Tesla

Tesla Model 3 20,000 Mile Review

I drove a 2018 Tesla Model 3 RWD long range through 31 US states from Aug 2018-Sept 2019. The Model 3 is the best car I could ever imagine since it is fast, quiet, economical, green, fun to drive, has regenerative braking, lots of rear trunk space, a front trunk, a giant screen for navigation and back up camera, free streaming music and news, handles amazingly, and performs in -10F to 110F with no problems. I recommend this car without reservation.

rainbowTesla
Yellowstone – September 2018

I drove 20,000 miles/32,000 km and spent $500 USD on supercharging.

IMG_2785.JPG

I usually charged for free at my hotel, Airbnb, or at ChargePoint charging stations. I used Superchargers when I was traveling over 100 miles on a particular leg of the trip to get from one destination to another. Once in town for a few days, I would find a local charger or charge wherever I was staying. One of the reasons I took this trip was proof of concept. I wanted to see if I could drive anywhere I wanted in this country in the same way as a gasoline powered car. One of the biggest impediments to electric vehicle (EV) adoption is charging and range anxiety, so I wanted to experience and resolve it for myself.

IMG_2328.JPG
Grand Tetons, November 2018 – Below 0°F temps are no problem for the 3

Why buy an EV?

  1. It’s much less expensive to maintain compared to a gasoline powered car. $50 for 20,000 miles
  2. It’s half the cost or less per mile for electricity compared to gasoline.
  3. Recharging at home! Super convenient at 15 mph of range with a 240v 30amp charger.
  4. No air pollution
  5. No noise pollution
  6. No worries about card skimmers at the gas pump
  7. No more waiting in line at Costco to fill up just to save 10 cents a gallon.

Why buy a Tesla?

  1. The supercharger network is the key differentiator for Tesla and all other EVs. This cross country trip was a proof of concept, that I could drive a Tesla anywhere I wanted to in the US and not worry about running out of electricity. I proved this to myself with some exceptions. I saw only 5 fast chargers that support CHAdeMO and the combo charger. Usually in a Walmart parking lot. When I went online I found a different story though. See the CHAdeMO map. Note the wrench symbol means it is a planned station and not yet operational. I’m not sure how my experience of seeing 5 of these chargers in 20,000 miles and one year of traveling isn’t consistent with this map. I went to Walmart in every town I was in for more than a few days so need to research this.
  2. Non Tesla EVs cannot use a Tesla supercharger so they are at a massive disadvantage. Honestly, the vast supercharger network alone would make me choose Tesla over ANY other brand EV. I expect the non Tesla charging infrastructure to catch up in 3-5 years, but Tesla will continue to build out their Supercharger network.
  3. Superchargers don’t have wait times. Of course I can’t promise you’ll never wait to charge, but I only saw one time when there was a wait. All other times the superchargers were 10-75% full.  The vast majority were less than 50% capacity when I pulled up to charge. This will most likely change as more Teslas are sold but in 2018-2019 I didn’t have to wait one time to charge! That’s pretty amazing.
  4. Tesla Killers aren’t going to kill anything. I doubt they will take any significant number of sales away from Tesla. Notice how the media called the $150,900-$185,000 Porsche Taycan a “Tesla Killer” but in Sept 2019 as the car is closer to shipping and media members have actually driven one and realize it’s slower, has less range, and is $80,000 more expensive, lacks self driving technology, the media now refers to the Taycan as a “competitor” or “targeting a different market”?
    Tesla Model S Perf  Porsche Taycan Turbo S
    $105,990  $185,000
    345 mile range  280 mile range
    0-60 in 2.4s  0-60 in 2.6s
    Top speed 163 mph  Top speed 161mph
    Cargo 30’ Cargo 15.8’
    Autopilot NO AUTOPILOT

    The reality is it’s a vastly different market where the car costs $80,000 more and doesn’t have self driving technology. If you want to drive a Taycan long distances where you would need to charge 1-3 times in a single trip it will be difficult and will require planning ahead of time.
    I’m glad that Tesla has competition though since that will push Tesla to innovate and create even more EVs. Moreover, with competition the price will come down and adoption will go up along with the installation of more chargers around the country.

