Downgrading to 19″ Wheels

After driving my Model S for four years on 21” wheels, I decided to downgrade the car to 19” wheels.  The decision process took a while, and the saga is a long one.

newwheels.jpg

New 19″ Slipstream Wheels

Slow Leak

A few months ago I noticed my tire had yet another leak.  The leak was very small and only required pumping up the air about every other week at the most.  Having so much experience with tires, I was not worried about this leak and had either used my electric pump, that I always have in the trunk, or the manual floor mounted bike pump in the garage to add more air.

I had intended to go to my very local service station / auto repair place and have them look at my tire at some point.  I suspected I had a nail in the tire and that the tire could be repaired.  The tires were not very new, so I was hoping I could delay replacing the tire, as that likely meant I needed to replace not just one tire but two.  When the tread is quite low on the tires, they do not want you to drive around with a set (either the front or the rear), where one tire has all its tread and the other is almost worn out.  I suspect this discrepancy could cause excess or unaligned tire wear.

Only an encounter with a Tesla service person on another matter changed the story.

Home or Office Service

I earlier reported that my 12 Volt battery had died and needed service.  The local service center now has one mechanic that goes to your location to repair batteries and tires.  As the ever curious Tesla owner, I watched him change the battery, and talked to him about various Tesla topics.

Somewhere during the conversation, I mentioned that I had a leak in one of my tires.  The service guy offered to look at my tire for no cost.  I had not planned on having Tesla address this leak, but I since it was free and he was already in my garage, I happily agreed.

Tire Inspection

The mobile service guy brought out his jack, and in very little time had the wheel off the car.  No nail was visible, but to my surprise I had a problem I have never seen on any car I have ever owned, my rim was cracked!

IMG_4905.JPG

Cracked Rim with Water Test to Show Leak

The rim was visibly cracked with a hairline fracture, and to confirm he added water and you could see the air bubbles.  He explained that if you hit a pothole “just so”, you can crack your rim.  He said I was safe to continue to drive the car with the wheels as long as I slowed down for any pot holes.

Pot Holes

Since I have been plagued by tire issues, I watch for potholes constantly.  I know where the road is worn out locally and steer out of my way to protect my tires.  I have been driving in this manner for 50,000 miles.  Luckily the town I live in has a fair amount of revenue stream and our roads are pristine.

I do remember however driving in the East Bay awhile ago and remembering a badly beat up stretch of payment on 580.  One fun grammatical note:  In Northern California, freeways are referred to by numbers not their names and are never preceded by the word “the”; in Southern California the naming convention is the reverse, which sounds so strange to our ears.  On 580, I distinctly remembered that I had avoided as much as I can any issues in the road pavement, but I know I did hit one pothole with the wheel in question.

Decision Time

I now really did not know what to do.  I knew not only I couldn’t just repair one tire, I had to buy a new rim also, and they cost $500!  I really didn’t want to do either, and this let me open up my thoughts to do something completely different.

Why I bought 21” Wheels in 2013

notmytaste.jpg

Original 19″ Wheels

Before my Model S, I was a very early 1xx Roadster owner.  I got used to zipping around
fast and hugging every curve.  I had initially configured the Model S to have the 19” wheels, but at the last minute a friend convinced me to go with the 21” primarily because they looked so much better.  I was just not particularly fond of look of the original 19” wheels, and Tesla no longer sells them to new buyers.

21” vs. 19” Reliability

Over the years I have talked to many different people associated with Tesla about my wheels.  I am not a particularly talkative person, but I can strike up a conversation with strangers with no qualms, and ask many detailed questions on an interesting subject.

The most interesting conversation about my tires was with a former Tesla Service Manager, whom I met in a very off chance circumstance.  I have heard the following different statements from 3 different Tesla employees that stuck in my brain, and I recalled them when thinking about what to do with my broken rim:

“Those 21s have had a lot of problems.”

“The vast majority of problems are with the 21s, no problems with the 19s.”

“Tesla should have never put such low profile tires on such a heavy car.”

My 21” experience vs. my fellow blogger

My fellow blogger from the East Coast has been very happy with his car and wheels.  He got 50,000 miles on a set of tires! That amount of mileage was and still is only something I can dream about.

