Prius to Tesla Transition Part 3 – Owning

Day 2: Grin rising

I must say that today was a much more positive one than yesterday. I had a good night’s sleep and I put in a work day with Habitat for Humanity, something that always picks me up. I checked off some things on my to-do list: transferred insurance on the car and got HomeLink working.

Autopilot

I realized that one mistake I made driving home from the delivery was to use Autopilot. Autopilot is designed to take some of the stress out of tedious driving. Getting to know a new car is, not tedious and Autopilot was a distraction. Today I drove without Autosteer entirely and only used TACC when the traffic bunched up on the Interstate. It’s really fun to drive.

Wide

Did I mention that the Model S is a good bit wider than the Prius? I was aware of this and was concerned about fitting in the garage (it does), but I didn’t take into consideration driving. Model S has a Lane Departure Warning that vibrates the steering wheel if you start to exit your lane without turning on the blinker. I kept getting the warning because I was conditioned all these years to a car of one width and now I have a wider one that extends further to the right. I have to learn to re-center the vehicle. This may take a while.

Badge envy

When I visit the Tesla forums and watch YouTube videos, it seems that everybody has a bigger battery than I do, and most drive performance versions that go zero to sixty in some ludicrously small amount of time. I just have a bottom of the line S60. Whatever concerns I had about not experiencing the exhilaration described by other owners has been were blown away with the actual driving experience. I didn’t go anywhere near flooring the pedal, but I did things I’d never have dreamed of in a Prius. For example I was merging onto an Interstate highway in a crunch that required me to stop right at the entrance to the freeway. I saw a space and accelerated right into the line of traffic from a dead stop. So I no longer have badge1 envy. I have all the power I can use.

Range exuberance

I’m going to take “range anxiety” and turn it on its head. My Model S 60 kWh has an EPA range of 210 miles. At the beginning of my Tesla journey, I started with the premise that “nobody gets EPA rated results.” Then I started taking more away from the range. I deducted air conditioning. I deducted hills. I deducted not charging to 100%. I deducted a buffer. I deducted wind. The range number in my head kept shrinking down to somewhere around a pathetic 150 miles on a good day with a tail wind. Now that I have the actual Model S, I discovered that I am using a little less energy in my own typical combined city/highway driving than the EPA. So leaving a 21 mile safety margin, I could travel 194 miles. That number would be lower in the mountains in the face of a stiff blizzard, but I don’t do much of that.

Interest

I took “New Adventure” (my car’s name) to the Habitat build today and nobody seemed to notice, except one young fellow who was parked in front of me came over as I was leaving. He said that the Tesla was his “dream car” and that he had never seen one so close. Of course I have him a quick tour.

Loyalty

It’s not reasonable to ascribe emotions to a machine. Still, I got the feeling that the car is loyal to me because when I walked up to it, the door handles presented themselves. It’s just an affirmative feeling. The Prius, by the way, turned on the interior lights when I approached, but I didn’t approach it at night very much.

Day 3 – Crunch

Day 3 started off well enough with a day trip to Black Rock, North Carolina and then over to Asheville to the Supercharger at the Outlet Mall.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the garage, only it’s not funny. My car barely fits in the garage. It was dark. The garage is uphill, and the Model S has to be accelerated to go up the hill, otherwise it rolls down. The view out the back of the car is very limited. I ended up hitting the side of the garage door and putting a 3-inch dent in the side of the car.  This brings up a very large negative about owning a Tesla. The aluminum body requires special training and equipment to repair. One Internet article said that a “small dent” requiring no parts costs $7,000 to fix. That’s 10% of the cost of the car, and frankly outrageous in my mind. The nearest Tesla-approved body shop is in Charlotte, NC. This is going to take days to work out and a huge expense.

Update: That $7,000 repair cost I found on the Internet may be an exaggerated figure, but I’ve solved the “dent” problem. I’ll just wait until another car hits me in that spot and let their insurance pay for the repair. That’s what happened with my 1996 Taurus. In that case it was the right front bumper that hit the garage entry while I was backing out. I didn’t fix it. Some time after that, a truck backed into the same quarter panel, doing much greater damage. I got it fixed then.


1The “badge” is the model designator emblem on the back of the car.

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Prius to Tesla transition part 2–Delivery

I bought my first Prius over the Internet, and it was delivered (driven) to a local parking lot where I picked it up and wrote a check to pay for it. It wouldn’t go. The guy who drove it didn’t remember how he got it moving (push the brake before pressing Start ). That’s all the orientation I got. Tesla has a specialist to go over the features and operation of the car.

This morning I woke up at 2:30 AM and tried to go back to sleep. I gave up around 5:30 and passed the time until daylight watching Bjørn Nyland’s YouTube Tesla videos. I’ve been getting hyper over this Tesla delivery for almost 2 months, and frankly I’m emotionally drained.

When I arrived at the Tesla service center, the auto transport was already there ready to take my Prius. The Tesla service center was kind enough to help me remove the license plate (I brought a screwdriver, but needed a hex wrench). I was focused on delivery of the Tesla and didn’t watch the Prius go. Poof, gone.

