S, X and 3 Efficiencies

Five years ago I looked at the efficiencies  of various electric vehicles and was very impressed with the progress Tesla made with the Model S versus the Roadster.  Several months ago, someone commented on my blog that I do the same analysis on the Model 3, but all the data was not yet available (Yes, I could have written this several months ago).

The data I generated in 2012 was a conversion from the MPGe issued by the EPA.  In the five years since, drivers are more comfortable thinking in pure electric terms such as Range and kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity.  So I did not use the EPA numbers at all in the current calculations.  The final numbers do differ but not in any significant way for this high level analysis.

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The efficiency analysis is quite simple.  First, how many miles of range can you go with a given battery pack.  So for the new Model 3 long range with 310 miles of range and a 74kWh battery, you can drive 4.19 Miles using 1 kWh.  All eight vehicles fall within a range of 2.95 to 4.38 miles per kWh.

To calculate efficiency of a vehicle, you need to also consider the weight of the car.  How much mass are you pushing along that one mile.  This number is listed in Ton-Miles / kWh.  Here again the English measuring system is very strange.  We normally think in pounds, and a ton is 2,000 pounds.  To calculate the efficiency measure of Ton-Miles / kWh, you simply multiply the weight of the car by the pervious range / energy number.

The “efficiency data” is quite interesting.  All the current Tesla vehicles fall within a very narrow range of 7.24 to 8.05 Ton-Miles / kWh.

Some of this data is a little tricky to calculate depending upon exact car options.   Tesla also did not report a lower weight for the Model 60, so the numbers are not exact but just give a general idea.   Surprisingly, the Model 3 is in the same efficiency range as the S and the X.  The Roadster, the BMW i3, Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf are much less efficient.  Perhaps the easy efficiency improvements were already implemented with the Model S.

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Upgrading my Model S?

In the middle of last month I got an unsolicited email from Tesla headquarters asking me if I wanted to upgrade my Model S.  I have not seen much chatter about this on the web and the email was addressed directly to me.  I have a VIN less than 5,000, so hand soliciting owners with less than 5,000 miles is not surprising.  A Bloomberg reports states that Tesla is strongly pushing to show positive cash flow in the third quarter.

The bulk of the email stated the following:

This is X with Tesla Motors Headquarters. Today, I am writing to you to explore upgrading your Model S! 

Our newest release of Autopilot hardware and software will revolutionize your commute and we’d like to offer you an easy path to upgrade your Model S to a vehicle with these new features.  Model S also features new options such as improved seating, Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, Ludicrous speed, range of over 280 miles, new colors, new fascia and much more.  Above all, we have made the upgrading process simple and convenient.   

We are also excited to share that we have reintroduced the Tesla Referral Program! From now until October 15th you will receive a $1,000 credit towards the purchase price of either a Model S/X.

I had not really looked into upgrading, as I tend to hold onto cars for at least ten years unless there is a compelling reason to upgrade.  But I thought I’d look into how much it would cost to upgrade my Model S.  I had no interest in the Model X.

Possible Configuration

Base Model

There are currently four battery sizes available:  60, 75, 90 or 100 kWh.  The 100kWh only comes configured as a P100D with dual drive.  The 90 is also only available with the dual drive but the 60 and 75 can be configured with rear wheel drive.  My main interest is battery range as I like to take long trips and have the most flexibility on when and where to charge.  The following table shows the four battery options, the EPA mileage estimates, the amount of upfront cash required before sales tax, and the cost per mile.  The 60 and 75 rear wheel drive version and the 90D are in the same ballpark; if you have any interest in a longer range vehicle, you are paying the same proportion in cost for more battery cells up to the 90D.

dollarpermile.jpg

The P100D is a $42,500 jump from the 90D.  The 90D goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds, the P100D goes from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds.  If I were to upgrade, I would definitely go with the 90D.  The P100D’s range is not that much more for the extra cost. I live in an area with increasing congestion where it is increasingly difficult to enjoy fast 0 to 60 acceleration.

Options

Autopilot

I’d pay the $3,000 for Autopilot 2.0 hardware.  The primary feature I would be interested in is intelligent cruise control.  I’ve always found traditional cruise control generally more frustrating than anything else because there are always too many cars on the highway to maintain a constant speed.  The rest of the autopilot features don’t interest me all that much.

Smart Air Suspension

I bought the smart air suspension on my Model S in order to improve the efficiency while driving on the freeway.  Unfortunately I have found very little efficiency improvements using the smart air suspension.  For $2,500 and more maintenance issues, I would definitely pass on this option.

