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.

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Extended Warranty

I’m generally not a fan of extended warranties.  I have only bought them twice.  Once for an after market warranty for a BMW that was more hassle than it was worth.  The second time for a first generation iPad.  The iPad was expensive enough and just came out on the market.  I still have it but it quickly became solely an e-reader because Apple quickly stopped supporting the operating system on the first iPad.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.01.44 AM

I was struggling with the decision to buy the extended warranty when I was near 50,000 miles.  The battery and motor are already covered for 8 years and infinite miles.  My fellow blogger wrote up a detailed description of the warranty.

In my mind there are several reasons to buy an extended warranty on the Tesla if you want to keep the car for an extended period of time.

  1. The technology is new so all the kinks may not be out of the system
  2. The cost of replacement parts is high
  3. The warranty is through Tesla not a third party so the repairs should be seamless
  4. Peace of mind

The Tesla Motors Club forum is a poll whether or not folks were going to buy the extended warranty.  99 people have responded with the majority opting to buy the extended warranty at some point in time.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.38.08 AM

Poll – Buy the Extended Warranty? 

Decision

To my chagrin, I debated this for naught. I was discussing whether or not to extend the warranty with my service advisor, when I was informed that I already had the extended warranty!

During my tire debacle, I received a phone call to offset my serious issues with Tesla.  Since this discussion was over the phone and not through email, I had forgotten that Tesla had given me a free extended warranty for my troubles.  They did not replace my tires but did refund part of the expensive curb rash removal and gave me the extended warranty for free.

Did I get special treatment?  I know Tesla treats all its customers very well.  But having a blog that gets a reasonable amount of traffic does not hurt.  I tried to remain anonymous to Tesla for several years, but a few years in I did let them know I am a blogger as I needed to include responses from Tesla to write a fair post about the time it took to supercharge.

Summary

Would I pay for the extended warranty?  Yes, I would.  I think there are still a few kinks with the Model S.  But the price of parts for the Model S is still quite high.  For example a new touchscreen is $5,000.  So I think for a new car from a new car company the extended warranty is a good choice for most drivers.

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!

Failed Power Adapter

Adapter Splayed Out on Garage Floor

Adapter Splayed Out on Garage Floor

In this blog, I have documented every small issue I have had with my Teslas.  I recently experienced another unusual issue, that I think could only effect a very small amount of Model S owners.  I have an uncommon setup where my high powered connector is the first Roadster version, and then I have an adapter from that plug to the Model S.  I chose to use an adapter instead of purchasing a new high powered wall connector. This setup had many benefits for me. The adapter was lower cost than a new high powered wall connector and is in effect an extension cord. I could still occasionally charge a Roadster at my home, and I did not have to hire an electrician.  There may be a very unusual case where I find a Roadster charge station while on the road, and I can charge my Model S from there using this adapter.  Everything had worked fine for about ten months.

Then one day late last year, I tried to plug my car in one day at home and struggled for a while. After a while of pulling it back and forth, I heard the audible click and the light changed at the port.

The next day when I got home, I struggled again with the same sequence.  I got to a strange point where the plug was physically connected to the car, but the Dashboard indicated that there was a problem with the connection.  I tried to jiggle the connection around a few times, and on the second day I simply could not even remove the cord from the car no matter how hard I pulled.  I played with it a few more times, and reboot the two screens.

Right Steering Column

Right Steering Column

To reboot the 17” display, you hold down both of the scroll bars on the steering wheel.  To reboot the speedometer display, you hold down both of the top buttons on each side of the steering wheel.

I was wondering if this was a problem with the new 5.8.4 software that I had just installed a few days earlier.  This software had an enhancement to watch for unexpected fluctuations in the input charge level due to bad house wiring.  A Tesla owner had a fire in the garage where their car was parked (the Tesla and connector were fine).  As a response to this incident, Tesla is sending all the owners of the Model S High Powered Wall Connectors new units with a thermal fuse.  The thermal fuse will prevent current from flowing if the wall socket region heats up for any reason.  I have no idea if my High Powered Wall Connector has a thermal fuse or not.  But after almost five years of use and a house that is less than ten years old, I am not concerned.

Vehicle Power - Power Off Button on Touch Screen

Vehicle Power Off

Neither of these two reboots worked.  I called the Tesla service number and the friendly person told me to reboot the main power also.  Rebooting the main power allowed me to remove the adaptor, but not charge the car.  Tesla could see that my car had an internal error about power.  Since I placed this call at night on a Sunday in the middle of the holiday season, the person on the phone could not find out any more information from the engineering department.