In stark contrast to my first Prius delivery (which had a nasty surprise beyond starting the car), everything went super with the Model S delivery. I already knew exactly what was going to happen. Everyone was congratulatory, enthusiastic, helpful and knowledgeable. So hats off to the delivery team: Nick and Michael. Also thanks to Vic in service for getting me a couple of items, and Joe the manager who checked on how it all went. The car was in perfect shape except for one dirty smudge on the headliner that I found later, and will take care of myself.

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Prius to Tesla transition

I thought I’d make a little log of my 2007 Prius to Tesla Model S 60 transition for the benefit of Prius owners considering a Tesla. I’ve owned two Priuses, 12 years in total. They were great cars. My Tesla has been built, and I’m waiting for delivery. Since I can’t drive the car, at least I can blog about it. This article is being updated as the process unfolds. When the car gets delivered, check out Prius to Tesla transition Part 2 – Delivery.

Prius2007 Prius


2016 Tesla Model S (“New Adventure”)

Should I buy one?

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Has the time of the electric car arrived?

My son is on the wait list for a Tesla Model 3, an electric car that is supposed to be available by the end of 2017 with a base price of $35,000 and a range over 200 miles. If you apply a to-be-determined federal tax credit to that, along with the cost savings on fuel and maintenance, it becomes a very affordable mainstream vehicle.

That got me looking at the Tesla more closely, and what’s available today. It turns out that even today, an electric car with more than double the horsepower of my Prius (3151 vs 145 hp) and a range over 200 miles (EPA) competes with comparable luxury sedans. The well-appointed Tesla Model S 60 has a base price of $66,000 before a $7,500 federal tax credit, and an estimated fuel savings of $5,000 over 5 years. 3 There’s also an incentive program that drops another $1,000 from the price, valid until October 15, 2016.

Tesla Model S photo (white)

Those fuel savings (based on the cost of gasoline vs. electricity) may underestimate actual savings, because you can get free charging for the Tesla. Tesla has 613 “Supercharger” stations at strategic locations across the country along the Interstate Highway System. The number of stations is slated to double by 2017. Charging at one of them is free for the driver, and you can get enough charge to go 170 miles in 20-30 minutes. There are numerous accounts on the Internet of coast-to-coast trips.

There about 66,000 Tesla cars in the US as of this past May, with production of about 2,000 per week.2

Is it practical? There are no Tesla dealers or service centers in South Carolina, but there is one in Charlotte. From where I live, you can drive to Charlotte and back, and to Columbia and back on a charge. Atlanta requires a stop at the Atlanta Supercharger. (There’s also one in Charlotte, and one coming soon to Columbia, SC.) If your vehicle breaks down, they come fix it under warranty (within 500 miles of the service center). There is a Supercharger about 20 mines down the Interstate from me in Greenville. Most Tesla owners install a special charging outlet in their home, but if one has a lot of time to wait, it can be charged from a regular 110 V outlet. The basic warranty is 4 years, 50,000 miles, plus an 8-year warranty on the battery and the power train.

Here’s the totally empty charging station in Greenville, SC:

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The Tesla Model S is a very safe car, earning a perfect NHTSA 5 star rating. Only 1% of cars tested get 5 stars in every subcategory. It has 8 air bags, and collision avoidance features. Tesla aims to reduce traffic accidents 10-fold through the use of it’s Autopilot technology. What the current Autopilot can do is to keep you from running up on the car ahead of you when traveling on a restricted access road, and it will keep you from wandering out of your lane. It also has the ability to brake before you run into something to reduce the severity of the collision.

I wrote this article just to say that the status of electric cars in the world changed while I wasn’t paying attention.


1Other versions of the Tesla Model S have up to 532 hp and a range just under 300 miles (EPA).

2 The Tesla, however, is not the only plug-in electric vehicle for sale, only the best-selling so far this year. There are many, including entries from Nissan, Chevrolet, BMW, Ford, Fiat, VW, Toyota, Porsche, Cadillac, Kia, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Honda, Audi and Mercedes. (Some of these are plug-in hybrids or have gasoline backup.) This list from an electric vehicle information site includes some cars that are either not yet available, or that may soon become unavailable. The Mercedes will cost $200,000. The Cadillac is available, but very few have been sold. The all-electric Chevrolet Volt will be out the end of 2016 with a decent range and price point.

3 If you drive a Prius, get 50 mpg, live in South Carolina with its cheap gas and average electric rates, you’d only save a negligible amount with the Tesla.

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Pinball Dreams is back!

One of my all-tine favorite games is Pinball Dreams. The original was on Amiga computers, long out of manufacture; however, the game was ported to iOS and I bought it for my iPhone. I enjoyed it for years, but an iOS update broke it a long time ago. I was about to finally delete it from my phone (having periodically checked it over the years), but one more check revealed that it is working again. Hooray!

There was a free trial version, which is a fine and fun game in its own right, but the full version gives you all 4 pinball tables. My favorite, Nightmare is pictured below.

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