My Model S 50,000 Mile Service Record

Consumer Reports surveyed 1,400 Tesla owners and lowered their prediction of reliability from average down to worse-than-average.  Tesla stock has dropped on this news today.

Consumer Reports sites problems with display screen freezes, replacements of the cars’ electric motors and sunroof leaks.  Most early Tesla owners such as myself have experienced a number of problems, but newer Model S cars appear to have had less issues as Tesla has made the car more reliable.  Buying a brand new platform from a new car company with a below 5,000 VIN number, I knew I was an early adopter and expected some problems to crop up.

What Consumer Reports did not mention is that Tesla service is stellar.  They valet your car to your home or office with a loaner Model S (in most but not all cases).  Appointments are not always fast if the issue is not urgent, but they treat their customers universally well.  Part of the company culture is treating their customers with respect which is the opposite of most car companies.  I have only been inconvenienced once with this level of service in the 6 1/2 years driving Teslas.

During my 50,000 miles 2 1/2 year journey with the Model S, I have had a series of seven issues with my car all of which I have documented on this blog.

  1. Serious problems with tire alignment ruining tires
  2. Door handles that would not open
  3. Bluetooth issues connecting to the iphone
  4. Faulty tire pressure warning sensors
  5. Panoramic roof liner had exposed adhesive
  6. Roadster adapter cable failed completely
  7. 12 Volt battery replacement

My issues have been both serious and minor with some difficult to diagnose and fix.  I am hoping to report on the tires soon.  The door handle problems were with the first design of the handles, and new cars do not have these issues. I have not had my motor replaced due to any noise issues although I can hear it a tiny bit more than when I first bought the car. The drive unit is under warranty for a total of 8 years and infinite miles. I won’t think of replacing it unless the noise is a lot more than barely perceptible.

Can I say my car has been as reliable as average?  As much as I adore my car and Tesla, the true answer is no. I think even achieving an average or close to average rating is fabulous for a brand new car company.  I would not expect a great reliability from a new company doing something radically different in the first 10,000 cars they produce.

Ironically today my car is in for the service of the bluetooth.  I have had intermittent problems connecting to the phone along with the 17” screen telling me the bluetooth needs to be serviced.  I had to wait several weeks for an appointment, but I have a loaner in the driveway.  Unfortunately it is an older P85+ without autopilot.  I was hoping to test the autopilot and write my impressions here on this blog.  Even with these issues, Tesla employees are great to deal with and they make servicing the car painless.  I can’t imagine going back to dealing with an ICE as my daily driver.

My only question is should I buy the extended warranty?  I had gathered my list of service issues in an attempt to make that decision making writing this timely post easier.  I’d love to hear your thoughts if I should spend $4,000 to extend my warranty for another four years and 50,000 miles.  I do not expect to be driving as much as I have in the past.

Pavement Markers as Noise Makers

Reflective Pavement Markers

Reflective Pavement Markers

From time to time, certain legislatures and citizens try to pass laws to require that electric cars make noise in order to alert people in the area that a car is coming.  I don’t support passing these laws and think people should simply be more aware of their surroundings.

On rare occasions, I have found it necessary to lightly tap on my horn when driving a Tesla.  Sometimes a group of people may be lingering in the middle of a parking lot for example, and there simply is no other way to get their attention without leaving the vehicle.

A lot of bicycle riders like to use the local roads for recreation.  I am both a Model S driver and a cyclist.  Only a small percentage of the riders in my immediate area are commuting or running errands on their bicycles.  From time to time there are groups of people who do not frequently bike and are distracted chatting with their friends while riding side to side.  Technically on roads without bike lanes, riding side by side is not legal.   For roads with wide enough shoulders, this behavior is not really an issue, but there are certain areas with narrow blind curves where a bicyclist can be at serious risk.

From time to time tensions flare up between cyclists and drivers, but the debate seems slightly incredulous as there are few cyclists who are also not drivers.  When I am riding, I am highly cognizant that I am not always glaringly visible, but more importantly much more vulnerable than when driving the Model S.

