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.

dollarpermile.jpg

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.

Options

Autopilot

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.

Wheels

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.

Aesthetics

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.

Pricing

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.

waitlist.jpg

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.

Numbers

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!

Conclusion

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.

Autopilot Test

My Model S was in for service again to fix the long term intermittent problem of my bluetooth failing.  I requested a loaner with autopilot. This service visit I received a P85D with autopilot and drove it for over 100 miles in a variety of conditions.

Autopilot currently consists of four separate features:  automatic steering (auto steer) on freeways and highways, automatic lane changing, traffic aware cruise control, and automatic parallel parking.  The auto steer and auto lane changing are the most amusing and entertaining.  I found auto steer to be a bit buggy and not particularly useful.  Traffic aware cruise control is probably the most useful feature of the bunch and could be really great for someone with a nasty commute.  Auto parking worked well but only under specific conditions.  I’ll talk about each of these four features in some detail.

Auto steer

To turn on auto steer, you pull the cruise control stick towards you twice in a row on an appropriate highway.  Auto steer follows the lane markings on a highway and attempts to keep the car in the center of the lane.  Because it follows the lane markings, it really only works well on freeways or highways with uninterrupted center lines.

I tried auto steer in a variety of conditions.  On the freeway it worked quite nicely in the center and middle lanes.  In the far right lane, auto steer’s performance was weaker because many times the far right lane markings were weaker.  A couple of times it jerked the car over to the right on the freeway.  The software seems to handle an exiting lane fine and stayed in the far right lane.

In California, we are finally experiencing a lot of rain as the El Niño weather pattern has started.  Several times during moderate rain on the freeway the auto steer turned off.

IMG_3332

Auto Steer Turned Itself Off in These Rainy Conditions

I did a fair amount of driving also on “highways” – two lane roads through the mountains and along the coast.  Where the road was gentle and consistent, auto steer did fine.  For other highway driving, auto steer was a challenge.  A couple of times the pavement line on the right hand side disappeared, and it jerked to the right.  When a left turn lane appeared, the car got confused.  One very long reasonable U shaped curve, the software got quite confused and drove the left tires at one point over the center marker.

After a days worth of driving I got pretty comfortable with auto steer and allowed the wheel to move my hands around, which at first felt a little strange.  I think I would only use auto steer on real freeway driving where there are consistent lane markers.  In some ways I think auto steer is a technology looking for a problem.  When I am driving on a freeway, I do not mentally steer, and I am already driving on “auto pilot”.  Having the car auto steer on, I found took more attention than normal.  I found this feature to be quite entertaining but not particularly useful in this simple form.

Auto Lane Change

I experimented with auto lane change a number of times and it worked flawlessly.  It is super easy to use, just turn on your turn signal indicator and it will change lanes for you.  I never did try it in conditions where there was a car in another lane as that felt dangerous.  Again I’m not sure I need this feature.

Traffic Aware Cruise Control

On the other hand, I really liked traffic aware cruise control.  Since the car’s sensors’ detect a car ahead of you, it calculates the correct speed to maintain a safe distance from the other car.  I don’t use cruise control a lot because of this exact problem.  When I have conventional cruise control on and another car appears in front of me, its often too much of a hassle to adjust the speed.  But this traffic aware cruise control solves this problem beautifully.  I can see how useful this would be if you are unfortunately stuck in commute traffic.

Fortunately, I do not commute, and even when I did work my longest commute was 15 minutes.  When I am stuck in stop and go traffic, I really do not enjoy driving, so I would like this feature.  My only minor complaint is that I would like to adjust the distance a bit.  I like to keep larger distances than normal from other drivers.  Perhaps that is wasting space on the road, but I found with traffic aware cruise control, I felt a bit like I was tailgating.

Auto Park

I confess I am not a good parallel parker and avoid it.  When I do parallel park, I typically find spots at the beginning or end of a line as they are so much easier to get in and out of.  Now that my mirrors change positions in reverse, I can safely avoid any curb rash on my wheels.

Auto Parallel Parking is a feature I do like but in the first release it is quite limited.  You must be on a street with sidewalks and be parking in between two parked cars.  I found several places I wanted to try this feature, but in my area 75% of the parking opportunities did not match those conditions.  When I did find an appropriate place, the car parked itself very nicely.  It did allow me to parallel park in front of a fire hydrant though.

