Release 7.0 for Classic Teslas

Classic Teslas like mine do not have the hardware that enables the autopilot features.  The new software release that all cars received last Friday works for both the Classic Teslas and the ones with the autopilot hardware, which costs $2,500.  This release has a few significant highlights and unfortunately a couple of lowlights for Classic Cars such as mine.

1. The look and feel has changed in several small ways.  Some of the fonts and style has changed a little bit with the current fashionable flat 2-D icons.  When Apple first released their 2-D icons, I missed the older ones, but I largely think this is just a current style trend that will eventually change again.

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

Much More Useful Display of Driving Stats Since Beginning a Trip and Last Charge

2. For long road trips, the information on the dashboard for energy usage is much clearer.  Now instead of looking at a strange screen with Trip A and Trip B monitors, you are looking at the information since the last time you started the car on top, and since your last charge below.  On long road trips when I was running dangerously low on energy, I would always bring up the Trip screen to get this information since last charge.   The Trip A and B information is still available on the 17” screen if people plan their energy use that way.

I like this change because I can monitor how much energy I have used since my last charge very succinctly.  I like the kWh usage number and I can easily mentally compare that to my 85kWh battery and compare my Wh/mi usage to the 300 Wh/mile standard.  Here in the hills of California, I never average as low as 300 Wh/mile.  Only on some very flat freeways can the average be maintained at that low level.

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

Curb Rash Preventer With Automatic Window Tilt in Reverse

2. Tesla has finally found a solution to my curb rash! Now the rear view mirrors adjust downwards while backing up.  I have only tried using this feature once but now I imagine I can parallel park much nicer even without auto-pilot. Of course, I could have done that manually in the past, but I couldn’t imagine messing with my mirrors every time before and after parallel parking.  I’m really excited about this feature because for some reason I’ve never been a great parallel parker.  In my entire life I just have never lived anywhere where I parked parallel with any frequency.

After visiting so many superchargers, I’m really good at backing up into tight spaces though.

Dash Display on Left and Center

Dash Display on Left and Center

 

3. The center of the dash has grown and changed to accommodate an area for the autopilot in the middle of the speedometer.   For those without autopilot the area is a bit excessive.  The car will have indication lights such as when it is braking as in the picture, but typically this information does not change much and can be a bit annoying.  Owners with red cars have reported they cannot really see the red indicator lights as it blends too much with their car color on the display.

To make space for the larger center display, the battery level was moved to the left and the date, time and temperature removed from the standard dash set up.  You can see the time at the far upper right of the 17” screen, and the date through the calendar app.

To appease those of us who may want to have an easier glance at the time, they added a new clock widget.  The response to the clocks widget is that it is almost universally esthetically displeasing.  And with all of that space, why can’t the date and day of the week also be listed?

Upper Left of 17" Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

Upper Left of 17″ Screen Includes Lock / Unlock Button

4.  Tesla added a tiny lock and unlock button on the top row of the 17” screen.

I like this improvement because it took a while to fiddle around the 17” screen to unlock the doors for someone who was trying to get into the car.   They moved the outside temperature reading up here too along with a new button for bringing up the charge screen.

I think the temperature needs to go back to the dash permanently.  I am a bit obsessive about the outside temperature.  I adjust the inside temperature control a lot depending upon the outside temperature and whether or not it is sunny.  This fall has been so warm here in California.  Today is the first day of the year that even feels like fall not summer so I’ve been watching the temperature this year a bit obsessively.

The new charge button brings up the charge screen, which to me is a bit strange.  I am always fiddling a bit to find the unlock charge port button more than anything else on that screen. I’d prefer that this lightning bolt just unlocked the charge port.

Other Details

The release also includes a few other minor changes on the dash board that I will not mention such as a full screen control of the media player.  There are also some efficiency improvements but I have not driven the car much yet to notice any differences.  Newer cars also get a full four wheel tire pressure monitoring sensors that will report on each four tires.  My car’s vintage is unfortunately too old.  I don’t know if there are any bug fixes to the bug challenged trip planner.

All in all, I think 7.0 is an improvement even with a few trivial mistakes on the UI.

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Aero Wheel Sighting

You could previously buy the “Aero” wheels from Tesla.  They were reportedly more aerodynamic than the other wheels Tesla offered but were only sold to a handful of customers.  The first time I saw these wheels on an actual customer car was in August of this year.

The aero wheels are quite convex and at least this Model S aero wheel had a ton of curb rash.  The curb rash was not only along the edges as is the most common wear, but also throughout the wheel due to the convex nature of the wheel.

