More Model 3 Details


Official Tesla Photos of the Model 3 Showing the Large Glass Roof

A few more details about the Model 3 have come in after the test rides at the launch event meriting a third post in less than 24 hours.

Glass Roof

The new roof is a very large pane of glass unlike most cars.  The hood is lower than on most cars and the panoramic glass extends from the hood all the way to the rear.  Using glass the rear passengers have more headroom and also a perception of more physical space.

The Model S has a similar style of roof with the Panoroof / sunroof option.  Tesla has engineered the glass to resist excessive heat or glare, and no complaints exist from owners in places like the Arizona desert.  Only in extremely cold climates is there a small disadvantage to a glass roof as the roof does not insulate the passengers quite as well from the cold as a some conventional roofs requiring a little more energy to heat the car.  This lack of insulation would only affects you if you are trying to sleep in the car and not while driving.

Update:  the roof will have three options:  the all glass roof, a retractable glass sunroof or a metal roof.


Model 3 Trunk

The Model 3 is not a hatchback like the Model S but has a conventional trunk as you can see from the photo.  The front hood also opens up for more storage.  Tesla used to call this space a “frunk” but recently I have heard the term “front trunk” used more frequently.

Elon clearly stated that the Model 3 can fit a 7′ surfboard in the interior, which is an impressive specification.  Tesla has clearly listened to the customer base who want practical cars.  I am looking forward to seeing a demonstration of the surfboard being loaded into the Model 3.


Model 3 Storage Space With a Trunk in the Back and in the Front.

Center Console

The Model 3 prototype also has a center console for storing items and including cupholders.  I think Tesla finally got the message that the majority of drivers want this storage space and hopefully is now a standard on all cars going forward.

Instrument Panel / Touchscreen

The instrument panel is in the middle of the car with a 15” touchscreen.  The idea is that both the driver and passengers have access to the information.  The Model 3 does not have a separate instrument panel like the Model S; all the information is on the touchscreen.

I like the idea of a unified place to get all the information.  I also think repair costs are reduced having the touchscreen not be installed into the dashboard.


All the Information is on One 15″ Touchscreen in the Center of the Car


I am impressed with the Model 3.  I think it looks great, the minimum technical specs are very reasonable, and the storage space seems very good.  Tesla clearly has listened to their customers post Model X launch.  My only concern for Tesla is that the Model X now seems a little lost in the lineup.  The only obvious market is a wealthy family with young children that generally live a city based lifestyle that is not hampered by the Model X carrying capabilities.


Model U ? – for Utility

When the Model X launch event happened, a number of Model S owners reacted not with disapproval but with a lack of interest.

The Model X was clearly designed for a family with very young children.  Once this target demographic was in place, various technical decisions slowly eroded the car as a great utility vehicle.  In this post I am proposing that Tesla at some point should design a 3rd vehicle on the Model S chasis that is a true utility vehicle, not a disguised mini van.

The Model X sweet spot is for those with very young children.  With babies, toddler or other young children, parents often struggle to strap in their kids with conventional car doors, sometimes will ride in the back seat with their baby, and other times will be hauling a large group of kids around town to a soccer match or other event.  In the United States a lot of parents refuse to “be caught driving a mini-van” during the years when a mini van is likely the most useful vehicle for their family.

To address this market Elon and Tesla designed the X the falcon wing doors that allow an adult to easy stand up and reach into the back of the car.   These falcon doors however have a serious impact on the X as a utility vehicle.   With doors that raise up, you cannot put a standard roof rack on the car.  The Model X cannot transport sporting equipment such as large surfboards, paddle boards and canoes without a trailer!  For an outing with a large family or a large group of friends, excess equipment cannot be put on the roof such as skis, bikes or even just cargo boxes.  Tesla’s solution is to offer a rear rack for the Model X, but my many items do not fit in within the width of the Model X and need to be carried on a roof rack.  The X does allow you to have a roof rack on half the roof but a half roof rack has limited use.

Using a Utility Vehicle to Carry a Paddleboard on the Roof

Using a Utility Vehicle to Carry a Paddleboard on the Roof

They also invested a lot of time and resources creating some back seats that are independent and more comfortable for adults.  The independent seats also allow easy access to the 3rd row seats when hauling around all the neighborhood children.  But the second row seats cannot fold down and limit the use of the back area of a car.  The utility in a SUV comes from having a large flat space in the back of the car to load large objects easily.  A real utility comes when the seats fold flat and FLUSH with the rear area.  Recently many cars have a flat area but with two levels often separated by 4” in height such as the Model S.  With the Model X you can push the seats forward, but that also takes away length for longer objects.

