Charging App Improvements

Recently Chargepoint began a campaign to sell a home charger.  Along with the charger comes a smartphone application that has a few nice features that are not found in the Tesla app.

The system maintains a database with all of the charging data.

Every time a driver plugs their car in at home or away from home at a Chargepoint brand charger, the system collects the information about each charge. In the past I went through great pains to determine how much I charged my car in a given year, and how much solar power I actually produced.  I never installed a meter to determine these amounts with a high level of accuracy.

I do love the idea that an accumulative data set would be available through a web portal just for the car.  If Tesla implemented a database with charging data it could include both charging amounts at home, at superchargers, and any other 3rd party location.

The app warns you when your car is at home but not plugged in.

Although this feature is not critical, on at least one occasion probably every Tesla owner has inadvertently forgotten to plug in their car when arriving at home.  Perhaps the driver did not plug in the car because the battery level was sufficient or simply became they were distracted.  Regardless a simple notification would be nice.

A link to the Nest Thermostat.

I chose not to buy the Nest Thermostat system as I do not think it will not save me money heating my home;  I have radiant heating through the floors and each room is carefully programmed.  Today the only value of linking these two devices is that the Nest system can warn the Chargepoint system in case of an emergency.

Although I am an engineer, at times I do wonder at times how over automated our society is and how ridiculously dependent we can be on technology.   For example without GPS, I suspect some people would be quite lost.  However a incremental improvements to the smart phone apps are generally appreciated.

Version 6.0

One wonderful thing about the Model S is that we regularly get software updates.  A couple of weeks ago, my car was loaded with version 6.0.  The three more interesting features for me are the calendar app (in a Beta form), keyless starting and traffic based navigation.  The release also includes commute advice, which is of no interest to me as I do not work, the ability to name your car, some power management options, and location based air suspension.

Many of these software features can bring up concerns about privacy.  In the case of the calendar and navigation features, a third party has access to where and when you are in certain locations.  I don’t have a particular personal concern about this and I trust Tesla a lot more than other businesses, but I am concerned with the level of government spying on individuals in the U.S.

Calendar Application

One of the new features include linking to your calendar app on your phone.  I took a few times to get the link to work as you have to configure your phone in several different places. I was having trouble with my iphone 5s at the time.  The phone could not update an app, played a random piece of music on its own and even called one of my contacts by itself!   Thankfully, the iphone was still under warranty and the flaky intermittent problem reappeared at the Apple Store!  And my difficulty with the calendar linking has not reappeared with my “new” iPhone, which I hope to keep for many years as I do not want a larger phone.

The calendar app, which is a Beta feature, is a bit underwhelming as it simply shows you items on your calendar for today and tomorrow.  I’m not a sales person so I don’t have a lot of different items on my schedule.

In general, I have wanted a way to be able to tell the car to “drive to this particular location” by name:  a restaurant or someone’s house.  Currently you have to say “navigate” to a particular address.  This new calendar feature allows you to navigate to an address that you put in your calendar.  I would love a much more general feature where it navigates to an address in your contact list, or a location on the web.  I make very cryptic calendar entries just to be expeditious and almost never add a location to any appointments, but I am starting to include the addresses for this linking feature.  I have had other people in the car comment that their vehicle has more sophisticated links to their contact list.

Keyless Driving

Driving via Your Phone Gives You Two Minutes

Driving via Your Phone Gives You Two Minutes

The remote starting / keyless driving feature is an interesting feature.  Using your smartphone and the Tesla app you can start the car.  Once you hit the “start” button on the app, you must enter your password, and then you are given two minutes to have your foot on the brake pedal.

Because this feature requires both a smartphone and either internet connectivity or a cell phone signal, I don’t think this feature is truly keyless.  A true keyless feature would allow me to use my fingerprint on the car to unlock the car and then drive away.  To read text on my smartphone, I need a pair of reading glasses, so typing in any reasonably secure password requires yet another physical object.  And I use a secure password manager for all of my passwords, so finding the password for the Tesla app is another step.  I hope that Tesla can use the fingerprint check on the iPhone instead of a password mechanism.