Aero Wheels With Serious Curb Rash

Aero Wheels With Serious Curb Rash

New Camber Arms

I bought a full new set of tires per the recommendation of my local mechanic, Ron Raimes automotive.  The tires were again wearing heavily on the inside sidewalls in an unusual pattern as you can see in the picture below.  The standard inside wear markers were not yet worn down.  These set of tires are not nearly as bad as the last set, but they still did not wear very evenly.fourtires

When he looked at the alignment before installing the new tires, the alignment for both the toe and the camber were again out of spec.  My mechanic suggested that he would install the tires, align them and then suggested I come back again in 1,000 miles to see if the tires would stay aligned.

Since Tesla had been quite responsive when I had alignment issues in the past after emailing them at the VP level, I decided to send them a note discussing this current state of alignment.  Only 7,000 miles had passed since the Minneapolis center had adjusted my alignment again, so I was a bit concerned.

I took my car to the Sunnyvale service center and explained the entire saga.  I had only driven my car 200 miles with these new tires.  When they checked my alignment, the tires were again out of alignment. The alignment had shifted in those 200 miles but the vehicle measurements clearly show that the camber is out of alignment.  A tire shop has no ability to adjust the camber.  The camber in the rear was at -2.3 and -2.32 with the spec being between -1.4 to -2.1.

Because I had expected to wait at the service center, I did not bring my house key or garage door opener, and the car was driven 30 miles between the first 6/26 check by Tesla and the second set of numbers the next day when they did the alignment.  I am a bit concerned about the amount of variability in the shift of the front toe.  The front left shifted from -0.16 to -0.27 in 30 miles and the front right shifted from 0.07 to 0.31.  I have included five sets of alignment data in the table below over the course of 250 miles.  I am a little concerned that the alignment does not appear particularly stable although these numbers are quite small.

June Alignment Data

June Alignment Data

Alignment Using Laser Interferometers

Alignment Using Laser Interferometers

In both shops, I watched the alignment process.  They use the same brand alignment machine, Hunter, which uses lasers to accurately check the alignment.  As an odd side note, my summer job between junior and senior years of college was working with laser interferometers at Hewlett Packard, so I know these machines are very accurate.

My local garage did complain that the rear tires are physically difficult to align.  The configuration of the car makes it quite difficult to get the mechanic’s arms in the correct place to adjust the alignment.

Sunnyvale Tesla in the end concluded the problem with my alignment was the camber bushings, which is the rubber part in the camber arm. They replaced both camber link arms with a newer upgraded version.

The new camber arms also have an improved design and a more complex shape that should support more torque than the original camber arms.  I am hoping the challenges with alignment are completely solved, but I will have it check again by both my local mechanic and Tesla to ensure I can drive many miles with these new tires.

Original Camber Arms

Original Camber Arms

Location of Camber Arms in Wheel Well

Location of Camber Arms in Wheel Well

New Tires – Again

So unfortunately I had to buy a full new set of tires.  The Minneapolis service center prediction was wrong.  I am now at 26,000 miles and decided to replace all four.  Two of the tires may have lasted a little bit longer but did not seem worth the trouble to deal with the issue again in a couple of months.

With the original equipment Continental tires, they lasted 20K miles on the front and 6K on the back.  The pair of Michelin tires I purchased this year lasted 7.5K on the back and 6K on the front.  I may have been able to get a little more mileage out of the Michelins.  I decided to purchase the Continentals as they appear to have slightly better longevity but I really am just guessing.  The Denver service center implied that the low wear was due to the usage of the low suspension setting.  I am not going to use this setting unless I need extended range.

Another fact that I found surprising is how much my car was out of alignment again.  If you look at the detailed report below, the tires are out of alignment particularly with the rear toe.  The shop owner indicated that some of the bolts were not particularly tight.  The overall alignment numbers are actually worse than the earlier problem I reported.  The local garage suggested that I stop by again in 1,000 miles to see how my alignment is holding up.

 

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

Hypermiling

EV tripplanner data for route from Beaver to Las Vegas

EV tripplanner data for route from Beaver to Las Vegas

A couple of new superchargers were added in Utah recently allowing me to drive home along Interstate 70 and Interstate 15 through Utah and Nevada (including a tiny section of Arizona) instead of the long loop back through Gallup New Mexico.  At this point of the long journey, I was happy to cut both miles and time.

