Category Archives: EV’s

On the Tesla Model 3, the first mass market EV

This week Tesla announced the Model 3, it’s affordable electric car. I’d like to share my thoughts as an EV owner.

Karen and I have owned a Chevy Volt for four years and a Tesla Model S for two and a half. Between the two we’ve driven over 60,000 electric miles. We’re still as enthusiastic as ever and will never buy another internal combustion automobile, we’re done with oil. In fact, we have an order placed for the Model 3.

At the time of writing, Tesla has over 276,000 deposits for the Model 3. This is more than twice what anyone expected. 115,000 of those orders were placed sight unseen before the car was revealed. Even though 276,000 is a fraction of a percent of all cars sold globally, this is encouraging. Consider that Tesla doesn’t advertise. They get all the word of mouth they need and they get free media attention. They’re newsworthy, controversial, and they’re disruptive.

How is Tesla disruptive? Name another car which gets better with age. Tesla has provided us about a dozen software updates which have added new features to the car. There is no need to go to the dealer for an update. Like an iPhone, the car updates itself over the air through its cellular data connection. These updates are free. Unlike other auto manufacturers Tesla doesn’t look at service as a source of revenue.

It’s not just about the car. Tesla understands the need for a rapid charging infrastructure. They’ve built out their SuperCharger network to cover 90% of the US. They have plans to double the number of SuperChargers by the time the Model 3 rolls out. Superchargers work, we’ve used them. They provide trouble free long distance travel.

The CEO of GM, Mary Barra, when asked if they had plans for a rapid charging network, replied, “We are not actively working on providing infrastructure.” As good as the Bolt and Volt are, GM just doesn’t get it, nor does any other legacy car manufacturer. They’re essentially building compliance cars and hedging their bets in case this electric car thing ever takes off.

Aside from Tesla and Chevy Bolt, all the other EV’s have around 100 miles range at best. They’re going to have to up their range to stay competitive. In a very real way Tesla is driving the industry forward. One of Elon Musk’s stated goals for Tesla is to force the rest of the industry into making EV’s. And that’s happening, albeit slower than some of us would like.

We’re all familiar with the negative effects of burning fossil fuels. Beyond the environmental damage and climate change there are the geopolitical costs of securing our supply of oil, the thousands of lives lost due to the unhealthy effects of air pollution, and the economic chaos tied to the price of oil.

The gravest threat our civilization will face is climate change. It’s already here and there will have to be immediate drastic changes to mitigate the worst effects. Scientists tell us we need to leave about 3/4 of known oil reserves in the ground. Electric cars powered by sustainable energy are one big way to help. The greening of the grid is happening now with solar, wind, and battery storage systems. We can get off oil if we want to, and you can help speed up the process.

Numerous political groups are lobbying the government at all levels to encourage green transportation and sustainable energy generation. Unfortunately, there are even more well funded organizations dedicated to the continued consumption of fossil fuels. Given the makeup of congress and many state legislatures, our side is not winning this battle any time soon.

As important as it is to keep up the political fight, time is of the essence. It’s time to put up or shut up. If you claim to be green, you’re running out of excuses. Now is the time to buy an Electric Vehicle and lead by example.

Order right away if you don’t want to wait three years or more for your Model 3. If you can’t wait, there are other choices. By the end of the year Chevy is coming out with the Bolt, a pure EV with a 200 mile range. The 2016 Chevy Volt has a 50 mile electric range before switching to gas. The Nissan Leaf recently upgraded it’s battery and has more range. There are EV’s from BMW and Mercedes now, and there’s a new Plug in Prius with a whopping 20 miles of electric range. Used Volts and Leafs are reliable and can be had for good prices. In some cases the payments may be less than you’re paying for gas right now. It’s like getting a car for free!

The huge number of orders for the Model 3 are evidence that there is growing interest in EV’s. I can see 500,000 orders before long. The Tesla Model 3 looks poised to become the first truly mass market EV.

Here’s to the new age of sustainable electric transportation!

There is Life at 120 Volts

We’ve been in a rental for five months now while our new home is being remodeled. During that time both our Tesla Model S and Volt have been sharing a single 120 volt 15 amp circuit. We knew going in that it would be a challenge. But we’ve made it work and it has not been as much trouble as we anticipated.