  5. Fast charger locations are often at Walmart. Yes, there is plenty of parking, bathrooms, shopping, and food available, but Superchargers tend to be at more upscale areas, outlet malls, shopping malls, restaurants. If you drive a $150k Porsche Taycan, would you rather hang out at Walmart or an upscale outlet mall?
  6. Fast chargers are expensive. Example: EVgo is $18/hour
  7. Fast chargers often have only 2-4 stalls! This means waiting in line. Superchargers have 8-40 stalls by comparison.
  8. Fast chargers are not uniform. They are from different companies, have different memberships, different apps, different cards to carry, different pricing. Some use a combination of CCS, CHAdeMO, or Jplug.
  9. Tesla can use CHAdeMO and Jplug chargers with an adaptor, the Jplug would be the most common and the adaptor is included. CHAdeMO has an adaptor, but is not worth the $450 since there will be a supercharger nearby unless you have an extreme fringe case. I expect that case to be temporary too. There is no CCS adaptor that I know of. Email Tesla if you want a supercharger in a particular location and push on local businesses to install Tesla destination chargers at 40-50 amps.
  10. It’s less expensive than it appears. I paid $56,500 out the door but got $7500 fed tax credit, $500 from my utility company, and $2000 from the state of California, so $10,000 in total reducing the cost to $46,500.
  11. It’s inexpensive to operate. I spent only $500 to go 20,000 miles. This would cost $1000-$4000 for a gasoline car. Figure charging would cost $2500 or less for 100,000 miles since I was on the road I had to supercharge, but if at home or one place for a long time free chargers are not difficult to find. To drive 100,000 miles, gas would be $5000-$12,500. That’s a $2500-$10,000 savings every 100,000 miles if you drive a Tesla.
    How much would gas cost to drive 20,000 miles?

    mpg gallons $2.00 gal $3.00 gal $4.00 gal
    20 1000 $2000 $3000 $4000
    30 667 $1333 $2000 $2666
    40 500 $1000 $1500 $2000
    50 400 $800 $1200 $1600

    Gas ranged in price from $2.00-$3.00 a gallon outside of California.

    GasPrice10.5.19
    Gas prices in the SF Bay Area on 10.5.19

    In California gas is $3.00-$5.00 a gallon. To go 20,000 miles, a person would need 400-1000 gallons depending on the mileage of the car. Factoring in the price per gallon and MPG, fuel cost would be $800-$5000 Looking at the table above, a Tesla is clearly the most economical car for energy cost. Even a Prius getting 50 mpg and paying $2.75/gallon will pay more than twice as much for fuel compared to a Tesla Model 3. 

  12. Low maintenance costs. I spent $50 on tire rotation and an inspection. I had to put air in my tires twice in the last year. I have filled up the windshield wiper reservoir with 1.5 gallons of fluid. Other than that, the car has needed nothing.
  13. Tesla firmware upgrades are free and fast. Just connect to WiFi. New features are added, current features are enhanced, and bugs are fixed with each release. They come out every few months, about once a quarter. Know of any other manufacturer that does this?
  14. It’s fast, 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. Honestly, this may sound good on an ad comparing a Tesla to a Porsche, but unless you’re experienced at driving this fast from 0-60 mph accelerating this fast can be dangerous. The only time I accelerated close to the limit was during the day on empty on ramps to get up to highway speed but that’s it.
  15. It’s vibration free. Well, maybe not free, but difficult to notice. In a gas car accelerating from 0-60 mph in less than 7 seconds, the engine is noisy and you can feel the car shift gears and vibrate. The Tesla is super quiet and smooth, no shifting or car noise, just road and wind noise.
  16. The GPS screen and backup camera are massive. It’s like a large iPad. Baby boomer eyes will appreciate this.
  17. The LCD control panel is familiar, similar to an iPhone. The UI takes a few days to learn and then it’s second nature and you’ll wonder why aren’t all cars like this? I wonder if Tesla will adopt this UI in future cars beyond the Y?
  18. From -10F to 110F or -23C to 43C no significant issues or problems whatsoever. When below freezing, the door handles will freeze shut. Just smack them with the side of your fist and they’re fine. That’s the only temperature issue I encountered. If you are in below freezing temps, I’d recommend parking in the garage at night and attaching to a 120 volt plug to keep the battery on a trickle charge and warm if you plan to drive in the morning.
  19. Sentry Mode is pretty cool and gives me security and confidence my car won’t be broken into.
  20. The Frunk (front trunk) is great. It is not accessible by thieves unless they pry open the frunk lid so they’ll probably break the glass and fold down the seats to get to the rear trunk instead. The frunk is a good place to store valuables. Apparently the frunk is accessible if the 12v battery is dead, not sure if the 12v battery is working if frunk can be accessed.
  21. The mileage indicator is really accurate regardless of temperature, AC, speed up to 80 mph, etc.
  22. Don’t have to worry about getting your catalytic converter stolen. Yeah, that’s a thing for gas cars, especially a Prius.
  23. Cutting edge of self driving technology. Does any other EV have the self driving tech that Tesla does?
  24. Streaming!!! I have never heard this mentioned in any review but the free streaming is amazing! 80’s! PBS News Hour, ABC News etc! Free!!
    MusicNewsStream.JPG

