Model X Launch Event

I watched the livestream of the Model X launch event.  In typical Tesla fashion, the event started 50 minutes late.

The Model X looks like a cousin of the Model S.  The feature that caught my eye the most was the new nose design.  The styling of the Model S nose has always been my least favorite part of the car, so a change is good in my book.

New Nose on the Model X

New Nose on the Model X

The Model X is clearly geared as a family car / SUV / Minivan.  Elon highlighted the following features:

  1. Safety.  Great safety rating like the Model S
  2. Additional safety features using the cameras that will automatically brake the car before a potential accident.
  3. A true HEPA air filter including a bioweapon defense mode button!
  4. Falcon wing doors that let the 2nd row passengers get in and out of tight spaces.  Perhaps the 2nd row passengers can get out but I’m not sure the driver can.
  5. Comfortable 2nd row seating
  6. Lots of luggage space for a family
  7. Ability to pull a large trailer
  8. A rack on the rear hitch for carrying bicycles, skis or snowboards while being able to open the rear door.

Although a large market exists for mini vans and family size SUVs, I’m not personally interested in this kind of a vehicle.  Over the years I’ve owned a series of more rugged SUVs for the outdoors.  The Model X appears to lack the following features for someone who enjoys the outdoors:

  1. The ability to fold down the 2nd row seats to create a flat cargo bed for carrying large objects, and being able to sleep comfortably in the rear of the car.
  2. Either a roof rack or at least 10 1/2 feet between the front and back windshields for carrying a paddle board or other large objects.
  3. A lower end price point.  A true SUV is a car that can take a lot of abuse, and I would not really be interested in paying $100,000 for a car in this category.

The Tesla team has developed some very sophisticated features for a large vehicle for a young family. But at this point, I don’t for see myself buying a Model X, but I’m looking forward to seeing one in person and driving one as a service loaner.


First Supercharger Glitch

Earlier today, the Harris Ranch superchargers were down for a couple of hours.  I believe this is the first known incident of any supercharger station in its entirety not functioning.  Witnesses said Tesla stepped up to the plate with some flatbed trucks that took the cars either North to Gilroy or south to Tejon Ranch.  The witnesses also reported but Tesla did not confirm that the problem was through the local electricity company PG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric, not a Tesla issue.

Earlier this year, I witnessed an ICE on fire at Harris Ranch.  No technology is perfect.

ICE Car Fire at Harris Ranch

ICE Car Fire at Harris Ranch

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.


Mt. Shasta Sign Mystery

I have visited the Mt. Shasta supercharger a few times now and noticed on my recent visit that the Tesla signs were missing.  All four red Tesla signs indicating at a minimum “Electric Vehicle Charging Station” had been removed.

If you look at the following photos, you will see that currently none of the four stalls has any red Tesla signs.  The second picture was taken in March when all four signs were still visible.  I believe in looking at other photos on the web two were 60 minute parking and two had no time requirements.  In looking at the web, another person posted a picture in July without the signs, so they have been gone for over a month.

The charging stations are located on the restaurant side of the motel but not particularly close to any of the rooms.

Potential answers to the mystery include:

  • At the brand new Truckee supercharger, there are no Tesla signs, so perhaps the signs are simply no longer needed?
  • Is Tesla and or the motel owner changing the signage here?
  • Was a collector simply stealing the signs?
  • Perhaps this is a case of a simple act of vandalism?

Do you have a personal theory?  If so, please comment.

Empty Tesla Sign Pole

Empty Tesla Sign Pole

Mt. Shasta in March 2014

Mt. Shasta in March 2014

Mt. Shasta August 2014

Mt. Shasta August 2014


EV tripplanner data for route from Beaver to Las Vegas

EV tripplanner data for route from Beaver to Las Vegas

A couple of new superchargers were added in Utah recently allowing me to drive home along Interstate 70 and Interstate 15 through Utah and Nevada (including a tiny section of Arizona) instead of the long loop back through Gallup New Mexico.  At this point of the long journey, I was happy to cut both miles and time.

However, one glaring hole existed for charging.  Between Beaver, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada was a total of 223 miles between superchargers.  The weather was also quite warm and the freeway speeds quite high. lists the journey requiring 268 rated range miles in 82 degree weather.  In between Beaver, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada were very few charging stations.  A Nissan dealer in St. George, Utah allows Teslas to charge there but the charge rate is slow.  A few RV parks exist along I15, but after calling one I was dismayed to hear it was not possible because they were all booked up for the holiday weekend.

I decided to drive straight to Las Vegas without stopping or charging.  Even if the report listed a requirement of about 270 miles needed, I also noticed a large drop in elevation of -3884 feet, which should enable me to not use very much energy.