Our two EV's sharing a single 120v circuit.

Our two EV’s sharing a single 120v circuit.

Our rental house has several 120 volt outlets on the outside. However, they’re all on a single circuit. We found out that we can’t charge both cars at the same time, the breaker trips. We have to charge one car at a time.

At 120 volts the Model S charges at a slow rate of 3 to 4 miles per hour, the Volt charges at about 5. That may seem glacial, but in 24 hours that’s over 80 miles of potential range. Our combined daily driving averages less than half of this. We usually have one car on the plug while we’re driving the other. Overnight we top up the car we’ve been driving that day. By morning both cars are usually fully charged.

Charging at the Science Center

Charging at the Science Center

We also take advantage of opportunity charging whenever possible. The Science Center of Pinellas County is about a half mile away and has a free level 2 charger. We use it about once a week to top up after a longer trip. It’s close enough that I can drop the car off and walk back to the rental. The nearby Publix and Applebee’s also have free level 2 chargers.

More of a concern to me is the fact that the rental does not have an enclosed garage. Both cars sit outside exposed to the elements. As a result we’ve got a nice collection of pine sap droppings on both cars. I probably have one of the dirtiest Tesla’s in existence. A visit to Pete in Sarasota will be in order after we move in!

The takeaway from this is that you really don’t need a level two charger at home. It’s great to have, but it’s not absolutely essential. Even with two EV’s we are getting along fine with a single 120 volt 15 amp circuit.

Tallahassee and back in the Model S

Tesla at McClay Gardens Tallahassee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen and I have just returned from our first long road trip in the Model S. It was a five day trip to Tallahassee, FL to visit our son, Robert. We drove a total of 812 miles in the Model S with no range anxiety.

Our Route Through Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did make a few accommodations to the nature of the Model S. In a previous blog post I pointed out that, like aircraft, EV’s require some planning to go cross country. Charging stations are not yet as numerous as gas stations. So EV owners need to have a plan and keep a healthy reserve.

 

We left Gulfport Thursday and deviated from the direct route to Tallahassee. We planned a stop at theTesla Supercharger in St Augustine. The distance to St Augustine is a bit less than the direct distance to Tallahassee and the second leg to Tallahassee is even shorter. This gave Karen a chance to experience a Supercharger for the first time.

 

We took the I4 to I95 and cruised at a steady 65 mph. Keeping an eye on the distance remaining on the Nav and the range display gave me an instant status of how much of a reserve I had at any given time. It originally looked like we’d arrive with about 40 miles of range left. However, we got there with18 miles left. Most of the loss was from highway speeds and a stiff headwind when we turned north on I95.

At the St Augustine Supercharger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Plugs In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were the only Tesla at the St Augustine Supercharger. We plugged in and the range started climbing rapidly. At one point the Supercharger was charging at a rate of 387 mph! We went to lunch at Sonny’s BBQ and in an hour and fifteen minutes we were back up to 260 miles of range.

 

Charging at 387mph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the back roads to Tallahassee through Green Cove Springs, Starke, Lake City, and Live Oak. It was a relaxing scenic drive and included some beautiful canopy roads with overhanging oak trees.

 

On Country Roads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling at a slower pace improved our range and we arrived in Tallahassee with 53 miles remaining.

 

Our hotel was able to provide us the use of a 120 volt outlet and we kept the car plugged in while there. We were only adding 3 or 4 miles of range an hour at the hotel. Not the fastest, but it did add up to 30 miles overnight.

 

Before we left, I bought a super heavy duty 10 gage 120 volt extension cord. I’m glad I brought it as we used it at the hotel. I’m not sure that they would have had a proper extension cord available for our use. It was raining Sunday night and it was nice to have a proper grounded extension cord.

 

In Tallahassee we also used J-1772 chargers at the Whole Foods and an FSU parking garage. Both are listed on PlugShare and charged at about 20 mph.

Charging at FSU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being chauffeured to lunch and dinner by our son while the car charged was a great help.

 

These chargers gave us enough range to use the Model S to take side trips to Wakulla Springs State Park on Friday and Thomasville GA on Saturday.

