No Further Improvements

Tesla from time to time sends owner’s emails about general Tesla news.  Typically by the time the emails arrive in the inbox, the news is already a bit old.  Today’s email was no exception and included the following information:

  1. Auto-pilot launched
  2. 0-60 in 3.2 seconds
  3. Consumer leasing
  4. Software 6.0
  5. Link to a shareholder letter

But what was most interesting was at the very last section of the email where Tesla wrote a “What’s Next” section:

“With the introduction of Dual Motor and Autopilot, there will be no further significant platform changes to Model S for about a year. We continue to see rapid growth elsewhere with the construction of the Gigafactory, the spread of Superchargers, and increased vehicle production.”

Clearly Tesla has received significant flack from recent Model S customers that were unaware of the upcoming D announcement and perhaps chose to purchase a P85 or P85+.

Also some customers may have felt a bit wronged when their car built only a few weeks earlier did not have the auto-pilot features included.

Tesla is not operating like a traditional car company in many ways.  For the most part, the customers greatly appreciate that fact as features have been added when they are available such as parking sensors.

Consumer electronic companies also use this type of announcement model but there is often enough unofficial information and general anticipation of upcoming features, that buyers can often choose to wait for a potential “expected” announcement of a new model. Perhaps Tesla is realizing that with an expensive automobile, customers perhaps need a little bit of warning of upcoming significant changes in options.

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.

5Yrs 42KMiles 200Posts

This blog post is a large milestone for me.  I have driven Tesla’s as my main vehicle for five years with only occasional usage of a 4WD SUV.   I have driven a total of over 42,000 miles in both cars, and surprisingly written 200 blog posts covering both cars.

My Beginnings with Tesla

I have been an environmentalist all my life and had already owned one hybrid vehicle.  When the GM EV1 came out in 1997, I took note but found the short range not very practical for me. I had been watching the market since then and everything available even in 2006 was basically a golf cart.

Seven and half years ago a friend, who was driving one of the first Priuses, wanted to go to an electric car show in the parking lot of Palo Alto High School.  At the event we talked to several different car “manufacturers”.  The only one that impressed me was Tesla.  They had a mockup / prototype of the Roadster that was pretty rough.  After that initial conversation, I shortly put my $75,000 down for my Roadster.  I strongly felt I needed to have action behind my environmental words.

Why I Blog

I started my blog a few days after I got my Roadster.  I knew I was one of the few people driving Roadsters who had the time or interest to blog about the experience.  I wanted to help encourage other people to drive electric cars.  I have a technology background but I also had roles with a lot of communication responsibilities.  I think I have succeeded in a small way helping others buy electric vehicles.  I wanted this blog to express what it is like to own and drive a high end electric vehicle.  I avoid talking about the stock price and many “news events” as they are heavily covered by the mainstream media and often I have nothing in particular to add to the conversation.

During the Roadster years, I typically got 5 to 10 views per day.  Honestly, there was not that much to write about the car because the driving experience and controls were very simple.

Once I began blogging about the Model S the number jumped by a factor of 10, and I typically get 50 to 100 views per day with some days being substantially higher.  Lifetime number of views is almost 50,000.

Most people find me through google searches a combination of words such as tesla owner reviews model S etc…  and also through a few links on forums and other sites.  I suspect a lot of these people are new car buyers.  Most visitors are from the US but Norway and Canada are also active.  I currently have 45 followers.

Popular Posts

I have a number of posts that are consistently popular over time as they contain some detailed information for new buyers.

P85+ Loaner Report – which compares driving a S85 vs a P85+ for several days

Performance and Plus – which breaks down the S85 vs P85 and contrasts driving the Roadster

19” vs. 21” Wheels – which includes an estimated breakdown of long term costs

Living With 110V – My successful first month with the Model S using just 110 before I got my adaptor to my Roadster High Power Connector.

There have also been a number of posts that were analyzed data or were news oriented that were also popular

Range Test – I surveyed a number of other Model S owners to see if driving style had any influence on the car’s rated range.  The results were a clear conclusion that there was no relationship.

Valet Mode — applies to the Roadster but received a lot of attention at one point

Supercharger Time Test  — trying to achieve 170 miles in 30 minutes during five different  systematic tests.

