I blog about owning a Tesla not so much because I am a fan of Tesla, but because I am a fan of a sustainable energy future that electric cars, and Tesla in particular, are helping come to pass. I can remember a time before the Environmental Protection Agency started regulating pollution, when there were elevated levels of poisonous lead in children from leaded gasoline exhaust. I have seen dramatic improvements in the environment since that river caught fire in 1969. It’s not right yet, but it’s much better. I look forward to the shift from fossil fuels to primarily solar power, and from gasoline engines to electric ones. I want a quieter and greener future. My intended audience is people interested in buying an electric car, and those who are awaiting delivery of one.
I’ve had my Tesla Model S 60 car since September 26, 2016, about 10 weeks. I’ve driven over 4,800 miles. Things have settled down and the car is a normal part of daily life.
Charging and Range
Charging and Range are big concerns for potential EV buyers and new owners. For the Tesla buyer, the question is how big should the battery be. I opted for the smallest 60 kWh model because its 210 mile EPA range made sense for me. People who live in a colder climate should consider the extra energy consumed heating the car and the battery in Winter, and perhaps buy something bigger. Charging and range continue to be a concern until one gains experience, and that’s why I want to share two of my own stories.
Charging off the Supercharger Network
I made a road trip from South Carolina to West Virginia, a distance of 461 miles one way. The return included a side trip to Charlottesville, Virginia. The trip out was pretty simple for the Model S. There are Tesla Superchargers along the route, spaced so that one can arrive at each with plenty of range to spare. The trick is to charge when you need to stop anyway, like for lunch or a restroom break. The charging time is not a big deal because the Superchargers charge the car so fast.
The tricky part was the return leg through Charlottesville where there was no Supercharger. I discussed my problem with my fellow Tesla owners at the Tesla company forum. One extremely helpful resource is the PlugShare app (and web site). PlugShare opens up a host of secondary charging options, many at no cost, for times when you’re traveling off the Supercharger network. In many cases, you can select a hotel that has a Tesla destination charger, solving the problem for an overnight stay. I ended up charging for a while at a Nissan dealership to boost my energy enough for the next Supercharger. Once you charge at a non-Tesla location, your confidence increases.
Advice: allow yourself a good safety margin (40 miles or more). You might well be able to get the EPA rated range with your car (I do on average) but if the wind is blowing against you, you’ll need more energy. Cold, hills, rain and speed are also factors.
I’ve been planning a trip to Columbia, South Carolina, since before I got the Model S. It’s about 200 miles round trip. I fretted a good bit about that trip, and again I sought counsel at the Tesla forum. The discussion centered about whether the trip was possible without charging (“no”) and the charging alternatives. (This discussion took place before the West Virginia trip, but the actual trip was afterwards.) One of the charging alternatives in West Columbia, SC, was a station that required sign-up with the ChargePoint network. I signed up for free, and they sent me an RFID card so that I could use chargers on their network. I ended up not using that charger but the card is one more tool in my travel charging tool belt. ChargePoint also has an app. The cool thing was that a short time before my trip. Tesla opened a Supercharger right there in Columbia, SC. Surprise! Problem solved trivially.
These charging alternatives are for AC charging, what is called Level 2 charging—the same as you have plugging in your car at home. There are also DC fast chargers that charge somewhere around half the speed of Tesla Supercharger, but still significantly faster than Level 2. Using those requires a CHAdeMO adapter that costs $450 from Tesla. I haven’t found the need for one, but others might who travel a lot in areas without Superchargers.
Daily driving is really trivial. I just plug in every night, and every morning I set out with a full battery—no more early morning trips to the gas station, standing in the cold because I forgot to fill up the day before.
I get some notice because of my car. I was trying to make a difficult left turn into traffic at a shopping center, and it wasn’t going well until a fellow stopped and I was able to go in front of him. I thought he was being nice to let me in. My wife told me that he had stopped to take a picture of my car. I parked at a grocery store and a lady drove up and asked me if she could take a picture—her son was a Tesla Fan. I even had a newspaper reporter interview me about my decision to buy a Tesla. I am still a little sensitive about driving such an expensive car (and one many folks think is even more expensive than it is), but that is just a problem with my own attitude. Reactions have been universally positive. I drive a "cool" car, not a luxury car.
As far as owning the car apart from charging, there’s not much different from a gasoline car. My car is faster and more powerful than anything I’ve owned before. It’s bigger. It’s white, so it needs more frequent washing. One pleasant surprise is now much better music sounds when the car is so quiet. But it’s a car, a very nice car, but still a car. Owning a Model S is not a transformative experience for me, but it is certainly a pleasant one.
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