IMG_3348

Beautiful Parallel Parking Job With the Right Conditions

P85D

I enjoyed driving the P85D.  This time I could feel that the handling was significantly improved over my S85.  Because the roads were so wet, the car did slip when I floored it in ludicrous mode.  But I did enjoy the increased acceleration.  I do not know if I would spent the significant extra dollars though to buy the increased acceleration.  Where I live there are just so few times when I could enjoy it.

Summary

Autopilot costs $2,500 if purchased with the car.  The parking sensors themselves are now standard equipment with the car.  I really like traffic aware cruise control and would likely buy this package primary for that feature.  But I’m not compelled to upgrade my Model S for the auto pilot package.

Release 7.0 for Classic Teslas

Classic Teslas like mine do not have the hardware that enables the autopilot features.  The new software release that all cars received last Friday works for both the Classic Teslas and the ones with the autopilot hardware, which costs $2,500.  This release has a few significant highlights and unfortunately a couple of lowlights for Classic Cars such as mine.

1. The look and feel has changed in several small ways.  Some of the fonts and style has changed a little bit with the current fashionable flat 2-D icons.  When Apple first released their 2-D icons, I missed the older ones, but I largely think this is just a current style trend that will eventually change again.

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

2. For long road trips, the information on the dashboard for energy usage is much clearer.  Now instead of looking at a strange screen with Trip A and Trip B monitors, you are looking at the information since the last time you started the car on top, and since your last charge below.  On long road trips when I was running dangerously low on energy, I would always bring up the Trip screen to get this information since last charge.   The Trip A and B information is still available on the 17” screen if people plan their energy use that way.

I like this change because I can monitor how much energy I have used since my last charge very succinctly.  I like the kWh usage number and I can easily mentally compare that to my 85kWh battery and compare my Wh/mi usage to the 300 Wh/mile standard.  Here in the hills of California, I never average as low as 300 Wh/mile.  Only on some very flat freeways can the average be maintained at that low level.

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

2. Tesla has finally found a solution to my curb rash! Now the rear view mirrors adjust downwards while backing up.  I have only tried using this feature once but now I imagine I can parallel park much nicer even without auto-pilot. Of course, I could have done that manually in the past, but I couldn’t imagine messing with my mirrors every time before and after parallel parking.  I’m really excited about this feature because for some reason I’ve never been a great parallel parker.  In my entire life I just have never lived anywhere where I parked parallel with any frequency.

After visiting so many superchargers, I’m really good at backing up into tight spaces though.

Dash Display on Left and Center

Dash Display on Left and Center

 

3. The center of the dash has grown and changed to accommodate an area for the autopilot in the middle of the speedometer.   For those without autopilot the area is a bit excessive.  The car will have indication lights such as when it is braking as in the picture, but typically this information does not change much and can be a bit annoying.  Owners with red cars have reported they cannot really see the red indicator lights as it blends too much with their car color on the display.

To make space for the larger center display, the battery level was moved to the left and the date, time and temperature removed from the standard dash set up.  You can see the time at the far upper right of the 17” screen, and the date through the calendar app.

To appease those of us who may want to have an easier glance at the time, they added a new clock widget.  The response to the clocks widget is that it is almost universally esthetically displeasing.  And with all of that space, why can’t the date and day of the week also be listed?

Upper Left of 17" Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

Upper Left of 17″ Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

4.  Tesla added a tiny lock and unlock button on the top row of the 17” screen.

I like this improvement because it took a while to fiddle around the 17” screen to unlock the doors for someone who was trying to get into the car.   They moved the outside temperature reading up here too along with a new button for bringing up the charge screen.

I think the temperature needs to go back to the dash permanently.  I am a bit obsessive about the outside temperature.  I adjust the inside temperature control a lot depending upon the outside temperature and whether or not it is sunny.  This fall has been so warm here in California.  Today is the first day of the year that even feels like fall not summer so I’ve been watching the temperature this year a bit obsessively.

The new charge button brings up the charge screen, which to me is a bit strange.  I am always fiddling a bit to find the unlock charge port button more than anything else on that screen. I’d prefer that this lightning bolt just unlocked the charge port.

