About a month ago, I bought a Tesla Model S. As I was driving it today, stuck in traffic, I started to relive all of the various events and emotions that transpired over the last 30 days and felt compelled to capture them. Most of the time you read articles about the car’s performance or the pros/cons of this vehicle or that.
I wanted to focus on what impact owning an EV (Electric Vehicle)/Tesla had on me, those around me, and the subtle changes occurring, if for nothing else than to share/capture my thoughts.
Making the Decision
Honestly, it was spur of the moment. I was in the market for a car and had decided I wanted my “midlife crisis” car. I spent weeks looking at reviews and driving various high-end, gas-powered cars. By pure chance I re-engaged Tesla and found a Model S I loved. Even then, I was hesitant to put down the retainer fee. It was all so new and had the potential to impact my daily life for years. I found myself reading the legal-ese to make sure I could get my deposit back if I got cold feet. I had the same nervous, excited feeling one gets before a big meeting or blind date. Deliciously annoying…
Then the first gut twist came…
This was pure EV. No gas, no hybrid, no backup. I had my first experience with “Range Anxiety” and I didn’t even have the car yet. Immediately I started looking for apps to display charging locations, doing calculations about how and where to charge the car, examining home charging options and the like. I knew I had to address this anxiety before I could make a move. That being said, I also knew the anxiety was going to be “sitting in the passenger seat” for quite some time. Trip planning and mileage suddenly became intimate thought processes.
Hand in hand with Range anxiety is the topic of charging. This involves a number of variables that, at times, are mind numbing. The first thing I found myself doing was trying to make mental equivalents to miles per gallon but it doesn’t work that way. It’s mile per hour of charge which is based on the power (KWh) you get from the outlet.
For example, the Tesla comes with a cable that will charge your car at a rate of 4 miles/hr using a standard 110V outlet. Obviously this does not suffice for overnight or quick charging. So then you start looking for adapters for your home, Tesla charging stations, and for-pay stations. I ending up buying the 220V home charger for my car and paying another $1200 for a 40A circuit to be run to my garage. Wham! 30 miles per hour of charge. Top off in 8 hours!
Now the 110 cable is in the trunk for emergencies, several mobile apps on my phone for charge station networks, and Tesla Superchargers can be looked up on the console as needed. Some of the range anxiety is now down to a nagging voice instead of a dull roar.
And one last kicker…adapters. Yup. Not all charging stations use the same adapters, especially the fast charge stations and, to make matters more confusing, there are industry standards disputes going on. Here is an image of the “short list”.
Having all of these adapters in your trunk (or frunk) is EXPENSIVE. These are not cheap, some of them costing thousands to have hanging around.
Every guy with a fast car wants to race you. I have lost count as to how many cars have tried this, and lost!
Case in point, I’m at a light when a guy in a souped up Nissan 300Zx pulls up behind me, revving his engine. Now I know he can beat me in the long run but off the line, he is toast. Still to give him a fair shake, I roll down my window and hold my fist out.
I count down with my fingers….1….2….3…GO!!
And leave him sitting at the light. 15 seconds later he catches up. I just look over at him and smile.
Everywhere I go, some kid in a car wants to race…same result, ever time.
Driving an EV car is a bit like driving a cellphone with wheels. Everything is on a touch screen and very little of it is right in front of you. Granted Tesla was smart and put most of what I need to drive on a smaller screen where the dashboard is but still, this HUGE table in the center of the dash with all sorts of fun gadgets is DISTRACTING.
After a while, like any new car, you customize it for your needs but it does take effort not to play while you drive.
Rebooting My Car
Yes, I had to reboot my car. As a computer scientist, this freaks me out a bit. I know what goes on when code freezes. The first time it happened, I was doing 84 mph down the highway…
I’m shooting down the road and decide to open my sunroof. I used the center console and slide the slider back to Open. It rejects the move and flashes an error message on my dashboard saying I am going to fast to open the sun roof. I try again. Same error message. Ok, not wanting to push it, I give up.
10 seconds later my dashboard freezes (the little screen, not the big one). I freak but the car is driving fine. Obviously I found a bug so I wait, hoping a timeout will bring the screen back to life.
Once I reach my destination, I call support. Through the miracle of remote connectivity via the built in 3G network, the tech looks at my log and then proceeds to tell me how to reboot my dashboard. Now I am grinning. This totally plays to the geek in me. I sit and watch the computer reboot. One minute later, I’m back among the land of the living and now armed with knowledge of a reboot sequence.
Silence and New Noises
The HARDEST thing to get use to is the lack of noise and vibration. You constantly feel like the car is either not running or you left it on. Still, after a month+ I hesitate to get out of the car because I think I have left it running. Sometimes I almost think a key would help with this haptic feedback.
Now I just have a key fob hanging from my waist. I don’t even feel it. I walk up to the car. It unlocks. I get in, press on the brake, pull the shift gear down twice to Drive and off I go. No sound, No vibration. Just movement.
The silence is both deafening and comforting. The car glides with a little “Star Trek” whine that makes you think you are gliding. The only noise is the light hum of the tires on the road.
This holds true for both slow and accelerated travel. If you want to speed up, there is no revving of an engine. There is no pause of as the transmission moves between gears. You just silently float MUCH FASTER.
ODD PEOPLE BEHAVIOR
This is probably more of a Tesla thing (kudo’s to Tesla for creating a brand) but random people talk to me about the car or say “nice car” to me as I roll by. I catch people rubber necking and pointing. Sure. I get a kick of pride out of it but it’s a tad uncomfortable at times.
People ask me questions all the time and I find myself selling the car.
EV ownership, for now, is a club. There is something about the new experience of driving and caring for an EV vehicle that brings people together. You find yourself seeing other EV cars and pulling up next to them to give a “hang loose” sign.
The Club also seems to have this innate desire/drive to educate. Everyone seems to act like an apostle, trying to convert the yet-to-be initiated.
Feeling like I am doing something positive
Lastly, as I slowly forget to stop at gas stations, I realize I am making a change that is positive. As I read about Global Warming and worry about the world I will leave my kids, I take a bit of comfort that I am helping make a change by reducing my footprint. I plan to reduce my footprint further with solar and storage but that is a future task for a future day. For now I’ll take my little win with me as I silently sneak up on people in my EV car.