In the morning, I received a call back after the engineers looked at the car’s error logs.  A problem was detected in the physical adaptor cable.  That same day, I went to the service center and received a new cable free of charge as it was still under the one year warranty period.  I was told that my problem was a bit unusual, and the only suggestion they had was to not keep the cable wound tightly.  But I just keep the cable splayed out permanently in my garage as there is plenty of space.

Supercharger Time Test

120kW Charging

120kW Charging

I recently went on a road trip throughout California using seven superchargers.  After visits to four supercharging stations, I was not really noticing dramatic improvement with the newly installed 120kW superchargers.  Sitting in the car at the Hawthorne station, I decided at the next three stations to accurately log the amount of mileage I could get in 30 minutes at the next three superchargers.

Before delving into the detailed data I gathered and also data subsequently provided by Tesla, I now feel comfortable writing that I think it is possible with a very empty battery, a 100% fully functional non-busy supercharging station and reasonable weather, I could occasionally charge 170 rated range (EPA 5-cycle) in 30 minutes.

The scenarios where I would envision charging at the maximum rate would be for home to destination trips on boring drives such as Interstate 5 through California with several supercharger stops.  With this kind of driving, one could easily plan their supercharging visits and keep their battery as low as possible.

But I expect to more often be charging closer to 135 miles in 30 minutes as I experienced on my recent trip.  I typically do not just drive on freeways and prefer off the beaten path roads.  When traveling I like to have space and time for the unexpected detour and enjoy the journey.  Keeping the battery at a fuller state of charge for these wanderlust trips will make the trip about the journey not about optimizing the supercharge rates.  So more often, I will likely not be able to carefully plan to have a very empty battery at every supercharger.

The 30 minutes in 170 miles statement currently on the Tesla web page really requires a very empty battery.  Jerome Guillen Tesla VP, WW sales and service responded to my data with the following statement:

“Additionally, that maximum charging speed is valid when you start from a near-empty battery.  Lower still than 18 miles remaining and significantly lower than 40-60 miles remaining.”

In my three station supercharger test, I visited three superchargers and was the only one charging at all three stations in very pleasant California weather ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  I arrived at the Buellton station with only 18 rated range miles (15% charge), Atascadero with 63 rated range miles (33% charge), and Gilroy with 58 miles (29% charge).  Tesla did report to me that Buellton and Gilroy were running at less than complete capacity:

“Two of the Superchargers (Buellton and Gilroy) were running at less than rated capacity due to internal components taken offline. There are a series of components in parallel, for redundancy: no offline component will prevent the Supercharger from working, but it will reduce the power out of the Supercharger. In these 2 instances, the max power out of the Buellton and Gilroy Superchargers was 112 kW (not the nominal 120 kW). The Buellton Supercharger was restored to full power on the 20th of December. Work on the Gilroy Supercharger at post 2 has been scheduled for January to avoid causing disruption at the site during the busy holiday travel period.”

The key difference between my results and the 170 miles is that I did not arrive at the stations with a very low battery.  The superchargers can really fill up your battery very fast between zero and 40% full.  After that period, the charge tapers significantly.

Here are my detailed results:

Detailed Data for Time Test at Three Empty Superchargers

Detailed Data for Time Test at Three Empty Superchargers

Tesla supplied the data in the second column “Time of Charge at Max Rate”.  I did not plot my charge on a minute by minute basis.  But the supercharger records indicate that for these three charges, the full power of the supercharger lasted for the listed number of minutes.  For example at Buellton, the car was charging at the 113 kW rate for 10 minutes.

Factors that affect supercharging times:

  1. Initial state of charge
  2. Number of cars charging
  3. Weather
  4. Exact car model (60kW, 85kW, early 85kW with different battery chemistry)
  5. Fully operational supercharging station

Cars with 60kW batteries and some 85kW batteries (built in 2012) will not be able to take complete advantage of the 120kW charge times.  Because of tax implications, I delayed my purchase till 2013 and have a slightly different battery than some of the earliest 85kW cars.  Some of these early owners are not happy that they cannot charge at 120kW.  I think the vast majority of drivers will only be using the superchargers a few times a year.  And for those early buyers the impact of the older battery chemistry will not be that significant:

“For a customer charging from 20% to 90% (more than enough to go to the next supercharger station), the difference in charging time between an early car and a current car is less than 4 minutes!”

The battery itself is a very expensive component in the car.  With Tesla, car owners get regular software updates to the car, and in a year we have seen a lot of nice software improvements.  Asking for dramatic hardware improvements is an unrealistic business model.  I owned a very early Tesla Roadster with plastic knobs and no glove box and was very satisfied with my car and Tesla. I think a little more communication up front on these details will be appreciated by the existing and future customer base.  But having worked in Silicon Valley for many years, I still give Tesla my highest review even with a few missteps here and there.

