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Archive for October, 2013

Goodbye Porsche, Hello Tesla

I have had the new Tesla Model S exactly two months now.  I wanted to write a review on my experiences as a daily driver.  First off, I’ve put about 5,000 miles on the car. The majority has been a 90 mile daily roundtrip commute.  The remainder has been shorter around town trips.  This car replaces a Porsche 911 (sold it) and a BMW 3 series (my boys got it).  I got the upgraded P85 (performance) model with the moonroof, leather seats, tech package and a few other goodies.  Pretty pricey, even with the government rebates (which I haven’t gotten yet) but as my kids say YOLO (you only live once)!

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The Myths

Range is about 200 with my kind of driving not 250 or 300 as some will say.  Tesla suggests a regular 90% charge which gives it a “rated” range of 231 miles (for me).  I get about 95% of the rated range during my regular commute.  Somewhat less during “spirited” driving.   Allowing for a small safety cushion, 200 is the max – period.   With my daily commute and ability to charge nightly, range anxiety is all but non-existent!

Awesome

The Supercharger rocks – I can get a 200 mile fill (charge) in about an hour (from 30 to 230).  I have a Supercharger about 4 miles from my office, so about once a week I make it a point to get a free fill up and time my commute to take maximum advantage.  This is going to be a huge competitive advantage for Tesla and a barrier to entry for other manufacturers.

I installed a 240V 50A circuit in my garage (cost about $400) and can plug the car in at night when I get home.  I get about 29 miles per hour of charging at my house (at 240V/40A continuous).  This allows me to have the charger start automatically at midnight and complete before I leave for work.  The Auto Start is a very nice programming feature and easy to use.  I switched to the So Cal Edison EV+Home plan that provides lower rates from midnight to 6AM.  Our electricity bill is up about $75/mo and I’m saving about $300+ in gas per month.

I’ve also been able to take advantage of some “free” chargers at my gym, the beach and a couple of other locations.  The upside is they are free, the downside is the charigng is so slow, it’s often not worth the time or effort.  Most locations (Chargepoint and others) are 200V at 30A.  This gives about 16 miles/hour of charge.  Pretty weak but good if you are in a bind.

Carpool sticker – In California, I’m able to drive in the carpool lanes.  This saves me about 20 minutes each way to and from work.  I also feel I’m driving much safer because I’m not changing lanes too often and am not stuck in stop and go traffic.

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It goes without saying that the acceleration (and braking) is awesome.  I got the P85 and it certainly has more power than the Porsche 911 and much better straight line acceleration.  Granted the cornering and handling is not really comparable, but this has been a good tradeoff for me.

The buttons and switch indicators feel very nice.  I noticed during the test drive that they felt just like our Mercedes.  It turns out that Tesla sources these from Mercedes.

The Bluetooth for our iPhones and Homelink for the garage door are very easy to setup and work flawlessly.

Odd features

The speed in reverse is electronically limited to 15 miles an hour.  Yeah, I was trying to see how fast it would go in reverse!  Also, above 100 mph, the power consumption meter starts to flicker.

There is no center console storage and no compartments in the back seats.  The glove box (as small as it is doesn’t lock).  Its all very minimalist.

The key fob looks cool but I’d prefer a more traditional push button on the key.  I tried the auto lock feature, but found that every time I walk by the car in the garage, it would lock and unlock.  I’ve disabled that feature thru their setup and now I push the “roof” on the key.  Problem is, it require quite a push to activate the lock.

The Tesla software puts a charger location on the Google Maps application for every charger used.  The location for my house has the wrong address (the number doesn’t even exist).  I had called their help desk and was told it was a Google Maps issue.  I don’t buy that answer…Google maps has the the correct address for my house (both on my iPhone and on the web).

Tesla added a “creep” feature to mimic what other gas powered cars do.  I prefer the “no creep” option because in traffic, it is nice not to have to step on the brake pedal.  The regen mode provide most of the braking but takes a while to get used to.

Needs Improvement

The iPhone app is not consistently reliable – there have been a number of times I have tried to use it and it has not worked.