Seven Years of Solar  — detailed analysis of my solar usage on the house

Vampire Drain  — detailed analysis of the drain when my car was left idle for long periods

Driving

So many owners have described how wonderful it is to drive a Tesla.  I avoid emphasizing this part of the experience on my blog as it is very redundant.  But in summary, I can’t imagine ever wanting to use an ICE vehicle as a regular car.  My top favorite reasons for loving my Tesla is:

  1.  I love the acceleration of the Teslas.  In any situation knowing I can safely accelerate past another car when necessary.  I still enjoy this part of the car although from time to time I can scare my passengers.
  2. The drive is smooth, quiet, comfortable.
  3. Never having to go to a gas station.  The convenience of filling up at home is really nice.
  4. The overall electronics experience is very nice in the Model S.
  5. I do feel I am doing my part for the environment as I am “driving on sunshine” as except for the occasional outside charging, all the electricity is generated from the solar panels on my home.

If I have to be nit picky about the Model S I would like these things improved:

  1. Rear view visibility.  I am not that thrilled with using the camera particularly on rainy days.
  2. The car is really just a bit too wide for me.  I would prefer it a little narrower in order to get into a lot more tight parking stations as the Bay Area is getting more and more crowded.
  3. I have a fair amount of curb rash on my beautiful 21” wheels.  But most of these rashes are from the first six months of driving (or parking).
  4. At times I wished the Iphone and the Model S talked to each other better.  If I have someone’s address on the Iphone I would like to be able to navigate directly there.
  5. The homelink at times can be slightly annoying.  It seems to recognize the garage door sensors quite far away but often cannot open them till quite close.  And the drop down menu often turns off the rearview camera’s picture.

Service

The only real problem I had with the Roadster was horrible radio reception but that got fixed over time.  With the Model S I had several problems with the door handles but they also have been resolved.

I have found all the folks at Tesla to be extremely responsive and friendly.  I have enjoyed all of my interactions with Tesla personnel.  I would give them my highest possible marks for customer service.

Who am I

I have kept my identity hidden from the blog.  A large reason is that I really wanted to have a straight forward historical blog about living with a high end electric vehicle, not about its owner.  I also wanted to not receive any preferential treatment from anyone at Tesla.  Only within the last six months I have disclosed my identity to Tesla in order to get some important questions answered about supercharging.

I also have never owned any Tesla stock.  There was a brief opportunity when Elon permitted accredited investors with Roadster deposits to invest in Tesla.  At that time I was reeling from an unenjoyable experience as an angel investor.  Although I have invested in pre-public technology companies several times, I was not completely comfortable with my knowledge of the car industry.  Once Tesla went public, I just never made the move perhaps fretting over timing.  Regardless whether or not I ever invest in Tesla, the amount will not be a significant one for me, and this blog will continue to be objective.

The Future

I still have a number of ideas for future blog posts and maintain a running list.  My posts over the years have in general have an increased level of analysis and word count.  I am probably overdue for a cosmetic overhaul.  I would love to hear any feedback on the blog in general both good and bad and what anyone would like me to write about in the future.

Stuck and Self Opening Door

I have had my Model S for two months now and I have been a bit plagued by a minor problem.  On the two Tesla forums on the web there have been several reports of various issues with the retractable door handles.  I have experienced a similar but not the same problem.  I am hoping it is fixed but am not 100% confident that it is.

About a week after I got the car, I found I simply could not open the passenger door.  The door handle appeared but the door was still locked.  The door would not open from the outside no matter how much pressure was applied.  Although the problem was a bit annoying, it was not a huge problem as the door could be open from the inside.

I emailed Tesla service in Menlo Park to have them look at it.

Self Opening Door

Self Opening Door

Time went buy and the problem occurred a total of four times.  Three with the passenger door and a fourth time with the rear driver’s side door.  The spooky part of this issue is that the doors would self open at a later date!  Fortunately, none of these self opening doors occurred in an unsafe location and the car was always parked.  Although a door did become stuck at a time when I was showing the Model S to some friends, who are potential future electric car buyers.

Eventually I called Tesla Menlo Park again after having too many incidents of this same issue as they had not gotten back to me.  I had it in for service and fixed two other minor issues:  a small noise in the pano roof and the spot that was on the car at delivery.  They replaced the offending door handles, and the machinery in the door.