I have recently discovered a nice way to alert riders ahead that a quiet car is approaching.  In the middle of most roads are reflective pavement markers.  These markers serve two general purposes:  mark the center of the lane in low light conditions, and create noise when someone drifts out of their lane.  I have found a third purpose; with no approaching cars on the other side of the road and a cyclist or pair of cyclist ahead on a narrow road, I will drive my left hand tires directly over these pavement markers.  This action creates a slight noise, just enough to alert the cyclist that someone is approaching from behind.  The rumble is much softer and gentler than a honk of the horn.

In California a new law was recently passed requiring drivers to give cyclists three feet of space between themselves and the car.  If three feet is not available, the driver must slow down to pass safely.  In rural locations, officers said they will be unlikely to cite a driver who drifts over into the other lane to give the cyclists more room.  This practice has been common here for years.

I think by just brushing these pavement markers, electric car drivers can alert but not startle cyclists of their presence when necessary.

Leisurely Weekend Cyclists

Leisurely Weekend Cyclists

P85D Loaner Report

A P85D in My Driveway (only Temporarily)

A P85D in My Driveway (only Temporarily)

I recently had the great pleasure to take a P85D loaner while having my car serviced.  Actually I was just getting the center consoled installed!  While they installed the console, I drove the P85D for 125 miles.  One trip over the mountains to the coast and back, and the second morning finding some errands to run around town.  During the extended test drive, I found a number of small things about the D that I was not expecting.

Acceleration

As has been reported many times, the acceleration is insane and very reminiscent of my four year Roadster experience.  Super fun and smooth from a dead stop.  In 2013, I had driven a P85+ loaner and was not overly impressed with it.  I did not like the car’s reaction to full acceleration from a dead stop as the front lurched up and the wheels squealed a bit.  The D was very fun; I kept it in insane mode for the day and never tried the sport mode.   I definitely used a higher rate of kWh/mile than normal while enjoying this faster acceleration.

Motor Noise

Interestingly enough the motor noise was substantially different.  At first I felt like a small jet was flying by.  The volume was definitely louder than my S85.  But after the first 30 minutes of driving I no longer noticed the noise difference.

Handling

The P85D loaner seemed to handle exactly like my S85; both cars are equipped with air suspension.  I couldn’t really tell a difference.  I did take a good drive over and back to the coast on some really fun twisty mountain roads.

Radio Reception

During my Roadster driving days, I had horrible radio reception.  I still listen to some AM and FM radio on a somewhat regular basis.  The FM signal was not as crisp as in my car, but the AM station was completely inaudible.  I suspect with two motors, the electromagnetic interference is worse.  I easily showed this to the valet that picked up my car as we listened to an AM and an FM station side by side in the loaner and in my car and the difference was very noticeable.

Parking Sensors

False Edge Warning with Sensors

False Edge Warning with Sensors

While driving, the car indicated several times that I was quite close to some mysterious objects in the road. I have driven several loaners in the past with parking sensors and do not recall ever getting these warnings.   The camera screen warned me more than once that I was close to a physical object.  Also twice the dash flashed a warning in red graphics that I was about to hit a car or person in front of me.  I like to drive away from all traffic and am by no means a tailgater. I did not have enough hours with the loaner to determine the true cause of these warnings.

Car “Smell”

When I first got into the car, I noticed an astringent strong smell.  This smell was so distracting, I rolled down the windows for a long period.  I spent most of the 125 miles with the sunroof and windows down in one configuration or another.  The weather varied between 60 and 75 degrees, so driving in this top down fashion was appropriate, but that smell took about 24 hours to not be noticeable.

I don’t know if this car smell is because of some new surfaces in the manufacturing process, unusual behavior by another driver, or a chemical in the mysterious spray bottle I saw being used on the car before I picked it up.  I can’t quite identify the nature of the smell other than unpleasant; my nose and sense of taste can’t determine the list of spices in restaurant food either.   I know whoever that I am quite sensitive to the smell of cleaning agents.

Higher Rear Headrests

The newer rear headrests are so high, I almost wonder why there is even a rear window!  At this point I largely depend upon the cameras, side windows and rear view mirrors.  Only when changing lanes in dicey situations do I use the rear window, But with the new seat backs, the rear window almost useless.