Panoramic Roof

I’d definitely configure the car with the Panoramic Roof for $1,500.  I don’t think I have ever bought a car without some sort of sunroof.

Wheels

After so much hassle with my 21” tires, I definitely would choose 19” wheels.  Low profile tires are just too much of a hassle on a wide vehicle.  I am tired of tight parking spaces, curb rash, and the increased vulnerability and wear of low profile tires.

Ultra High Fidelity Sound

For $2,500, I am a sucker for better sounding music in the car even though I don’t listen to it all that much.  I know there are after market options, but that to me is just a hassle.

Premium Upgrade Package

This $3,000 package includes a lot of miscellaneous things.  I would like to have the filtration system to some agricultural smells, and I like having a power liftgate.

Other options

I don’t have any needs for the Sub Zero Weather Package, Rear Facing Seats or the High Amperage Charger.

Aesthetics

Deciding the exact color seat combination would probably be a last minute decision.  I’d probably wait for the grey second generation seats in Mid 2017 that are a $2,500 upgrade.  I’m happy with my black interior, but I’ve always liked grey interiors the best.

Pricing

Tax Credits

I would be unlikely to get my federal tax credit of $7,500.  I did not get the credit on the Roadster, and I did not get all the credit on my Model S.  I am very fortunate to have retired very early in life, and my investments are tuned to only generate enough interest and dividend income to offset property tax and mortgage interest.  Adjusting this even in one tax year is not that simplistic, and definitely hard to do in the last quarter of a year.

The California state tax credit is a bit more complex and caught up in politics.  Right now if you try to apply you will be put on a waitlist.

waitlist.jpg

For both my Roadster and Model S, the rebate arrived very quickly and the process was painless.  Recently though the California government stopped this incentive for high income earners and increased the incentives for those with low income.  California uses gross annual incomes to determine whether or not you are eligible for the income.

income.jpgI would not count on the $2,500 California rebate if I bought a new Tesla both for political reasons and my personal widely fluctuating income.

Trade In

I have to admit the number one thing I was curious about in this process was the value of my current Model S with 59,000 miles on it.  The process to get a quote took a while but in the end, I would receive $41,000 plus a $1,000 loyalty credit contingent upon an inspection.  I don’t have any scratches on the car but they would likely deduct some curb rash repair fees.

Numbers

The most likely configuration I came up with was a 90D with about half the options for $102,000.    I would need to add in 9% sales tax and then subtract out my $42,000 trade in. I do still have $800 left in credit for an earlier referral but that might be used up to clean up the curb rash on my wheels.  In the end to upgrade my car would cost me around $70,000!

Conclusion

I have no interest in changing my under warranty 59,000 mile Model S for the a very similar car with a small increase in range for $70,000.   In the unlikely occurrence that my Model S was totaled, I might be interested in leasing and switching the cars around till I found the perfect body size for me – even driving an X for a few years then switching to a Model 3.  Upgrading a car to essentially the same car is just not all that interesting.

Remote Trip Planner Test

I recently took a long trip through Southern California and tested the features of the Tesla Trip planner in a very remote environment.  This particular excursion was not a simple long drive to a single destination estimating the amount of charge needed at each supercharger as I had focused on in my earlier testing of the trip planner with software 7.0.  On this road trip I drove to, through, and out of Death Valley National Park – one of the most remote (and beautiful) places on earth with an updated version of 7.1.  This post discusses both the current pitfalls with the trip planner software but also some advice for Tesla drivers in remote areas.

The software itself is helpful but the driver still needs to understand how the software works and not get too nervous with strange behavior.  The software has improved since my earlier test as the number of false warnings has decreased but many issues still remain.  I also discovered a new problem that I had not seen before, but likely was part of the earlier versions.

Always Roughly Plan Your Journey

On any road trip you need to plan to some extent your itinerary.  For people who don’t like rigid schedules, I would still recommend estimating distances and travel time for various options on a given day.  With gas stations ubiquitous, an ICE vehicle can travel without worrying about filing up, but with an electrical vehicle in remote locations — even with superchargers — some up front planning is recommended.

