do still have $800 left in credit for an earlier referral but that might be used up to clean up the curb rash on my wheels.  In the end to upgrade my car would cost me around $70,000!


I have no interest in changing my under warranty 59,000 mile Model S for the a very similar car with a small increase in range for $70,000.   In the unlikely occurrence that my Model S was totaled, I might be interested in leasing and switching the cars around till I found the perfect body size for me – even driving an X for a few years then switching to a Model 3.  Upgrading a car to essentially the same car is just not all that interesting.


2016 Shareholder Highlights


Elon Musk and JB Straubel Talking About the AC Propulsion Prototype Car

I attended in person the almost four hour shareholders meeting in Mountain View, CA.  This meeting was more of a Tesla history lesson than a shareholders meeting.  At times I was very bored as I have been following Tesla since 2007, and a lot of the information was unnecessarily long.  The large recognition of a variety of Tesla employees was nice to see as Tesla is not just Elon. There were a few interesting tidbits during the history lesson and the 30 minutes of Q&A.

Model 3 Supercharging Fees

Elon stated the Model 3 will have a fee to use the superchargers.   The pricing model is unknown and could be a simple upfront fee or a pay per use model.  The 60kWh version of the Model S had a simple $2,000 fee to enable supercharging.

Model X Regrets

Elon admitted that the Model X was over engineered.  He regretted not launching a simpler Model X and following up future versions of the car with these new features.  He also admitted to a lot of problems with the falcon wing doors, and that the remaining issues are software related for a various corner cases when the doors should or should not open.

I really liked that Elon acknowledged this mistake;  I am much more comfortable with honest leaders who both recognize and publicly admit errors.  I also think that if the Model X had a simpler base version with standard doors and standard seats, a lot more vehicles would have been sold.

Model S and X as Technology Leaders

The Model S and Model X will always be the technology leaders and will be continually improved.

Building the Machines that Build the Machine

Elon also demonstrated a huge amount of interest in building the machines that build the machine. He used the analogy of integrated circuit (IC) design to car factory design.  When designing an IC, the designer and software make tradeoffs between speed, size, and power consumption of a chip.  The process is very complex today as the individual components and wires are extremely small.  During this analogy, Elon referred to both the slow rate that cars are leaving the factory and the number of layers in an IC.  With these references, I can speculate that Elon thinks that there are ways the factory robotic process can be combined.  Very simplistic ideas could be that multiple robots are working on a car at the same time; perhaps one robot is above the car, another below the car and a third on the side of the car.

The New Model S Nose

On display at front was an older Model S, a new Model S with the new nose, and a Model X.  I don’t really have a strong opinion about the new nose.  From all the Model Xs I have seen in California, I have found that the new nose looks better on some colors than others.



70D Announcement

Tesla announced a new version of the Model S, the 70D, by simply writing a blog post and changing their web page early this morning.  I like this simple way of changing their line up.  With this new lineup, they are eliminating the Model S 60, which started at around $70K, for an all wheel drive 70D, starting around $75K.   These numbers are before any governmental tax incentives.  One California lawmaker is trying to eliminate the $2,500 California credit for cars costing more than $40K.

I suspect two things lead to this change in configurations.  First, the battery technology is constantly changing.  When technology changes, the newer models simply change.  Secondly, I think most customers want the largest battery they can afford to enable driving longer without having to charge.  The new 70D has a driving range of 240 miles.  If a Model S could hold a 150kW battery, there would be a market for it!  Also with the larger battery, an owner has peace of mind knowing that even if the battery ages over a number of years, the car will still be very useful.

I do find it quite curious that the most inexpensive model is all wheel drive with two motors.  You can still buy a rear wheel drive version with the 85 battery.  Speculative ideas include that Tesla wants to have a clear differentiator between the Model S and the future 3rd generation car, or that perhaps the 70 without dual motors would be too slow, which seems unlikely.

Also from today onwards, all cars have the tech package which includes navigation.  I do not think very many customers bought cars without the tech package, and more and more features are linking into the navigation system.

Tesla also introduced some new colors:  ocean blue, which is a medium deep ocean blue, and warm silver, which is closer to a tan color, and a metallic black, obsidian black. If I were buying a new Tesla today I would seriously consider the new ocean blue, although it is quite different than my Roadster’s beloved Glacier Blue.

Model S Weight

When I took the factory tour in early 2013, the guide did not let us go near the area where they build the battery but he explicitly told us:

The battery weighs the same for 60kWh and 85kWh.  Dead cells are put into the 60kWh battery in order to keep the weight the same.  This odd feature is to avoid performing two sets of crash tests.

They also listed only one weight in any of their documentation in the past.