Here is a short timeline of my tire experience:

  • March 2014 – four new tires  (mileage 12,500)
  • March 2014 – pothole damage, one new tire (mileage  12,600)
  • Spring 2014 – cross country road trip in Model S
  • June 2014 – four new tires (mileage 26,000)
  • July 2014 – new camber arms
  • October 2014  – nail and tire repair
  • October 2015 – four new tires (mileage 49,000)
  • October 2015 – leaky tire repaired
  • October 2016 – new tire (sidewall damage)
  • April 2017      – cracked rim (65,000 miles)

Tesla has treated me very well during this experience and have done a lot of monitoring of my alignment.  I managed to drive almost 23,000 miles on my third set of tires. My latest set of tires gave me at least 16,000 miles, which is respectable.  All four wheels had a fair to a considerable amount of curb rash.  I haven’t hit a curb in a couple of years, but it took a while to get used to the very wide car.

I was happy with what Tesla and I achieved in terms of tire mileage, but I was tired of how susceptible the tires were to other objects such as small potholes.  I was in a way tired of “living in fear” and having to watch the road excessively.  After the deluge of rain we received in California this winter, we have a lot of potholes in the state in general.

My current mileage was about 65,000.  I definitely had to replace one rim, and my front two tires were due to be replaced very soon, and the rears in short order.  Tesla provided the exact tread depth measurements, which are reported below.

Toe Wear!

I have extensively worked with Tesla over the last few years on my toe wear issues.  Tesla service has done really all they can to fix and monitor my extensive toe wear.  I am very glad my toe wear has improved enough that I can replace my tires closer to 20,000 miles instead of 12,500 miles.

But when looking at the wear report, the Tesla report still shows toe wear.

LF:6/32 6/32 3/32

RF:6/32 6/32 3/32

LR:6/32 6/32 4/32

RR6/32 6/32 4/32

When speaking to the first service person who was not my regular contact, I was told “you must have hit a pothole”.  No, I did not hit four potholes on all four wheels!   The car  still wears out the toe more than it should.

While the car sat in the shop waiting for a battery fix, I contemplated the numbers.  I had a choice.  Instead of sinking more money into a set of wheels that would never be very durable or long lasting for the Model S, I could fork out the cash to get the new 19” rims ($300 each) and tires ($180 each) for $480 each before tax and installation, or I could buy two 21” tires ($375 each), a new rim ($500) and in a few months buy two more new 21” tires.

  • 19” cost : (300 + 180) x4  = $1920
  • 21” cost: 500 + 2x 375  + 2 x 375 = $2000

Although I didn’t need to replace the back tires immediately, I would within 6 months.  So for the same price, I could get longer lasting lower maintenance tires.  The numbers are using Tesla default pricing and there are other options like buying tires through 3rd party places, but these calculations are listed here for simplicity.  So even in the short term, there was no real financial reason to stick with the 21s, and in the long run a very large savings.

Decision

I decided to go with the 19” rims.  I am tired of the hassle of these performance tires.

I had to wait a while because the service center only had two rims in stock, and needed to get the parts shipped in from the warehouse in Lathrop, California.

Selling 21” Wheels on CraigList

I also had another way to make a little money.  I could sell the wheels!  Tesla disposed of the wheel with the cracked rim, but I brought home the other three. I am not much of a seller and generally just donate things, but this was more than a few dollars worth of value.  I first tried the Tesla Motors Forum and got some interest, but I soon got tired of looking at the wheels, even if the garage has a lot of space.

IMG_5012.JPG

3 Wheels For Sale!

Using Craigslist, I got interest in the wheels immediately.  I am not much of a negotiator, and just pretty much took the first reasonable offer.

When selling on Craigslist you need to include photos of both the front of the wheels and the tire tread patterns.  Within a couple of hours, I got several questions and responses, and quickly sold the wheels.

treadwear.jpg

Tread Wear Photo of Wheels for Sale

The buyer was a Model X driver who was planning to take the wheels and powder coat them to a new color. He also said that there was a 22” tire that worked with these rims.  I sold all three of them for $450, so in the end I saved money buy buying new rims even in the short term.

Tesla App

The Tesla app for some reason still did not think I had any wheels on it.  The car recognizes the wheels as 19” as the picture had changed on the dashboard.  I knew the tire sensors were still talking to the car, so I knew I would get any low pressure warnings.  But the app picture was still a little ghostly.

 

ghostcar.jpg

The Ghost Car

I ended up pointing this issue out to the service manager, and he fixed it by reprogramming the computer on the car.  He had never seen this issue before.

Squeaky

Right when the process was done my car started to squeak.  The Model S is currently in service to fix this strange noise that occurred right after the wheels were installed and did not go away.  I’ll report on that when I get the car back.