Tesla recently added some superchargers enabling driving to Death Valley.  A few owners had earlier ventured to Death Valley by using a charger at the RV park in the middle of the national park.  I was traveling during a busy season (where RV charging can be more challenging), and I also did not want to stay in the park during this visit.  I was going to depend upon the three supercharger stations in and around Death Valley:  Lone Pine, Inyokern and Beatty.  Also in and out of Death Valley National Park only has a few places where you might be able to charge in a true emergency such as in Panamint Springs.  But there are many long sections such as between Panamint Springs and Searless Valley where there are almost no buildings of any kind.

triangle

Superchargers Surrounding Death Valley and Distances Between Them

On a quick look at the map, one could think that charging will be no issue.  The maximum distance is 141 miles going through Searles Valley and Trona between the Beatty and Inyokern chargers.  Unfortunately most mapping software wants you to drive through Olancha.  The road through Searles Valley is more interesting, but currently there is a few miles of unpaved gravel road that is under repair.  I like using the supercharge.info map more than the Tesla version when planning as the Tesla map is in only in black and white.

The simple mileage numbers do not tell the whole story.  The next step is to look at the evtripplanner.com software numbers.

evtripplannerdv

EVtripplanner Estimates From Beatty, NV supercharger to Inyokern, CA supercharger

In some ways although the energy usage is accurate, the overall elevation number is a bit misleading.  Starting at Beatty at 3,300 feet, you drop into Death Valley at about 0, but then need to climb back up to Towne Pass near Panamint Springs which is another 5,000 feet in elevation.  The supercharger at Inyokern is at 2,434 feet.  Although you regenerate a lot of electricity on the downgrade, you can’t recover all of it.  Both algorithms in evtripplanner and Tesla’s software do consider the topography during the trip to estimate energy usage.

Watching Energy Use While Driving

You have done a lot of planning and now are actually on your trip.  There are several screens you can look at to see if you can make it to your destination safely.  But unfortunately Tesla still has not added waypoints, making planning in the car quite difficult.  I like to flip between four different indicators when I’m watching my energy consumption as I’m showing in the photo.

consumption.jpg

On the dash if you have the energy widget up it will tell you some useful summary information since the last time you charged.  Also you can dynamically watch your energy usage while driving.  I watch the orange / green power meter.  On a gross level, if you are in the green you know you are regenerating energy.  If the indicator is above 0, the color is orange.  When trying to save energy, the consumption should be between 20 and 40 kW in “normal” conditions.

I would really like this screen to be redesigned.  The Miles Per Hour indicator is very large and prominent with the numeric display.  Half the tachometer is used up to also indicate the speed of the vehicle with the blue line.  I never look at this and the only thing remotely interesting is the listing of how fast the car could technically go.  When trying to be cautious of the energy usage, the scale between 0 and 40kW is pretty small.  I would really like the entire gauge to be energy usage not half of it to allow me to monitor instantaneous energy usage on the dash itself.

I can also monitor energy usage on two screens on the touchscreen .  The consumption tab is the most interesting of the two tabs. Consumption lists average or instantaneous use over 5, 15 or 30 mile sections and at times can be too much information with too many options.

A graph also exists of the overall trip energy consumption as shown in the upper right.  This shows you how much energy the trip planner thinks you will use over the course of your trip marked with the grey line.  As you are driving and do not match its estimates, the route is shown in green.  I don’t use this screen much but it can be useful as it indicates the route’s topography changes.  A flat route is a simple line, a mountainous routes will show curves in the graph.

Visiting within the Park

Of course when visiting the park, you simply do not want to drive through it.  You want to stop and look around and hike a bit.  This requires more energy planning depending upon how far you want to go.  A drive from Beatty through Badwater, the lowest point in North America at -282 feet, and to Inyokern would be pushing a 85kW battery.

badwater

EVtripplanner Estimates Using a Waypoint of Badwater

The estimate is that is 207.7 miles and 56kWh under ideal conditions.  My battery has already degraded by 8%, so I actually have a 78kW battery.   In the summer, Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth and filled with European tourists.  In the winter it can be extremely cold.  On this trip it was a very pleasant winter 80 degrees, but I would not feel comfortable driving all the way down to Badwater and expecting to arrive safely at the Inyokern supercharger.  I don’t know the actual weather or wind conditions when I will be driving and I don’t really want to drain my battery down to zero in such a remote location.

Record Wildflowers

My trip happened to coincide with a large wildflower bloom.  This last year we have finally gotten some rain in California, and there was actually a bad flood in Death Valley.  One result was a very large bloom of wildflowers in the far southeastern part of the park.  To get to the best wildflowers clearly required a return to the Beatty supercharger.  The photo does not give justice to the sublime beauty of the desert.