On the Boat at Wakulla Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Alligator at Wakulla Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Manatee in Wakulla Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shortest distance to our home from Tallahassee is roughly 260 miles following US 19. This is too close to the Model S’s maximum range for comfort. We have previously used a level 2 charger in Palm Harbor at the AAA. That charger is only 230 miles from Tallahassee. The charger is also listed on PlugShare.

 

Our plan was to drive direct to the charger at AAA in Palm Harbor and charge there while having lunch at the nearby Outback Steakhouse. This would give us enough of a reserve to feel comfortable.

 

We left at 7 am Monday and to maximize range set the cruise control at 50 mph. Traffic was light. It was raining when we left and the rain continued all the way home. Subjectively, the trip didn’t seem much longer than past trips at higher speeds. We made it to AAA with 31 miles remaining.

 

During lunch the car charged up to 50 miles. We arrived home with 21 miles range remaining. A comfortable reserve given the distance from Palm Harbor.

 

At no point during the trip were we anxious about our range. By now we have over 7000 miles on the car and are very comfortable with it. I’ve become familiar with it’s navigation and range displays. I’ve learned how to drive to maximize range. Being a pilot, preflight planning is natural and it’s easy to apply that thinking to EV road trips.

 

Trip Data Display

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tesla is planning on opening a Supercharger in Gainesville soon. That will make the trip easy with two 150 mile legs on the highway. Tesla is opening up several Superchargers a week in the US. It’s already possible to travel up both coasts and from New York to Los Angeles using Superchargers. Before long it will be possible to go anywhere in the country via Supercharger.

 

Our Model S continues to run without problems or issues. It’s an amazing vehicle and we feel privileged to be able to drive it. It points the way to a possible future. A future where technology works in harmony with the needs of the planet, a sustainable future, and a future without oil.

 

Karen and I are thinking about a more ambitious road trip this summer.

 

 

 

Model S Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog. I’m overdue for an update. It’s just been too much fun driving the Model S.

We just passed 5000 miles on the odometer, and the Model S continues to run like a top. There have been no issues, problems or glitches. The car continues to impress us as when it was new.

We’ve attended a few events including Plug-in Day in Tampa, Sarasota, and Cars and Coffee in Clearwater. The Tesla owners we’ve met are a sociable and friendly bunch. Most of them seem to be tech savvy early adopters who bought their car for the same reasons we did.

In Sarasota, FL on Plug in Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There have been three over the air software updates to the car so far. Like an iPhone, the Model S updates it’s software over the built in 3G connection or wifi. Sure beats taking the car to the dealer for a software update. The most recent update lowers the car’s rate of charge if it detects a drop in voltage. This could signify an electrical fault or short in your garage’s wiring.

Update Details

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing Efficiency

I’m really amazed at the efficiency of our Tesla. Our Model S has averaged 301 watt hours per mile over 5000 miles. In other words, we go a little over 3 miles per kilowatt hour.  The energy in a gallon of gas is equivalent to 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity, so our Model S gets the equivalent of 112 miles to the gallon! The EPA rates the Model S at 89 combined mpg.

Why are EV’s so efficient given that they have to drag around heavy batteries? Isn’t gasoline more energy dense?

An EV is over 80% efficient in converting the energy in it’s battery into forward movement. Most of the energy in the battery moves you down the road. An Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle is only about 20% efficient in converting the energy in it’s fuel into forward movement. Most of the energy in a gallon of gas is wasted as heat or through friction.

An EV also has the advantage of regenerative braking which turns the motor into a generator putting energy back into the battery when slowing down. This increases efficiency in stop and go traffic and saves wear on brake pads/rotors.

 

The Future

In an earlier blog post I said that driving our Volt felt like the future.  That sense is even more powerful in the Model S.

When I was a kid we were promised a future with flying cars and jet packs. Sadly, that hasn’t come to pass. It’s striking how far the automobile hasn’t progressed. You’d think that after over 100 years of development the automobile would be a lot farther evolved.

I’m excited that we seem to be entering an era of rapid automotive evolution. It’s critical to our economy and the environment that we make the automobile more efficient.