Recently folks have been commenting on the fact that the 60 battery version weighs less.  Now with the 5.9 version of the manual, Tesla lists different weights for the 60 and the 85.

Weights Listed in the Model S Manual Version 5.9

Weights Listed in the Model S Manual Version 5.9

The curb weight is the weight of the car parked with standard equipment and without any occupants or luggage.  The difference in the weight of the 60 vs the 85 is 223 pounds or 101 kilograms.  Both bare bones versions have the same options except the 85 is “supercharger enabled” but this is simply a software switch that 60 owners can purchase after the fact.

The gross vehicle weight rating is 5,710 lbs or 2,590 kg for the Model S.  This second measure is how much weight is safe for travel including any additional car options, passengers and all cargo.  For a 85 battery, you can carry passengers and cargo up to 1,080 pounds; truck manufacturers use the term payload for this difference.  This number is actually smaller then I would expect.  I can easily imagine a scenario in the United States where four people were traveling and each weighted 200 pounds and were also carrying some particularly heavy items in the trunk and frunk. They could exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.  I don’t think this difference between Curb Weight and Gross Vehicle Weight is much different than for ICE cars but finding these specification is not that easy.  The payload for a Dodge Ram 1500 Express is 1,719 pounds.

New Model Lineup

With the announcement of the all wheel drive D capability of the car, Tesla rearranged and simplified their offerings.  Prior to the big anouncement, the Model S was available in the following configurations:

60, 85, P85 and P85+

All of which I tested as service loaners. Just after the D announcement, Tesla offered various versions of the D, but now the options are simplified to the following four :

60, 85, 85D and P85D

The P85 and the P85+ are no longer available and also there is no all wheel drive version with the 60kWh battery.  The P85+ was no longer available immediately after the D was announced.  This decision was probably easy as the P85D is the top of the line performer as was the P85+.  The discontinuation of the P85 has caused a small uproar in the owner community.  Some consider their car less valuable than before.  But from a configuration standpoint, the P85 performance is not that much faster than the 85, and I did not care for the way the front of the car tilted up from a dead start.  I can’t wait to try a P85D loaner!

The table below lists the pricing of the four base models with the same options including the 19″ wheels.  The numbers are for a cash purchase in California including “Destination and Registration Doc Fees” and assuming the buyer qualifies and receives the $7,500 federal and $2,500 California tax credits.  For buyers in other states and countries, the final price may differ slightly but the variation of price between model to model will be the same.

Tesla Model Price and Feature Comparison Table Nov, 2014

Tesla Model Price and Feature Comparison Table Nov, 2014

I have also included the detail performance of each model.  Tesla is now using a range number for the car at 65mph instead of the EPA range.  Regardless, an easy estimate is approximately 2/3 of this value given spirited driving in all kinds of weather.

The interesting question on the table is it worth $24,600 for a car that is two seconds faster?

Discontinuing the 60D option was probably made after Tesla looked at the number of cars ordered.  The 60 is a good choice for folks who have more limited budgets and adding all wheel drive can tip the scale.

Green Car Reports recently stated that Californian’s buy 40% of all of the plug in vehicles in the United States.  Only in the Sierra Nevada mountains is all wheel drive necessary but many folks throughout California go there in the winter for skiing or snowboarding.  But I would suspect most of those buyers would be also choosing the 85 version in order to enable more long distance driving.

They also discontinued the brown and green colors.  I think I only saw a brown Model S once and few greens.  The green was almost black and very dark.  They also discontinued the Lacewood trim and a black roof on a non-black car, which I have never seen.  They also discontinued unlimited ranger service this year and now charge $100 per visit.

Truckee Supercharger

photo 1-1

Grand Opening of Truckee Supercharger

Superchargers are a Little Hidden Behind the Strip Mall

Superchargers are a Little Hidden Behind the Strip Mall


Construction is Almost Complete

Construction is Almost Complete

On my way home from Oregon, I got word that the Truckee Supercharger was open and decided to stop by on the opening day.

The supercharger is located behind a standard California strip mall.  Right now it is a little hard to spot because of the large waste bin in front of the superchargers but even when it is cleared out the superchargers will be a little hidden.

This strip mall has a Safeway grocery store, a Rite Aid drug store and a Starbucks.  Three pizza places, a Dairy Queen, and a sushi place are all around this intersection.  So there are plenty of eating options.  There are also several stores that sell sporting equipment.

I lived in Lake Tahoe for a short time around ten years ago.  Right where the superchargers are had been one of the best restaurants in town along with a great bookstore.  But both are sadly gone.  I have to admit, I rarely buy physical books myself so I have contributed to the demise of independent bookstores.