Areas Tesla can improve

Major issues

  1. The navigation to the superchargers in Elko, Nevada and Jackson, Wyoming took me to the wrong area. Map it out ahead of time if you plan to charge at either of these. In Elko, NV, the GPS took me to an area about 3 blocks away from the actual supercharger which is right near Denny’s. I drove around but couldn’t find it. Tesla tech support had a 30 min wait. I went to the nearby RV park and spent the night and charged there for $25. I found the supercharger the next day when I went to eat at Denny’s. Use 2405 Mountain City Hwy, Elko, NV 89801 for the Denny’s and you’ll see the superchargers. In Jackson, Wyoming the GPS took me around the back way to the supercharger on private property. There is a fence and no way to get to the actual supercharger so I drove around the block the other side and there it was. Put the Jackson Whole Grocer and Cafe 1155 US-89, Jackson, WY 83001 in your GPS and you’ll see the chargers at the back of the parking lot. These two superchargers were the only times out of the 50+ super chargers that I visited that I had a problem with the navigation.
  2. Hire more tech support so wait time is 5 minutes or less.
  3. When I attempted to charge in an RV park in Bryce Canyon, Utah the charging failed and the error message said, “Bad cable, replace.” This error message is not accurate. The problem was what the tech in Arizona called “dirty power” which as he explained it is power that fluctuates beyond what Tesla thinks is acceptable so the car will fail to charge to protect itself. I luckily left it plugged in and an hour or so later it started to charge. The poor error message and poor technical support resulted in me staying an extra night in the hotel at $130 a night. This was my worst charging experience of the trip.
  4. Train the tech support techs so they provide better answers. The Bryce Canyon experience is a good example. The tech should have known that RV parks often have “dirty power” and told me to just leave it plugged in.TempOff
  5. YahooWeatherThe temperature gauge is not accurate. Well, it’s not consistent with weather.yahoo.com and my guess of the temp. 90F according to Tesla, but 80F according to my guess and weather.yahoo.com.
  6. Idle fees – Money that Tesla charges you when your car is done charging but you don’t unplug it. $1.00 per minute after the 5 minute grace period! If there are 40 stations and you are the only one charging, you will still be charged. I really hate this. It’s not a money grab but is a kick in the ass to move your charged car so others can charge. A good idea but poorly implemented and as an end user I hate it. This is how I work around it: If you want to charge to 270, set the car to 230 and then when you get the notification that it’s almost done, increase the range to give yourself some more time. Why are idle fees a pain? When you charge it will say 50 min max, so you go to the rest room and sit down at Denny’s or wherever to eat and before you are done eating the car will be done charging so do you quickly eat the rest of your meal? Get it to go? Pay, but tell the waiter you’ll be right back, go out to your car and unplug it and then come back and finish your meal? All of these scenarios are annoying. I do think idle fees are necessary but should take into account how many plugs are free. If 9/10 plugs are free, why charge me an idle fee? No one is waiting on me.

Minor issues or feature requests

  1. I’d like to be able to do a screen capture of the LCD to use in this blog instead of having to take a pic.
  2. Time zone doesn’t update. Traveling from one time zone to another, EST to CST to MST my time zone didn’t update. Rebooting fixed it.
  3. The Sentry mode is not sticky. I have to set it every time I use it. I think this is fixed with the latest update.
  4. The Sentry mode would not record any video and not give me an error message. My usb drive just had no footage on it. Still figuring out what the problem is. I formatted it according to the directions.
  5. The speed limit mode was set somehow and my 4 digit pin doesn’t work. Really weird.
  6. The app should indicate if a supercharger is within a paid parking lot and how much it costs to park there.
  7. App Supercharger status – There should be a supercharger status on the app and inside the car on the LCD panel that tells the driver what stalls are not functioning, even indicating how soon other cars will be done charging if there is a wait, idle fees.
  8. The Navigation could have landmarks. The navigation would say I have arrived but I still didn’t see the chargers. Referencing landmarks, like “Behind Denny’s” or something would help out.
  9. The Tesla delivery guy didn’t tell me anything about the car. When I asked him for a business card he didn’t have one. When I asked for his name he responded with, “Why?” Anyways, he was terrible. The film on my LCD caused all kinds of problems yet he never told me about it. I figured it out months later at the Tesla dealer in Arizona.
  10. Eliminate free supercharging at congested superchargers. It will ease congestion at the superchargers from locals and get people to charge at home or work.  There are people who can’t charge at home like apartment and condo dwellers. Not sure how to fix that problem… and if they can’t charge at work then that’s a tough problem.
  11. My car rebooted a couple of times within the same week or so with no warning while I was driving in 2018. This is disconcerting as the music will go silent, the GPS will stop talking, and the screen goes black. I’m pretty sure Tesla fixed this problem as it hasn’t happened again.
  12. In Oct 2019 before the update, I got this message that the battery was conditioning preparing for the supercharger. This was an error since I wasn’t navigating anywhere and had over 200 miles of charge left. It happened twice and then went away and I haven’t seen it since.

Drive anywhere?

