The D and Auto

Tonight at 8:18pm, Tesla announced the D version of the Model S.  The D as many owners guessed stands for Dual motor or an all wheel drive version of the Model S.

An AWD version can really help sales in cold weather climates but also provides significant benefits over 2WD versions

1. Faster acceleration

Elon stated that the 0 to 60 will be 3.2 seconds with the P version of the AWD.  This number is really fast and even faster than my Roadster.  I have not been excited about the P85 because the acceleration was not nearly as smooth as the Roadster.  I hope to get a service loaner P85D in the future to check out the characteristics of this acceleration with two motors not just one.

2.  Top speed is higher.

This feature will probably be hard to take advantage of in most places outside of perhaps the German autobahn or very remote locations.

3.  Efficiency increases.

ICE cars become less efficient when you add AWD.  With the sophisticated electronics, the Tesla D is more efficient than a standard Tesla even with the increased weight of the second motor on the front axel!

The Dual Motor option for the S85 is $4,000 with no listed 0-60 performance increase.  The P85D is another $14,600 over the P85.  The P85D requires 21″ wheels, the tech package and smart air suspension.  The difference between a similarly configured S85 to a P85D is $26,600.  In a way I am glad this option was not available when I bought my car as that speed is very tempting.

Auto-pilot Announcement

Along with announcing the D, Elon announced some auto-pilot features that are in the cars that are currently produced.  He made it clear that these cars are not autonomous self driving cars.  The technology includes

  1. Forward looking radar that can see through fog, snow and sand.
  2. Cameras that with image recognition that can distinguish pedestrians and can read signs.
  3. 360 degree ultrasonic sonar that creates a protect cocoon around the car and is sensitive enough to see a small child or a dog.

With these features, the car can self park and automatically brake.  On private property, you can summon the car to you.

Although I am more excited about the speed of the D for roller coaster thrills, the auto pilot features are potentially more interesting for many buyers.

 

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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

Efficiency Comparisons

One of the reasons I was very impressed with the Model S is Tesla’s progress on efficiency in just four years.  The following table compares the Roadster to the Model S and the Nissan Leaf in terms of MPGe, kwH / 100 Miles, and Miles / kwH.

Energy Comparisons

Energy Comparisons

The federal government calculates a MPGe number which is a way to compare an electric car to a gas powered car.  Their electric “mpg” is kwH / 100 miles, which has an inverse relationship to MPG.  A more efficient car has a lower kwH / 100 mile rating.   A few years ago I wrote a post suggesting Miles / kwH would make more sense as it correlates more to MPG.

Looking through this table you can see how impressive both the Tesla cars are.  The Roadster has the highest rating.  The Roadster uses significantly less electricity than the Nissan Leaf and the Coda, has a longer range and is a lot more fun to drive.

The Model S is also very impressive.  It is a significantly larger and more luxurious car and weighs a lot more but uses close to the same amount of energy per mile than the Nissan Leaf with a much larger range.

I was honestly quite surprised by these numbers.  I asked the folks at the Tesla showroom how they managed to achieve such efficiencies in the last few years.  Their answer was a lot of aerodynamic improvements but also a lot of development work in the motor and other parts of the car – which are no longer “under the hood”.

Powertrain Problem

Last week I was driving to a hiking spot in Northern California along some windy mountain roads.  Just before arriving there my car encountered some shallow potholes, and the car stalled with the error “Powertrain Problem Restart When Safe”.

"Powertrain Problem Restart When Safe"

 

I restarted the car successfully, drove less than a mile to the hiking spot, and called my friendly service person at Tesla.  He said if the car started again, the car is likely fine but they will look over the car for me “just in case”.  I proceeded to enjoy my hike and saw some deer.  Tesla looked over my car, looked at the fault in the computer log, and road tested it to try to reproduce the problem.  The roadster is fine.

 

If a pothole causes this error message, the car restarts immediately, and the car experiences no errors in the next ten miles or so, the car problem was just a temporary glitch from the bad pothole and not a serious error.  The roads in California have deteriorated significantly in the last ten years.