More Model 3 Details


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.


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.


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


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

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.

Roof Racks

Yakima Roof Rack

Yakima Roof Rack

This week I had another first in the Tesla world, my first sighting of a Model S with a roof rack in the East Bay.

The Whispbar roof rack system from Yakima is available directly through Tesla for $519.  Or you can buy direct through Yakima for the same price.  The first price listed is only $449 but does not include the $70 flush kit.

Thule also sells a roof rack with a Tesla adaptor for $454.85 with the following three parts:  the podium, the rack and the fit kit. To mount any roof rack on the Telsa, you need to have bought the panoramic roof.

While carrying anything on the roof of a vehicle, electric or ICE, you will be impacting your mileage due to aerodynamics and resistance.  Perhaps with an electric vehicle, owners will be more sensitive to any drop in range with a roof rack.

Various owners have reported different Wh/mile performance differences with their roof racks and carriers.  These data points are always very difficult to be accurate as weather conditions and speed make a significant difference.  The following data has been reported by a few owners:  a little over 1% with just the roof rack installed or with snowboards, 10-25% loss with a bicycle, and 10% with a cargo carrier.

I have driven to the mountains many times with skis on the roof.  I have also owned a paddleboard for a few years now.  The paddleboard is very large and has a measurable impact on my Highlander’s MPG in high speeds or windy conditions.  I would assume a similar Wh/mile drop if I put the paddle board on the Tesla.

Since I already own a rack system on my Toyota Highlander, I am in no rush to install one on my Model S.  I also feel that I need to at least occasionally drive the Highlander.  If I purchase a roof rack for the Tesla, I would also be strongly inclined to buy the Thule rack.  Thule makes an excellent paddleboard system, and offered excellent customer support when I accidentally threw away an important part of the system.


Thule Roof Rack Option

Thule Roof Rack Option

Washing the Model S

There are a variety of ways to wash a car and they all have different environmental impacts.  Washing a car at home the old fashioned way is probably the worst.  The wash and rinse water is loaded with dirt, oil and detergent that ends up as run off into the storm drains and directly into rivers.  My storm drain waters end up in the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  I have not washed a car at home in years as it was not a chore I enjoyed and never balked at the prices at the automatic car washes.  I have to confess, I am not meticulous about keeping my car dirt free.

Traditional commercial car washes use less water than an average home user, and by US law they must drain their wastewater through the sewer system not the storm drains.    So the water is treated and cleaned before being diverted to the ocean.  Also many car washes recycle their own water.

When I owned the Roadster, I washed my car at two different places.  A ‘touchless’ car wash and in one of those old fashioned places where you wash it yourself but they have higher pressure water for a few quarters.  I had not washed a car myself in years, but the Roadster was so small it was a pretty easy job.  I started to go to the touchless place more regularly till at one point they said no, the car is too low.

Manual Notes on Using Touchless Car Washes

Manual Notes on Using Touchless Car Washes

When I got the Model S, I figured I’d go back to the local touchless place.  But when I got there they said they could not wash my car.  I was a little perplexed and I had no idea why.  The Model S manual warns you against the typical paint finish issues with any car.

Most automatic car washes in California work by pulling the car through the mechanisms while in neutral.  With the 4.x software, forcing the car into neutral without a driver in it was not particularly straightforward.  With the 5.x software there is a tow mode.  I am still waiting for the software update.

I was not particularly fond of this car wash, so I started to look around where other Model S owners were getting their car washed, and I discovered a better car washing method that does not use water.  I found a facility reasonably close that is much more ecologically correct.  I have now been there three times.  I mentioned earlier I am not very picky about having a clean exterior!  Also every time the Tesla was in for service, Tesla had my car washed.

I am very satisfied with this waterless method.  On a cost basis, the car wash is a little more expensive than a water based one, but I think not using water is worth the few extra dollars.

Eco Car Wash Cleaning Another Tesla

Eco Car Wash Cleaning Another Tesla

The employees and owners are informative and helpful.  A lot of Tesla owners use this particular car wash.  He said he has found a number of owners with the following three situations:

  1. Model S cars that used as family cars that are completely filthy on the inside
  2. Model S cars with a ton of scratches on the trunk, where people clearly put their groceries on top of the car and scratch up the finish.
  3. A lot of curb rash on the wheels.

I am guilty of curb rash, primarily in the front right wheel but I don’t have the other two problems.

I had noticed some grease near the moonroof, and he said that many Teslas have this problem and service can swap out the correct parts to stop the grease from appearing again on the roof.  I will have service fix this when I go in for my annual service.

Grease From Panoramic Roof Mechanism

Grease From Panoramic Roof Mechanism

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?

Panoroof Screen

I made an unexpected discovery today.  We have had an unexpectedly dry and warm February, and today on the first of March will hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  I decided to open the Panoramic roof.

I have noticed two areas of very minor noise in my car.  One sounded like a radio buzz that showed up very infrequently the first week but has since subsided completely.  The second noise was a wee tiny rattle on the Panoramic roof.  I wasn’t hearing the noise but decided to feel around for anything loose.

Surprisingly I discovered that the roof has a little screen in the front that comes up when open.  When you are driving you can put your hand up there and push the contraption down quite easily.

I am guessing the screen is to keep dirt away from the car?  Or perhaps to aid aerodynamics?  Not really sure.

UPDATED:  Turns out this little screen is to avoid loud thump noises at high speed and is standard on most cars.  I think what is so different to me is the height of it.  On my Highlander, the extension is still flush with the roof, and feels just like a gizmo in the well, and is invisible from the outside.  The Model S screen feels like a visor and is mesh not solid.

Panoramic Roof from Behind

Panoramic Roof from Behind

Close up of Screen

Close up of Screen

Panoramic Roof Lever

Panoramic Roof Lever

Full Panoramic Roof from Front

Full Panoramic Roof Screen from Front