Tesla has been very helpful and responsive with my inquiries of my charge times.  They pulled my records from the supercharger station and responded with sufficiently detailed data.  In response, they also changed their supercharger web page from stating simply a 30-minute charge with 120kW would give you 200 miles of range (without any footnotes) to now stating 170 miles of EPA rated range (85kWh battery).

I plan sometime in January to drive to the Sacramento area and visit the Vacaville and Folsom superchargers with a very empty battery.

Tesla Service Visit

I had the opportunity to review the P85+ because my car went in for service. One of the reasons for the service was that the dash had issued the warning: “Service Tire Pressure System…Contact Tesla Service.”   This warning came up repeatedly on my long road trip down the coast during long stretches of freeway driving.

Tire Pressure Warning

Tire Pressure Warning

Since I was far away from home I called the 800 number to speak with a Tesla person.  He said it could be the tires or the warning system itself.  I looked at all the tires and they looked fine.  I have to confess, I do not carry a tire pressure gauge and did not venture to a gas station, my check was solely visual.  The light came on and off about six times.  When the warning showed up it was on for 30 miles or so.  From the forums, it looks like several people have had problems with the tire pressure systems.  During the service, they replaced the TPMS module and repositioned it.

The Roadster also had physical sensors.  The car also told you the actual tire pressure in a screen readout.  The Model S does not have a numerical readout, simply a warning if the pressure is incorrect.  I hope that the software will eventually have a numerical readout, as I am not particularly prone to noticing low tire pressure.

I also hopefully had my last door handle replaced as my doors like to open by themselves.  This time, my driver side rear door handle has been replaced.  I hope this problem is fixed for good.

The service also included installing some new rear window regulator clips.  It appears that some people have had issues with the rear windows remaining open and these small parts will solve that issue.  More detailed reports of this problem can be found here.   In the past I had problems with my Toyota windows after putting a small strap through the rear window while driving but I have not had any problems myself with my rear windows.

The service department also tried to reproduce my intermittent noise and bluetooth issues.  Occasionally, often but not always near power lines, my car makes noise similar to tv or radio static.  The noise can be quite loud, and seems to be more frequent with passengers in the rear seats.  I have tried many times to drive over the same route to reproduce it consistently but have been unable to.  During my test drive of the P85+ I also experienced this same noise but it was quieter than my own car but not less frequent.

I have also had intermittent problems with the bluetooth connection to my Iphone while listening to music or audiobooks.  The connection fails and is difficult to reconnect.  Rebooting the Iphone does not solve the problem.  I had to reboot both the car and the Iphone to get the connection back again.

Unfortunately, since both these problems are intermittent, Tesla could not reproduce them and neither can I in a consistent manner.

Pre-Paid Services

Tesla recently sent out the email to all Model S and Roadster owners to sign up for pre-paid service and warranty plans.

Waiting Room

Waiting Room

The service has four options:  4-year and 8-year with or without ranger visits.  Although the additional ranger service is not particularly costly, I can drive the car to a local service center and get the free rental car for the day.  Even after they close the Menlo Park location, the two new service centers aren’t terribly far away.  And the rangers cannot do tire rotation or wheel alignment, so that would have to be arranged separately.  And the additional $100 per ranger visit option is still available if the service takes less than four hours.  It could be tempting to pay $100 not to have to drive to a service center, arrange a ride back and forth or sit in the lobby for 3 1/2 hours.  But that decision can be made on a case by case basis.

The four year lump purchases of the annual inspection are at first glance a simple $500 savings for each $600 annual service.  But the math is not quite that simple.  Both the first four years and the second four years are priced at $1,900.

If the service pricing remains the same and you have the money in investments currently, how much would you have to make in order to make up the $500 in savings over the four years?

For the first four years, you would need to earn 18% on your money, so the first four years are definitely a good deal.

For the next four years, you would need to earn 4.3% on your money, so the second four years are not a particularly interesting deal.  Historical investment averages are above 4.3%.

I never thought dental insurance made a lot of sense and I don’t think tire and wheel insurance makes sense either.  In both cases, the problems require routine maintenance and not most likely not any gigantic amount of money.  I will pass on the Tire and Wheel Replacement Program.

The extended service agreement can be purchased within 30 days of the expiration date of your initial four year warranty.  I see no reason to purchase this now.

I am only going to purchase the simple 4-year $1,900 service plan this year.