 

 

 

Road Trip to Bok Tower in the Model S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip

Wednesday, we took the Model S on a round trip to Lake Wales to visit Bok Tower Gardens. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Pete and Shorty’s on Gulf to Bay in Clearwater. On the way back, we had dinner in Winter Haven. It was a beautiful day and Karen and I enjoyed walking through the gardens and taking pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driving

The round trip distance was 198 miles. We didn’t charge at any of our stops and we made it home with a comfortable 66 miles of Rated Range remaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To maximize range we took the most direct route, Highway 60, and never exceeded 60 mph. As a backup, we used Plug Share to locate some charging spots near our route. As we had plenty of range before heading back, we didn’t need to charge up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planning a trip in an EV is like flying a plane.

Pilots are always aware of their fuel status and are required to plan to land with a minimum amount of fuel on board. Certain routes and weather conditions require one or more “alternate” airports if unable to land at the destination. The goal is not to run out of fuel in flight. Thinking like a pilot when planning a long trip in an EV is a great way to overcome “Range Anxiety.”

  • Before departing on a long trip, you need an alternate, or “plan B. ” Know where you can charge up in a pinch before you leave.
  • Charge up fully just before departing.
  • Bring your charge cord and bag of adapters on long trips. Never-ever leave home without your J1772 adapter.
  • Public charging stations can be “charge blocked” or occupied when you get there. Sometimes they’re broken or offline. Have a second or third option in mind.
  • Campgrounds have “50 Amp” plugs for RVs which fit your 14-50 adapter. Many campgrounds allow EVs to charge, but call first as some do not.
  • Always hold a reserve, don’t plan on using all of your range. Fifteen percent of rated range is the minimum, twenty percent is better.
  • Monitor your energy usage en route. Know when you’re getting behind and do something about it while you still have options.
  • Don’t accelerate quickly and use regen instead of the brakes when possible.
  • Limit your maximum speed. An increase of 10 mph reduces range by about 15% at highway speeds. Don’t go so slow that you create a hazard to others and stay in the right lane.
  • 60 mph on a country road is better than 60 mph on the Interstate when everyone else is doing 80 mph.
  • Start off slow to maximize range. If you beat expectations, you can speed up at the end.
  • Use the cruise control to hold a steady speed in level terrain.
  • Plan the most direct route, every extra mile counts against you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving home, it took roughly 6 hours to recharge using our 240 volt outlet.

 

Driving The Future

The Tesla drives like a dream, it’s quiet, powerful, and looks like a supermodel.  At two months we’re still in love with our amazing car. We really are driving the future.

Photos of our Brown Model S

 

We had our Model S detailed and a protective coating applied by Pete at First Impression in Sarasota. We’re very pleased with the way the car turned out.

I’m permanently spoiled, can’t see driving anything else.

Model S First Impressions

On the way home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Here

August 20th finally arrived. After a few weeks of anxious waiting. We Picked up the car at the Tampa Tesla Service Center.

Everyone at the Tampa Service Center was wonderful. We found it interesting that three of the people who work at the Service Center had Volts! One of them unplugged his Volt and plugged ours in to charge while we were there!

Our delivery specialist, Ben, walked us through our car with a patient thoroughness. He took Karen on a short drive to familiarize her with the car’s operation. Together we went over every feature. We never had a sense of being rushed out the door, it was a really pleasant experience. Unlike most car dealers, everyone there was professional and knowledgable. I had the sense that they were all excited to be working for Tesla and believers in not just Tesla, but the wider adoption of the Electric Car.

The car was clean and had been charged to the standard 90% level.

The Car

First impression, Holy smokes, it’s Beautiful! So glad we went with the brown. Just the right balance of contrast between the body and chrome and nose cone. The brown color has a different personality depending on the light. In sunlight you see gold tinted highlights and in the shade the car looks almost black. Calling it “Brown” does the color a disservice, marketing wise. It should be called “Coffee” or “Mocha.”

The interior is spacious and comfortable made of premium materials. It has a minimalist design with very few buttons or controls. Almost everything is controlled with the massive 17 inch touchscreen display mounted in the center of the dash. The display looks and acts like a giant iPad. The user interface is elegant and responsive, obviously a lot of thought went into it’s design. Underway, almost all functions can be controlled by buttons and scroll wheels on the steering wheel. These interface with the forward display in areas to either side of the speedometer. This minimizes the need to look at the center mounted 17 inch display while driving.