Can you drive anywhere throughout the US? In general yes. I drove 20,000 miles from California to NV, UT, WY, AZ, NM, TX, LA, Miss, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, DC, DL, NJ, PA, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, ME, NH, VT, NY, MI, IN, KY, TN, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ, NV, back to California. I was never stranded with an empty battery. However, there were times that I had to alter my route since I didn’t have enough charge left. Bryce Canyon National Park has no Tesla or any other brand chargers. When I charged in an RV park the charging failed and the error message said, “Bad cable, replace.” I called Tesla to send me a new one but they replied it would take up to a week. They said they could tow me to the nearest Tesla dealer 400 miles aways. All poor options. I left my car plugged in and after a couple hours it started charging and I had a full battery after 10 hours. As it turned out, the error message was wrong. The problem as the Tesla service guy explained it to me was that RV parks have dirty power, power that fluctuates up and down and the Tesla charging system recognizes it and won’t charge the car. The car will keep checking and when the power smoothes out, charging will start. Glacier National Park also has no nearby chargers. I rented a gas car and did this park on another trip in 2018. In Maine near Acadia National Park there are no Superchargers and the chargers I found on the Chargepoint app were either not working or were occupied. I ended up driving all the way back to Brewer, ME about 40 miles one way just to supercharge. This was poor planning on my part, but still a situation you can get into without careful planning. So to summarize, in general you can just go drive anywhere, but if going on a long road trip I would make sure that you charge up before going to an area that doesn’t have any superchargers like Acadia National Park or Glacier National park and have a charging plan. This of course can be eliminated with just one supercharger station inside the park. The town closest to Dinosaur National Park is Vernal, Utah but they don’t have a Supercharger either.  Dinosaur Inn has a Chargepoint charger. I recall the cost was $1.00/hour and I got 20-30 mph of charge from it.

Charging Tips

  1. ALWAYS check the supercharger nozzle before plugging it into your car! Sometimes they are damaged or vandalized.
  2. Some superchargers don’t work. One charger flat out didn’t work. Another charged at around 100 mph and when I switched to another one in the same location I got 300-400 mph. It’s not just how many cars are charging at that location either since I was the only car there. If you only get 100-200 mph, consider switching to another charger.
  3. There are handicapped chargers now so only park in them if all others are being used. This is a new thing, when I started out on my trip I didn’t run into any.
  4. You’ll hear loud dull clicking noises from your car when you start and end charging. I don’t know what these noises are but I assume they are normal.
  5. Different supercharger locations charge different $ rates. California seems to be the most expensive. Not sure where a price list would be.
  6. Some superchargers are really inconvenient. In Philly the ones downtown are all in paid lots so you have to pay for parking as well as charging. The art museum had free destination chargers but in a paid lot. The app doesn’t tell you its a paid lot but you can tell it’s a garage and if so, assume you’ll have to pay to park there.
  7. Free supercharging is not worth much. If you are comparing to gas it may seem like a $10,000 perk over the life of the car, but in reality most people will charge at home or work for free or almost free. Supercharging is usually for road trips.  I think people consider how much they spend on gas and think if they get free supercharging it will be equivalent to what they spend on gas but this is not accurate.
  8. 300 miles of range is really misleading. You really have 240 miles of range. Why? You need to leave 10% in the tank at the top and bottom so you only charge to 270 and recharge before you reach 30 so you will drive about 240 miles before charging. In practice this is more than 3 hours of driving so most people will need a break after driving for 3+ hours. So most people won’t need a bigger battery than the long range Model 3.
  9. Don’t buy the ChaDEMO adaptor. I don’t recommend these fast charging adaptors. They cost $450!!! The adaptor is just another thing you have to carry around in the frunk. They are not small. The price to charge at these fast chargers is outrageous (insert pic of price and compare to super charger). Moreover, even driving 20,000 miles around the country I only saw 5 of these fast chargers. The Walmart in El Paso, Texas had 4 stalls, one other Walmart, and Yermo, Ca had 2 workings and 2 under construction at Eddie World. You won’t need it unless you have a super special use case where superchargers are not available but the fast CHAdeMO chargers are.
  10. You don’t have to “fill up”, just get enough to get to the next supercharger. Once you get to your destination, then you can fill up.
  11. Philly was the worst for supercharging or Charge Point charging since all of the chargers were located in paid lots that cost $2-$10/hour. Best to charge before getting into Philly and charge up at your airbnb or hotel.
  12. Boston was also difficult to charge. The Chargepoint charger closest to me was on the street so you have to pay the meter $2.00/hour. I’ve never seen a charger on a public street like this. The worst is that out of 4 chargers, 3 were not functioning. Though 2 were marked as such the third one wasn’t but I figured out it wasn’t going to charge after working with tech support for 15 minutes on the phone trying to get it to work. There seems to be anti electric car sentiment here in Boston as you can see from the damage to chargers that people cause. So senseless.
  13. You DON’T have to buy a $500 Tesla wall charger for home. To get a NEMA 14-50 plug and the electrical panel upgraded to a 50 amp breaker, and the Tesla charger wired and installed will be a significant expense. Instead, I recommend buying this $280 AxFAST Level 2 Portable Electric Vehicle Charger from Costco.  I installed myself with two screws. I just plugged this charger into my NEMA 10-30 dryer plug in the garage and get 15 mph of charge.  I converted to a gas dryer a few years ago knowing I’d want to use my dryer 30 amp plug to charge my Tesla. You’ll have to use the Jplug converter so if you plan to travel and charge at a non Tesla charger, don’t forget to take the converter.

