Drive Unit Failure

Unlike most other early Model S drivers, my Tesla hummed along without any drive unit failure for 71,000 miles.  For a few months it had a very small whine, but other than that was quiet as can be.  I know the very early rotors like mine were machined by hand.  The drive unit is covered by an 8 year unlimited mile warranty.

But one late afternoon while driving up a steep hill, the Tesla ground down to a quick halt without any warning.  Fortunately this hill is my own long street with little traffic.  I tried to drive the car forward to no avail.  The car made 3 different spurious click clack and whirling sounds, and I quickly knew my drive unit was gone.  I tried to punch it three times before rolling back down closer to the curb to call Tesla.

At first Tesla could not confirm the drive unit failure because it had not yet reported its demise to the cloud.  We restarted the touchscreen, and then the failure was apparent.  A toe truck was called and I fortunately could walk home and wait the hour.

Tesla service fixed my car in only a few days to my surprise.  They also rotated my 19” wheels which are holding up well.  I also never had to set foot in the service center, which I appreciate a lot.  They simply valeted my car back.

The only fault with the service was that they did not automatically send me my service record.  I like to have a “written” electronic record.  I don’t have a great memory for details such as mileage, dates, and names, and I need a record to check when to rotate my wheels. The lack of service record was minor but it was enough to not give a glowing report on survey.  I subsequently received my service record.

I have kept most of my cars about 10-12 years.  I run them to the ground usually until they are not worth fixing anymore.  I am very happy with the Model S except its width, and I just don’t see any upcoming reason to replace it in the near future.  I suspect if my drive unit fails after the 8 year warranty, replacing the drive unit may not make financial sense, and then I might get a new car.  The cost to replace a drive unit at this point is unknown but could be quite significant.

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New Battery Connections

This blog post is part 2 of a  3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

About four miles away from home, my car issued the second warning message of 2017:

AccelerationReduced

Acceleration Reduced  Contact Tesla Service When Convenient

Fortunately, the issue did not require me to stop immediately, and I felt comfortable driving home.  When I contacted Tesla Roadside Assistance, I was transferred to Tesla Service.

When Tesla Service contacted me, a bit to my surprise I was told not to continue driving the car.  Instead of driving the relatively short distance to the closest service center, they wanted to tow my car.  Fortunately in my area, you can have your Tesla towed by appointment.  I decided to delay it a day to a more convenient time.

The local towing operation is now very familiar with Teslas and did the operation quickly and efficiently.  There are only two things unusual about towing a Tesla:  setting the tow mode on the car, and secondly using a two pronged vs one prong cable.

dualattachments

Two Points Required to Tow a Tesla

This problem with my car had to do with the connectors to the main battery.  Within two days, the service department replaced the power switches with the latest generation parts,  replaced the HV Blanket, and removed some corrosion.   The descriptions listed in the invoice are:

“Replaced power switches with latest generation parts as necessary”

“Replaced HV Blanket with updated part”

“Retrofit 2nd Generation Battery Blanket and Remove Corrosion From Battery Cover”

Here is the list of parts that were replaced:

1 BUSBAR,OUTPUT,POS,HVBAT,MDLS (1048113-00-A)

1 BUSBAR,OUTPUT,NEG,HVBAT,MDLS (1048111-00-A)

2 SCREW,M8-1.25X19,HEX,BARSS,PATCH WITH WASHERS (1004392-00-B)

1 FIELD KIT PYRO FUSE PACK 1.0 1.5 (1089619-00-B)

1 FIELD CONTRACTOR KIT W/O FUSE – PACK 1.0 1.5 (1084515-00-B)

1 BLANKET, CERAMIC,HV BATTERY,MDLS (1006466-00-F)

8 TALL HEAD HOLLOW FASTENER FOR BIW MOUNTING SLEEVES WITH VHB SEAL (1018552-00B)

2 SHORT HEAD PACK SPACER FASTENER ASSEMBLY (1018551-00-B)

1 BATTERY RECYCLING WARNING LABEL (1015713-00-B)

In general this issue was not particularly painful, I was unable to drive my car for four days (including over a weekend).  The problem could have been very inconvenient if I was away from home or on a road trip.

The cost was covered by my warranty coverage.  However, I am not sure if the cost was covered by my extended warranty or the battery warranty as the language on the Tesla website is not very detailed.

12 Volt Battery Ranger Service

12V Battery Needs Service

After a period of calm and low mileage driving in recent months, I have unfortunately encountered a few problems with my Tesla.  This blog post will be a 3 part series of completely unrelated incidents that just happened in quick succession.