When I decided to head to Tahoe, I was on a trip in Oregon and veered off to Lake Tahoe on a non-well traveled path from Corning to Truckee.

I charged almost to full in Corning and then headed to Truckee via mostly two lane highways.  The route was 157 miles with a short section of a local road and some freeway stretches.  The elevation gain is significant from 0 to around 6,000 feet.  For the most part the path is reasonably scenic and it was nice to be off an interstate.

On the warm August day the valley weather was averaging 95 degrees fahrenheit (35 Celsius).  I used exactly 60kWh on this trip, so Corning to Truckee is very doable in all weather in an 85 but very dicey in a 60.

60 Loaner Report

During my cross country road trip, I had a few items worked on my car at the Minneapolis service center.  A subsequent blog post will discuss the items in for service and the service experience. This blog post will discuss my half day driving and review of the Model S with the 60kW battery.

The Model S I am reviewing had the following options different than my own car:

60 Loaner in Minneapolis

60 Loaner in Minneapolis

  • 60kW battery (60)
  • 19” Wheels
  • Parking Sensors
  • Folding Side Mirrors
  • No Panoramic Roof

Acceleration / Range

I was pleasantly surprised by the acceleration of the 60.  The Tesla web page now states that the 60 has a 0-60 acceleration of 5.9 seconds, and the 85 has a 0-60 acceleration of 5.4 seconds.  I would not chose a battery based upon acceleration.  I had written earlier an extensive review of the P85+.  With the high performance drive inverter, the P85+ or P85 can accelerate in 4.2 seconds in 0-60.  I definitely felt a difference with the P inverter, but I did not care for the way the P85+ front lifted off the line.

The primary determining factor between the different batteries is the range of the car.  The 60 has an EPA range of 208 miles, and the 85 has an EPA range of 265 miles.  I constantly get asked how far my car can drive without recharging.  The simple answer is in California probably around 200 miles with mostly freeway driving.  But in near freezing weather with extensive gusts like my recent experience in the Black Hills, that range is closer to 150 miles.

I personally would not want to purchase a 60 for the shorter range.  I have wanderlust and like to travel.  Within the San Francisco Bay Area, I regularly visit friends in other corners of the region.  I also like to take road trips and the 85 makes them much more pleasant.  But the 60 word work very well for someone who routinely travels shorter distances and does not take many road trips.

19” Wheels

The biggest difference between the loaner car and mine was the 19” wheels.  I have been driving Tesla’s for five years now with sticky tires.  I almost immediately missed the 21” wheels even on the Minneapolis freeways.  They simply do not hug the road the same way.  The loaner also had air suspension so it was a true 1:1 test.

Minneapolis in early May 2014 was littered with potholes, so I completely understand the practicality of the 19” wheels in a cold weather climate.  I live in an area with some fun curvy roads and enjoy the 21” wheels, but I do have a neighbor down the street with 19” wheels.


Mirror Retracted

Folding Side Mirrors

I realized the loaner had folding side mirrors when I parked the car and returned to find the mirrors folded in.  There is a configuration setting if you want this to occur automatically or not.

I would only get this feature if I needed to regularly park my car in tight spaces or lived in a very urban setting.

Panoramic Roof

The weather on this journey has been quite difficult.  Lots of cold and windy days.  When the sun popped out for a few minutes, I really wanted to enjoy a few moments of sun and missed the Panoramic Roof.  The car also felt smaller with the standard roof.

Parking Sensor Warning

Parking Sensor Warning

Parking Sensors

I was pleasantly surprised that the loaner also had the parking sensors.  When approaching an object, they indicate in green that you are close.  As you get closer, the color moves to yellow with the distance in inches in the US.

Parking Sensor Worked For Front Curb

Parking Sensor Worked For Front Curb

For parking a car, I found these unnecessary.  With the Model S you have a rear view camera to aid in backing up.  The front distance is easy enough to judge.  I could imagine again if I lived in a very urban area doing a lot of parallel parking this feature could be useful.

I had hoped the parking sensors would help with curb rash.  Even my newly spruced up 21” wheels have small amounts of fresh curb rash.  The parking sensors will unfortunately not help with curb rash as the curbs are too low from the side.  When I pulled back into the Minneapolis service center, I was surprised that the parking sensor did indicate the front curb ahead as shown in the photo on the left.


In the end, I quickly concluded that my current configuration was the right purchase for me.  Although the 60’s acceleration is still great, the battery range would be a hinderance.  I also really enjoy driving with the 21” wheels despite pangs of guilt using so many tires.  I am also glad I have the panoramic roof on my car.

The parking sensors and folding side mirrors are nice features but I can only really recommend them for people who live in urban situations with challenging parking.