Tesla Referrals

For the over six years I’ve owned two Tesla vehicles, I have taken many friends and acquaintances on rides and a few on test drives.  Most people are quite reluctant to actually drive someone else’s car, so by far most were test rides not test drives.

I thought it would be interesting to report on the actual referrals I made before Tesla’s current referral program existed for the Model S.

The first friend who bought a Model S was a former close work colleague. We drove around in my Roadster many years ago.  He knew about my blog and told other people that I was driving a Roadster.  He bought one of the first 10,000 Model Ss and now his wife also has a Model S.  He is a complete gadget junkie, so he would have likely eventually bought a Tesla but I’m sure my reference accelerated his purchase.

Another couple I know well leased a Model S.  Jason is a car fanatic and I took him on the factory tour when I picked up my Model S in early 2013.  Two and a half years later he and his husband leased a demo model with 1,300 miles on it.  Since they are serial leasers, the exact options were not of concern.  With irony they replaced a BMW convertible for a 70D Model S without a pano roof.

Travis and Jason's New Tesla

Travis and Jason’s New Tesla

They own three homes:  one on the peninsula, a condo in San Francisco, and home in wine country.  For only $180 an electrician wired their peninsula home with a convenient 40 Amp dryer outlet. In San Francisco Jason can use a company charger.  In the wine country they already had a 220 Volt plug already in their garage. From their home in wine country, they also have easy access to the Petaluma supercharger on their way back to their homes near their jobs.

During the summer of 2014, I visited a friend in her second residence in Oregon.  We took a long day trip including visiting The Dalles supercharger.  The town name “The Dalles” always confuses me, very few places have the word “the” in the name.  The word is from the French world “dalle”, which means flagstone.  Near the supercharger, water flows through the Columbia river over a series of rocks.

This summer, my friend and her husband called me to discuss various options on the Model S.  I suggested and they agreed that unless your in love with the look of the 21” wheels or live somewhere where you can take advantage of the grip, the 19” wheels are a better choice.   He is a doctor in Arkansas and plans to primary drive from home to his two offices. I also suggested that the air suspension is not necessary unless you live somewhere that it is required to park the car.  In my experiments with trying to test the air suspension on freeways, I have yet to see that lowering the suspension in real world conditions made any truly significant drop in energy use.  But those test were very hard to do accurately and I could never obtain reliable data to report.  A third question was the battery size.  I recommended the largest battery possible, and I would recommend this to anyone with the budget.

Arkansas is a Supercharger Desert

Arkansas is a Supercharger Desert

Their primary residence is in Arkansas and they will be likely one of the few in that state.  Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia, North Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii are the only states left without any superchargers.  Arkansas has some icy winter driving conditions, so they chose to buy the D option but felt no need to purchase a P version. Unfortunately, their order had been processed far enough in the three days between the phone call and the announcement of the referral program that the $2,000 stayed with Tesla.

At this point, I have only one $1,000 credit (Thank you!).  Feel free to use my link till the end of October.  I will be very soon buying the extended warranty at a cost of $4,000 as I am very close to 50,000 miles.


X Country Trip Statistics

I finally arrived back home in California a couple of weeks ago.  I am still digesting this trip as it was in many ways quite unique.  I am actually looking into writing a book about the journey.  Only about one third of the content would be about the Tesla experience itself.

For fun I gathered the following statistics.

  • 10,756 miles
  • 318 Wh/mile average
  • 52 Superchargers Visited
  • 8 Non Network Charges
  • 430 gallons of gas not used
  • $1,700 of gas expenses saved
  • 36 days
  • 26 states
  • $183 per day in expenses
  • 4 friends visited
  • 2 visits to Tesla service centers
  • Countless people met
  • 155 tweets
  • 15 blog posts
  • Too many thoughts


Bitter Cold and Wind

For the last few days I have been traveling through Wyoming and South Dakota in very high winds of gusts up to 55 mph and temperatures almost always in the 30s.  I’m a native Californian, and for me this weather is bitter cold and difficult to even stay out of the car for more than a few minutes to take some photos wearing a down jacket and a hat.  A few times the wind was so strong it was almost hard to walk.

When I left Lusk, Wyoming with a full range charge, I began the first 5 miles using over 500 Wh/mile, which is a huge number.  The battery was cold, the outside air temperature about 32 degrees fahrenheit (0 degree celsius) and very gusty winds even up to 55 mph.  I was quite cautious on the drive into the Black Hills area.  I was driving under the speed limit for most of the trip – beginning at 55 mph and then up to 65 mph.  Even if the route between the superchargers is only 149 miles, I used up almost all of my electricity during the journey.

Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

I took an “indoor” excursion into Wind Cave National Park.  This cave is quite interesting with many separate passageways that are very maze like.  And lots of unusual shapes on the walls.  I had lunch at the Black Hills Burger & Bun Company in downtown Custer, which has both traditional hamburgers, buffalo and a homemade black bean burgers.

I also stopped in at both the Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore.   I think all visitors to this area need to see both.  Both monuments represent people and movements that are important to the development in the United States.  Mount Rushmore honors four important presidents to our development as a nation, and Crazy Horse honors one of the last Native warriors and the cruel legacy of how the Native Americans were treated.

The Crazy Horse Monument scale is gigantic.  I tried to represent the two side by side in the montage photo below as a reasonably accurate representation of the size difference.  Although you can see Crazy Horse from the road, the cost of admission and the short ride to the base gives you a fascinating sense of the scale of this monument.  Only Crazy Horse’s face is complete; when complete the entire sculpture will reach the trees below.  I enjoy watching construction projects and can appreciate the amount of effort already undertaken and continuing for years into the future.

Crazy Horse Monument in Relationship to Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Monument in Relationship to Mount Rushmore

At the Mount Rushmore monument parking gate, the fee taker recognized my car.  We began to talk about Teslas and I gave him a ride in the car.  Turns out Elon Musk was seen here in his black Tesla along with a second silver Tesla.

During these journeys while supercharging, I took breaks in the nearby lodging facilities when not eating.  I have found that even in remote corners of the west, all the food service is now so fast even in sit down restaurants.  I also have stopped overnight next to the superchargers.  Late in the evening, the last thing I want to do is wait for the car to charge, I’d rather walk over to the closest motel.

I also found I needed to use my first non-supercharger on this journey in the Badlands National Park.  I wanted to see one of the minuteman missile sites.  The park ranger told me that the self guided site was back another forty miles (thirty in reality) round trip from the intersection where I was going to be turning east.  I asked the rangers at Badlands if I could charge using some of their RV spots.  Turns out I was lucky as the head ranger had been wanting to add a charging spot, and I added 60 miles of charge in their volunteer RV hookups at 40 amps.

First Charging in a RV facility in Badlands National Park

First Charging in a RV facility in Badlands National Park

In the end, the missile site was not overwhelming but worth seeing.  The decommissioned missile that was on view seemed so small for the huge amount of destruction it could have caused.   My best estimate if I had not topped off in the RV park would have run out of juice 30 miles west of the supercharger unless I had slowed down dangerously on the freeway.

The last leg into the first supercharger into Minnesota, I drove conservatively staying near the speed limit but only could average 400 Wh/mile.  I kept getting the “Service Tire Pressure Warning” light and went off and on a few times in Minnesota.

While on this leg of the journey, a reporter out of Los Angeles ran out of charge in his rented Tesla in the California / Arizona desert.  I chose not to drive direct from Barstow to Kingman because I was worried about the distance given the high speeds on the freeway and the wind conditions.  Driving an electric car does require more planning than a gas vehicle because charging options are not as ubiquitous today.

Near the supercharger in Worthington, Minnesota were a large number of windmills.  I’m hoping I charged with wind power.  I actually spotted another Tesla with California plates at the supercharger in Worthington when I left.

Wind Turbines Near Worthington, Minnesota

Wind Turbines Near Worthington, Minnesota



Atascadero Supercharger

I recently visited the Atascadero supercharger.  So far this supercharger is my favorite of all of those that I have visited.  The supercharger is conveniently located just of Highway 101 in central California in the small town of Atascadero.  The actual charging stations are located behind a bank.  I’m not crazy about having to back into the parking space but over time I am sure this will become more natural.

I like this supercharger because there are a lot of dining options.  The Tesla Motors’ web site lists six:  Starbucks, Denny’s, Subway, Cold Stone Creamery, Que Pasa and Round Table Pizza.  On my two visits, I ate at two separate independent restaurants I found on yelp.  A short walk to the northwest on Traffic Way is a restaurant called Fig, and to the southeast a restaurant called Thai Elephant.  Both were high quality restaurants and well worth the extra walk.

A second reason I like Atascadero is that I found the locals to be extremely friendly both in the restaurants and at the superchargers.  The superchargers are located in the path of the drive-up window at Rabobank.  I think a lot of locals have been curious about them as they routinely drive by the location.  I had several people stop and ask me about the car.

Atascadero Supercharger

Atascadero Supercharger

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