I was innocently driving along and encountered a warning on my dash:

I have had my battery replaced only once before back in early 2014 when my car was in for service.  The nice part about the 12 Volt Battery replacement is that it is not an urgent matter.  If the car needs to do so, it might shut down some auxiliary electronics, but you can safely drive around for a period of time.

Ranger Service

What was also very nice, is that for no additional charge, if you live within a 10 mile radius of my service center, a ranger will come to your location.

The battery change took about 20 minutes, and just out of curiosity I watched the process.  The process is only a bit slow because there is quite a lot of screws and parts to remove.  I asked the ranger, and he said the Model X is not any more serviceable than the Model S.  Hopefully the model 3 designers will consider serviceability a little more during the design process.

This ranger service also deals with tire issues and door handles, things that can be accomplished easily at remote locations.  This service is a win win for Tesla and the customer base.  Instead of the hassle for the owner to drive to the service center and get a ride to home or work, the ranger can easily just move around town and address any issues at the owners convenience.  I am not sure if this service is available in all locations, but it worked great for replacing the battery after about 45,000 miles and 3 years.

Ranger Replacing the 12V Battery

Master Charger Replacement

One day I went to drive away from home and found a mysterious red light around my charge port. I wasn’t too alarmed and figured something happened during the charging session.

Red Light on Charge port

Red Light on Charge port

On the instrument cluster, the car had the following message that it was unable to charge and requested a multi stepped procedure:

  1. Exit the car and remove the cable (implicit)
  2. Close the Charge Port Door
  3. Re-enter the car and press the brake pedal
  4. Open the charge port door on the touch screen (implicit)
  5. Exit the car and put the cable back in the charge port (implicit)
  6. Try charging the car again
Message On Instrument Cluster

Message On Instrument Cluster

I went through this procedure myself two times.  The first time using my HPWC (High Powered Wall Connector).  I suspected that perhaps this problem could be due to the HPWC, so I tried the same procedure with a 110 Volt outlet to no avail.

I called the Tesla roadside number and repeated the procedure a 3rd time with the Tesla person on the other line to no success.  Tesla pulled the car logs and found a fault in the master charging system.  This car simply was unable to add any charge (or any miles to the battery), so I had to take it in for a service visit.

Service Center Excursion

I have a local service center but do not normally have my car worked on there for a few reasons unrelated to this blog post.  I do love the valet service.  But because my battery was quite drained, the only viable choice was to drive the car to the local service center that same day.  I was taken home not by a Tesla valet but by an Uber.  The Uber car was driven by a limo driver who works during the day for a hotel.  This level of Uber service is basically a more traditional business service car.

A variety of genuine concerns exist using services like Uber.  I personally all drivers should be fingerprinted.  I don’t care about how fancy the car is, but riding in a vehicle with an anonymous person safety is enough of a concern to warrant fingerprinting.  One of my volunteer positions requires us to be fingerprinted and the procedure is easy, quick and painless.

In places where taxi drivers have to pay an exorbitant fee to be licensed, those municipalities have unfairly burned taxi cabs, and are giving these smartphone enabled services a way to avoid these regulations.  In New York City, taxi licenses have been limited to less than twelve thousand, and no new licenses have been issued for over half a century.  The open market for these medallions peaked around $1 million.

In my area, taxis are almost non-existent and Uber is a reasonable alternative to a Tesla employee driving owners home from a service center.

New Master Charger

The master charging system is the mechanism between the outlet and the battery that directs the car to charge.  The system includes an electromagnetic relay using a low electric current to tell the battery to begin charging.  Unfortunately when the system breaks down, you cannot charge the car at all, and need to take your car immediately to a service center.

Several days later I got my car back with a new master charger installed.  I am so glad my car is under warranty as that part would have cost me about $2,000!  So far, I have accumulated close to $7,000 in extended warranty charges.

The service advisor did explain that since my VIN number is on the low side, my master charger was an out dated design.  I don’t think this problem is particularly common.

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.

Supercharger Abuse Notes

Elon Musk near the end of the Q&A section at the annual shareholder meeting accidentally created a bit of a PR challenge amongst current and future Model S owners.  The comment was as part of a response to a question on the battery swap program available near the Coalinga supercharger.

“So, free long distance forever is what the Superchargers are providing. There are few people who are like, quite aggressively using it for local Supercharging, and we also send them just a reminder note that it’s cool to do this occasionally but it’s meant to be a long distance thing.”  Elon Musk

Executives have always made confusing statements in front of people but now with video technology and the internet, these statements can cause more problems than before.