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Wildflowers In Death Valley February 2016 Near Ashford Mills

Electrical Options

I did decide to ask various folks at Furnace Creek if I could charge my Tesla. The RV park was full.  I inquired at the Furnace Creek Ranch and they clearly stated only guests could charge.  The visitor center also had no options.  My last place to inquire was at the Timbisha Shoshone Indian Reservation within the park.

I have passed by this small reservation for many years wondering why they never offered any visitor services as they are in the middle of the park.  To my great surprise they finally opened up a small eatery.  I’m not sure what I am more passionate about saving the environment or social justice.  I very happily ate an Indian Taco for lunch made with that delicious fry bread along with some shaved ice.  I encouraged them to install an electric charging station as Tesla owners could top off while eating lunch.

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Delicious Fry Bread at the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe’s  Eatery in Death Valley

When I finished my excursion to the flower fields, the trip planner went a little crazy again.  Instead of heading directly back to Beatty, it wanted me to continue on south through the park and into Nevada on a longer course to the Beatty supercharger using a lot more energy and time (shown on the lower right).  The day earlier I had the same problem when driving into the park as the trip planner wanted me to go up and around the park (shown on the upper left).

avoidingthepark

Trip Planner Twice Wanted to Loop Around Death Valley National Park on Longer Routes

After driving in the correct direction to Beatty, the trip planner returned to the correct routing.  Over the last ten years or so as GPS devices have become popular, I have a recurrent thought that the current generation of people will begin to loose their sense of direction, or people with a weak sense of direction will learn to depend upon apps like Waze without really understanding where they are headed.   In remote areas with a Tesla, a driver needs to truly understand their route.

Lost Connection

When traveling from Bakersfield over to Lone Pine two days earlier, I drove on Highway 178 that was in a deep river valley with no buildings.  Many parts of this road had no internet connections, so the software weakness that I reported in my earlier report still exists.  The trip planner got completely confused and told me I was going to be out of energy before I arrived at the supercharger.

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False Warnings From Trip Planner When Cell Connection is Lost

Summary

Until Tesla’s trip planner adds waypoints, EVtripplanner is an essential tool before beginning a journey.  With 7.1, the software still issues false warnings and wrong directions.  Until EV charging stations are ubiquitous, drivers need to plan their trips ahead of time.

Release 7.0 for Classic Teslas

Classic Teslas like mine do not have the hardware that enables the autopilot features.  The new software release that all cars received last Friday works for both the Classic Teslas and the ones with the autopilot hardware, which costs $2,500.  This release has a few significant highlights and unfortunately a couple of lowlights for Classic Cars such as mine.

1. The look and feel has changed in several small ways.  Some of the fonts and style has changed a little bit with the current fashionable flat 2-D icons.  When Apple first released their 2-D icons, I missed the older ones, but I largely think this is just a current style trend that will eventually change again.

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

2. For long road trips, the information on the dashboard for energy usage is much clearer.  Now instead of looking at a strange screen with Trip A and Trip B monitors, you are looking at the information since the last time you started the car on top, and since your last charge below.  On long road trips when I was running dangerously low on energy, I would always bring up the Trip screen to get this information since last charge.   The Trip A and B information is still available on the 17” screen if people plan their energy use that way.

I like this change because I can monitor how much energy I have used since my last charge very succinctly.  I like the kWh usage number and I can easily mentally compare that to my 85kWh battery and compare my Wh/mi usage to the 300 Wh/mile standard.  Here in the hills of California, I never average as low as 300 Wh/mile.  Only on some very flat freeways can the average be maintained at that low level.

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

2. Tesla has finally found a solution to my curb rash! Now the rear view mirrors adjust downwards while backing up.  I have only tried using this feature once but now I imagine I can parallel park much nicer even without auto-pilot. Of course, I could have done that manually in the past, but I couldn’t imagine messing with my mirrors every time before and after parallel parking.  I’m really excited about this feature because for some reason I’ve never been a great parallel parker.  In my entire life I just have never lived anywhere where I parked parallel with any frequency.

After visiting so many superchargers, I’m really good at backing up into tight spaces though.

Dash Display on Left and Center

Dash Display on Left and Center

 

3. The center of the dash has grown and changed to accommodate an area for the autopilot in the middle of the speedometer.   For those without autopilot the area is a bit excessive.  The car will have indication lights such as when it is braking as in the picture, but typically this information does not change much and can be a bit annoying.  Owners with red cars have reported they cannot really see the red indicator lights as it blends too much with their car color on the display.

To make space for the larger center display, the battery level was moved to the left and the date, time and temperature removed from the standard dash set up.  You can see the time at the far upper right of the 17” screen, and the date through the calendar app.

