Tesla Model S – The First 5,000 miles

After months of constantly checking the Tesla Motors website and teslamotorsclub.com blog for production information, I took delivery of my Model S December 19, 2013.  I took advantage of the buyback guarantee (in case the vehicle ended up being the 21st century version of the Edsel) which was a bit of a pain.  I had to drive from my home in South Jersey to the Tesla office in Springfield to sign the loan papers. This made no sense to me and I tried many different angles to avoid it, but in the end, I made the 2 hour drive North signed and turned around.  That has been the worst part of my Tesla ownership experience.

The way I see it the car doesn’t cost much more than my old one.  The Federal government essentially made my down payment via tax credit.  I sold my Acura RL, the proceeds of which I deposited in a bank account where my payment is directly debited.  That money will cover the first 18 months of payments.  That leaves 18 more for me to pay before I can turn the car back in and exercise the Tesla buyback guarantee.  The buyback guarantee is exercisable from months 36-39.  At that point I’ll either trade-up to a new Tesla or try one of the other electric vehicles sure to hit the market between now and then.  So for around $20,000 I will get to drive the Model S for 36 months.

The gas savings are huge for me.  I used to spend $58/tank 1-2 times a week.  My RL got 26 MPG on the highway, so I spent around $3.50 to go 26 miles.  Regular gas in NJ runs around $3.50/gallon.  I charge at home and get 29 miles per hour for about $0.50/hour (according to my TED energy monitoring device).  When you consider the miles I drive, oil changes, timing belts and all the other preventative maintenance a gas-powered car requires, the Tesla is really affordable, if you can overcome the sticker-shock.

My Model S has the upgraded battery with a daily range of 265 (rated) miles.  Given the long drives I make in my normal work routine (38 miles to/from the office and longer drives to other work locations) the bigger battery was a must.  A year before buying the Tesla I seriously considered the Chevy Volt.  An excellent car but with a 38 mile electric range, I would be running on gas almost all of the time.  So a Tesla was my only choice.

I took delivery in one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record in NJ.  The Model S is rear wheel drive and I was concerned about its handling in snowy weather.  Most of my friends thought I was crazy driving it in the snow.  However, I bought the car to be my everyday vehicle and so it has been, in all conditions.  Surprisingly, the car handled great in all conditions.  The batteries are under the center of the car evenly distributing their weight.  I never got stuck and only saw the traction control kick-on once or twice.  The big surprise was the cold’s impact on battery range.

I created a google sheet in my google drive that would track my driving results.  It’s cool because I can access it from my iPhone or PC.  I select from a dropdown list the driving style (highway/city/mix), temperature (bitter cold/very cold/cold/cool/warm/hot/very hot), input beginning battery range in miles and odometer reading then upon arrival add ending battery range and odometer and the spreadsheet calculates the “efficiency” rating, as I defined it.  My efficiency rating is the ratio of actual miles driven divided by the battery range miles used.  I have not yet achieved a 100% rating on a drive.

I knew the battery life would be reduced in cold, especially bitter cold (<20 degrees Fahrenheit).  However I found the battery efficiency was down in the 65-68% level.  This would be made worse on the highway where the regenerative brakes would not be recharging the battery.  So, I adapted my driving, no longer buzzing along in the third lane at 80 MPH as I used to in my ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) engine cars.  I started using the cruise control to maximize the battery life.  Now, I’m a speed limit driver in the shoulder lane to gain maximum battery life.  This worked as I was able to improve “efficiency” by driving the rated speed limit and not faster.  The battery life seems to decline exponentially as cruising speed goes over 60 MPH.

But driving the Tesla is the best driving experience I have ever had.  I literally look forward to my commute because it will be in the Tesla.  The ride is smooth, seats very comfortable (some would disagree) and the car just “fits”.  The technology is unmatched in any vehicle in the world.  My internal Geek is always grinning ear-to-ear when driving.

I have not had any problems with the car at all.  I mean nothing, and I am a picky detail oriented person, especially when it comes to things I pay a lot of money for.  The Tesla has not disappointed.  That said, I do have some observations after 5,000 miles.

Top 5 things I miss after buying a Tesla Model S:

5.         Only being able to carry 4 passengers, the Tesla comfortably seats 5 as there is no transmission hump in the backseat so I get stuck driving everywhere.

4.         Engine noise from my Acura RL

3.         Parking at the pump at my WaWa while I go inside for coffee.

2.         My old-friend Gary at Jiffy Lube

1.         5% cash back at the pump for gas purchases

These are sacrifices to be sure, but I have already adapted.  I now pay my electric bill via credit card to get points and I stop in to see Gary with my wife’s car for oil changes.  Other than that, the Tesla has been everything it was supposed to be.  My Tesla Model S is an amazing automobile to drive, comfortable and stylish with technology everywhere and the ease and simplicity of plugging in each night and awaking to a full “tank” each morning.  I did try to use a charging station, they’re pretty much everywhere, I found.  It was not hard to do but it takes time to get any measurable range.

I stopped updating my google sheet.  I am comfortable with the range and weather/driving conditions so no need to track it.  Now, I just drive.  I love it!  Hopefully the laws about new car franchises in NJ will change so that the hassle can be removed from the buying experience.  But even if it’s not, trust me the car is worth it.




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