This small statement has lead to a ton of speculation on what Elon meant.  Few Model S owners are particularly worried that they will receive a note from Tesla, or that Tesla will begin to charge them for supercharging anytime soon.  The most interesting part of the discussion is what business model will happen down the road for more widespread EV adoption.

But here are a few of the many questions the confusing statement invited:

  1. What is supercharger etiquette?

Supercharging does have some etiquette guidelines.  The biggest error is leaving your car in a stall for a long time after the charging is complete.  Tesla’s web page states:

“How long can I park at a Supercharger?

We ask our customers to use courtesy while charging. Once your Model S has reached the range necessary to get to your next destination, please move your vehicle so other Model S owners can charge.”

With the Tesla app on the phone, you are notified when your car is charged.  In highly underused superchargers, at odd hours, or off-season, there is no rush to move your car.

2.  Exactly who are these supercharger abusers?

Busy Supercharger in San Juan Capistrano

Busy Supercharger in San Juan Capistrano

No one yet has come forward admitted to having received a note from Tesla.  The speculation mill has mentioned taxi drivers using a supercharger near the Amsterdam airport.  The other speculation is around a supercharger in Southern California.  The San Juan Capistrano supercharger is near the coast and has been very busy.

3.  Is supercharging only for long distance travel?

Superchargers were primarily built for long distance travel.

“Superchargers are used for long distance travel, conveniently located along the most popular routes in North America, Europe and Asia. “

4.  What about superchargers in more urban areas?

Yes, there are many superchargers in large urban areas such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.  Tesla has also stated that they can be used for those without a garage or definitive parking space.

“..we’re putting Superchargers in cities, not just between cities. Amm, this is obviously important in places like, aaa…you know, Beijing, Shanghai, London, San Francisco, aaa…New York, aaa…where at times people may have a challenge with aaa…having a…a…a fixed parking space. I mean…so…so that’s maybe the wiring thing, it’s more like some of those people don’t have a definitive parking space. Amm, they might have street parking or something, you know.”  Elon Musk Q1 2014

There are also no definitive statements from Tesla that folks without garages cannot use superchargers for daily driving.  I myself have met 3 people who only supercharged for this reason.  One in a far flung ex-burb area in California and two in the San Francisco area.  None of these folks, myself or anyone else has heard that superchargers cannot be used for daily driving by any Tesla personnel before this statement by Elon.

5.  Can you save money by only supercharging?

Technically, you will save on your electricity bill.  But driving and sitting at a supercharger gets old fast and likely would pay less than a minimum wage; electricity is generally not that expensive, and much cheaper than an equivalent tank of gasoline.

6.  How much does it cost Tesla in energy for us to use their supercharger?

A reasonable average commercial flat rate for energy in California is $ 0.20 / kWh.  If a Model S is driven 100,000 miles at an average of 300 Wh / mile and only supercharged the cost to Tesla is $6,000.

100,000 miles * 300 Wh / mile * $0.2 / kWh * kWh / 1000 Wh  = $6,000

7.  What about other supercharger costs?

Tesla does not buy land for their superchargers.  They do however bring in the equipment and pay the construction and maintenance costs.

8.   Is Tesla tracking our every move?

Tesla can collect quite a lot of information about our traveling habits.  Their privacy policy does include this statement:

“Charging station information: We collect information regarding the charge rate and charging stations used by you (including outlets) in order to analyze which charging stations are being utilized, how long and efficient battery charges are, and where additional charging stations are needed.”

So yes, Tesla can know if you are charging at a residential location and at a local supercharger.

9.  Is supercharging using sustainable energy?

Rocklin Superchargers With Solar Panels

Rocklin Superchargers With Solar Panels

Elon did announce that superchargers will be charged with solar panels where possible; unfortunately the solar panel additions have been very slow and only a handful of locations have them.  Elon also stated at the 2015 shareholder meeting that all the extra electricity the superchargers use will be bought from renewables.

10.  Does frequent supercharging hurt the battery?

Supercharging in general does not hurt the battery.  But I have heard but cannot verify from multiple sources including within Tesla that very frequent or only supercharging does have a small amount of increased battery degradation.

11.  What about Vehicle To Grid Charging (V2G)?

The idea behind V2G is to use the battery’s charge to add capacity to the grid during peak usage hours.  Theoretically in the future, a Model S owner could go to the supercharger fill up the battery for free and sell the electricity back to their power company.  In a sense, using a Model S with V2G could operate like a Powerwall to play grid arbitrage.  V2G technology is not available yet.