To appease those of us who may want to have an easier glance at the time, they added a new clock widget.  The response to the clocks widget is that it is almost universally esthetically displeasing.  And with all of that space, why can’t the date and day of the week also be listed?

Upper Left of 17" Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

Upper Left of 17″ Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

4.  Tesla added a tiny lock and unlock button on the top row of the 17” screen.

I like this improvement because it took a while to fiddle around the 17” screen to unlock the doors for someone who was trying to get into the car.   They moved the outside temperature reading up here too along with a new button for bringing up the charge screen.

I think the temperature needs to go back to the dash permanently.  I am a bit obsessive about the outside temperature.  I adjust the inside temperature control a lot depending upon the outside temperature and whether or not it is sunny.  This fall has been so warm here in California.  Today is the first day of the year that even feels like fall not summer so I’ve been watching the temperature this year a bit obsessively.

The new charge button brings up the charge screen, which to me is a bit strange.  I am always fiddling a bit to find the unlock charge port button more than anything else on that screen. I’d prefer that this lightning bolt just unlocked the charge port.

Other Details

The release also includes a few other minor changes on the dash board that I will not mention such as a full screen control of the media player.  There are also some efficiency improvements but I have not driven the car much yet to notice any differences.  Newer cars also get a full four wheel tire pressure monitoring sensors that will report on each four tires.  My car’s vintage is unfortunately too old.  I don’t know if there are any bug fixes to the bug challenged trip planner.

All in all, I think 7.0 is an improvement even with a few trivial mistakes on the UI.

Battery Swap

Preface

For this article, my standard photo sharing uses on this website DO NOT APPLY.  These photos are under copyright by Tesla Owner and cannot be used elsewhere.  More details in the appendix.

Introduction

Recently many California Tesla owners and I were invited to participate in the battery swap. I could not resist trying it out.  I had a couple of upcoming plans in Southern California, and arranged a four day trip including a battery swap at the Harris Ranch Battery Swap Station in Coalinga, California off Interstate 5 (I-5).

Car Undergoing a Six Minute Battery Swap in Coalinga, CA

©Tesla Owner 2015 — Car Undergoing a Six Minute Battery Swap in Coalinga, CA

This blog post will describe in detail the logistics of the swap.  Then I provide some analysis of the viability of battery swap stations.

Scheduling a Swap

To schedule a swap, you call a Tesla employee who lives in Coalinga.  The swaps are available seven days a week from around 9am to 5pm.  He fits you into an available time slot.  When I called, the swap station was already quite booked for the next couple of weeks.  I managed to schedule a trip by driving down on a Friday and returning on a Monday.  No slots were available on the weekend and only two slots were available on that Monday.  The station appears to be quite busy for the foreseeable future.

Currently, the majority of people using the swap are folks driving on business.  They are probably traveling salesmen who need their car or our visiting a variety of locations.  Because for most business trips, traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles areas is better served by airplanes.

Although you need to make an appointment, the appointment time is not fixed in stone.  If you arrive one hour late, it is “no big deal”.  He does prefer you call in transit to let you know an approximate time of arrival.  Part of this courtesy call is that there are several people working underground to get the battery off and on.  If he knows when you are to arrive, they can be in position to make the swap faster.

Your travel plans need to be a true round trip.  Your need to return to the same location to pick up your battery.

The cost of the swap is $80 for both swaps.  The price is comparable to two tanks of gas for a large vehicle.  You will get the same type of battery that you already have on your car:  60, 70 or 85 kWh.  The battery I got during the swap was not a new battery but actually the same B vintage.  The battery will be fully range charged upon your arrival.

The Swap Itself

Valet Station at Tesla Battery Swap

©Tesla Owner 2015 — Valet Station at Tesla Battery Swap

The swap itself is very simple.  You arrive at the south end of the station, where a Tesla employee greets you.  He intentionally take the fob and hands it back to you at the end, because one customer accidentally drove off without his fob.  The valet then drives your car to the north end and into the swap station.  They close all the doors at this time.

There is a funky waiting room to the side with a couple of chairs and a LCD screen with four security camera like scenes.  You can’t see much of anything useful in this room.  They have a refrigerator with chilled plastic bottled water, but I’d prefer to see a chilled water dispenser to refill my reusable stainless steel and BPA free water bottles.

The better view is by watching it through the back door.  The door is a mixture of a clear material and a metal.  You can see the process much better by peering through the slats.  If they did not want you to watch this process, they could have easily installed a solid door.