The Detour Not Worth Taking

The Detour Not Worth Taking

I live and frequent somewhat rural locations.  My home for example has weak cellular service and I still maintain a landline.  I would not feel comfortable depending upon a connection between my car and the phone for the only way to drive my car.  I suspect the intention of this feature is more of a backup to your key fob if it is lost or misplaced.

Traffic Based Navigation

I have driven a couple of times where I experimented with the traffic based navigation.  A drive that can often be difficult is crossing through the west side of San Francisco.  On this particular day I chose to use the most common route of 19th Avenue.  Although 19th Avenue had a lot less traffic than normal, the navigation wanted to route me over a street.  I chose just to continue on my way.

Another day I had the reverse situation where there were two ways I could arrive at a particular restaurant that has a very tricky route from the freeway.  I decided to follow the navigation instead of my normal route and hit a zone of red traffic for about a mile.

In both these cases, the traffic navigation was not perfect.  I think common sense and local knowledge will always be better than most automatic solutions.

Location Based Air Suspension

The location based air suspension will remember where you previously raised the car to go over an obstacle and perform it the next time you are in the same location.  I only know of one particular location that I visit a few times a year where I do raise the suspension but this could be quite useful for someone with a home or work location that requires a higher suspension.  My inner jokester also thinks this could be a feature for a great practical joke on someone.  Imagine someone finding their car raising every time they hit a certain street or returning to their car from a particular location.  In the highest setting, the Model S looks visibly different.  The driver may think their car was haunted.  I wonder if you can teach the car to “unlearn” high suspension at a particular location.

Mt. Shasta Time Test # 6

In the elusive quest to achieve 170 miles in 30 minutes, I time tested the superchargers again recently in Mt. Shasta, California.

This supercharger is located in the small town of Mt. Shasta next to a Best Western motel.  The rates at that motel are reasonable but not particularly inexpensive if all you want to do is sleep and get on your way.  The motel also has a restaurant and they serve food all day in the bar area.  The area also offers a number of fast food and chain dining options within walking distance:  Taco Bell / KFC, Burger King, Black Bear Diner and Round Table Pizza.  More interesting local options are a longer walk away along Mt. Shasta Boulevard, which is the main street through downtown.

When I arrived on a Saturday night the temperature was only 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius).  I had 1 rated range mile left in my battery. Another car was charging but I selected an unused charger pair.  The charging station 2B was at a full charging rate of 120kW and above for seven minutes.  My resulting rated range miles per minute was 153 miles in 30 minutes.  The resulting charge curve is quite linear.

I had earlier achieved 163 miles in 30 minutes in Gilroy when the weather was considerably more pleasant.

154 miles in 30 minutes in 46 degree weather.

154 miles in 30 minutes in 46 degree weather.

No Cell Coverage

Map Goes Black without Cell Coverage

Map Goes Black without Cell Coverage

I was a bit surprised on a recent trip to Pinnacles National Park, that the navigation map went completely blank when it lost cell phone service.  On my ipad and iphone, once the map is loaded and you lose a connection, you do not lose the actual map.  For some reason, the Tesla map does not even have the last map in memory.  I was quite surprised when I saw a black screen.

I understand that the navigation works with google maps.  I do not expect to ask for a new destination, but I think having a black screen is unacceptable.  The turn by turn direction was still listed on the side.  I actually find turn by turn annoying, and I keep the voice muted unless I am in an unfamiliar congested city.  I have always loved visual maps and often use navigation simply to have an estimate for the number of miles left on the journey, not for the actual directions.

Also, the Tesla app cannot talk to the car without a cell phone signal.  When I configured my car, I was told that there was still a wi-fi connection but this is not true.  I would like to pre-cool my car in many places without cell phone coverage and having the app access the car through wi-fi would be very nice.  I don’t know whether or not there is wi-fi built into the Model S.

A workaround that works pretty well is to open all the doors and windows before arriving at the car to let all the hot air out.  This workaround works well here where it typically gets hot but not super hot.  The key fob works at a pretty far away distance to open all the windows.  I was comfortable opening all the windows in the parking lot at Pinnacles without anything of particular value in the car.  This workaround may not function well in other locations with more people and crime, or in hotter weather.

The drive to Pinnacles is a lovely drive and passing other cars in the Model S almost feels instantaneous.