Why Even Have a Rear Window?

Why Even Have a Rear Window?

Conclusions

I think Tesla now has a wonderful option for folks who feel the need for speed.  I was not fond of the P85+ but the P85D characteristics are really nice.  My area is in a big economic boom with more and more people and traffic.  It is getting harder and hard to find places where I could really enjoy the insane acceleration.  To trade in my 39,000 mile S85 to a P85D at this point would be a large outlay in dollars that I could not justify.

However if I were buying my first Model S right now, the P85D would be in serious contention.  The dual motors would work both for having a lot of fun and the occasional trips to the snow.  I could potentially no longer keep the Toyota Highlander Hybrid that spends most of the time in the garage.  Unfortunately with climate change, the California Sierra Nevada mountains have had so little snow in recent years, I almost don’t even need a 4WD vehicle anymore.

Charge-off 90kW vs. 120kW

I was “recruited” from the Tesla Motors Club Forum to do a 1:1 time test between my car and a 90kW battery A car.  Three cars were present at the charge-off:  one 90kW (Battery A) car, my own 120kW (Battery B) car and a second 120kW (Battery B) car.

A number of customers who have these earlier A batteries have expressed discontent that they cannot charge above 90kW.  Also on the forums there have been many data points and charge curves for individual 90kW and later 120kW batteries.

Tesla was pre-informed and invited to this event and received an advance copy of this post in order to comment.  All statements from Tesla are in red.  All three testers were very pleasantly surprised at the performance of the 90kW battery and felt that Tesla’s statements are in-line with reality and could potentially be met under ideal circumstances.

To provide a quick preview of the results, the second 120kW battery tester said “One of the most impressive things to me was that the taper from a 90kW charging rate on the A battery car started at the same time as our 120kW capable cars passed through a charging rate of 90kW.  This is HUGE!  This shows that there was no difference in taper after ours got to 90kW.  It also meant that his car paralleled ours in miles gained until his kept on trucking. His technically was out charging mine for almost half the time.”

The First Charge-off In Vacaville, California

The First Charge-off In Vacaville, California

The goal of the charge-off was to address the validity of the official Tesla motors statement in regards to the two different batteries:

“For a customer charging from 20% to 90% (more than enough to go to the next supercharger station), the difference in charging time between an early car and a current car is less than 4 minutes”

Label on Battery A

Label on Battery A

We decided that the best comparison was really to test from 10% to 90%.  We used that data to validate the above claim.

On April 17, 2014 three cars performed a charge-off at the Vacaville supercharger.  The weather was a very pleasant 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees celsius).  All cars had the climate control off and the windows down (in order to communicate screen data).  The 90kW car did not have any fan noise, my car had it for a few minutes, but the other 120kW car had large and extended fan noise.   It seemed that at the lower charge rate, the 90kW car Battery A did not need as much cooling – as the cooling fan did not seem to kick in – but he also had kindly waited for our arrival. Whereas at 120kW, the B battery cars’ fans ran noisily during portions of the fast charge rates.

Question for Tesla: what is this large “fan noise” we hear during charging?

The likely sources of this noise during supercharging come from the thermal management system of the Model S (= fans), which works to optimize the thermal conditions inside the battery pack during supercharging.

I was the last to arrive (confession – I was quite late and had not planned nearly enough time for heavy Bay Area traffic), so my battery was probably slightly warmer.

The first car with the battery A was an early Vin with approximately 41,500 miles already on its battery.  Interestingly enough, this battery in a full range charge with 5.9 reports a range of 260 (was 267 brand new), a degradation of only about 3%.  This car charged in stall 1A.  No car charged in its sister stall 1B.  This charging station had no issues providing 90 / 89 kW of power for about ten minutes.

A 120kW car was in stall 2A.  This car had around 18,750 miles on its battery.  This car was also running 5.9 and has a full range of 248 miles.  No car was charging in the paired stall 2B.  This car began its cycle at a full 120kW of power.