Conclusion

I am very glad I made this decision.  With the new style or rims, I don’t miss the look of the 21s at all, and I will save so much money and hassle in the long run.  I have only noticed a very minor difference when driving, but I have not really gone anywhere recently that is particularly fun to drive.

 

12 Volt Battery Ranger Service

12V Battery Needs Service

After a period of calm and low mileage driving in recent months, I have unfortunately encountered a few problems with my Tesla.  This blog post will be a 3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

I was innocently driving along and encountered a warning on my dash:

I have had my battery replaced only once before back in early 2014 when my car was in for service.  The nice part about the 12 Volt Battery replacement is that it is not an urgent matter.  If the car needs to do so, it might shut down some auxiliary electronics, but you can safely drive around for a period of time.

Ranger Service

What was also very nice, is that for no additional charge, if you live within a 10 mile radius of my service center, a ranger will come to your location.

The battery change took about 20 minutes, and just out of curiosity I watched the process.  The process is only a bit slow because there is quite a lot of screws and parts to remove.  I asked the ranger, and he said the Model X is not any more serviceable than the Model S.  Hopefully the model 3 designers will consider serviceability a little more during the design process.

This ranger service also deals with tire issues and door handles, things that can be accomplished easily at remote locations.  This service is a win win for Tesla and the customer base.  Instead of the hassle for the owner to drive to the service center and get a ride to home or work, the ranger can easily just move around town and address any issues at the owners convenience.  I am not sure if this service is available in all locations, but it worked great for replacing the battery after about 45,000 miles and 3 years.

Ranger Replacing the 12V Battery

v8 USB Media Player Bug List

Update 10/25/2016:  Another owner extensively tested the USB media formats and ID3 tagging with v8.  The very detailed report is available on TMC.

The following post was written by a guest blogger, who is known as supratachophobia on on the Tesla Motors Club Forum (TMC) and lead the effort to bring back the NEMA 14-30 adapter.  Working with the direct feedback of dozens of other owners, supratachophobia compiled an extensive and prioritized list of both bugs and enhancements of the media player as it pertains to USB audio. Content compiled, thoughts composed, and article sent in by supratachophobia, edited by Owner, which is my TMC handle.

 

Introduction

First, let me say that v8 is a welcome addition to the ongoing software development process in the S (and soon to be the X). The forums all have positive comments in general on autopilot tweaks, additional features, and the overall (but definitely not all) interface improvements. While the general design of the overhauled media interface is an improvement from v7, it seems to be slanted towards those users who primarily stream their music. As such, many of the functions for USB playback have been partially broken or made more difficult to use, particularly when driving. As a result, there are questions as to whether the testing that was done with v8 had a proper sample of those owners that use USB playback as their primary choice for audio.

The USB audio playback is a very popular feature, especially for audiophiles, because it generally produces the highest quality listening experience. In fact, those that purchased the Ultra High Fidelity Sound package did so knowing that they would be playing a large collection (many thousand tracks in fact) of high-quality/lossless audio formats from USB in order that they be able enjoy the highest possible sound fidelity. Tesla works with a broad range of music formats: from the more common MP3, MP4 and AAC (without DRM), as well as formats such as FLAC, AIFF, WAV, WMA and lossless WMA. (Note – we at TMC are not clear what is officially supported by Tesla and would like some clarification).

Streaming radio uses compressed MP3, and streaming Bluetooth compresses both high bitrate MP3 and FLAC data across the connection. Under some circumstances, iPhone AAC may be able to bypass this compression. But only through USB can the audio be lossless and at its highest quality. Many audiophile owners have very large collections (1k – 10k) of tracks on their USB, and 7.1 worked much better for these large libraries. For me personally, USB audio playback was in my list of top 5 reasons for purchasing 2 of these cars.

TMC Forum Discussions

TMC has four large forum discussions currently active (those are just under Model S, there are more under Model X) with regards to how the car now handles USB audio and the lack of testing this particular functionality in the Media app received in the new v8 rollout. Please note, that many of the concerns cataloged below were features that functioned with little to no issue in v7.

As of this writing, the TMC threads have the following number of posts and views:

250+ Posts / 6,000+ Views: Comprehensive USB Bug List

100+ Posts / 3,400+ Views: Media player in 8.0 actually got worse (for local music)

200+ Posts / 7,200+ Views: 8.0 Music Player Unusable

Main v8 Thread / Over 3,500 posts and 265,000+ views so far, with USB audio problems dominating the discussion: Firmware 8.0

8.0 USB Media Player Bug List

The following is a list of specific bugs that have been detected, with as much detail as our end-user base could glean from real-world usage. We have prioritized the list as best as possible in the order presented below.

