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An electrifying car story—part three

That is Half Three of a five-part collection on our Tesla Mannequin S. In Part One, I coated why we chose the Model S, the cost of the car, and a bit about Tesla the corporate. In Half Two, I listed a number of the things I really like concerning the car; as we speak’s Part Three has more of the loves, as well as the not-so-loves. Part 4 will talk about what it’s like dwelling with an electrical car, and my ideas on the way forward for auto electrification. Lastly, Half Five will provide an sudden ending (of types) to the collection.


Persevering with with the things I really like concerning the car and its infrastructure, and then attending to the not-so-loved issues…

The Supercharger network

I’ll talk about this more in Half 4, once I speak about dwelling with an electric car, however Tesla has built an in depth Supercharger network; it’s a collection of high-speed charging stations, not just within the USA however all over the world, that make lengthy trips in a Tesla (any Tesla) very sensible.

Superchargers are designed to start out filling nearly-empty batteries very quickly; the rate then slows because the battery fills, so as to not injury the battery cells. Typically, stopping for 20 to 30 minutes at a Supercharger shall be long enough to easily attain the subsequent charger (or that day’s destination).

As of this writing, there were 1,441 Supercharger stations with a complete of 12,888 individual chargers the world over—more are planned and coming on-line on a regular basis (over 1,500 chargers have been added within the last six months or so). Coverage in the USA is in depth, as it’s in Europe and Asia. There are presently no Superchargers anyplace in Africa or South America, nor in India, Pakistan, or the opposite nations in that area of the world.

On the Supercharger site, you’ll be able to click on on any station to get detailed info on that location. Shown at right is the data for the Supercharger in Springfield, Oregon, which I’ve used prior to now. At a look, you possibly can see the variety of charging stations, maximum energy, hours, and nearby amenities. There’s also a link for driving directions, and the telephone number for roadside assistance.

One of many perks that got here with my car was free Supercharging for the lifetime of the car. I can plug into any Supercharger and never be charged for my electrical energy utilization. (If I ever sell the car, the new purchaser receives the identical benefit.)

This perk ended on the finish of 2016, and new consumers now pay for Supercharging, though numerous promotions typically supply some free Supercharging as an incentive—right now, when you buy by means of a current Tesla proprietor’s referral code—here’s mine ;)—you get 1,000 miles value of free Supercharging (and I get an opportunity to win Fabulous Prizes™!).

Tesla costs $0.28 per kilowatt hour for electrical energy (rates range by location; some are much less, some are a bit more). For my 90kWh battery, a “full tank” of electrons (280 miles of vary) would value me about $25 (if I needed to pay). Examine that to an Audi A8 (29mpg, premium fuel, about $3.20/gallon in Portland now), and those same 280 miles would value $31. (Should you charge at house, you’re in all probability paying closer to $zero.10 per kilowatt hour, so the savings are even larger.)

I’ll have more to say concerning the Supercharger community in Part 4.

Close to-zero upkeep

Non-electric automobiles are extremely complicated machines—notably their engine compartments. There are pistons, piston rings, valves, camshafts, gaskets, spark plugs, timing belts or chains, alternator belts, radiators filled with coolant, oil with pumps and filters, air filters, seemingly miles of tubing, probably a turbocharger or supercharger, gasoline injectors, throttle linkages, an automated or guide transmission, and a lot extra.

Most of those engine elements must be maintained, serviced, and/or replaced sooner or later—don’t overlook about common oil modifications, too—so visits to your native vendor are frequent, even when nothing’s apparently mistaken with the car. And your native supplier makes cash with their service bay, so it’s not a cheap proposition. Past regular service, any of this stuff might fail sooner or later, leaving you stranded and (relying on what broke) dealing with a excessive repair bill.

Distinction that with the Tesla. My car has two tiny—they’re situated between the wheels—utterly sealed electrical motors, just one gear, and none of the other stuff required for inner combustion.

Electric motors are fairly easy and extremely reliable; they require no routine service. (They do have inner oil, which I’ve read may have replacing after 100,000 miles, however I can’t find any reference to that on Tesla’s car maintenance page.)

Teslas haven’t any required service intervals; there’s not even a required annual go to any extra (there was a recommend annual service on my first car). On the car maintenance web page, there’s an inventory of issues that have to be maintained: Cabin air filter modified every two years, HEPA filter modified every three years, rotate and stability tires every 10,000 to 12,000 miles, verify/substitute brake fluid each two years, and and air con service each two years. That’s it. (Also, ensure you have windshield wiper fluid in the reservoir.)

Probably the most complicated thing in a Tesla in all probability isn’t the motors, but relatively the wiring and digital brains behind most all the things the car can do. Up to now, I haven’t had any electrical points, however it is going to be years before we all know for positive how dependable this aspect of the car actually is.