AXfastCharger10/31/20 I had a conversation with a new owner of a Model Y who thought that he needed a Tesla wall charger, a NEMA 14-50 plug, and that 15 mph of charge wasn’t sufficient. So I think the above addresses his first two issues, but regarding the 15 mph of charge not being sufficient. I suppose if you come back home late with a 10% charge and need to drive 240 miles early the next morning and have no access to a supercharger on your route then yeah, maybe 15 mph of charge is insufficient, but when would that ever happen?

Experiences

  1. In Sept 2018 when I was in Yellowstone charging, the app stopped working. Apparently the servers were down. Luckily I had my Tesla key card in my wallet so I could still get into my car and get it to work but other Tesla owners were not so lucky. This is the first time I have heard this happened but it’s a good idea to keep the card on your person just in case.
  2. You can meet other Tesla owners and have a good conversation. This happened at Jackson Wy, and Macadonia, OH but most of the time other people charging just ignore you.
  3. The Kettleman City, Calif supercharger has their own lounge that you need a key code to get into. It has AC, rest rooms, WiFi, comfy leather seats. The only one I ran into but since that Highway 5 is heavily traveled between SoCal and NorCal it was a great idea.
  4. You will be frequently asked: How far does it go on a charge? How long does it take to charge? How much does it cost to charge? How much did it cost? Is it fast? Any problems? Is it easy to find a charger? Does it use gas? I figure in a year this happened 30-40 times. After 20 you’ll get tired of it. Some people that are interested in buying a Tesla ask even more questions and think they can monopolize a total strangers time. Just say you need to use the restroom. I considered getting a card or flyer printed with all the answers to these questions and a link to my referral code. I’d recommend doing this.
  5. In Vernal Utah near Dinosaur National Park, I was getting something out of the frunk (front trunk) and a woman drove up to me and asked me if I needed a jump. At first I didn’t know what she was talking about.
  6. Activate the Sentry Mode and check your USB drive to make sure footage is getting recorded. I didn’t experience any vandalism but a woman door dinged my car in a hotel parking lot. I contacted the Police, they took a report, I had pictures before, after, and of the license plate. She denied it. If I would have had Sentry Mode on and working I could have compelled her to pay for repair, but my insurance company said it would be my word against hers and I’d have to pay for the deductible etc. (put in pix)
  7. One guy at Niagara Falls parking lot asked me, “Hey, when are you gonna get a muffler for that thing!?” I responded, “Yeah, I’m going to the dealer next week. This was the one friendly interaction with a gas car owner I had all year. It was much more common to experience resistance, rudeness, and hate:

Tesla Haters

There are Tesla and EV haters out there. This hate manifests itself in vandalized charging plugs, gasoline cars parked in Tesla supercharger spaces, and verbal assaults. This happened a few times during my trip. The Buffalo, NY supercharger had one of the charging ports vandalized. I recommend inspecting the plug before putting into your car since the damage is not always obvious like this one:

IMG_1074IMG_1075This took significant effort and tools to damage the charger to this extent. Moreover, I’d worry about getting shocked by this cable. I’m not sure where this hate comes from. It could be a class issue and unlike other expensive luxury and sports cars, Tesla’s have their own designated parking spaces and branded chargers so they are much more visible. If you hated Porsches, where would you go to vandalize them? A gas station? A Porsche dealer? Still, it is not just Tesla. In July 2019, this downtown Boston Charge Point charger was comprehensively vandalized so it’s not just Tesla superchargers. This took a major effort and they don’t worry about getting shocked?

IMG_5539Gas cars parked in EV and Tesla destination charging spots is another manifestation of active resistance to Teslas. This was at the Holiday Inn in Metairie, LA on New Years Day 2019. I asked the staff to tow these cars to other parking spaces. There were at least 20 available spaces when this truck parked here. If there were no other spaces at least that would make some sense, but when there are plenty of available parking spaces then… The Jackson, Wyoming supercharger had several people parking in the Tesla supercharger spots. To be fair, the sign says this is allowed, but when there are open spaces closer to the front door then you have to see this as hostility directed at Tesla owners.

In Cape Cod, Mass I pulled into the (?) hotel, a $60 a night hotel, the cheapest one in town and these beer drinking guys said, “Oh, you think you’re f’ing better than us cuz you drive a Tesla?” This group was in the  room below mine and directed constant verbal violence at each other so I got out of there and moved across the street to the $120/might place but got a good nights sleep.