  1. The 8.0 Media player no longer includes a letter list from A-Z allowing you to search through song, album or artist lists by the first letter. Now the media player shows everything in one gigantic list. Trying to scroll through a list of thousands of items is very dangerous when driving, and does not actually work in practice, see issue 2.
  2. When scrolling a USB list view with several pages of items, the scrolling feature does not work as expected. Any attempt at repeated scrolling gestures are interpreted as a click into a folder. When you try to back out of that, or any folder, the interface takes you to the top of the previous list, instead of the point in the list where you entered.
  3. Album tracks are being played alphabetically instead of by track number. This playback is unpleasant when listening to an album, but a horrible problem when listening to audiobooks.
  4. “Search Anything” does not search anything, it searches everything except USB media. Please allow search (both via text entry and voice) to include USB media and a priority option to USB playback (if results are found) at the top of the results list. (Rumored to have been resolved in 8.21 – thank you)
  5. When media is paused, the system should note the point in the recording. When resuming play, the system should start from that point. Today, when the driver leaves/returns to the car or resumes playback, the result is unpredictable. Sometimes the track will reset to the beginning, which is especially annoying when listening to an audiobook or podcast. Sometimes when the player is on pause, and the driver re-enters the car, the media turns itself on again.
  6. The shuffle feature “on” is not predictable or persistent and turns off at random times. (Changing between USB sources, and during entry/exit of the vehicle.)
  7. The shuffle feature itself does not properly randomize. The same sets of songs are repeated in the same order when shuffle is engaged/re-engaged.
  8. When looking at a list of items under an artist name or browsing a folder, the list view is a simple alphabetical display of all items intermixed, such as when using a UNIX ‘ls’ command. In v7, the system always had albums, which are folders, at the top of the list followed by any single tracks.
  9. The car needs to maintain Track Title, Disc, Album Artist, and Album Title in all the lists, presentations, and sorts to avoid difficulties with “Greatest Hits”, multi-disc audiobooks, and boxed multi-disc sets.
  10. Some scans take an abnormal amount of time. The forums have no clear conclusion what causes this problem: read speed of USB media, number of tracks, or size of data. The current workaround is to turn off power-saving mode in the car. Some owners report the USB sticks with 6,000 or more tracks now take two hours to get to 80% complete.
  11. Sometimes the Bass, Mid, and Treble settings are not saved overnight. Again, TMC is unsure if the problem is triggered by changing USB audio sources. We were wondering if the intended feature was to allow different equalizer settings for audio types on different USB sources. For example, audiobooks would have a different profile for music. If so, we would welcome this feature, but would like it documented in the release notes.
  12. Spaces in the USB volume name are represented by the ASCII value “\x20” and not a blank space. For example “Fix These Bugs Please” is written as “Fix\x20These\x20\Bugs\x20Please”.
  13. Album Art is still broken for some users. In this area, we would really like some clear documentation of what is supported. Some owners rarely see their album art for unknown reasons. For an album with multiple artists, the media player should display the album art if the song is not populated.

Enhancement Requests

  1. The ability to find new matching music (and add it as the next track in the queue) based upon elements from the current song being played. For example if Michael Jackson’s Thriller is playing the track Billie Jean, you could tap on the ‘artist’. The media player would then find a different track, by Michael Jackson, and make it the next track to play. Now if you pressed the text of the ‘album’ name, Thriller, then the next song to be queued would be from that album. And finally, if something like the song Smooth Criminal was playing, tapping the song title would go and find that song by another artist, for example, the version done by Alien Ant Farm.
  2. The ability to play an entire hierarchical folder. The first entry inside every folder should be a button option to play everything in that folder including loose items and all items in folders within folders. This feature would be very useful for folders that include sub-genres.
  3. The ability to bookmark a set of exact places in an audio track for resuming later. Bookmarking is a critical feature for both podcasts and audiobooks played through USB. Currently it is very challenging to try to find the correct space in an hour long or more podcast to resume listening. This feature would be able to store at minimum of 3-5 bookmarks and be found next to the “Favorites” and “Recent” tabs. The selection of a bookmark would take you not only back to the timestamp, but also to the “album” so that the book could resume at the next track. The shuffle status, on or off, should be restored to what it was as well, when the bookmark was made.
  4. When displaying a set of recently played items, this list should remember the playlist context of that item. For example, playing song 5 from album X, selecting song 5 from the recent list should remember that the person was listening to album X in its entirety. This mechanism should also work when song 5 was part of a playlist entitled “Foggy Morning Drive”, and pick up playing the rest of the music on the playlist “Foggy Morning Drive”.
  5. Some owners would like support for the m3u format, which has always been the most popular playlist format. M3u is currently recognized by every major media player on the market, including almost every other vehicle that does MP3 playback.
  6. The support of gapless playback for lossless audio formats (AAC and FLAC).