Surprisingly, the next morning the door handle presented itself without any LED lights and was again stuck.  All other incidents the door handles had the LED lights on as far as I can remember.  I opened the door from the inside.  I did call Menlo Park and they indicated they wished to talk to headquarters that it was perhaps a problem fixed in the software update, which I had not yet received.  And they would get back to me.

I have noticed that the door seal of this door has always been a bit tighter than the others.  Two weeks later, the problem has not resurfaced and the seal of the door feels more like the other doors.

I have not yet heard back from the service guys but I did receive my software update.  I am hoping this problem is truly fixed now with the combination of the new door mechanism and the software update, but I really do not know.

The individuals in Tesla service have all been very nice.  They are simply overburdened with work.  I am a bit skeptical on the claims of profitability if they do not have enough individuals in the service departments.  I do appreciate that if you do call Menlo Park service and they can’t answer, you end up speaking to helpful folks in Fremont.

I would like to see Tesla expand service outside of their own service departments and have authorized service centers throughout the country.  I suggested this to my local garage and they are interested.  Perhaps this type of program would help everyone?

“Zero E” expired

logo copy

New Temporary License “Plate”

The Tesla marketing team has replaced the Zero Emissions license plate on delivery.  Spotted on a new Model S in San Carlos.

Sorry the iphone picture quality is so bad.  Underneath the wording Tesla is the web site address.

I think the marketing department made the right choice.  Although as an environmentalist, the Zero Emissions slogan had a large appeal to me, the car can stand up against ICE cars.  And getting the Tesla name out there is a good idea.

Zero Emissions

Original Zero Emissions License “Plate”

I also noticed that there is an actual license plate frame on the new car.  Mine did not come with an actual frame, although I have always tended to take them off the car.  I generally don’t see the point of advertising a particular dealership.  And I like the car to not have the fussy frame.

Maybe the Zero Emissions plates will someday be a collectible.

 

 

Roadster Model S Adaptor

I’m was excited this morning to find a package on my front porch.  The FedEx person never rings the bell, so I found it this morning.  It took about a month to get here, but now I can charge my car with 40Amps with 220v.  I can easily take long trips day after day.

Roadster to Model S Charging Connector

Roadster to Model S Charging Connector

The adaptor fits in very nicely into the Roadster connection, and is a bright orange, so it is hard not to notice.

My only wish is that when I pushed the button, the charge port would open.  I was getting used to that on the standard connector.  I’m not sure if it is a missing feature, or an issue with this connector.

I am no longer living with 110V, and have rearranged my garage back to proper order.

Model S Delivery

I picked up my car at the factory and took a tour.  What a fun experience for myself and 3 companions.  We had a tour with I think 10 folks and a great guide.

When you drive up to the entrance there are several gates listed but no number 5 as is listed on their web page.  But the missing gate number 5 is the main gate listed between gate 4 and gate 6. Upon entering the Main Gate, there is a sign that says you are entering a US Free Trade Zone.  Neither the guard nor the employees knew what this sign meant. One of the oddest things is they have an archaic sign in station for visitors that is cumbersome and silly unlike everything else Tesla does.

The tour itself was fabulous.  We were not allowed to take photos.  It lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Our group had a lot of questions.  The guide avoided answering questions such as “How many cars are you building now?”, “How are the batteries put inside the steel frame?” and “What is the base operating system of the touch screen?”  Look to the images on below to get some serious hints on the third question.

Flash Player Warning

Flash Player Warning

Obvious Hints Here

Obvious Hints Here

A lot of employees on bicycles and scooters as the place is gigantic.  The factory still has a lot of items left over from the NUMI days, and Tesla has made use of a lot of things that were left behind.

We all loved watching the robots, which are the German Kuku brand.  Tesla still has a lot of employees doing manual assembly work putting in the wires into the frame and other tasks.  Some of these tasks cannot be automated. Most employees seemed super serious and intense about their job. The employees were mostly male, although there were definitely more than a few female ones, and mostly on the younger side of the scale.

