Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Great Tesla Model S article

Tesla owner David Noland wrote an article about his experiences owning a Tesla Model S. The best part was his list of favourite and least favourite things about the car.

5 Fave Things About the Model S

1. The Acceleration
Sure, the zero-to-60-mph number (5.4 seconds) is impressive. But it's the quality  of the acceleration that's so trans-formative: instantaneous, seamless, silent, effortless. It's what separates this car from all others. After a year, I still get giddy every time I stomp on the pedal.

2. The Deceleration
At first I was a skeptic about strong regenerative braking, a feature of electric cars that slows the car by turning the motor into a generator to charge the battery in the process. Now I love the sporty, responsive feel of strong "engine braking" when I back off the accelerator. I virtually never touch the brake pedal any more. Unfortunately, the car's strong regen braking makes my wife carsick. Fortunately, the Model S has two regen settings: the sporty "high" setting that I like, and a "low" setting that simulates the gentle engine braking of a normal car. Ah, marital bliss.

3. The "Fuel Economy"
To get the equivalent of almost 100 mpg while driving a car this big and fast is a surreal, mind-boggling experience. And then to make a 2,500-mile road trip via the Supercharger network at a total fuel cost of $0.00--well, it's so great it feels illegal.

4. The Service Program
Getting my 12-Volt battery replaced was the single most positive automobile-service experience of my life. It started when I got a phone call out of the blue from the White Plains service centre. Carla said they'd just gotten an e-mail from Tesla engineering in California.

It seems I was having problems with my 12-Volt battery. Frankly, I was unaware that I even had  a 12-Volt battery, much less a problem with it. But Tesla's system of remote monitoring had detected a problem with mine. Would I mind if two Tesla Service Rangers came out to my house that morning to replace it?

Three hours after being informed of a problem I didn't even know I had, it was fixed in my driveway, at no cost or inconvenience to me. How can car service possibly be any better than that?

5. The Style
I know it's shallow, but looks are important to me in a car. I'm very unlikely to buy an ugly or even plain-looking automobile, no matter how practical it might be. To my eye, the Model S is gorgeous, in a classic way that won't fade with time. A year later, I still look back at it every time I walk away from it in a parking lot.

5 Least Fave Things About the Model S

1. The Limitations on Long Trips
This is more a criticism of Tesla's limited Supercharger network in the Northeast than of the car itself. But the fact is, after a year of ownership, I still can't reasonably drive the Model S to visit friends in Maine, Vermont, and upstate New York, nor to three of the colleges my daughter has applied to for next year. My fingers are crossed that this problem will go away one of these days. Or years.

2. The Vampire
It's not the money spent on wasted electricity over the year--maybe $200--that bothers me so much. It's the idea that the supposed best car in the world has a basic flaw that hasn't been totally fixed in far more than a year.

While a recent software update reduced the vampire draw substantially, I still lose anywhere from 3 to 10 miles of range every single day. My Volt has no vampire losses whatsoever. In fact, no other electric car has vampire losses, as far as I know. Why can't Tesla fix this? Again, fingers crossed.

3. Getting In and Out
This one's not going to get fixed. The inevitable price of swoopy good looks and sleek aerodynamics is a low-slung driver's door.  For a tall (6-foot-2), creaky guy like me, it requires some serious contortions and, depending on the state of my lower back, occasional pain. Maybe I'll try a test drive of a Model X when it arrives.

4. Winter
Like all electric cars, the Model S suffers a significant loss of efficiency in the winter. But in the name of battery longevity, when the temperature drops, the Model S also undergoes a personality change that emasculates the No. 1 and No. 2 items on my list of favourite things about the car.

For the first 10 to 20 miles of driving on a cold day, the Model S limits its power delivery--and completely disables the regenerative braking. Power and regen gradually return as the battery warms up, but on many of my local trips in winter, I never have both full power and full regen.

To make the winter woes worse, I've found that the traction in snow and ice is mediocre--at least with my halfway-worn all-season tires. I'm sure winter tires would would improve traction considerably, but at $4,000 per set, I've decided to live without Tesla's winter tire/wheel package. When I inquired last fall, it was back-ordered anyhow.

5. The Ergonomics of the Touch Screen
Yes, it's beautiful and mesmerizing. But  with no physical buttons, the driver's eye must guide the hand all the way to the precise spot on the screen to adjust the climate control or audio system. It's both a visual and cognitive distraction.

That means the driver's eyes are off the road for a bit longer than usual. On a couple of occasions during the past year,  that extra half-second  has triggered some situations that were, if not dangerous, at least attention-getting for me. Worse, my occasionally numb screen sometimes requires multiple stabs of the finger, which multiplies the distraction.

Still the one

Complaints aside, after a year of living with the Tesla Model S in all sorts of conditions, I can report that not once have I ever looked out the windshield and said to myself, "Gee, I wish I were driving that car instead of this one." Not once.


Retro Blog said...

He didn't mention costs and I would REALLY love to see a test drive write up from Tesla Company OWNER. Yeah...

Karl Plesz said...

The costs are different depending on where you live because of the various incentives (or lack of them) when buying a zero-emissions vehicle. In Canada, a fully maxed out model with every option and accessory you could imagine is worth $142,920 (minus $8000+ if you live in Ontario or Quebec). The bare bones model will set you back $106,020 which includes $17,750 in (I would say must-have) options.

Retro Blog said...

A hundred thousand dollar car is so far out of my life that is not even on the horizon. Wonder what the used models will go for? THanks.

Karl Plesz said...

Admittedly, it is a toy for the rich right now. Tesla has always said that the first few models would be pricey due to this being a whole new way to build and sell cars using a new technology and added to the fact that these cars are not as mass-produced as a GM or Toyota for example.

But Tesla has said that each new model would take the lessons learned and apply them to the next model in a way that would make the car cheaper than the last model. Their goal is to eventually build a car that everyone could afford.

I don't know what the used market is for Tesla cars, but based on the comments I'm reading from owners, nobody is in a rush to get rid of them.