The in-car consumer interface

While I’ve talked concerning the customizable sprint in the Mannequin S, I haven’t yet talked about the rest of the car’s interface. Most every thing else contained in the car is controlled by way of the large 17″ colour LCD. The display’s default show exhibits the navigation map on the highest, and the music player on the underside, although that is customizable (to some extent).

And right here’s the “ooooh, that’s cool!” view, which I never use (because the satellite tv for pc imagery is slower than the map, and because I like having the media app onscreen)…

You may also add a secondary app—calendar, power utilization, rear view digital camera, or telephone—above the music player, decreasing the dimensions of the navigation area, like this:

This is my most popular view, as I don’t use the nav map in normal driving. Sadly, that is still much worse than it was within the prior release of the Tesla OS (v8), where you might use any two apps you needed, and have nav not even be visible. The first release of v9 wasn’t properly acquired, since you couldn’t even add the secondary app above the music participant; fortunately, a current update brought back that functionality—principally; you possibly can’t use the online browser as a secondary app, however you can earlier than, nor can you progress the music participant to the highest.

Throughout the underside of the display is a row of always-there buttons:

From left to proper, those controls get you to the car’s settings display (extra on that under), the music participant toggle, a pop-up menu button, then controls for seat heating, AC modes, defrost, and volume. The pop-up menu button shows a secondary row of icons:

Depending on the chosen app, it should both open above the music player, or substitute the music player.

Excluding the controls on the steering wheel and stalks, there are only two physical buttons in the car: One is for the emergency blinkers (apparently the government requires it to be a physical button), and the other is for the glove box—added only for symmetry with the required emergency blinker button. Every thing else is managed by way of the display.

The benefit of this technique is that the car could be very upgradeable: With no features tied to bodily buttons, software modifications can add new features by adding new options to the display. And it’s comparatively straightforward to redesign the interface, too, which has been occurring over time—the modifications match what’s been occurring with our cell telephones, because the design has gotten lighter and fewer “in your face” over the 2 years I’ve owned car.

I truly thought I’d hate having every part on a touchscreen, however I’ve discovered the system to usually be straightforward and quick to use. A lot of the credit score goes to the sheer measurement of the display: With so much actual estate, there’s no have to bury issues 5 or 6 menu levels down.

If I want to vary something, it’s usually either on the display already, or no more than three or 4 taps away (one to convey up the control panel, one to pick the item I need to change, after which one or two to succeed in and change a specific setting).

The control panel provides plenty of customizability, which I actually like—I’m not stuck with issues the best way the manufacturing unit determined they had to be. Inside the Controls display, there’s additionally a hyperlink to learn the proprietor’s guide—while this is undoubtedly useful (no more misplaced proprietor’s manuals), it lacks a search function, which would make it really helpful.

The other facet of “user interface” in a car is how the car works with you to make driving easier, safer, or much more enjoyable. Tesla’s UI has that coated in a lot of methods.

Overlook to place the car in Park earlier than you open the door? No drawback; the car will shift into Park itself before the door opens. Come to a stop at a light-weight, and the brakes are routinely locked on—you’ll be able to take your foot off the brake pedal and the car gained’t go anyplace. For those who share your car together with your vital different, the Mannequin S will recognize the key fob they use, and change seat place and display displays to match their stored preferences.

What about extra enjoyable, you ask? Tesla is legendary for including quite a lot of Easter Eggs in its software program. Some examples:

  • The quantity and A/C fan levels go as much as 11 (Spinal Faucet)
  • Change the in-dash display of your car to that of James Bond’s submarine car
  • Interact Autopilot four occasions to listen to the cowbell sound from the Saturday Night time Reside skit, and to vary the street show within the sprint to the rainbow street from Mario Kart.
  • Interact a drawing mode on the display, and send your accomplished masterpiece to Tesla.
  • Play some Atari video games…sure, really. But solely while the car is in Park.

I recognize that Tesla has a sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to do enjoyable issues in their automobiles—every different car seems so critical on a regular basis, this contact of lightness is drastically appreciated.

The navigation system

Tesla’s navigation system makes use of Google Maps, and consists of real-time visitors, traffic-aware routing, and it can be voice controlled. In contrast to other automobiles I’ve used which have voice-activated navigation, Tesla’s works incredibly nicely. Hold down a button on the steering wheel, then say “Navigate to Target” or “Navigate home,” and it simply works. Very spectacular.

But the place the navigation system actually comes into its own is on an extended trip that may require charging. If you enter a far-away destination, the nav system won’t solely inform you the right way to get there, however which Superchargers to use and how lengthy to cease at every one.

These estimates are fairly accurate, though actual charging time will differ based mostly on the way you drive, how a lot elevation change is concerned, and so on. But still, having the nav system inform you where to stop and for a way long relieves much of the range nervousness you might really feel when planning an extended journey.