A Recumbent Bike Can Fit Inside a SUV or on Top

The falcon doors also prohibit a conventional sunroof.  Tesla’s alternative to a sunroof is a larger windshield with some unusual sun visors.  Although this larger windshield will let in more light and perhaps more overhead views when driving in places such as Yosemite, it does not let in any air.  I really like sunroofs.  For me they are the sweet spot between a convertible that lets in too much air and a closed in car.  A larger windshield offers nothing of interest for me.

Once the direction was set for addressing the needs of young families, the utility of the Model X was drastically decreased.  Even with a high end SUV, owners want to use their cars for outdoor activities, hauling various items, putting sporting equipment on the roof, carrying their dogs and sleeping in their vehicle.  The Model X is not the ideal vehicle for this buyer.  But with all these compromises the Model X is sub par in comparison to the utility of current ICE SUVs including my 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Directing the Model X to such a specific market, Tesla has lost in interest from the customers who really want Utility in an SUV.  I am suggesting that there is room for a Model U along with the Model S and Model X on the original Model S chasis.  The Model U could have  conventional back doors, a sunroof and a bench seat in the back. Tesla could sell the Model U to many buyers who do not have young children but want more utility in their SUV.

A Utility Vehicle Can Be Used for All Kinds of Tasks — Free Mulch Collection

Model S Weight

When I took the factory tour in early 2013, the guide did not let us go near the area where they build the battery but he explicitly told us:

The battery weighs the same for 60kWh and 85kWh.  Dead cells are put into the 60kWh battery in order to keep the weight the same.  This odd feature is to avoid performing two sets of crash tests.

They also listed only one weight in any of their documentation in the past.

Recently folks have been commenting on the fact that the 60 battery version weighs less.  Now with the 5.9 version of the manual, Tesla lists different weights for the 60 and the 85.

Weights Listed in the Model S Manual Version 5.9

Weights Listed in the Model S Manual Version 5.9

The curb weight is the weight of the car parked with standard equipment and without any occupants or luggage.  The difference in the weight of the 60 vs the 85 is 223 pounds or 101 kilograms.  Both bare bones versions have the same options except the 85 is “supercharger enabled” but this is simply a software switch that 60 owners can purchase after the fact.

The gross vehicle weight rating is 5,710 lbs or 2,590 kg for the Model S.  This second measure is how much weight is safe for travel including any additional car options, passengers and all cargo.  For a 85 battery, you can carry passengers and cargo up to 1,080 pounds; truck manufacturers use the term payload for this difference.  This number is actually smaller then I would expect.  I can easily imagine a scenario in the United States where four people were traveling and each weighted 200 pounds and were also carrying some particularly heavy items in the trunk and frunk. They could exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.  I don’t think this difference between Curb Weight and Gross Vehicle Weight is much different than for ICE cars but finding these specification is not that easy.  The payload for a Dodge Ram 1500 Express is 1,719 pounds.

Camping Mode

Camping in the Model S

Camping in the Model S

On my cross country trip last spring, I camped one night in the Tesla while charging at an RV park.  Last month I met up with some friends who were camping for several nights.  I was on my way to an event and joined them for one evening with the Tesla.

On this trip, I was not in an RV park and had no need to charge so I decided to try the unofficial Tesla “camping mode”.  The camping mode allows you to keep the cabin air at your preferred temperature.  However you cannot charge while in camping mode.

Camping mode is quite simple:

  1. Do not plug your car in
  2. Place the car in Neutral
  3. Manually set the parking brake in the control screen
  4. Dim your lights as much as possible

Northern California has been very warm this fall.  The Pacific Ocean for a reason that is likely unrelated to global warming is 5 degrees warmer than usual.  Our nights have been reasonably warm and this evening in the car was no exception.

I found the light of the touchscreen to be a bit distracting to sleep as I had not dimmed the setting completely before trying to sleep.  Since the night was quite warm and the Tesla cabin is small enough to stay warm, I ended up turning off the climate control completely.

Perhaps I will test this feature out  someday when climate control could be useful and see how much energy I would use, but I doubt I will be sleeping very many nights in the Model S.  Even with a very thick pad and some extra clothing near the change in seat height, the trunk is not particularly comfortable and motels are more appealing.