Other Details

The release also includes a few other minor changes on the dash board that I will not mention such as a full screen control of the media player.  There are also some efficiency improvements but I have not driven the car much yet to notice any differences.  Newer cars also get a full four wheel tire pressure monitoring sensors that will report on each four tires.  My car’s vintage is unfortunately too old.  I don’t know if there are any bug fixes to the bug challenged trip planner.

All in all, I think 7.0 is an improvement even with a few trivial mistakes on the UI.

Dealing With a Leaky Tire

As my regular blog readers know, I have had a torrent of problems with my tires.  I have had problems with excessive tire wear (which I hope to report an update on soon), but also just more mundane problems.  My wheels have a fair amount of curb rash particularly the right rear tire due to the tire’s profile and the large size of the Model S.  But I have not scraped a curb in a long time and I don’t fret over a few scratches.

My more mundane problem with this right rear tire is that I had a nail in the tire earlier this year.  I had the nail torn out and a plug put into the tire by my local mechanic.  The tire worked fine for several thousand miles.  Then in a bit of a rush, I scraped the sidewall of the tire.  Then a thousand miles later, the plug began to have a slow leak.

The Model S TPMS system does a good job warning you when a tire is less than 30-32psi.  I consistently will get a warning when the tire is around that threshold.  On the Model S, the software does not tell you which tire is leaking.  Ironically the TPMS on the Roadster did tell you which tire leaked!

I have four tires of the same vintage with significant wear, so replacing one tire would definitely require replacing two tires.  Tires are not free and they also use resources in manufacturing and shipping.  So I decided to delay the replacement by pumping air in the tire.  I did not look at a second repair of the plug.  The first repair cost me $47.60.  I live in an expensive neighborhood with an extremely reliable mechanic.  I could likely find another shop that may be able to do a second patch for less money, but I decided to not investigate that option.

Instead for the last 5,000 miles, I have been simply pumping this tire with air every three days or so.  The tire leaks about 2-3 psi per day whether or not the car is driven.  So it is not that hard to top it off.  I have used three different methods:

Conventional Air Pump

Conventional Air Pump

The first method is to drive to a conventional gas station.  I only tried this method once as I was out and about when the tire pressure warning light indicated.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, many gas stations charge for air.  I found the process to be a hassle dealing with a charge based machine.  If the air was free, the process would be faster.

I find this picture quite amusing.  Not only are you buying air, which to me always feels ironic, you can use a pay phone to make a call at the same time.  And if you are feeling generous, you can donate some clothes or shoes.

 

Electric Air Pump

Electric Air Pump

The second method is to use an electric pump that works on the 12V plug in the Tesla.  I bought this kit online.  It is not the Tesla branded version but it is the same basic kit.  Using electricity it pumps air into your tire.  The process is not particularly fast and your car needs to be unlocked to connect to the plug.  I carry the pump with me in the car.

Standing Bicycle Pump

Standing Bicycle Pump

The third method is to use a standing bicycle pump.  This third method is my favorite method.  When I’m in the garage without my key, I can pump up the tire at the same rate as the electrical plug using this pump.  I also leave the pump near the car, and it helps to remind me to add some air. Most cyclists own one of these standing pumps and they cost under $50.  The standing pumps are much easier to use than the bicycle pump that you can carry on your bike.

With any of these three methods, it takes about five minutes to add about 8-10psi to a tire.  My car is going to Tesla soon and I’m likely going to buy at least two new tires.  Topping off the tire every few days is pretty painless but I think I’m ready to be pump free.

Move Forward / Back Up

Firmware 6.1 has a number of new features including the long awaited reverse camera guidelines.  Recently a lot of auto-pilot and driverless car features have been announced by Tesla and other companies.  A pure driverless car will be of interest for some segments of the market – perhaps someone with a tedious commute.  But many drivers will still want to actually drive their car and enjoy being on the road.  Technology and automation is often but not always an improvement to our world.

Reverse Camera Guidelines

When I first got the Model S, I really wanted these guidelines but after driving the car for almost two years, I have a strong sense of both the front and back space of the car and really feel no personal need for these guidelines nor the parking sensors.