I decided to hypermile my way to Las Vegas.  Hypermiling in an electric vehicle can include many techniques but the following are the ones I used:

  1. Drive significantly slower than the 75 and 80 mph hour speed limits.  I decided that I felt safe enough about 20 mph slower than the speed limit if there was plenty of visibility from the rear.
  2. Allow the car to slow down up any small uphills and regain speed on the downhills.
  3. Keep the air conditioner off as much as possible.
  4. Keep the fan off and crack open a window to cool the car.
  5. Enjoy all the other Model S electronics because they run off the 12 Volt battery.
  6. Do not stop and take a break.
  7. Accelerate slowly.
  8. Use the cruise control to maintain a consistent speed.

Other techniques include:

  1. Drafting semi trucks.  I dislike people tailgating me and also did not want a lot of road debris hitting the car, so I decided to not try to save energy by drafting trucks.
  2. Putting the car in neutral and coasting.  I had earlier played with this on some remote roads but I preferred regenerating energy on the downhills instead of coasting.  In some states driving the car in neutral is illegal.

I fortunately had met a couple the day before doing the same trip in their Model S with 19” tires, and texted them to make sure they were successful.  They made it to Las Vegas with plenty to spare.  My exact data for the journey is listed in the table below.  I made it to Las Vegas with 74 miles of rated range in the battery.

When needing to save energy, I prefer to drive conservatively in the beginning and then relax the driving in the second half.  Once I hit St. George, Utah I had only 118 miles left to go and 194 rated range listed.  I pretty much followed the speed limit from that point on and had the A/C on also.  The huge drop in elevation between Cedar City and St. George allowed me to drive between those two cities using only 7.6 kWh.

If I were to drive this route again, I would feel quite comfortable increasing the speed in Utah.

Hypermiling Data from Beaver to Las Vegas

Hypermiling Data from Beaver to Las Vegas

Tornado Warnings and Hail!


Canyonlands National Park

In much of California we have two basic seasons: winter and summer each about six months long. In the winter it may occasionally rain and we wear long sleeves and carry an outer layer.  In the summer, we wear short sleeves.

On this cross-country journey, I ran into a lot of unexpected weather. I wrote earlier about the snow over the Colorado mountains, the freezing conditions and 55mph gusts through Wyoming and South Dakota. Fortunately the East Coast and the South were more pleasant.

The day before arriving in Denver, I was surprised to learn that there was a serious tornado warning in Wyoming and Northern Colorado. In my lifetime I have only heard of one freak tornado that occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area about ten years ago. Once I hit Northern Colorado, the road signs indicated active tornado warnings. The freeway was full with both cars and trucks. I scanned the radio to try to learn more. I figured I would keep a lookout on the sky and see what the other vehicles were doing.

After Colorado I spent a couple of days enjoying southern Utah. I went to Canyonlands National Park and while taking the picture above it started to hail. I luckily did not venture out on a hike and returned to my car. A few miles later I found quite a layer of hail on the road along with some serious precipitation and wind. The drive was a little scary as I knew two of my tires were not in particularly good condition and definitely not suited for “snow”. The conditions deteriorated after the photo was taken.

I was told by a local in Moab that it only rains typically around ten days a year.  All along this journey I have experienced unusual weather that I suspect may be caused by climate change.   Luckily I survived rain, wind, snow, hail and tornados.

Hail Accumulation in Utah

Hail Accumulation in Utah

Close to the Limits

We finally had a rainy spell this winter during our drought here in California.  One morning the car actually slipped pretty severely!  The road situation was actually very extreme.  I was driving on a very unusual pavement where half the roadway was a large grate — probably five feet in length.  So two of my wheels were on wet slick pavement and the other two were traversing this highly unusual grate.  For a brief instant the car definitely swerved and scared me a bit but the quickly corrected itself as nothing had happened.  I rarely actually take this particular section of road, but I vaguely remember it being dicey in the past.  I suspect this unusual grate was installed to correct severe flooding problems.

Limited Regen

Limited Regen

Late last year we had a serious cold snap and the garage one morning was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (about 5 degrees Celsius).  To my surprise, I actually had a dashed yellow line — limiting regen.  While parked the car uses as little energy as possible to keep the battery warm in order to avoid the energy wasting vampire drain.  In cold weather you can drive your car with a cold battery, but the regeneration of energy into the battery is limited.  After only a couple of miles of driving, the battery warmed up and the yellow line disappeared.


Limited Acceleration

Limited Acceleration

As I earlier reported, I did a number of supercharger tests where I drained my battery down to 0 rated range.  While intentionally draining the battery, the upper limit of power was reduced — indicated by the dashed yellow line.  I don’t remember the exact rated range left before the power was limited but it was at a significantly lower level than normal.  The car still had enough pep to very comfortably drive.

I also noticed in the rain serious impact to the rear facing camera.  I think this is a problem with all cars.  I had grown a little too dependent on the camera during driving instead of the traditional mirrors and head turning.

Mediocre Visibility in Rear View Camera in the Rain

Mediocre Visibility in Rear View Camera in the Rain