Thursday, December 12, 2013

One Year Since Delivery

My Tesla Model S was delivered on December 12, 2012. An easy date to remember - 12-12-12. Since it has now been one year, I thought I would write about how I feel about having the car now that I have a year's worth of experience. At one year, I must say, I haven't felt even a twinge of buyer's remorse. The car has been a dream. Below is my list of all of the things I've love about it. Many of these things are not the type of things that come through very well in reading the typical reviews in magazines. Some of them are subtle details that I've noticed having used the car daily. So here goes.

One pedal driving - It's hard to describe how much you get used to this. When I near a corner in my neighborhood, I let up on the throttle and the car slows at a perfectly smooth pace, transitioning from acceleration or constant speed to deceleration with no hesitation, shifting, etc. You go around the corner without ever moving your foot to the brake. When approaching stop lights or signs, you also don't hit the brake until the last minute only to bring the car to a complete stop. If the light changes back to green, you often don't ever hit the brake. You slow down by letting up on the throttle and then continue from there. This is a feel that is hard, if not impossible, to recreate in an gas car.

Perfect, smooth acceleration - No matter what speed you are at, pressing the throttle yields acceleration instantly with no hesitation. Because there is a single-speed gearbox, there is no downshifting and so no hesitation or jerk. The Tesla feels extremely smooth to drive because of this.

Fast - This is the fastest car I've ever owned. Its acceleration amazes me. When combined with the lack of shifting, it is a powerful combination.

Sleek and beautiful - I constantly get people staring and asking about the car. Many of them don't actually know what it is and just like how it looks. It is the most beautiful car I've ever owned and one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. For people who have a lot of attention to detail, you notice the subtle curves in the overall shape of the car especially as they round out the rear. Rather than just straight, boring curves or lines, you see curves that are unusual in a car's appearance. From the slope down to the front like a Maserati to the curves along the rear panels, it is a very beautiful car.

No fumes and bad smell - My garage never has fumes or smell. I notice this especially when I switch to a gas car (like a rental). I think we all get used to the cars we have and don't notice this as much. But once you switch to an EV, you begin to notice how much of a difference this makes. The smell of gas and fumes is offensive to me now.

Don't have to interrupt my routine to go get gas - Looking back, I always hated having to look down, see my tank approaching empty and then have to interrupt my day to stop and get gas. After using the pumps, I would feel like I need to wash my hands 3 times. And the smell of the fumes from the gas is awful. I also recently encountered yet another reason to hate gas stops. I took a car to fill it up at a gas station and while I was there, someone came up to me asking for money. You never know who you're dealing with in a situation like that.

Instantly turns on A/C and music when I open the door - Because there are no emissions, CO or CO2, the car automatically turns on when I open the door. This turns on my music and the A/C (if I had it on previously). Even though its in the garage, they are safe to do this.

Constant internet connectivity - This is a cool feature. By having internet connectivity all the time, I have streaming music, constantly up-to-date maps, traffic, weather, web access, etc.

Automatically pauses music - I notice the little things. If I'm using internet streaming music (instead of XM, FM, etc.), it will automatically pause the music when I get a phone call. It also will do this during a short stop. So if a song is playing when I get out of the car to go into a store, it will pause and then resume when I get back automatically without me hitting any button.

Controlling it with my phone - I can use my smart phone to turn on the A/C, unlock the charge port, unlock the doors, see its location on a map, honk the horn or flash the lights. Since the entire car is controlled by software, I would expect they can add more in the future.

Easy to plug in with one hand - This is a little thing but yet it is something I've noticed and effects you daily. The car is easier than plugging in my cell phone. The plug has a button on it and when you press that button near the charge port, the port automatically opens. You then can click the plug in easily with one hand. If you notice, your cell phone usually takes two hands - one to hold the phone and one to plug in the small connector. Since this is something I do every night when I come home, it helps - especially when my other hand is holding something.

Automatic software updates - This is very cool. Like your cell phone, I get features over time. They've made many improvements to the car since I bought it already and many more are coming.

Superchargers  - I haven't used one yet but the idea that they are available in case I did want to take a cross-country trip is very cool. They offer them to owners for free for life. I also think that it is interesting to note that I haven't had any need for one yet after a year of daily driving. I have never even come close to using up all of my range so far. So there really is no "range anxiety" with this car. The superchargers just give me confidence that I could use the car for a trip if I wanted.

Huge 17" touchscreen - The touch screen is very easy to use and large enough to easily tap while driving. This was a big risk, in my opinion, with the car because prior touch screens in cars were criticized for being hard to use when driving. This makes sense since you have no tactile feedback with a touch screen. But in Tesla's case, the screen is huge and the buttons are positioned well so there is ample room between them and they are easy to glance at and find. I've had no trouble using the touch screen while driving. Also, its size is very nice. I can full screen the navigation map and see a huge overhead map when I need. And of course it supports multi-touch for easy zooming and moving.