12.  Will supercharging have a cost sometime down the line?

I feel it is quite possible that supercharging will have a cost sometime down the line for the 3rd or 4th generation of vehicles.  With the Model S, supercharging was an option for the 60 kW version and not available for the handful of 40 kW versions that were sold.

13.  Is supercharging sustainable with more cars on the road?

With Model S and the upcoming Model X at a high price point, the typical owner has significant resources and likely will not try to save pennies by abusing superchargers.

The next generation car is targeted to cost $35,000.  This car will be aimed at a different demographic that may consider it worth their time to save $10 for a fill up.  But more importantly many of these owners will likely live in apartments or condominiums without dedicated parking spaces.

Perhaps a different supercharging cost will occur for generation 3.  A lot of different charging models could take affect for a different class of vehicles.  Perhaps other car companies could use the superchargers and would be included in a new pricing model.

14.  Has Tesla changed their message?

There has been some heated discussion if Tesla has changed their message.  The message that superchargers are free forever has now subtly been changed to free for long distance travel.  Exactly what their message is today is not completely clear.

15.  So exactly what is supercharger abuse?

No one exactly knows the answer to this question.  A handful of people do use supercharging regularly even though they have a way to charge at home.  Perhaps Tesla considers these folks “abusers” ?

Fortunately just a handful of Tesla owners feel it is their right to supercharge whenever and wherever they please.  One colorful blogger wants to use a close to home supercharger near his home in order to get back at his electric company by charging at the supercharger tied to the same electric company.  In every group of people, there will always exist a few who will try to maximize their advantages in a given system without much consideration for others.

Summary

The real question goes beyond the Model S, Model X, generation 3 and Tesla:

How do we facilitate wide EV adoption amongst drivers who do not have a dedicated place to park their car?

Perhaps Tesla’s statement should for the supercharger should be something like:

Charging at home is very convenient, inexpensive, and easy.  Superchargers are free forever for road trips.  If you have problems charing regularly at home or work, feel free to charge at a convenient supercharger,  but please be considerate of other drivers.

Tesla Center Console

Tired of the Junk Drawer Look on my non -Yacht Floor

Tired of the Junk Drawer Look on my non -Yacht Floor

Tesla has followed a “clean aesthetic” for the car.  Unfortunately this clean aesthetic for me went too far and there is no center console.  I’ve been waiting for two years to get one and am more than a bit tired of my center junk floor.

Many years I go I realized that there are three places to keep simple items that you may need:  your home, your office and your car.  If you have those things there, you generally don’t need to carry them with you.  The Tesla glove compartment is quite small and difficult to reach from the driver’s seat.  So on the floor I typically have the following items:

  1. Reading glasses and case
  2. Sunglasses and case
  3. A pen
  4. Charger for my iphone
  5. Napkins
  6. Hand sanitizer (only because I hike in remote places)

At some point last year, the Tesla center console was finally available in my interior finish, Piano Black.  I decided to order one.  Earlier this year I got a phone call saying my center console was in and I can have it installed.  I decided to do that at the same time as my annual service appointment.

When the driver arrived with the loaner, I had a discussion with him about the center console.  He seemed very unimpressed with the center console and said a good 50% of the customers preferred not having it.  He suggested I find a friend who had a center console.  I know a few folks who drive Teslas, but no friends that I see on any regular basis nor any that have a center console.  I also knew that other owners and reviewers had complained that the finish of the console was not the best but I knew that wasn’t my largest concern.

It turns out that the driver and I have the same iphone case made by Speck.  He said that I may not be able to charge the phone in the dock with the case on!  This feature is key for me.  I love my Speck case because within the case you can put two credit cards, a $20 bill and an ID.  I haven’t carried a wallet in about a year.  Eventually I could envision an even smaller case once Apple Pay and other pay by phone mechanisms are more widely accepted.  But if I can’t use the phone charging dock the center console is a dud.

Iphone Case by Speck

Iphone Case by Speck

I am a huge water drinker, so the design of the cup holders is important but I have identified a set of stainless steel water bottles that I using in the existing cup holders. I am interested in larger cup holders for more flexibility with carrying larger water bottles.

Tesla service handled this situation well.  The driver gave me honest feedback and Tesla has already processed my refund for the center console. The service manager noted

“I’ve continually asked the accessory team to provide one for show, for your exact reasons. So I will be sure to include your feedback when I ask them to refund your order.”

I have looked around the other third party consoles and none of them appear to offer exactly what I want, and I really want to see them in person!  So for now I’m looking for a simple black box with a lid to keep on the floor.  But after looking online for a while, even finding a reasonable looking black box with the right dimensions is not that simple.