8.0 USB Improvements

  1. We generally really like the simplistic aspects of the media interface and see it as an improvement over 7.1.
  2. The album artwork from the ID3 tag is displayed most of the time. But we are curious what the size limitation is here as many owners are having mixed results.
  3. The name of the USB volumes are now recognized and displayed.

Video

I also made a video of my personal likes from the use of an Empeg for 12 years. I found a lot of it’s functions to be invaluable when listening to MP3 audio in the car.

Conclusions

The 8.0 software seems to be a nicer interface for playing music. The dual column scrolling and the Now Playing screen utilize the screen real-estate much better and more completely. But there are several opportunities to improve in the areas where USB playback challenges were left untouched or newly introduced. We hope these will be quickly addressed by Tesla seeing that with the ever-growing ownership base, more and more will come to use USB playback as their primary audio source as well.

Noses and License Plates

newnose_0005

Model X Nose with a License Plate

The nose design of the Model S has always been my least favorite part of the car.  An electric car does not need a large open grill to cool off the non-existent engine, so for aerodynamic purposes, the front nose is a solid piece.  I liked the Model X nose a little better, and now the new Model S’s have this same nose.  I was noticing that the nose looked quite different on the cars depending upon the exterior color.  I recently was down in Monterey for the weekend and charged at the local supercharger attached to the service center.  To my surprise I really like the new nose WITH a license plate.  The license plate fills in the awkward blank space nicely, and I think it would also apply to license plates of different shapes like the ones in Europe.

Many drivers prefer a car without a front license plate largely for aesthetic reasons.  The license plate will affect the aerodynamics of the car, thereby technically reducing efficiency and range by a tiny amount.

In some states and countries it is illegal to drive without a front license plate and the law is rather strictly enforced. Throughout most but not all of California, many people drive without a front license plate without any problems or tickets for years. Steve Jobs actually drove around for years without any license plates by changing cars every six months.

I’m including a photo of the Model S with both noses and the Model X with the new nose.  The black area of the new nose with the Tesla logo looks a little thin and unbalanced without a plate.  Anyone else like the new nose more with the license plate?

IMG_0329.jpg

Classic Model S, Model S with New Nose, Model X

 

 

2016 Shareholder Highlights

IMG_0338.jpg

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.

Nosecomparison.jpg

 

More Model 3 Details

glassroof

Official Tesla Photos of the Model 3 Showing the Large Glass Roof

A few more details about the Model 3 have come in after the test rides at the launch event meriting a third post in less than 24 hours.

Glass Roof

The new roof is a very large pane of glass unlike most cars.  The hood is lower than on most cars and the panoramic glass extends from the hood all the way to the rear.  Using glass the rear passengers have more headroom and also a perception of more physical space.

The Model S has a similar style of roof with the Panoroof / sunroof option.  Tesla has engineered the glass to resist excessive heat or glare, and no complaints exist from owners in places like the Arizona desert.  Only in extremely cold climates is there a small disadvantage to a glass roof as the roof does not insulate the passengers quite as well from the cold as a some conventional roofs requiring a little more energy to heat the car.  This lack of insulation would only affects you if you are trying to sleep in the car and not while driving.

Update:  the roof will have three options:  the all glass roof, a retractable glass sunroof or a metal roof.

 

Model 3 Trunk

The Model 3 is not a hatchback like the Model S but has a conventional trunk as you can see from the photo.  The front hood also opens up for more storage.  Tesla used to call this space a “frunk” but recently I have heard the term “front trunk” used more frequently.

Elon clearly stated that the Model 3 can fit a 7′ surfboard in the interior, which is an impressive specification.  Tesla has clearly listened to the customer base who want practical cars.  I am looking forward to seeing a demonstration of the surfboard being loaded into the Model 3.

trunkandfrunk

Model 3 Storage Space With a Trunk in the Back and in the Front.