Don't Forget To Set the Parking Brake

Don’t Forget To Set the Parking Brake

Service and Warranty

I have blogged about the Tesla service several times over the years.  I have found the service personnel very courteous and have given them in general high reviews as do other owners, who do not have a visible presence in the internet world.

My car went in again for service recently and I drove a 85 loaner with 19” wheels, coil suspension, parking sensors and a parcel shelf.

Ding on Loaner Vehicle

Ding on Loaner Vehicle

What was interesting about my recent service experience is that for the first time they are checking both vehicles for door dings and paint issues.  The valet said that some customers have complained about the clear coat leaving marks from rain spots.  This year has been so dry, outside of some freak summer rain in the early hours, I haven’t thought about rain.  The loaner with about 500 miles on it actually had a significant ding on the front of the car.

Car Needs Service

Car Needs Service

Unfortunately during my service, my loaner vehicle had a failure on the last day.  With the new firmware 5.12 on the loaner, I got a generic warning “Car Needs Service”.  The car was still completely drivable but the main screen was not responsive to touch and could not be rebooted.

Used Only 314 kWh/mile While Driving the Loaner

Used Only 314 kWh/mile While Driving the Loaner

A number of smart buyers are buying these loaner vehicles in order to get faster delivery and a slightly less expensive car.  I think buying a loaner from Tesla is a good option.  Surprisingly when I had this loaner, I drove it at only 314 Wh/mi, which is the lowest value I have ever driven since hypermiling in Utah.  In these 125 miles, I did only 20 miles of freeway driving and most of the miles were on boring and busy city streets.  Since the loaners are almost the identical car that one already owns, there is no reason to go on a joy ride.

Parcel Shelf

Parcel Shelf

I did notice the slight difference of the coil suspension and the 19” wheels but still found the loaner configuration a very nice option for someone who wants to save money in both the purchase and the tire wear.  This loaner was the first car with a parcel shelf, which I liked more than expected.  It was unobtrusive and easily hides things in the trunk — even if all you are hiding is reusable grocery bags.

Today I was very excited that they extended the warranty on the 85kWh model S for the drive unit to 8 years and infinite miles.  A number of owners had experienced issues with the drive units including another blogger, Dan Edmunds.  Many of these issues were relatively minor such as noise during acceleration.  Since the drive unit is sealed, the entire drive unit is replaced.  Today, Elon Musk made this warranty announcement including that it is retroactive for all Model S 85kWh vehicles!

Off The Grid

I spent several days of my cross country and back journey off the grid — as in off the supercharger route.  I had no real interest in doing the exact same route up the eastern seaboard.  I wanted to visit a friend in Nashville and see a few other places along the way.

Planning this journey took a considerable amount of time.  The goal is to be charging the car at night or during the day while visiting somewhere.  In the end I came up with the following itinerary from Savannah, GA:

Macon, GA:

My first stop would be Macon, Georgia.  The forum had reported that the unofficially opened supercharger in Macon was working. indicated a slower charger up the street in case this supercharger was not available.  Various other drivers had reported successfully charging there so I was not particularly concerned.  The charger is located behind the visitor center.  I walked over to the Harriet Tubman museum while the car charged.

Atlanta, GA

Between Macon and Atlanta was a distance of only 101 miles.  I visited the Martin Luther King Historical Site and another museum.  For charging I decided to try to charge overnight at the Tesla Service Center in Marietta, Georgia.  I had called ahead of time to ask about charging and  was told the chargers were outside the building.  I am glad I arrived during business hours as the outside chargers were all busy when I arrived.

The folks at this service center were very friendly and offered to drop me off at my hotel.  I chose the Hampton Inn that was about 1/4 mile away from the service center so that I could walk if necessary.  They also picked me up in the morning to take me to my car.

Many service centers have chargers only inside the facility.  I will always plan to arrive during business hours.

Birmingham, AL

I had two choices to drive north from Atlanta.  I initially planned to drive through Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I had found a hotel on a site that listed it as having charging facilities.  When I called this independent hotel, they informed me they did not have charging facilities.  I also contacted a couple of private Tesla owners on

Birmingham Alabama

Birmingham Alabama

In the end, I decided to go to Birmingham instead which is around 150 miles away.  I was interested in the Civil Rights Museum and found a Chargepoint charger located nearby.  I could easily charge while visiting the city and sleeping at a nearby hotel.  The charge took about 8 hours and was free as was the parking at the McWane science center.  I enjoyed my visit to the museum and the art museum.  The charging facility was not in the best of neighborhoods, so I did not return to the car in the evening but I saved hotel parking charges.