Pinnacles National Par

Living With 110V

Unfortunately, my adapter from my Roadster high power wall connector to my Model S is on backorder.  I am living with the 110 connection in my house.  My dryer is in the middle of my house, so there is no 220 plug in the garage, only the Roadster high power connector.

The following information might be useful for someone else with only 110 connection permanently or in a short term situation such as on a road trip with limited charging options.

Precarious 110 Connection

Precarious 110 Connection

Although the charging is extremely slow, I have not found using a slow charge to be a large issue.  So far I have been able to take the car wherever I have needed to go without any range anxiety.

I have encountered four limitations with the 110 cable so far.

1.  The cable is quite short, the model S is quite long, and the plug is in the back of the car.  I think even a few more feet of cable would be a great improvement.  Particularly in light of the wording in their contract

“that an extension cord should never be used to charge your vehicle.”

2.  The 110 adaptor plug is an awkward shape.  I think it should be more “short and wide” then “long and narrow”.  When plugged into a high socket, the weight of the plug and wire make it difficult to keep a strong connection.  The first outlet is about 3 feet off the ground.  Reminds me of days when you had to travel with an adaptor plug and a transformer to switch voltage.

The connection is not strong with the two plugs and unfortunate weight distribution.  I had to push it in extra tight before the car would start charging.  Also because the cable is short, it is easy to trip on when walking by as there is not enough extra cable to easily drape it flat along the garage floor.


Where Did the Tesla Go

Where Did the Tesla Go

My solution for the short plug was to rearrange my garage, and put the Model S in the third bay.

The car has been exiled to the back of the garage.  I did exaggerate the photo a bit by only lighting the bay filled with toys, not cars.

The third bay has storage cabinets and a shelf with two sets of outlets.  In this configuration, I can rest the plug on the open shelf, and get a much tighter seal.


3.  While in this new configuration, I did have the fuse trip during one day of charging.  I did not notice this and lost a lot of charging opportunity time.  I had driven quite a bit the day before, so this was unfortunate.  So far, the fuse has only tripped once, but I have only had the car for one week, so time will tell.  But I can easily monitor this from the wonderful Tesla App.  Would be even nicer if the app sent you a text message when power was interrupted.

4.  I would also prefer to not use electricity during PGE peak periods, so my car will cost more to drive until the adaptor arrives.

Better Seal When Cable Can Rest

Better Seal When Cable Can Rest


Tight Connection

Tight Connection






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

Aesthetic Config

I am a bit particular about colors but in the end chose the grey.  I like that it is a medium value color and also that it is a beautiful blue grey.  My favorite part is how it interacts with the chrome and the black interior as in a monochromatic study of black and white.

Grey Car

Grey Car

I also really like it with the black interior leather.  The black leather continues the theme without distracting it with a lighter color.  I am not fond of the two tone treatment of the grey and tan seat color combinations.  All the cars have black trunks and black seat back and black panels on the side.  I find that a bit visually confusing.

I was also a bit concerned about the black interior heating up.  I have preferred cloth to leather on hot days.  Fortunately, it rarely gets really hot here.  I found conflicting information on the web about how much hotter black seats get.  My Tesla representative solved this dilemma.  The upcoming Tesla App on the smart phone will allow you to start the Air Conditioning before you get to the car.  This feature will not require you to have a phone signal, and will use wi-fi to your phone.

I am an environmentalist strong advocate of humane treatment of animals, but I am not a vegan.  I debated cloth vs. leather but also wanted the 2012 prices with heated seats.  I did find out this information in regards to the source of the leather from my Tesla representative.

Nappa leather or Napa leather is a full-grain leather, typically dyed, made from unsplit kid-, lamb- or sheep-skin by tanning with salts of chromium or aluminium sulfate, and noted for softness and durability. It is often used in high-quality leather products such as high-end furniture and vehicles. The tanning process which produces Napa leather was invented by Emanuel Manasse in 1875 while working for the Sawyer Tanning Company in Napa, California.

The Tesla supplier of leather for Model S is Bader.  Bader is a world class supplier of leather who does focus on the environment.  The waste water from leather tanning process can be very harmful to the environment.  Bader claims they use a very modern and environmentally friendly approach and no PVCs are used in the making of the leather.

I spent probably too much time debating the interior trim.  Again, I decided to keep the theme going and in the end chose the piano black.

Black Piano

Piano Black