Retracting door handles - This is actually one of my favorite things about the Model S. When I walk up to the car, the door handles extend automatically when I'm near the door since it senses the key in my pocket. Even after a year of using the car daily, I still love this. It is so "welcoming" as an owner.

Keyless and button-less entry/exit - Many cars have keyless entry. But with the Tesla, there is no extraneous button to press or key to turn after getting in the car to start anything. So you're experience is to walk up to the car, the car unlocks and the door handles extend automatically, you get in and hit the brake with your foot, then move the drive mode from "park" to "drive" to go. Likewise, when you are stopped and want to get out, you simply put the car back in "park" and get out. No additional button to press to turn anything off. And as you walk away, it detects that you are no longer near and, after a time, locks the car for you and retracts the door handles. After getting used to this, I drove a different car and accidentally, got out leaving the key in and the car running! You really get spoiled.

All in all, this car has lived up to my very high expectations. I feel privileged to own it. I'm so impressed with the car they've built that it is hard to describe. Tesla built a completely new car from the ground up and got it almost perfect the first time. That is a difficult accomplishment for any technology or industry. I remain very impressed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Consumer Reports Recommends Tesla Model S

Previously, when Consumer Reports reviewed the Model S, they gave it a rating of "99" which was the highest ever given to a car. Because the car was new and had no track record, they couldn't "recommend" since there was no real-world customer history to report defects in the car. But that has now changed, they have enough feedback from customers and have now officially recommended the Tesla Model S.
"The groundbreaking Tesla Model S earned Consumer Reports highest test score and it aced crash tests, yet we could not truly recommend it—until now."
After almost a year of driving mine daily, I recommend it too!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The nonsense surrounding the Tesla Model S fire

It amazes me as I encounter all the instant negativity about the recent Tesla Model S car fire. It seems that some people just look for excuses to be negative. For the record, Tesla sent out a letter explaining the details of the car fire including what triggered it and how the car and its safety features performed as a result. You can read it yourself here: Model S Fire.

I think they've adequately explained what happened and it looks like the Model S performed extremely well under the circumstances by giving the driver enough time to pull over and get out of the car safely. This is no surprise to me because every other aspect of the car that I have no driven daily for the last 9 months has proven to me that they took great pains to handle even the smallest details.

What amazes me though is the absurdity of the negativity. I think I've witnessed 2 car fires of gas powered cars in the last 6 months just in my local area.  I suspect that if a gas powered car hit a metal object like that at full speed, it could have resulted in an explosion or at minimum a dangerous car fire. But the naysayers jumped on it like it's the end of Tesla. They really don't get it. Tesla built a beautiful, functional and safe car that has proven itself to be better than any other car on the road. This is my opinion - a proud owner.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How the Tesla Model S is Made

Tesla Motors has already demonstrated that they've innovated with their new product - the Tesla Model S is a giant leap for cars from the owner's point of view. But what hasn't been widely known is that they've also greatly innovated in the manufacturing process for the car. After watching the video below, it is now clear to me that they've rethought everything about what a car should be and how it should be produced in a modern context of all the latest technology.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My First Service Experience

My first service has been completed. Mostly positive with some hiccups. The technician arrived at my office parking lot and called my cell. He was about 30 minutes beyond my scheduled appointment time but this was within reason as far as I'm concerned. I walked down and spoke with him and he reviewed what was to be done with the car. Most items were things initiated by Tesla. These were things like upgraded floor mats including giving me a rear floor mat (Yay!), changing a rear axle nut, and swapping out the J1772 adapter for a new design. I also had an issue with the rear door handle not working - it was extending but it wouldn't open the rear door. He completed all of these items in 2 hours and called me to come down. He then showed me the paperwork - there was no charge for this as everything was under warranty. The service went great. It was convenient having him come to my office.

Then I realized that while he was here, my key got messed up - the top button came off. I'm seeing on forums that this has been happening to others too. So the technician said he'd swap out the key. Unfortunately, this had to be done with WiFi near so his system can connect so I ended up arranging with him to drive to my house where we'd do that part of the service. This of course was an unscheduled service because the key was fine before. So later in the day, he met me promptly at my house and began working on reprogramming new keys. Unfortunately, he experienced some problems reprogramming the keys. It ended up taking over an hour. Finally, he did get it working though so all is good with the keys.

Overall, this was a good first experience with service. I think they are still feeling their way around and refining their system but considering how new this car is, I think they have a good start. The fact that they come right to your office or home (or wherever you ask) is really nice. Its such a drag to have to drop your car off for service. Of course that may still be necessary if they have to do something that requires that the car be lifted, but I would expect that to be fairly rare.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My first service approaching

Tesla's service center called me and asked to come out to do a laundry list of small tweaks to the car. They also said they were giving me new floor mats. That's cool because the rear didn't come with floor mats at all and I noticed there were others who were buying custom ones from online when I checked the forums. Glad I didn't now. I should have known that Tesla wouldn't leave any negatives without addressing it. My car was a fairly "early" model having been delivered in December 2012 so I suspected there would be some additional tweaks they would do. They are going to come to my office to do the service. I'll post again on how it goes. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Model S Will Play Any Song

I just discovered a cool new feature of the Model S. They put a video of Elon Musk talking to Betty Liu of Bloomberg on Tesla's Facebook page and they were talking about a feature many of the owners don't know about. You can use the voice command button to say "Play [Song] [Artist] " and it will search for the song and play it for you. So you can play any song on demand. I tried it this morning and it works great.