There are only two buttons on the dash, the emergency flashers and a button to open the glovebox. Compared to our Volt who’s center console is festooned with touch sensitive buttons, the Tesla’s dash is clean and uncluttered. It’s like the iPhone compared to an old Treo or Blackberry with chicklet keyboards. This is clearly the future of  the automobile user interface.

Driving

The first thing you notice underway is how quiet the Model S is. This car is silent–we’re used to the Volt, which is quiet, but the Model S is much more so. Perhaps having the battery under the floor insulates you from a lot of tire noise. It’s easy to exceed the speed limit because the sound cues in other cars just aren’t there.

Wow, this thing is seriously quick! Instant torque when you put your right foot down. All the more impressive given the Model S’ 4,700 pound weight. There’s no noise or drama under acceleration. No sense of the car spooling up or downshifting, you get pushed back in the seat the instant you push the accelerator. This is addicting.

The Model S rides and handles very well. The combination of an adjustable air suspension and a long wheelbase give it a supple yet controlled ride. Rebound is well damped so there’s no sense of floating or being too soft. My car has the 19 inch all season tires and under aggressive cornering the tires are clearly the limiting factor. The car feels neutral near the limit without excessive understeer. Turn in feels quick and the steering weight is adjustable between comfort, standard, and sport. Stability control is always on while traction control can be turned off if you’d like to shred your rear tires in no time at all.

Road Trip

Saturday, Robert and I took the Model S down to Ft. Myers. It gave us a chance to test the range at highway speeds and check out the new Supercharger there. The longer drive gave us a chance to really explore the navigation, trip, and audio features of the car.

Before leaving, we gave the Model S a full charge. That gave us a rated range of 270 miles.
Interestingly, with a full charge a yellow band shows up on the right side of the speedometer. This limits Regen to prevent overcharging a full battery. After a few miles this bar disappeared.

Limited Regen with a full charge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way down we stopped in Sarasota to meet some other Model S owners and visit First Impression Premier Auto Detail. Pete, at First Impression gave us lots of tips on how to clean and maintain our car’s finish. We had lunch at Mad Fish Grill before leaving for Ft. Myers.

Three Model S at Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Supercharger locations are built into the Navigation Database. The Ft. Myers Supercharger is located in a shopping center just off of I 75. The Model S Nav’s Turn by Turn took us right to the exact spot within the large parking lot.

We drove conservatively and followed the posted speed limits on the way down to maximize range. On arrival we had 120 miles range remaining!

There were 8 parking spots at the Ft. Myers Supercharger. They’re located far enough from the stores that they’re unlikely to be “ICE’d.” The Supercharger charge cable is about as thick as the hose on a gas pump and very short. We had to back right up to the bump stop for the cable to reach our charge port.

Sharing the Ft Myers Supercharger with a black Model S

After plugging in we checked the charging display and saw that we were charging at 271 miles per hour! The Supercharger fed us 232 amps at 372 volts. I can see why the cable is so thick!

Fast Charging

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked to Dick’s Sporting Goods and then had a glass of iced tea next door at Aurelio’s Pizza. The manager at Aurelio’s was very nice and absolutely refused to charge us for the tea or accept a tip. We can’t wait to try their Pizza next time.

Speaking of free, Tesla does not charge for the use of their Superchargers. They will always be free to owners of the Model S.

After 25 minutes we had added 100 miles of range to the Model S! With 220 miles of range showing, we decided to drive a bit faster on the way home. This would allow us to compare range against the relatively slow trip down. We drove past our exit to have dinner with Karen at Carrabbas, this added about 15 extra miles. On arrival home we had 65 miles remaining.

Range on Arrival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking out the extra miles, we lost roughly 40 miles of range by driving 10 mph faster on the way home. The moral of the story is, if you need to maximize range–slow down!

Either way, we had plenty of reserve and we never suffered from “range anxiety.” When you buy a Tesla you don’t just get a damn fine car, you get the Supercharger Network. And, when Tesla builds out it’s Supercharger Network, long distance travel in an Electric Vehicle will be a reality.

Disruptive

Every now and then a disruptive technology comes along which completely changes the landscape. Before the iPhone, so called “Smart Phones” had tiny screens, used a stylus, and had tiny tiny keyboards. Overnight those phones were rendered obsolete by the new iPhone. The Tesla Model S is also disruptive. Most auto manufacturers don’t yet realize it, but their product is already obsolete.