Electrocution Anxiety

Okay, I have never heard of this but it did cross my mind if it was pouring rain and I plugged into a supercharger could I get shocked? I charged in the rain several times. It takes a while before juice starts to flow from the charger into the car so I’m sure there are safeguards in place.

Range

Besides just comparing the range of one EV to another, it’s important to note that you won’t run your range down to 0 before charging, nor will you charge it to the maximum possible. Charging the battery to 100% reduces its life and regenerative braking doesn’t work at that charge level. A good rule is 10% from the bottom and off the top so a 300 mile range is effectively 240 since you charge to a maximum of 270 miles or less and recharge at 30 miles or more. This is fine for cars that have a stated range of 300 miles, but for anything less, you can see how this guideline really impacts them. If you compare this to a gasoline car it may come up short, but in reality, going 80 mph for 3 hours or more you’ll want to take a break to stretch and use the restroom.

Range Anxiety

Defined as: Getting overly worried that you’ll run out of charge and get stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. It’s normal but also easy to treat and address. I had a slight case of Range Anxiety but overcame it on this trip.

At a policy level, the Fed Government should step in and mandate every gas station have at least one level 2 charger and one Fast Charger. Then give incentives to install additional chargers. Imagine if EVERY gas station throughout the US had level 2 and fast chargers? That would squash Range Anxiety overnight. This will probably never happen so at an individual level:

  1. Plan out your trip with Go Anywhere so that you can rest assured you won’t run out of juice. Note that there are chargers available that don’t appear in this app, so use Chargepoint and just do a google search. All three methods are required. If you just rely on your navigation, you will miss a lot of charging spots. Plugshare looks like another good webpage, but I didn’t use it on this trip
  2. Install the chargepoint app. On the freeways you’ll use superchargers but once in town, look for the Chargepoint chargers since they are usually free! They send you a card in 1-2 weeks after signing up online. You need to carry the card with you since there are chargers in garages that have no WiFi or cell service and you won’t be able to get the charger to activate if you only rely on the smartphone app.
  3. Bring your Jplug SAE J1772 Charging Adapters. It is absolutely required. I used mine almost every time I charged excluding a Supercharger. They are $95 but one was included in my charging kit.
  4. Charging at your airbnb. Initially I made a point to select only airbnbs that allowed me to charge my car. It seems like a great convenience. However, people would say there was a plug I could use and then it was 30-40′ away from where I was parking. Others wanted to charge me $10 or more to charge figuring it was similar to a tank of gas.
  5. If you are charging and something else of high amperage is on the same line and comes on, you may trip the circuit breaker so if your app says charging stopped, that is probably the cause.

Questions strangers always asked and my answers

  1. What’s the range? 300 miles is my standard answer but it’s really not in practice since 10% on the bottom and top would be 240 miles before having to charge again.
  2. How long does it take to charge? Charging at home on my 240v 30 amp dryer plug I get 23 mph of charge on 237 volts at 24 amps. On a standard 120v outlet I get about 4 miles per hour of charge. On a supercharger, I get 100-600 miles per hour of charge. This always shocks them. The MPH takes a while for them to understand that I’m referring to charge and not driving. Maybe RPH Range Per Hour is a better term?
  3. Any problems? Nope.
  4. How much is maintenance? In 20,000 miles I rotated the tires once, put air in the tires twice, and added 1.5 gallons of windshield wiper fluid. That’s it.
  5. Is it difficult to find places to charge? Nope. Tesla has a vast network of superchargers and the navigation shows you where you have to stop and how long you need to stay there before continuing on your trip. It’s really amazing. There are also public chargers all over the country and most are free.
  6. Does it drive around by itself? Not yet, but they are working on it.
  7. Do you recommend buying one? Yeah, I highly recommend buying one since you’ll never need to buy gas again. I only paid $500 to go 20,000 miles so it’s 1/2-1/8 the cost of a gas car just for the fuel.

At some point, I felt liked I worked in Sales for Tesla but wasn’t getting paid. People anywhere outside of California or a major city have not really seen a Tesla before. They are a rare sight. Strangers also feel they can monopolize your time while they ask you all these questions. “Excuse me but I have to go to the bathroom,” I found is the best excuse to just walk away from them. I considered printing up a card with all the questions and answers above to just hand to people. I might do that before my next trip.