Center Console

The Model 3 prototype also has a center console for storing items and including cupholders.  I think Tesla finally got the message that the majority of drivers want this storage space and hopefully is now a standard on all cars going forward.

Instrument Panel / Touchscreen

The instrument panel is in the middle of the car with a 15” touchscreen.  The idea is that both the driver and passengers have access to the information.  The Model 3 does not have a separate instrument panel like the Model S; all the information is on the touchscreen.

I like the idea of a unified place to get all the information.  I also think repair costs are reduced having the touchscreen not be installed into the dashboard.

instrumentpanel

All the Information is on One 15″ Touchscreen in the Center of the Car

Summary

I am impressed with the Model 3.  I think it looks great, the minimum technical specs are very reasonable, and the storage space seems very good.  Tesla clearly has listened to their customers post Model X launch.  My only concern for Tesla is that the Model X now seems a little lost in the lineup.  The only obvious market is a wealthy family with young children that generally live a city based lifestyle that is not hampered by the Model X carrying capabilities.

Model U ? – for Utility

When the Model X launch event happened, a number of Model S owners reacted not with disapproval but with a lack of interest.

The Model X was clearly designed for a family with very young children.  Once this target demographic was in place, various technical decisions slowly eroded the car as a great utility vehicle.  In this post I am proposing that Tesla at some point should design a 3rd vehicle on the Model S chasis that is a true utility vehicle, not a disguised mini van.

The Model X sweet spot is for those with very young children.  With babies, toddler or other young children, parents often struggle to strap in their kids with conventional car doors, sometimes will ride in the back seat with their baby, and other times will be hauling a large group of kids around town to a soccer match or other event.  In the United States a lot of parents refuse to “be caught driving a mini-van” during the years when a mini van is likely the most useful vehicle for their family.

To address this market Elon and Tesla designed the X the falcon wing doors that allow an adult to easy stand up and reach into the back of the car.   These falcon doors however have a serious impact on the X as a utility vehicle.   With doors that raise up, you cannot put a standard roof rack on the car.  The Model X cannot transport sporting equipment such as large surfboards, paddle boards and canoes without a trailer!  For an outing with a large family or a large group of friends, excess equipment cannot be put on the roof such as skis, bikes or even just cargo boxes.  Tesla’s solution is to offer a rear rack for the Model X, but my many items do not fit in within the width of the Model X and need to be carried on a roof rack.  The X does allow you to have a roof rack on half the roof but a half roof rack has limited use.

Using a Utility Vehicle to Carry a Paddleboard on the Roof

Using a Utility Vehicle to Carry a Paddleboard on the Roof

They also invested a lot of time and resources creating some back seats that are independent and more comfortable for adults.  The independent seats also allow easy access to the 3rd row seats when hauling around all the neighborhood children.  But the second row seats cannot fold down and limit the use of the back area of a car.  The utility in a SUV comes from having a large flat space in the back of the car to load large objects easily.  A real utility comes when the seats fold flat and FLUSH with the rear area.  Recently many cars have a flat area but with two levels often separated by 4” in height such as the Model S.  With the Model X you can push the seats forward, but that also takes away length for longer objects.

A Recumbent Bike Can Fit Inside a SUV or on Top

The falcon doors also prohibit a conventional sunroof.  Tesla’s alternative to a sunroof is a larger windshield with some unusual sun visors.  Although this larger windshield will let in more light and perhaps more overhead views when driving in places such as Yosemite, it does not let in any air.  I really like sunroofs.  For me they are the sweet spot between a convertible that lets in too much air and a closed in car.  A larger windshield offers nothing of interest for me.

Once the direction was set for addressing the needs of young families, the utility of the Model X was drastically decreased.  Even with a high end SUV, owners want to use their cars for outdoor activities, hauling various items, putting sporting equipment on the roof, carrying their dogs and sleeping in their vehicle.  The Model X is not the ideal vehicle for this buyer.  But with all these compromises the Model X is sub par in comparison to the utility of current ICE SUVs including my 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Directing the Model X to such a specific market, Tesla has lost in interest from the customers who really want Utility in an SUV.  I am suggesting that there is room for a Model U along with the Model S and Model X on the original Model S chasis.  The Model U could have  conventional back doors, a sunroof and a bench seat in the back. Tesla could sell the Model U to many buyers who do not have young children but want more utility in their SUV.

A Utility Vehicle Can Be Used for All Kinds of Tasks — Free Mulch Collection