All three of these spots are visible in the picture to the right.   The black valet station is in the foreground, the funky white waiting room immediately behind it, and the battery swap station with its see through slats.

Not a Completely Automatic Process

©Tesla Owner 2015 — Requires Humans

The car is driven on a floor that is removable.  Workers underneath unscrew the existing battery.  A mechanical machine moves the old battery out of the way and brings a new battery into position, and then it is screwed on by the workers.

Even by peering through the back door of the station, it is quite difficult to see much of anything going on inside as it is all taking place under the car.  I did see a few hands, so I know the process is not completely automated.

While this process is occurs, the valet cleans your windshield and front lights.

Swap Time

The swap itself took 6 minutes the first time, and 8 minutes the second time for an average of 7 minutes.  On the demonstration video back in 2013, the car was swapped in 1 1/2 minutes.   The second time they had a minor issue putting in my battery.  They seemed to need to pull it back and readjust it.  The 7 minute average time was from when I handed the valet the fob to when the car exited the swap station.

Using Someone Else’s Battery

Batteries wear down with more use.  So on this trip for 971 miles, my battery stayed in Coalinga.  An weak analogy exists between driving a rental car and driving on a swapped battery.  But other than range charging every time and driving a lot of miles it is hard to abuse a battery.  An extreme situation would be to arrange a battery swap and then drive the car around the country for 10,000 miles and then return a month or so later to get your own battery.

Trip Energy Report

The following information is primarily just amusing.  I drove from home, swapped the battery in Coalinga and did not charge till I reached the Mojave supercharger.  When you do a swap, the software does not know the battery has changed and reports the following information.

104kWh

Trip Energy Shows 104.4 kWh Since Last Charge

I had used 104.4kWh to get from home to the Mojave supercharger!  I would love to have a battery with more than 100kWh.

Swap Station Interest Level

At the 2015 Shareholder’s Meeting, Elon stated that there is not that much interest in battery swapping.

“We have, basically, the LA-to-San Francisco pack swap capability in place, and I believe all Model S owners in the California area have been invited at this point to try it out. And what we’re seeing is a very low take rate for the pack swap station. So we did an initial round of invitations, where we did basically, like, 200 invitations, and I think there were a total of four or five people that wanted to do that, and they all did it just once. So, like, okay, clearly it’s not very popular. And then we said, okay, let’s expand that invitation to all customers, but I would expect that all customers behave roughly like that initial sample group.”

This statement from Elon is a bit misleading.  First of all not that many people drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles routinely.  People that can afford a Model S are more likely to fly.  So if they only got a 2% result from their invitation, that would not be surprising given the demographics.  Secondly for those of us who are fond of driving, we are not that likely to do this drive regularly.  I have driven on I-5 now twice this year, and I know I will be doing it again next February but have no plans in between those two dates.  Leisurely drivers may also opt to drive on highway 101, which is more scenic.  So it does not surprise me at all that the swappers only swapped once.  If it is true that the Beta testers only swapped once but drive regularly up and down I-5, that fact would be much more convincing.  But the swap station appointment calendar is currently quite busy.

“It’s just, people don’t care about pack swap. The Superchargers are fast enough that if you’re driving from LA to San Francisco, and you start a trip at 9 AM, by the time you get to, say, noon, you want to stop, and you want to stretch your legs, hit the restroom, grab a bite to eat, grab a coffee, and be on your way, and by that time, the car is charged and ready to go, and it’s free. So, it’s like, why would you do the pack swap? It doesn’t make much sense.”

In general, I agree with this part of Elon’s statement.  But I can drive from San Francisco to LA on two range charges.  I can range charge at home, reach Coalinga, swap and make it to my destination in the north half of Los Angeles.  If I need to stop and do a range charge, my charging time is much closer to an hour.  I may want to grab a very fast bite and be out of there in fifteen minutes.  I don’t always want to eat or stretch my legs exactly the time I arrive at a supercharger, so more flexibility is nice.

I also tend to not drive on the obvious routes.  On this trip, I first went to the desert and drove from Coalinga towards Barstow, but I did need to stop in Mojave to charge for a few minutes before continuing.  According to EVtriplanner in hot conditions starting in Coalinga, the drive to Tejon Ranch, Mojave and Barstow superchargers would take 47.4, 63.7 and 87.1 kWh respectively. Ideally I would like to skip both Tejon Ranch and Mojave and make it all the way to Barstow.  I don’t really mind stopping and supercharging, but on very long drives it is really nice not to have to stop, or to shorten the charging time significantly.  I have previously driven directly to Mojave on a non-range charge but I drove a bit conservatively.  With a full range charge, I can drive worry free.