However, one glaring hole existed for charging.  Between Beaver, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada was a total of 223 miles between superchargers.  The weather was also quite warm and the freeway speeds quite high.

EVtripplanner.com lists the journey requiring 268 rated range miles in 82 degree weather.  In between Beaver, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada were very few charging stations.  A Nissan dealer in St. George, Utah allows Teslas to charge there but the charge rate is slow.  A few RV parks exist along I15, but after calling one I was dismayed to hear it was not possible because they were all booked up for the holiday weekend.

I decided to drive straight to Las Vegas without stopping or charging.  Even if the report listed a requirement of about 270 miles needed, I also noticed a large drop in elevation of -3884 feet, which should enable me to not use very much energy.

I decided to hypermile my way to Las Vegas.  Hypermiling in an electric vehicle can include many techniques but the following are the ones I used:

  1. Drive significantly slower than the 75 and 80 mph hour speed limits.  I decided that I felt safe enough about 20 mph slower than the speed limit if there was plenty of visibility from the rear.
  2. Allow the car to slow down up any small uphills and regain speed on the downhills.
  3. Keep the air conditioner off as much as possible.
  4. Keep the fan off and crack open a window to cool the car.
  5. Enjoy all the other Model S electronics because they run off the 12 Volt battery.
  6. Do not stop and take a break.
  7. Accelerate slowly.
  8. Use the cruise control to maintain a consistent speed.

Other techniques include:

  1. Drafting semi trucks.  I dislike people tailgating me and also did not want a lot of road debris hitting the car, so I decided to not try to save energy by drafting trucks.
  2. Putting the car in neutral and coasting.  I had earlier played with this on some remote roads but I preferred regenerating energy on the downhills instead of coasting.  In some states driving the car in neutral is illegal.

I fortunately had met a couple the day before doing the same trip in their Model S with 19” tires, and texted them to make sure they were successful.  They made it to Las Vegas with plenty to spare.  My exact data for the journey is listed in the table below.  I made it to Las Vegas with 74 miles of rated range in the battery.

When needing to save energy, I prefer to drive conservatively in the beginning and then relax the driving in the second half.  Once I hit St. George, Utah I had only 118 miles left to go and 194 rated range listed.  I pretty much followed the speed limit from that point on and had the A/C on also.  The huge drop in elevation between Cedar City and St. George allowed me to drive between those two cities using only 7.6 kWh.

If I were to drive this route again, I would feel quite comfortable increasing the speed in Utah.

Hypermiling Data from Beaver to Las Vegas

Hypermiling Data from Beaver to Las Vegas

Service In Minneapolis

Minneapolis Service Center

Minneapolis Service Center

On the road while entering Minnesota, I decided to try to get my tires rotated in Minneapolis.  I called Tesla and turns out they could accommodate me the next day!  I was quite surprised given the late notice.  And even better yet when I arrived they even had a loaner vehicle!  This kind of easy service does not happen in California.  The Minneapolis service center only supports around 250 vehicles though.

Titanium Shield

I did request that they add the titanium shield.  The shield was added as a tiny additional protection from fire damage after the media over responded to a few fires last year. From the sounds of the name “shield”, I was daydreaming that the shield might keep my battery warmer and improve my mileage.

But it turns out the shield is really just a relatively small piece of metal put on to cover a slight vulnerability in the car in front of the battery.

Titanium Shield For a Small Additional Fire Protection

Titanium Shield For a Small Additional Fire Protection

Tire Rotation

My regular blog readers are familiar with my unfortunate saga with my tires this year.  Since I had put on almost 6,000 miles I knew it was time for my free tire rotation.  I also warned the service advisor about what had occurred and asked for some information about how my tires were wearing.  The new tires (moved from back to front) are at 6/32 inside tread 8/32 center tread and 7/32 out side tread. The now back tires (with 18,000 miles on them) are at 8/32 across the tire foot.

Telsa estimates that the full set should last another 12,000 miles and I will be due for one more rotation in another 6,000 miles.

Tire Pressure Warning System

During this trip I have had a message flash on the screen several times:  “Service Tire Pressure System… Contact Tesla Service.”  I had this problem before in California, so I had not been particularly concerned.  The service department in California also replaced the system previously.

Fortunately, the Minneapolis service department apparently found a stronger fix.  The problem was with my left front tire, which had received probably the majority of the wind gusts on this journey.  The connection between the tire and the antenna, which is located in the left side mirror, was weak.  In the car is a “tube” that goes from front to back where they can add new wiring.  So to solve this issue, they added a new antenna in this area and hopefully permanently fixed my false tire pressure warnings.