I charged my 120kW car in stall 4A.  I had around 14,500 miles on my battery.  I recently did a full range charge and my battery only had 247 miles of range – significantly lower than the range of the much higher mileage A battery!  I charged in stall 4A, and no other car was charging in the paired stall 4B.  My charging station began only with 112kW of power but near the end of the test, I was receiving more kW from the station than the 120kW car in stall 2A.  Likely my charger was not 100% operational but my car was the first to finish charging.

As you can see from the above statements there are quite a bit of variables:  mileage, expected range and complete supercharger operation.  I was a little surprised that my car finished charging before the second 120kW car when I was started with 112kW from the supercharger and he had a full 120kW.

We started at 26 miles because that number is 10% of the full range of the two 120kW battery B cars.  We also felt this test is more interesting because most supercharger users note that it is more efficient to start closer to empty.  We effectively tested the full 10-90% range between the three cars.  We decided to start at 26 miles and end the official test at 223 miles when the 120kW cars stopped at the 90% mark.  The 90% mark on the 90kW charge continued on a slow taper to 232 miles.

My car reported an increase of 65kWh in the battery at the end, the other 120kW car reported an increase of 59kWh in the battery at the end, and the 90kW car reported a 63kWh battery increase.  These numbers seem like clear estimates and not extremely accurate.

Here is a curve of all three cars comparing mileage gained over time from 10% to 90%.  The three curves have almost identical behavior.  The A 90kW battery continued to beyond the 223 mile test for another 6 minutes with a final mileage of 232.  This part of the data is not shown  in the graph.

Mileage Curves Over Time for the 3 Batteries

Mileage Curves Over Time for the 3 Batteries

The second chart shows the kWh energy being supplied to each of the cars over time.  Although the 90kWh battery was slower for the first ten minutes, after 20 minutes it was charging at a marginally faster rate than the 120kWh cars.  Its hard to see from this chart, but the 90kW battery was charging faster than the other 120kW battery for at least half the time.

Mileage Charge Curves for 3 Batteries Over Time

Mileage Charge Curves for 3 Batteries Over Time

The third chart shows the progression of rated miles on a minute by minute basis between my car, which was slightly faster than the other 120kW car.  Yes, my car charged faster, but after about the twenty minute mark, the 90kW battery cars difference flattened out. The highest difference between the two cars was only 17 rated range miles.  This chart includes the final slow taper of the 90kW battery A to its personal 90% mark, which was not really part of the official test.

Mileage Difference Between Battery A car and My Tesla

Mileage Difference Between Battery A car and My Tesla

Question for Tesla: Why would a particular battery have this slow taper?

The charging rate between different design and age batteries will show up in various ways, as your testing has identified. It’s hard to speculate on which factors would cause changes to different parts of the charging session, especially given the many factors that could not be controlled in such a test. However it’s very clear from your data that you have captured the most significant difference between these two versions, which occurs at the beginning of the charge session, at low states of charge.

Conclusions:

1. The 20-90% comparison test as stated per Tesla was a difference of approximately five minutes.  The Tesla statement is less than four minutes, but there are so many small variables between the cars, the superchargers and testing recording methods that I believe this claim is quite possible in a best case scenario.

   On your methodology for determining a 20%-90% charge time from your 10%-90% test: Did you log the time points when each car reached its respective 20% range? (52 miles for the original design, 49 miles for the newer design). The charge slider would naturally stop the cars at their respective 90%, and give you the end times.

Post script for Tesla’s question:  Yes, we did log those time points when each car reached its respective 20% range.  Minute 7 for the original design, and early in Minute 6 for the newer design.  So the difference was at most two minutes.  But the long taper on the original design took 13 additional minutes.  So analyzing the data in this fashion shows an 11 minute difference.  This was noted below in #4.

  The time for the newer design battery to charge from 26 miles to 49 miles would take longer than the original design to charge from 26 miles to 52 due to the extra 3 miles of range, but more significantly due to the 30kW advantage provided in the initial minutes.

2.  The 90kW car achieved the same mileage range of a 10-90% charge just six and a half minutes later.

3.  A 90kW car to achieve the same typical mileage gains needs to wait approximately 10% more time than a 120kW car.

To make this statement, you should also acknowledge the mileage difference between the cars, and that the comparison is being made from 10%-90%. It might be interesting to look at differences between other start and end points as well.