Returning back up north from Coalinga, if I do not have a range charge, I need to stop at the Gilroy supercharger.  I potentially may be able to make it home if I am very careful but I could definitely not stop by for an errand or two.  After using the swap I easily made it home about thirty minutes to an hour earlier because saving time charging.  I could have range charged for an hour in Coalinga, or I could have saved some time by charging both in Coalinga and in Gilroy.  But sometimes one simply does not want to negotiate getting on and off the freeway.  I felt my $80 was well spent for these two long driving days.

On the other hand if the swap station was not available, I would be content with supercharging for free.

Where Battery Swaps Make Sense

I think there are a few places where battery swaps make sense.  Here are the parameters:

  1. A long highway with nothing interesting to see, do or eat.
  2. The start point from home to the swap can be done on a range charge but challenging on a regular 90% charge.
  3. From the swap to the end point can be done on a range charge but challenging on a 90% charge.

So in California, I would envision the three following routes that could perhaps support a battery swap station:

  1. The existing Coalinga / Harris Ranch along I-5 between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  2. Perhaps a station near Davis, CA serving skiers, boarders and other folks heading to Lake Tahoe or the Sierras for the weekend from the San Francisco area.   This location would be somewhere along I-80 before the split with 50 in order to serve both shores of the lake.
  3. Somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Swap Station Viability

The physical footprint of the swap station is larger than a supercharger station and has only one use.  The Coalinga swap station formerly had been a car wash.  There needs to be enough physical space to store enough batteries in order to have enough swaps.  This physical space has a more real cost than a supercharger in a standard parking spot in the United States.

I only interacted with the Tesla valet, and could not clearly see the other Tesla employees that were underground.  I know there were at least two and most likely three employees underground.  So to keep a swap station viable, there needs to be enough swaps per day to pay for a head count to run the swap station.

Appointments

The current scheme to use the swap requires appointments.  Although they are open 7 days a week, the 9am to 5pm schedule is a bit limiting.  When taking trips it is often difficult to plan the exact time frame when arriving at a destination.

I can easily envision the two additional routes mentioned above (Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas) being primarily used for weekend jaunts.  The timing for swaps would likely be Friday between 5 and 9 pm and Sunday between 4 and 8 pm. The current 9am to 5pm schedule would not really be very useful for true weekend get aways.

A true useful swap station would not be this restrictive.  Perhaps you are guaranteed a fast swap if you have an appointment, but if you do not, you may have to wait.  The Coalinga station will remain in operation through at least early 2016.

Conclusion

“We built the pack swap into the car because we weren’t sure if people would want to choose the pack swap or not. We thought people would prefer Supercharging, but we weren’t sure, so that’s why we built the pack swap capability in. And, you know, based on what we’re seeing here, it’s unlikely to be something that’s worth expanding in the future, unless something changes.”

I don’t think the battery swap stations need to be widespread.  When on a true leisurely vacation, one enjoys stopping and absorbing the local color.  But on routine drives, $80 is not a lot of money.  I remember many weekends driving up to go skiing, and saving those 30 minutes of charge time would have been great, and I could envision easily splitting the cost amongst everyone in the car instead of chipping in for gas money.

I can envision in the future if the economics work out well enough for Tesla, there will be say a dozen swap stations in the United States on heavily used corridors.  I do agree with Elon that there is not a large demand for swap stations in general because for most drives supercharger times are fast enough.

My final review is that I appreciated the swap station.  I don’t like I-5 and I just want to keep on driving.  The process worked smoothly but I did feel a bit restricted by the requirement of an appointment.  Unless the logistics of the swap station could financially support a non-appointment model, I don’t think swap stations will be very popular outside of a few locations.

Appendix

Rollup Doors with Visibility

©Tesla Owner 2015 — Rollup Doors with Visibility

When I arrived at the swap station, I asked if it was okay to take pictures.  I was informed that it was fine for personal use.  There is no signage restricting photos or any information to that effect in any of the correspondence on the swap.  I told the valet that I was a blogger, but that I do not make money on the blog.  So would that be a problem as this is a personal blog?  He did not clarify the statement but directed me to call Tesla media relations.

I wanted to give Tesla the fair opportunity to say no, so I called Tesla and asked for media relations.  They told me to send an email to a particular email address.  I described what I was going to do and introduced myself and asked permission to post photos of my battery swap.   I only received an automated reply.  One business day later but three actual days later, I again sent an email to Tesla saying I was going to publish the photos soon unless they had a problem with that and to please let me know.  Since I made my best effort to contact Tesla and have now waited over three business days, I decided it was okay to publish these photos but will not share them with other websites.