Backing Up Towards Another Tesla With Reverse Camera Guidelines and a Dirty Screen

Backing Up Towards Another Tesla With Reverse Camera Guidelines and a Dirty Screen

My parallel parking skills are not superb but this weakness is largely due to lack of practice as where I live I simply don’t parallel park frequently.  I have backed into so many supercharger stalls, I now feel very comfortable backing into parking spaces.

I now see both the reverse camera guidelines and parking sensors similar to training wheels on a child’s bike.  They are very helpful for a period of time or in unusual situations but at some point are not generally necessary.

Reverse In Parking Spaces

Recently a number of local municipalities are starting to design reverse in parking spaces.  The San Francisco Bay Area is getting more and more dense as we are experiencing another boom in Silicon Valley.  We have a lot more parking garages, compact parking spaces, bicyclists and pedestrians.  Back in parking spaces are safer because when you pull out of the spot you can see other cars, cyclists and pedestrians.  Also when loading items in your trunk, the trunk is near the sidewalk not oncoming vehicles.

The city of Fremont tested back-in angled parking five years ago.  Unfortunately the experiment failed miserably.  But five years ago there were not very many cars with backup cameras.  Fremont reported on the experiment:

“The typical driver backs up by looking out of their back window. Depending on the visibility, this can work when you are trying to fit between two cars, but it doesn’t work if there are no cars parked to guide you … so they ended up parking across the lines at all angles.”

With many newer cars having backup cameras, I think this will mitigate a lot of the challenges in backing into parking spaces.

Tesla Speed Assist

Tesla along with Volvo, BMW and Mercedes-Benz can with both GPS speed limit data and front-end cameras that read the speed limit signs notify the driver of the current speed limit.  The newer Model S will soon be able to also warn the driver with a chime when they are driving over the limit or up to 10mph over the limit.

I was not particularly excited about this feature when first announced but recently a friend of mine got a speeding ticket for driving 70 in a 35.  She is not a reckless driver but owns a very cushy late model car and was driving on a country road where the speed limit is 55mph.  She passed through a town with a few hundred inhabitants and did not notice that the speed limit changed.  I can see the value of Tesla’s speed limit detector for situations like these.

Conclusion

Some technology improvements have really helped the world.  Others can be useful for only a period of time or have less value.  When choosing options I would consider both the short term and long term use of some of these features and also the monetary cost.

An Official Rashy Curb

Parking Garage Exit that Wants to Give You Curb Rash

Parking Garage Exit that Wants to Give You Curb Rash

I have previously written about my curb rash on my 21” wheels.  I recently found a parking garage exit where it is quite difficult to leave without any curb rash.

If you look at the photo, one of the garage entry / exit points has automatic card readers.  Because of this system, a large island is in the middle of the two somewhat narrow lanes.  The approach into the exit lane is basically a 90 degree angle.  Cars turn in an arc and cannot simply turn at a near 90 degree angle.

I won’t shame the organization that owns this parking garage but the design is clearly weak.  While taking the picture for this blog, I watched other drivers struggle with this exit and the truck in the photo jumped the curb.

The architects could have done several things to eliminate the problem.  First the center island does not need to be so wide and long.  They could have placed the card readers and gate controllers in a more compact design.  They also could have placed the protective black poles much closer to the electronic devices they are trying to protect in order to give exiting cars more width in the lane.

I successfully negotiated my way once through this exit without any curb rash, but the second time at a very slow speed I curb rashed my right front wheel.

Fortunately, there is a manned booth to the right that is much easier to access and I will be using in the future.

New Curb Rash

New Curb Rash

More Curb Rash - Same Left Front Wheel - Same Incident

More Curb Rash – Same Left Front Wheel – Same Incident

Aero Wheel Sighting

You could previously buy the “Aero” wheels from Tesla.  They were reportedly more aerodynamic than the other wheels Tesla offered but were only sold to a handful of customers.  The first time I saw these wheels on an actual customer car was in August of this year.

The aero wheels are quite convex and at least this Model S aero wheel had a ton of curb rash.  The curb rash was not only along the edges as is the most common wear, but also throughout the wheel due to the convex nature of the wheel.

Aero Wheels With Serious Curb Rash

Aero Wheels With Serious Curb Rash