5,000 Electric Kilometers and Counting

This week, after just over a month of driving, I hit the 5,000km mark on my Tesla Model S. As the saying goes, time flies when you are having fun and this is one fun ride! In the last several weeks I have given numerous test drives to family, friends, and colleagues. With each test drive I hope that people walk away in awe of how great an electric car can be. The decision to purchase a Tesla is about more than electric cars – it is about challenging the industry norms. Tesla is rethinking how to engineer, sell and service cars that should cause the old guard to take note. I hope that they can keep up their innovative business model as they scale out to the Model E (Bluestar, Gen III) which is due out in a few years at a $30-40k price point. The economics of an EV add up when you consider electricity vs gasoline. For 5,000km I paid approximately $100 in hydro versus $550 for the same range in my previous car (estimated, no detailed logs were kept).

What I like about it:

  • Smooth and quiet drive makes my daily commute (approx. 80km one-way) more tolerable
  • Battery size is sufficient for inter-city commuting without any sort of range anxiety
  • Energy usage feedback and regenerative breaking encourages efficient driving habits by rewarding smooth acceleration/breaking
  • Instant torque makes it easy to merge quickly, especially on short highway on-ramps
  • Styling of the car interior and exterior is modern without being overstated, even with high tech touches (retracting door handles!)
  • Plenty of storage in the front and rear trunks
  • Headlights look fantastic while not overwhelming other drivers like those found in other luxury cars
  • Instant heat and powerful heated seats is cherished on the cold winter days
  • Driver profiles remember seat, mirror position and temperature preferences so my wife and I can both use the car without having to adjust all the time
  • Touchscreen-based feature access is simple and looks great
  • Sales process did not require haggling on price while allowing me to select my features at my own pace
  • Technical support is provided in traditional service centers as well as a 24x7 technician-staffed phone support and roadside assistance
  • Never having to stop at a gas station or worry about the latest gas price hike

To make it perfect:

  • More detailed communication in the delivery processes including document requirements to allow customers time to get the pieces together
  • Add side window vents to reduce side window fogging / frosting
  • Add rear seat cup holders and storage pockets (useful when you have kids!)
  • Adjust placement of rear roof support for more rear window visibility
  • Create a key fob that supports a conventional key ring
  • Increase windscreen height on the sunroof to stop the wind noise
  • Offer decent winter mats that are suitable to Canadian winter slush
  • Offer parking sensors for the front of the car
  • Offer second power cable so I can leave one at home and one in the car
  • Expose historical usage tracking to enable analysis of power usage along specific routes and over the lifetime of the car
  • Deeper support for Bluetooth Audio/Video Remote Control Profile features to allow the music app to access the media catalog on my Windows Phone
  • Expand driver profiles to include rearview mirror position and radio favorites
  • Enable alternate routes or route algorithm selection (fastest, shortest) for navigation system
  • Plot charging stations on the map using feed from various charging station databases
  • Add a winter traction control mode so I never have to panic while driving up an unploughed hill again :)
  • Offer additional music application choices (Xbox music, Rdio, Pandora)
  • Move “Jack” button to a “Disable Active Air Suspension” option
  • Enable remote warm-up while plugged in so we avoid using a lot of battery in the first 10km to do the same
  • Provide guidance on maximizing range and explain the basis for rated range calculation

The good news is a number of the suggested enhancements are small retrofits or software changes. With Tesla’s historical approach of offering retrofits on the Roadster, where it makes sense, I am encouraged these usability issues and enhancement opportunities could indeed make it into the car.

From a range perspective there has not been any issue finding charging stations in the greater Toronto area while other owners have made cross country trips with their cars. The government does need to work with charging station operators to make them as visible as gas stations. Adding charging stations to every arena and community center would be a good move as most have sufficient service to support them.

The closest we have come to running out of energy was on our return from a day of winter driving school in Minden, Ontario. The folks at the Car Control School gave us guidance and access to a course where we could learn how to handle the car on ice. Through out the day we had the car sipping on a 110V/12A outlet. The -17C temperatures ate away our 200km starting position down to 110km when we left after about 30km of driving (approx 60km range loss). With a 90km trip back to Orillia on 110km rated range it was going to be tight. We made it with 20km of rated range left after turning off the cabin heat in favour of heated seats and driving a steady 65km/hr back. It was certainly nervous given the temperature but we learned that giving up a few creature comforts and driving at a slow, steady speed allowed us to push on through despite the range lost due to the cold. On the other end of the drive a 240V/70A charging station waited for us at the Best Western thanks to the folks at Sun Country Highway. In hindsight we should have better planned our route to Minden instead of blindly relying on the navigation system. If we had paid attention then we would have had another 30-40km in the battery to more comfortably get us to the hotel.

I would certainly recommend to anyone, especially a two car family, to consider an electric vehicle if they are looking for a new car in the next three to five years. Make sure to get out and visit a Tesla store before you buy your next car – EVs are cool, capable, and tons of fun!