The iOS/Android app

The Tesla iOS app is an excellent addition to the car. Utilizing the app, I can see the car’s remaining charge, heat or cool the interior to my most popular temperature, see where the car is parked, lock or unlock the doorways, vent the sunroof, flash the lights, honk the horn, open the frunk (entrance trunk) and trunk, allow valet mode, and extra—you possibly can even allow keyless driving, if you want.

My important use of the app is to use it to pre-cool the car on heat days—it’s fantastic moving into the car when it’s been cooled down earlier than you get in. You may as well use the app to summon the car, which suggests it is going to move out of a parking area and come in the direction of you. (I by no means use this, not because I don’t trust it, but because I’ve not but run into a real-world need to make use of it.)

The air suspension

The air suspension in my car (non-compulsory once we bought it, now commonplace in all automobiles) just isn’t solely impressive for its basic handling, but in addition as a result of it’s tied into the GPS system. When you’ve got a steep driveway, or an enormous velocity bump, or another thing that requires elevating the suspension, you’ll solely have to do so as soon as.

This works rather well for almost all the things—the “almost” being a T-intersection the place you need to cross a melancholy channel for water move, as an example. Once set, it really works great once you strategy the channel from the “T” course…however the suspension may even increase if you’re headed parallel to the water channel. But that’s a minor grievance; it’s great by no means worrying concerning the air dam scraping over too-steep velocity bumps. (The air suspension may also be programmed to routinely lower the car above a certain velocity, for higher aerodynamics which lead to a slight vary improvement.)

What I dislike concerning the car

As much as I really like my Mannequin S, there are specific things that could possibly be improved. Again in no specific order, right here’s my listing of things that I find irritatint or concerning…

No passenger control of rear seat heaters

My car has heated rear seats, but there are not any buttons (within the front or the again) for those seat heaters. The only strategy to turn them on and off is by way of the touchscreen. This results in rounds of “Dad, please turn on my seat heat” adopted soon thereafter by “Dad, please turn off my seat heat.”

Rumor has it that Tesla could also be working on making their app usable by passengers, who would then be capable of control their very own seat warmth without asking the driving force for help. That may make me a lot happier.

Outward visibility is pretty dangerous

You’d assume with the acres of glass on the car that it’d be straightforward to see out. But that’s not the case. The pillars are thick, and the rear hatch is at such a shallow angle that there’s not much room to see out (and the rear seat headrests intrude on what area there’s). Fortunately the again up digital camera is actually good, and the mirrors are giant sufficient to offer a very good view. Just keep in mind to examine these blind spots!

Restricted headroom

The sloping roofline signifies that headroom is restricted, particularly for backseat passengers. Much more so in my case, because my car has the full-glass roof, which may get heat in the sun regardless of the sun-blocking nature of that tumbler. To help with that, I put in some material sunshades that work nicely, but minimize down on headroom much more.

Physique repairs are an enormous unknown

If my Model S is involved in an accident, it might take a very long time to get it fastened. There are a restricted number of permitted physique outlets (only one within the Portland space) that can work with aluminum (which is what the Model S is made with). Couple that with a limited supply of spare elements (as Tesla continues to be operating full-speed making an attempt to make complete automobiles), and getting body work carried out good be a very time consuming course of. Hopefully I gained’t ever need to learn how time consuming.

A few of the consumer interface is hidden

The minimal variety of physical controls in the cabin signifies that a number of the interface may be somewhat hidden, and a few buttons are multi-purpose. Need a single wipe of the windshield with the wipers? Press the button at the end of the wiper stalk, but don’t hold it in. In the event you maintain it in, it’ll wash the windshield.

To shift into Park, press the button at the finish of the transmission choice lever. Press it twice, although, and also you unlock all of the doors.

When utilizing the steering wheel scroll/buttons, a quick press of the button will activate a specific function, whereas an extended press will deliver up the customization menu.

None of these are deal-breakers, but for those who’re driving a good friend’s Tesla, otherwise you don’t read the proprietor’s guide, chances are you’ll assume “why can’t I do…” Really, you in all probability can, however you simply don’t but know the key handshake.

Tesla might nonetheless exit of business

If this have been to happen, I’d be left with a principally practical car, but and not using a Supercharger community, and with very limited access to any alternative elements. And while the car can be usable, it’d lose a variety of the things that make it so good—the network connectivity needed for streaming music and actual time visitors; the iOS app and its connectivity; the continuous software updates; and so forth. (If Tesla have been to go bankrupt, I might imagine/hope that somebody would buy the belongings and try to continue the business—there’s now a large put in base of automobiles, so someplace in there is a sustainable enterprise to keep these automobiles going.)

Briefly, in contrast to a traditional car, my Tesla’s usability will decline fairly a bit if the manufacturer goes out of enterprise. And given the price of the car, that is in all probability my largest concern: If there’s no Tesla firm, I’ve acquired a car that works however is nowhere near what it’s with Tesla the company still in enterprise.