The sun visors are not very useful.  I suspect that the rake of the windshield prevented them from  making them any bigger, but they just aren’t all that useful as is.

The seats are comfortable though minimal and not very plush.

There are no coat hooks above the back seat – minor annoyance and a simple fix.

Opening the sunroof requires multiple clicks in the center console.  This compared to a single pushbutton on most cars.

The door gaps are not as perfectly aligned as on my Porsche or Mercedes.  The rear door gap on the left is much bigger than the front doors or even the rear door on the right.

The radio quality sucks.  For a car this expensive, the radio sounds very one dimensional and underpowered.  The Internet radio song titles often don’t match  what is actually playing.  The FM radio also only has 6 presets and the reception is often not very good.  This is my biggest issue with the car.

The web application has location services disabled.  This means I can’t use Waze or other mapping based applications.    I also can’t watch Netflix.  I can see why they disabled the Flash (so one can’t watch video while driving) but no reason for location services.  They should consider enabling Flash when parked.

There is a rattle from somewhere in the back that is annoying at low speeds

The weather striping on the sunroof has come loose

There is a small but noticeable bulge in the front hood near the latch of the “frunk” – I suspect it is a manufacturing defect

I have reported the last three defects and have a scheduled service appointment next month.   Will update you then.

Watchout

The 90% fill has gone from a range of 234 miles brand new to 231 miles.  Not sure if this is battery degradation (as I’ve read about), or just an anomaly.  I’ll let you know in about 50K miles.

The car required a “reboot” at the three week mark.  It was beeping the seat belt indicator and would not stop.  I called the Tesla hotline and the answer was to reboot the system by simultaneously holding down the two thumbwheels.  This solved the problem and it hasn’t occurred since.

The Verdict

This car is a game changer.  Despite some of the issues I’ve noted above, this car is awesome.

We will be going on a road trip next month.  It will be fun to see how the car handles a family of 5 and a dog over a 1,200 mile road trip.  More to come.

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This was a very busy weekend.  Annika had a Bat Mitzvah for one of her childhood friends – Samantha.

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Here are Annika and Lizzy before the ceremony.

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Later in the evening, Nikhil had a Homecoming formal dance.  Here is Nikhil with Emily.

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Here is a picture with his friends.

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After Bordeaux, we  drove a few more hours thru the South of France to a town called Toulouse.  My room mate from Harvey Mudd College lives there now with his wife and three kids.

The kids made some new friends and we had a great time.

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Here are me and Laurent – visiting for the first time in 15 years!

 

khare-blog-0018Laurent has been busy for the last few years, building his own house from the ground up.

Here is a picture of the outside.  It is completely off the grid.. all solar powered and assembled from 40 foot shipping containers that he welded together.  Pretty amazing!

 

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From Bilbao, we drove a few hours to Bordeaux.  Along the way, we stopped for lunch at one of the beach towns in the northern part of Spain.

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Bordeaux is the quintessential French town in the south of France.  This is the view from our hotel room.

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We went at the perfect time of the year.  The grapes were abundant and the weather cool.

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We went for a couple of wine tastings, the most memorable was in the Grand Cru area of St. Emilion.

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The winery was Le Chatelet.  The owner was very hospitable and shared a number of fantastic wines.  We ended up buying a magnum of Chateau Le Chatelet vintage 2009 and will save it for a very special occasion!

Their wines are aged in an oak cask and then stored in an underground cave until ready to be sold.

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Here is a parting shot of picturesque St. Emilion.khare-blog-0015

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After a few days in Barcelona, we rented a car and drove about 6 hours  to the northern part of Spain to Bilbao.  Bilbao is famous for the Guggenheim Museum. Here is the entrance to the museum.  Right away, you can tell it is going to be a very different experience.

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Here are the boys on the bridge to the museum.

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Here is the outside of the museum… couldn’t really take pictures inside as they were prohibited.


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This is the giant spider protecting the museum!

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During the week we went, there was a festival in Bilbao.  There was quite the part atmosphere every night.

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Here is Annika enjoying one of the funky stores!

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