4.   If you compare the numbers slightly differently.  Battery A’s 20-90% based upon its rated range vs. a fixed number as we did, the time comparisons are not as good due to the long taper.

We try to focus on the amount of energy delivered into the battery and relate that to our customers by displaying the distance they could travel. Comparing on this basis should be acceptable to your readers.

5. The 90kW car has a slow taper to 90% that is not particularly useful to wait for in most supercharging driving situations adding another 6 minutes for only 10 miles of charge.  Our tester often interrupts his charge before this final taper.

Indeed the taper is important, it affects most of the charging time, and grows to me more significant as the battery approaches a full charge. The more of this region that can be avoided the less time will be spent at the supercharger and more time can be spent driving (for both designs).

6. At 103 miles of rated range, both 120kW battery cars were receiving 90kW from the supercharger.  So any Model S regardless of battery type will be charging at the same rate with approximately 100 miles of rated range.

7.  All three testers were quite pleasantly surprised at the results given the significant variabilities between the three cars and charging stations.  We feel Tesla will be happy with the results of the first “charge-off”.

P85+ Loaner Report

My car unfortunately or fortunately had to go in for service.  Fortunately, the valet brought me a new P85+ loaner as the service was likely going to take more than one day.  In the end, I had the loaner car for four days.  This car has two significant differences between my own car.  The “P” part or faster motor and the “+” part for the improved handling.  This post will discuss the overall differences between my S85, the P85+, and the Roadster.  The second half will discuss other observations driving a different and newer car.

I decided to give my loaner a true test drive and headed over on some very winding roads over to the beach on a truly gorgeous day.   I ended up driving on a lot of twisty roads, a fair amount of freeways on subsequent day, and did run some errands in town on another day.  The paperwork with the loaner that you sign does say you can’t go over 80mph.  With the roads around here being relatively busy at all times during the day,  I find it difficult to go that fast but just following traffic at one point I did go 79mph.

Loaner at the Beach

Loaner at the Beach

My first impression driving the car is that for some reason this car is noisier than mine.  The noise could be from the tires or the suspension.  I would by no means call it “noisy” but my particular car is almost bubble silent.

On several occasions, I started from a dead stop to test out the low end acceleration.  Yes, definitely faster than my 85 but not nearly as elegant or fast as the Roadster.  The front end tips up a bit and the back wheels can slip a bit from a dead start particularly if you are turning.   I had a hard time finding places to accelerate on the four drives I took in the loaner car. I am not as crazy with the acceleration on the Performance as I was with the Roadster.  The Roadster had no awkward movements out of the gate, just pure complete straight shot.  I can’t replicate that exact same feeling with the Performance.

But I think I am in some ways comparing roller coasters and everyone has their favorites.  Flooring the vanilla 85 is still pretty darn fun and has no awkwardness and saved me money.  At least in the area where I live, I find it hard to take full advantage of this kind of acceleration and did not feel compelled to buy a Performance version.  I also like having a vehicle that I can floor without any likely jolts, noises or significant tire wear.

On the other hand, I love the “+” part of the equation and found it a reasonable price performance improvement for $6,500.  I went on some very windy roads that fortunately had very little traffic.  The “+” just really grips the road in a way my 85 with 21” wheels does not.  I think an interesting option would be to get the “+” without the “P”.  On my first long drive on very windy roads, I really enjoyed the “+”.  The third drive I was just doing a simple errand.  I started to really notice the uneven pavement on the roads I was driving on.  I actually missed the smoother ride of my vanilla 85 as the “+” felt rough in a reminiscent way of my Roadster.  Four years in driving my Roadster, I never took it on an overnight road trip.   Partially because the likely need to think about charging it, but more so because of the non-luxurious ride.

Since most of my driving is somewhat ordinary with a fair amount of traffic even during non-commute hours, I would find it quite challenging to find moments to utilize the capabilities of the “+”.  Perhaps up to once a month I travel on some twisty roads.  In these situations, I would prefer a “+” as it really handles these roads with a nice tight grip.  But my vanilla 85 also handles the roads very well.