Summary

In summary, I would give the Minneapolis service department a great review. They found a clever solution to the Tire Pressure Warning System that has plagued my car, and responded to my request for detailed information about my tire wear.  They accommodated my last minute request and even cleaned the “Utah dust” off my car.

60 Loaner Report

During my cross country road trip, I had a few items worked on my car at the Minneapolis service center.  A subsequent blog post will discuss the items in for service and the service experience. This blog post will discuss my half day driving and review of the Model S with the 60kW battery.

The Model S I am reviewing had the following options different than my own car:

60 Loaner in Minneapolis

60 Loaner in Minneapolis

  • 60kW battery (60)
  • 19” Wheels
  • Parking Sensors
  • Folding Side Mirrors
  • No Panoramic Roof

Acceleration / Range

I was pleasantly surprised by the acceleration of the 60.  The Tesla web page now states that the 60 has a 0-60 acceleration of 5.9 seconds, and the 85 has a 0-60 acceleration of 5.4 seconds.  I would not chose a battery based upon acceleration.  I had written earlier an extensive review of the P85+.  With the high performance drive inverter, the P85+ or P85 can accelerate in 4.2 seconds in 0-60.  I definitely felt a difference with the P inverter, but I did not care for the way the P85+ front lifted off the line.

The primary determining factor between the different batteries is the range of the car.  The 60 has an EPA range of 208 miles, and the 85 has an EPA range of 265 miles.  I constantly get asked how far my car can drive without recharging.  The simple answer is in California probably around 200 miles with mostly freeway driving.  But in near freezing weather with extensive gusts like my recent experience in the Black Hills, that range is closer to 150 miles.

I personally would not want to purchase a 60 for the shorter range.  I have wanderlust and like to travel.  Within the San Francisco Bay Area, I regularly visit friends in other corners of the region.  I also like to take road trips and the 85 makes them much more pleasant.  But the 60 word work very well for someone who routinely travels shorter distances and does not take many road trips.

19” Wheels

The biggest difference between the loaner car and mine was the 19” wheels.  I have been driving Tesla’s for five years now with sticky tires.  I almost immediately missed the 21” wheels even on the Minneapolis freeways.  They simply do not hug the road the same way.  The loaner also had air suspension so it was a true 1:1 test.

Minneapolis in early May 2014 was littered with potholes, so I completely understand the practicality of the 19” wheels in a cold weather climate.  I live in an area with some fun curvy roads and enjoy the 21” wheels, but I do have a neighbor down the street with 19” wheels.

retractedhandlefront

Mirror Retracted

Folding Side Mirrors

I realized the loaner had folding side mirrors when I parked the car and returned to find the mirrors folded in.  There is a configuration setting if you want this to occur automatically or not.

I would only get this feature if I needed to regularly park my car in tight spaces or lived in a very urban setting.

Panoramic Roof

The weather on this journey has been quite difficult.  Lots of cold and windy days.  When the sun popped out for a few minutes, I really wanted to enjoy a few moments of sun and missed the Panoramic Roof.  The car also felt smaller with the standard roof.

Parking Sensor Warning

Parking Sensor Warning

Parking Sensors

I was pleasantly surprised that the loaner also had the parking sensors.  When approaching an object, they indicate in green that you are close.  As you get closer, the color moves to yellow with the distance in inches in the US.

Parking Sensor Worked For Front Curb

Parking Sensor Worked For Front Curb

For parking a car, I found these unnecessary.  With the Model S you have a rear view camera to aid in backing up.  The front distance is easy enough to judge.  I could imagine again if I lived in a very urban area doing a lot of parallel parking this feature could be useful.

I had hoped the parking sensors would help with curb rash.  Even my newly spruced up 21” wheels have small amounts of fresh curb rash.  The parking sensors will unfortunately not help with curb rash as the curbs are too low from the side.  When I pulled back into the Minneapolis service center, I was surprised that the parking sensor did indicate the front curb ahead as shown in the photo on the left.

Summary

In the end, I quickly concluded that my current configuration was the right purchase for me.  Although the 60’s acceleration is still great, the battery range would be a hinderance.  I also really enjoy driving with the 21” wheels despite pangs of guilt using so many tires.  I am also glad I have the panoramic roof on my car.

The parking sensors and folding side mirrors are nice features but I can only really recommend them for people who live in urban situations with challenging parking.