Misc

  1. 80 mph is a good speed limit. A note will pop up to “Keep it under 80 if you want to reach your destination.” which oddly has much more influence over my speed than the fear of getting a ticket for speeding.
  2. Hot Weather. 90F-110F Not a big deal but I wish I could lock the seat heaters off since there were a few times I accidentally turned them on. Seat coolers/fans would be a welcome upgrade. I’d pay extra for it. Sometimes the AC seems to drift and get warmer and then get cooler even after being on for a while. At highway speeds the AC seems to get colder. Other than that, performance in hot weather is without any flaws. Amazing.
  3. Cold weather. In below freezing weather,  the door handles will freeze shut. Just smack them with the side of your fist and the ice will break up and the handles will free up. The battery will say warming up or something. There is absolutely no hesitation or anything else you’ll notice car wise except for cold seats and a cold steering wheel. I’d turn on the seat heaters remotely if I could. A steering wheel heater if it was an option I would probably opt in if $100-$200. The car runs perfectly in -10F as it does at 70F temps. Amazing.
  4. The OS upgrades over WiFi are super convenient and a model EVERY car manufacturer should follow for ALL of their cars. What if a recall could be fixed with an update over WiFi or 3G? So much more efficient.
  5. The overall UI of the iPad like display screen interface is amazing. I’d recommend  Tesla consider doing this for all future models to simplify design, maintenance, and support.
    • The GPS is amazing. The large display and zoomable iPad like touch screen interface is absolutely a game changer for people with over 50 year old eyes.
    • The backup camera image size is absolutely amazing.
  6. Sentry Mode – A great idea. It will record video of anyone getting too close to your car and even play the stereo really loud to scare them away. Keep in mind you’ll lose 10-20 miles of range over night depending on how many “events” you get throughout the night. My USB did not have any video on it, so I have to investigate.
  7. The glass roof looks great but if I were to buy again and there was an option to save $200 or more on having a solid roof and not the glass one I would opt in in a heartbeat. I have the shade on it and have never removed it or looked up through it. Okay, once when I slept in my car I looked up at the stars but that is the only time. I don’t plan to sleep in my car much.
  8. Buy all four 220v charging adaptors. I have used all of them on this trip. Have the 50 amp and two 30 amp adaptors so you can charge up in garage dryer plugs, and RV parks. I ran into another the NEMA 6-50 used by welders and electric ovens so I couldn’t charge since I didn’t have that adaptor. This one you can skip though, only needed one time. Adaptors are only $35 and can get you out of a tough situation. There is a 2-3 week delivery time so order before you leave on your trip.
  9. RV park voltage fluctuates and the charger will refuse to charge, but if you leave it plugged in, it will start to charge when the voltage evens out and oddly will continue to charge. I suppose I got lucky but it didn’t seem like it.
  10. Use the Sentry Mode since you never know what area you might travel to and park your car. However, it draws juice, like 10-20 miles a day, maybe more so be aware of that.
  11. Install the charge point app and make sure it works. It takes weeks to get the card so plan ahead.
  12. Some garages have no WiFi or cellular reception so it’s a good idea to have a Chargepoint card since the app won’t be able to connect to their network. I only used Chargepoint brand of chargers besides the Tesla superchargers. I haven’t found a need to use any of the other brands. I don’t really see them around. There was one charging station in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas that had the fast chargers but Model 3 doesn’t have those CHAdeMO adaptors as of yet.
  13. For some reason the Sentry Mode is not sticky so you have to reset it to On every time you use it. Annoying. It takes up energy since I noticed my mileage decreasing while it was engaged. Like 10-20 miles throughout the night. This is significant so keep that in mind.
  14. Only problems I’ve had is back up camera doesn’t immediately show the back view.
  15. The passenger side mirror did not retract twice when the car was turned on. I’ve also had my car reboot spontaneously for no particular reason. A bit unsettling and I lose my GPS since the screen goes black, but it comes back on after a minute or less. Other than that, the car has been perfect.
  16. GPS will be off by 1-4 blocks when taking you to a supercharger. Don’t panic. Just drive around for a few blocks and if you can’t find it ask someone at a store since they’ll probably know.
  17. Autopilot is $3000. It’s high end adaptive cruise control that keeps you in your lane. Once you set the upper speed limit, it will accelerate and decelerate and brake as required. Full Self Driving Capability is an additional $6000. The goal is what you would expect, typing in an address into your navigation and the car goes there without any more driver input. I didn’t get either since I figured I could just pay for them when they are finished, otherwise it feels like paying for beta software. I got a 14 day trail the day I started on my trip. I was impressed but didn’t really test any of the features out besides the adaptive cruise control.
    autopilot.png
  18. Off Roading – So off roading is obviously not something to do with a RWD M3. However, I did drive slowly on good quality dirt roads. Specifically from Highway 191 down Schwabachers Landing Road in The Grand Tetons National Park.
    TetonsTesla
    I also drove it on Hohokam Road to Golden Gate Road in Saguaro National Park. Drive slowly and look for potholes and anything that might damage the tires. AWD isn’t really as much of an issue as ground clearance and suspension.  There were several roads on this trip that I avoided due to ground clearance and the worry of getting stuck or damaging the car. The AWD dual motor is really for ice and snow.
  19. Deep Snow – I have the RWD model since the AWD model was not available in June 2018. Having a RWD car is the least desirable drivetrain when on snow or icy roads. However, it was never an issue. Why? The roads are always plowed in Jackson, Wyoming and everywhere else I went. Cities with tourists depend on their infrastructure for commerce so they plow the roads constantly during the snow season. The deepest snow I drove through was 3-5″ with ice underneath but I was fine driving slowly and not steering or braking abruptly.
    TeslaSnow3inches.JPG
    The roads were icy especially first thing in the morning, but this was never a problem. I bought the Tesla chains but never used them. Difficult to see below but this road was totally iced over. Difficult to walk on but driving slow was fine.
    TetonsIcyRoadTesla
    Notice the ice above? On flat roads it’s no problem but on a hill I experienced some slippage. AWD would come in handy in these situations, but the key is to drive slowly and do not brake or steer abruptly. The regenerative braking was the key. This slows the car down without braking so you won’t risk skidding. I never experienced deep snow. Most of the cars are Subarus or the Ford F150 here in Jackson, WY and other states so they are ready for the snow. If in a snow state or area I would get the dual motor model. I’d also trickle charge the car on a 120V system so it will be ready to drive in the morning. I think the battery has to warm up or something so this trickle charging should help keep the battery warm.
    SnowCoveredTesla.JPG
    The mornings were tough since temps were below 0F to 10F (-17C to -12C) and it took about 15-25 minutes to thoroughly de snow the car. I used this $10 snow brush from Amazon but this Snow Moover brush looks even better.