So here is a run down of how it works:

  1. Hit the Voice Command button on the steering wheel
  2. Say "Play Better Now by Collective Soul" 
  3. A list pops up on the touch screen showing the list of matches organized by songs and albums
  4. Pick one and it will play

It seems to be using your Slacker Radio account to do this. It creates a "station" based on that song where that song is the first one played. After it's done, it will continue playing other songs that are part of that station and, so, similar to the first one played.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Navigation System

I've found that the navigation system built into the Model S works very well. The combination of the touch screen and the dashboard provides a better overall experience than most navigation systems I've used. Here is how it works.

Starting Navigation

To start navigating you can either use a voice command like "Navigate to ..." or search for something using the search box and onscreen keyboard. Since it uses Google maps, you can search anything google supports. This includes addresses, business names, and specific points of interest like EV charging stations.  The search list either from the voice command or the search gives you a list to choose from that includes the name and the distance from your current location. Once chosen, you are presented with a box that let's you call the location or navigate to it. Choose "Navigate" to begin navigating to the destination.

Search box for the map
Choose a destination from the search results and then navigate or start a call

When navigating begins, the touchscreen map serves as your "overhead" map oriented to north-south-east-west. But on the dashboard, the navigation "oriented" map slides in. This gives you a 3D oriented map that helps to visualize upcoming turns. I've found that the combination of both of these at the same time is an nice improvement over the usual GPS where you have switch between the 2 types of views with only 1 at a time shown.  And of course, I can even "full screen" my touch screen map to see a huge map taking up the full 17" touch screen.

The 3D oriented map on the dashboard pops up when navigating

The overhead map full screen

The overhead map in normal/half screen size

Turn by Turn

It supports turn by turn voice instructions and you can control the volume or mute it. As expected, with it being fully integrated, it lowers the volume of the main sound system for you when giving you instructions.

It also shows a handy turn list on the touch screen. This is another advantage of having so much screen real estate between the dashboard and the 17" touch screen. There is plenty of space to show everything without having to hit buttons or switch views.

Another cool thing about the oriented map on the dashboard is the upcoming turns show interstate signs similar to what you'd see while driving.

As you approach an exit from an interstate, it shows the road signs that you may expect to see and shows the turn with the lanes.

Online Data

When you have 3G connectivity, the map source is Google maps. This also means that you have access to Google's satellite view, real time traffic and all of their searchable locations. This all without having to do manual updates to the GPS since its all online and live.

The Google traffic is real time since they measure traffic using a variety of sources including road sensors and data harvested from mobile phones. Traffic can be turned on and off and, when on, shows red, yellow and green overlays on the roads.

The Google satellite view can be handy too. Sometimes, I'll use it to check out what the parking may be like at my destination.

When you are out of range and don't have internet connectivity, I'm told that it falls back to onboard Garmin maps. I've never actually done this so I don't know how it works when in that situation.


Overall, I give the navigation system a thumbs up. The advantages over traditional systems are:
  • The ability to show both the oriented 3D map and overhead map simultaneously.
  • Use of the large touch screen effectively: You can full size the map and you have plenty of room for the turn by turn list on screen along with the map without having to hit buttons or switch views.
  • The use of online Google maps means it's always up to date (or as up to date as Google).
  • Being able to switch to satellite view can sometimes be helpful in understanding what your destination looks like and what the parking may be like
  • Traffic indicators based on Google's system that includes real time data they gather from mobile phones. This has worked well so far for me.
Some additional features would be nice:
  • Access to the Google street view would be cool
  • Build in some specialized functionality for locating charging stations. When the supercharger network is built out, I think shortcuts to navigating to them and building them in as via points would be a great idea. 
  • Currently the navigation is system is fairly "generic". There are no special buttons for finding points of interest for example. Why not let me program in some of my favorite restaurant chains?
  • There is no range indication integrated with the navigation system. Seems like a fairly obvious thing to have given that the Model is a pure EV.
Luckily some of those features could come in future software updates. This is still a very early version of the car and so while its very good now, it can continue to improve over the time I own the car. And that, of course, is yet another great feature: It will keep getting better.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Getting Double Takes

It has been fun driving the Model S around. I'm noticing how often it gets attention. Yesterday, I noticed in my rear camera that the driver behind me was taking pictures of my car with his iPhone. Earlier in the week, a truck pulled up next to me and they rolled down their window and began asking me about the car. They didn't know about the Model S but just thought it looked cool. One asked me if it was a V8.  Too funny.