Interesting facts learned during the tour:

1.  The Palo Alto development location will continue to exist.  Rumors that everyone is moving to Fremont is not true.

2. Green and Brown are rare colors.

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

4.  The window glass except for the panoramic roof are tinted green.  The green is not visible to the naked eye when installed in a single thickness on the car.  In the factory they are stacked up in a line, and they are very green.

The car delivery was very nice in our own little bay.

Car at Delivery

Car at Delivery

With four of us, we went over all the detailing and mostly found bits of dirt or wax and one tiny spot on the side of the car.  The spot is very hard to see or photograph even with my SLR but the delivery specialist did put it down for the service guys to fix.  The car had quite a bit of dust and wax.  A little better of a final cleanup would have been appreciated.

Also when I turned it on the Air Suspension rose up.  He said this would not happen again and was an anomaly.  The car had only 11 miles on the odometer.

They unfortunately did not deliver my Roadster to Model S adapter for charging!  So I have to charge with 110 until it arrives.  I also have no idea of an estimated arrival time, and do not have a designated contact to ask.   I think this process needs improvement.

I would also have appreciated an email confirmation when Tesla received my money via wire transfer.

First Impressions Driving the Model S

1.  It is super comfortable for four people.

2.  The car is super quiet.  With the windows rolled up we could not hear the nearby 880 freeway.

3.  The sound system is wonderful.  I was singing all the way home.  Occasionally the bluetooth connection broke up for a few seconds.  I think the overall experience is great particularly since the car is so quiet.   I did get the upgraded system and do not regret the dollars.

4.  The car is very quick to accelerate.  As a Roadster owner, I did notice that the first second feels slower than the Roadster both with my non-performance and the performance during the test drive.  My companions thought I was a little nuts, but I could definitely feel the difference.  I suspect difference is mostly due to the huge difference in weight and the feel of the car.   The Model S feels like I am almost mid air even with sport suspension on.  Not in the same way as cars of yesteryear where you were on a pillow that floated around a bit, but almost mid-air.  With the Roadster, you feel every nook and cranny and get more noise feedback from the environment.  You definitely hear the inverter squeal when flooring it on the Model S.  I feel like I am in my little happy bubble.

I did save the 10K on getting a performance model though.   I just couldn’t justify this cost for the performance version for a one second experience.  If that were the only important criteria, I should keep the Roadster.  I found with the Roadster during regular driving, there were so few times where you could accelerate from a dead stop to beyond 40mph due to other cars around.

5.  I also noticed a large difference in the feel of regenerative braking versus the Roadster.  With the Roadster, you feel like the car immediately stops.  Due to the weight of the Model S, this feeling is diminished.

6.  The road to my house has a 17% grade for about 1/4 of a mile, which is very difficult to ride a bike up.  The car accelerated up like a dream.  On the downhill, the behavior seems tuned quite different than the Roadster, and I have not been able to quantify it yet.

7.  I went on a few winding roads and love the way it handles with the 21″ wheels.

8.  I did try the AM radio.  It had some static but was stronger than the Roadster AM signal, which I reported many issues with on this blog.  I did try to use the internet streaming version, but I was not successful due to the problems in the first two pictures in this post.

9.  I still have new car smell on the exterior.  My garage smells different!

10.  So far I really like the climate control.  I drove for a bit on a sunny 58 degree Fahrenheit day with the panoramic roof open and the heater on to get just a bit of sun.  The cabin stayed warm, and the sun felt good for ten minutes even on the freeway.

11.  I spent some time talking to folks already about the car.  I was visiting a friend at a hospital 30 miles away from home, and asked them to point me to the visitor entrance.  Once I spoke to them, they asked me a few questions about the car.

12.  The navigation worked as advertised.  I didn’t really need it but decided to play with it.  It does give me a very odd way to leave my street and get out on the main road via two other streets that no other navigation package has done:  my Roadster, my former Mercedes, my Highlander, Mapquest nor Google.

Gratuitous photo of the car going to its new home.

Rear View Car at Home

Rear View Car at Home

Model S with its New Best Friend

Model S with its New Best Friend

As I mentioned before, they did not deliver my adapter, and my laundry room is in the center of the house, so I am on 110 for a while.  I will need to keep the car plugged in at all times in order to keep a good charge.

Unfortunately Using the 110 Plug

Unfortunately Using the 110 Plug

Slow 110 Charge Times

Slow 110 Charge Times