I am not particularly impressed with how Tesla handles these kinds of questions.  I should be able to get a response by phone or email within a few days.  And if they have any real concerns about people using these photos, they need to inform their own employees the exact policy.

40K Mile Statistics

I recently hit the 40,000 mile (64,373 kilometer) mark.  At this milestone, I thought I would look at some interesting data about the car’s energy use and costs in comparison to a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE).  I also looked at how much my battery has degraded in the two plus years of ownership.

Energy Use vs ICE

Over those miles, the car averaged 326 Wh/mile and used 13,078 kWh of energy over exactly 40,132 miles.

How do I compare this to driving an ICE vehicle and using gasoline? This part is a bit tricky because the conversion of electricity to gasoline can be done a number of ways.  The more common (and conservative) number listed is 1 gallon of gas is equivalent to 33.6kWh.

13,078kWh * 1 gallon / 33.6kWh = 388 gallons of gas

40,132 miles / 338 gallons of gas = 103 MPG

The EPA number for the Model S is 89 MPG, but I am achieving 103 MPG.

Theoretical Expenses

My Model S was powered approximately 71% of the time by my solar panels, 28% of the time by superchargers and 1% by other charging systems.  If I were to pay for the equivalent gas costs at $3.5 per gallon, those 40K miles would have cost me $1,358.

A more interesting dollar comparison would be if I had an equivalent ICE vehicle with a rating of 25 MPG.

40,000 miles / 25 miles per gallon = 1,600 gallons

1,600 gallons * $3.5 / gallon = $5,600

The amount of savings driving an electric car is substantial in the long run.

Battery Degradation

At 40,000 miles I have a battery with 6.5% degradation.  Batteries degrade quickly when they are brand new and level off after the initial period.

During my road trip up to Oregon, I also drained the battery down to 17 miles and filled the battery to almost a 100% charge.  When completely charging the battery, my car can sit for over 15 minutes when it is 99% full trying to completely fill up.  I aborted the two attempts to have an absolute complete charge.  The rated range was not increasing although energy was being added at albeit a very slow rate.  I remember when we did the charge-off with the 90kW limited battery, the older battery also exhibited this behavior but not as extremely as mine.  I would at this point consider it a minor issue with the car or the software.

Draining the battery completely and refilling it completely is technically called “battery conditioning”.  Lithium Ion batteries like those in the Model S do not need conditioning and last the longest amount of time when kept at a middle state charge for the majority of time.  The Model S software however can use this data from the endpoints (close to zero and close to full) to more accurately determine the state of the battery.

Here are the exact numbers for my battery:

  1. 90% charge
    1. 215 Rated Range
    2. 248 Ideal Range
  2. Full charge
    1. 239 Rated Range (265 for a brand new car)
    2. 276 Ideal Range

My numbers are on the low end in comparison to reports from the Dutch survey.  My Roadster also seemed to fall in the same range.  Perhaps the battery likes slightly cooler weather than my garage that only ranges between 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Battery Health Survey

Another independent self reporting study is available about the battery life of the Model S.  This new data again shows that the Model S batteries are holding up well.  The average Dutch Model S owner with 30,175 miles reported a rated range of 238 miles on a 85kWh battery.

From the Netherlands, Merijn Coumans is maintaining an ongoing record of the Model S battery life.  He has gathered his information via the Dutch-Belgium Tesla Forum.  You can access the file yourself. This data contains information from 109 owners.  All but five owners reported results recently with firmware 6.0 or higher.  Only six of these owners have a 60kWh battery.  None of the European Model S cars have the A battery, and all but five owners reported results on version of V6.0 software or later.  For more charts and analysis, you can read a report from my fellow blogger, Maarten Steinbuch.

I had done a similar survey in 2013 with similar degradation results over time.  My goal for that survey was to determine if driving habits had much influence on rated range.  The survey debunked that rumor.

This second survey again shows two main facts.  First the Tesla batteries are holding up well and only degrading by an around 6% at 50,000 miles..  Secondly, measuring this data on your own car is a bit challenging as there are several things that can affect the number.  How recently did the car have the battery drained to near zero and filled back up completely?  On my cross country trip last spring I noticed my rated range go up as I had fully charged the vehicle several times.

I have now switched my car over to display a % number of charge left not the rated range value.  I have really no concern about battery degradation at this point.