Probably even more important for me is I do enjoy long road trips.  I think the overall profile of the vanilla suspension is much smoother and more appropriate for these kinds of trips.  So for me personally, I would still purchase the same car configuration if the plus had been available.  I am still interested in test driving a vanilla 85 with the new 19” wheels though.

One of 8 parking sensors

One of 8 parking sensors

A few other small notes on this newer Model S.  The valet service left the car in my driveway and I drove it about an hour later.  The temperature outside was about 70 degrees.  I was surprised how warm the car was already, definitely warmer than my grey car with a black interior.  So at least from this small data point, the exterior color seems to influence the warmth of the car more than the interior color.  I am still not particularly fond of the high contrast between the tan leather and the black interior elements.  I like light interiors but the Model S has far too much black on the doors, on the dash and on the floors to truly be a tan or grey interior option.  Whether or not the headliner is Alacantra or not, I really did not notice or care.

This car had several new features:  the parking sensors and the yacht floor.  Four little holes are in the cars bumpers for the parking sensors but I don’t think the software is yet available as I did not hear any audible clues nor could I see any dash indicators when pulling out of my driveway.  The physical parking sensors are visible but are not obvious.  The front bumper also is my least favorite part of the Model S from an aesthetic point of view with or without parking sensors.

The yacht floor has some trim in the floor between the seats where the standard configuration is black carpet which honestly I never notice as it is so dark or has a few items lying in it like a sunglass case and a phone.  I would not pay $500 for this feature.  I am more interested in a console where I can store these things

Yacht Floor Option

Yacht Floor Optionaway from sight.

The more obscure change I noticed was the change in cup holder design.  I love my cup holders.  They work perfectly for reusable containers and reusable coffee cups.  They have some nice cinchers that grip the containers.  The newer cup holders are the same size but don’t have cinchers!  My reusable water bottle was flying all around the loaner car.  I had to take it out of the cup holder and leave it on the seat as the noise was quite irritating.

Just for fun, I also took detail notes after charging it to a full non-range charge and this car with less than 1,000 miles charged to 237 miles.  The previous drivers also had kWh / mile usage of over 370.  My number was lower than that as I ended up behind some slow cars on the drive back from the beach and with freeway driving the car is reasonably efficient.

A handful of other folks with low VINs have stated that the build quality seemed better on their loaner.  I did not notice any difference in my 04xxx car and the 16xxx loaner.

I hope this review is helpful for new buyers in choosing between the different 85 versions.  I had also wrote this post when the new options were first announced.  The earlier post provides a general overview of the different 85 models.

Cup Holders With Cinchers

Cup Holders With Cinchers

Opening A Different Car

I came out of a store in a small shopping area, and saw a grey Model S nearby.  I walked over to the car and the passenger door handle did not retract.  I was planning to throw on the seat the small items I had in my hand.  Since I am an environmentalist, I always say “no bag please” when I buy a few items that I can carry.

I took the key fob out of my pocket and shook it a bit.  I opened the door and looked inside to find on the black seat an odd outer garment of some kind.  The coat was black with some trim.  I did not have a coat on the seat.  The water bottle also looked unusual.

I looked around and then realized.  THIS IS NOT MY CAR!  The car had identical colors inside and out along with the 21″ wheels.   My car was parked not very far away in this small parking lot.  I looked around to see who owned this car, and the one person I talked to gave me some strange looks.

I was quite surprised that my key could open another Model S.  I have been experiencing a series of strange intermittent problems:  self opening doors, rare electrical noises, occasional bluetooth connection issues and a flakey tire pressure gauge.  Perhaps these are somehow related?  I am planning to blog about these other problems soon but they are minor and I have not had the time.  My car is going in for service in August and I do have the VIN # of the other Model S.

In this area there are a lot of Teslas on the streets, but I have not seen any reports of this issue.  I did not try to drive the car.  I vaguely remember another car manufacturer having similar issues in the past.

This Photo is Not My Car!

This Photo is Not My Car!