A word about media coverage omissions:

Media coverage of EVs focus on the EVs themselves and ignore the charging infrastructure that we all don’t give a second thought to filling up at gas stations our whole lives. The charging infrastructure should be a major part of every EV discussion. I drove 20,000 miles from California to NV, UT, WY, AZ, NM, TX, LA, Miss, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, DC, DL, NJ, PA, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH, ME, NH, VT, NY, MI, IN, KY, TN, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ, NV, back to California. With no charging plan I wanted to see if I could just drive around the country like a gasoline car not worrying about finding refueling. I ran into 1 problem in Bryce Canyon, Utah but that was it. It will be years before a non Tesla charging infrastructure is developed. This is fine if you mainly drive from work to home and back and occasionally go within 500 miles of your home, but for anything longer, a comprehensive fast charging infrastructure is required. Tesla is 80-90% there. Everyone else, I’d guess about 10-25%. I saw 5 fast chargers in 20,000 miles of driving and always at Walmarts. Tesla superchargers can even have their own private lounge with WiFi, restrooms, AC, and nice leather chairs. See the Kettleman City, CA supercharger location. Another key point? As the fast charger network gets built out this benefits Tesla owners too since they can use them with an adaptor, but a non Tesla car owner can’t use the Tesla supercharger network.

The range war is really over. Tesla won. Others will catch up, but where are they going to charge? The fast charging infrastructure race is over. Tesla won. Others will catch up, but Tesla will be ahead for many years.

In conclusion, I highly recommend getting a Tesla, especially a Model 3. The price, low maintenance, low recharging costs, reliability, user interface, performance, styling, self driving technology, and supercharger infrastructure all make it the best EV available today.

Which tesla?

So this blog has been about the Model 3. Rough base prices with full self driving are S: $83,000, 3: $56,000, X: $88,000, and Y: $58,000. I have driven the S, 3, X, and Y. Here’s my take: The S is great, but a really big car with a long wheelbase. It costs $30k more and unless you need a big car, I’d opt for the 3. The X feels clunky, heavier, and slower than the 3. At $30k more than a 3 and Y, and I’d opt for either of those before an X. The Y is great, but the ride is stiffer than a 3 so unless you want the SUV type of body, higher driving position, and more space, the 3 will be a smoother ride.

October 2020 update

So it’s been a year since the first draft of this was published and over 2 years since I bought my Model 3. Due to the pandemic I’m only driving it once every 2-3 weeks to get groceries. Current mileage is 27,000 so in the last year I’ve only put 7000 miles on it and expect Oct 2020-Oct 2021 to drive maybe half of that. There has been no additional maintenance costs. I charge at home for free. This car and all Teslas save the owner so much money compared to an ICE car.

Full Self Driving – So I recommend getting it if you purchase a new one, but I don’t currently have it. I figured I can always get it later especially if I go on another road trip. I was driving my friends Model Y on 101 near Gilroy when the car braked hard and steered to the left. My head was about 6″ from the steering wheel it braked so hard. I’m like WTF just happened? My friend said a car on the right lane behind my peripheral vision swerved into our lane and would have hit us if not for the self driving accident avoidance kicking in. Wow.

Editor notes:

  1. Needs more pix, fast charger station, super charger, what else?
  2. Identify repetition
  3. Check the flow, does it make logical sense?
  4. Items under the correct heading?
  5. To do: (Explain Kwh, what it is, how much a typical home pays for a Kwh, how it translates to miles or rph (range per hour), how much a supercharger is, and how much fast chargers cost, compare to mpg and do a cost per mile analysis of gas versus electricity)