Nashville, TN

Reverse Plug

Reverse Plug

The next stop was my friend’s house near Nashville Tennessee about 105 miles away.  They have a plug very similar to one of the Tesla plugs available for sale.  But upon careful examination the plugs did not match exactly!  After an unsuccessful trip to Home Depot for a simple adaptor, we drove to a Blink charging station nearby.

It was already 8pm and the charger said it would be complete in over 17 hours.  We continued searching on various apps and driving around to a non-existent public utility plug to discover that all charging stations in the immediate area were the same Blink network.  A nearby nudist colony had a charging facility.

I decided to leave the Tesla at the Blink station.  Luckily the charge did not take a full 17 hours and was more on the order of 15 so I managed to leave for my next destination by mid day the next day.

Paducah, KY

My next off the grid stop was a campground in Paducah, Kentucky about 180 miles away from my friends house. indicated that there was an EV friendly campground there.  I had wanted to try charging overnight and sleeping in the back of the Tesla.  While charging, you cannot run the climate control.

The owners were quite friendly and only charge $10 for an EV whether or not you stay at the facility (price may change for an overnight stay).  They have had four Teslas charge there.  A motel is about 1/8 of a mile away along with a place where you can buy food.  Some of their stations were compatible with my adaptors but several were not.

Waking Up in a RV Park

Waking Up in a RV Park

I set up my Tesla for sleeping and found the car nice and quiet despite the freeway being within a reasonable distance.  The RV park was much quieter than a regular campground since almost everyone was within their RV.

The two difficulties I had with sleeping in the RV park was that it was so well lit it interfered with sleeping.  The second challenge was the slope of the Tesla with the rear seats down.  I bought for the trip a very thick sleeping pad but also needed two other supports in the seam between the seats to be comfortable.

St. Louis, MO

Another 188 miles to my final stop was St. Louis Missouri where I found a hotel that had charging in their garage.  I needed to call ahead and reserve the spot.  The charge worked nicely as I did not arrive there till late afternoon and was easily finished by the morning.  The garage has a valet who insisted he knew how to drive a Tesla.  But I had to ask him “Do you know how to unplug one?”

My backup plan was to go to the Tesla St. Louis service center but in the end this was fortunately not necessary.

Lessons Learned:

Going off the grid takes a lot of careful planning and interferes with wanderlust.  Waiting for a charge during the day is quite tedious, so in essence I consider myself limited to a driving distance of around 200 miles a day.

The websites that are available to plan are not ideal.  None offer the ability to search for charging facilities just at hotels for example. is the most useful website and their related recargo is the most useful app in general.  The Allstays app is nice for the RV parks as you can filter by available amps.  I also liked that the app allows you to dial the RV park directly to double check on both availability and EV friendliness.


Frunk and Trunk Space

Laser Printer in Trunk

Laser Printer in Trunk

I needed to buy a laser printer, after yet another inkjet printer died, and I realized how much space I really had in the Model S.  The salesperson offered to put it into the trunk himself and even take it out of the box if needed.  He said that many cars these days cannot fit the laser printers in the box.  The laser printer weighs 50 pounds, and I put a towel around the edge to prevent it from slipping.

I would prefer that the back seats were flush with the trunk itself when down, but the towel prevented the laser printer from jostling around the car.

I wrote several posts about my Roadster and what I could and could not put into the trunk.  A general post, buying plants, and carrying a backpack.

After having no problems putting the laser printer in the car, I decided to put in all the things I had tried to put in the Roadster before into the Model S at the same time.  Kind of a silly but fun exercise. These items included:

1.  Aforementioned laser printer and paper

2.  Suitcase

3.  Three coolers

4.  Four reusable grocery bags – empty but placed with enough room if they were full.

5.  Beach chair

6.  Medium sized golf bag and cart

7  Two trays of plants

8.  Backpack

I successfully fit all the items into the trunk and frunk and the same time.  I have no idea why someone would travel with all these items at the same time but it is a good demonstration of how much storage space is in the car.

Full Trunk

Full Trunk


Full Frunk