Tag archives for 2013 - Page 2

100 Tesla Model S Cars Join Las Vegas Project 100 Sharing Scheme

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Let’s assume for a moment that you’re interested in electric cars. (Not a far-fetched idea, since you’re reading a blog called “Green Car Reports”.)

You’re intrigued by the growing number of options in extended-range vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt, but most of all, you’re interested in fully electric rides. The Nissan Leaf isn’t quite your style, but the Tesla Model S might fit the bill — especially in light of Tesla’s new leasing program. But before you sign on the dotted line, you’d really like to take one for a long test drive.

According to The Verge, if you’re heading to Las Vegas in the near future, you might be able to do just that, thanks to something called Project 100.


Project 100 is a new initiative spearheaded by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. It’s one of many programs that fall under the umbrella of the Downtown Project, which aims to make Las Vegas a technological and cultural mecca.

Project 100 hasn’t officially launched yet, but initial reports indicate that it’s going to be much more than a simple car-sharing service like Zipcar. Not only will Project 100 members be able to share vehicles, they’ll also have access to bikes, bus passes and more. The goal is to keep Las Vegas residents on the go without being bogged down with the hassle of owning a car:

Ultimately we decided to build something different that’s designed to replace your car 100% of the time. You have one key to your car and we wanted to build something that replaced that one key with one membership and not force you to decide each time which system was best for your need right now.

Of course, to keep those folks rolling, they’ll need to pay a high-roller price: “We’re aiming to keep the monthly cost for most members in the same range as a traditional monthly car payment + insurance which averages around $400 per month.”

Project 100′s first fleet of vehicles will include the Tesla Model S — 100 of them, to be exact. That’s the largest single U.S. reservation in Tesla’s history. Why 100 Teslas? Hsieh is glad you asked:

We chose the Tesla Model S as our primary vehicle for a lot of reasons. It’s a beautiful yet functional sedan that’s very fun to drive. It’s also a big computer on wheels which gives us the opportunity [sic] optimize the member experience over time and test a lot of theories about how people use vehicles. Tesla thinks like a startup and our conversations with their program and engineering teams so far solidified that they were the right long-term partner. Most importantly we wanted to replace peoples’ traditional vehicles with vehicles that do less harm to the environment than a traditional gas-powered vehicle. Since Teslas are 100% electric with excellent driving range, the choice was clear.

Project 100 hasn’t officially opened to the public, so we don’t yet know if it’ll offer daily or weekly memberships to Las Vegas visitors. (We’d be surprised if it didn’t, though.) You can keep up with Project 100′s progress by signing up for email updates on the front page of its website.


By Richard Read

Tesla Model S: Glitches, Quirks, and Peccadilloes Roundup

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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To put it mildly, the Tesla Model S has been a resounding success.

The New York Times has called the all-electric luxury sport sedan a game-changer, comparable to the Model T Ford. It’s won virtually every 2012 “Car of the Year” honor, including the only unanimous Motor Trend award in the magazine’s 65-year history.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] has a waiting list of nearly 20,000 eager buyers. Its production line is now humming at full capacity. And the 3,000-odd customers who’ve taken delivery of their cars are, for the most part, ecstatic.

But nobody’s perfect.

In fact, it would be something of a miracle if there weren’t at least a few teething troubles from a revolutionary, clean-sheet-of-paper design, built by a fledgling startup company, relying heavily on software, and assembled on a brand-new production line.

The Tesla Model S, too, has had its share of glitches, quirks, and peccadilloes.

In an ordinary car, these minor blips would likely pass unnoticed. But the Model S is no ordinary car.

Under a microscope since the prototype was revealed four years ago, the car has attracted a devoted clique of fanatical followers who pore over every scrap of Model S minutia.

(Count me as one of them; my 2013 Model S, with the 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, is now due to arrive in just a couple of weeks.)

Here, in any case, are some of the handful of blemishes sighted on the otherwise happy face of the Tesla Model S, as recounted by owners on Tesla Motors’ own online forum.

*Self-opening door locks. Several owners report having returned to their supposedly locked cars to find them unlocked, with one door slightly ajar. This has occurred both after manual remote locking with the key fob, and in the “walkaway” auto-lock mode, where the car locks itself when the key fob recedes to a certain distance.

*Sticking sunroof. Owners have reported difficulties opening the sunroof, which is controlled entirely from the touch screen.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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*Software glitches. Model S software update 4.1 was designed partly to offer a “sleep” mode to reduce power consumption when shut down.  But it has proven prone to bugs, with numerous reports of unpredictable glitches with the panoramic roof, door handles, locking, wipers, displays, and controls. (In fact, the two problems listed above are likely software problems, not mechanical.)

Rebooting seems to resolve many of these malfunctions, but for a few owners, rebooting has become almost a daily occurrence.

Laments one owner on the Tesla on-line forum, “You shouldn’t have to look to the east, raise your right hand, do the hokey-pokey, and tap the screen randomly to make something work!!!”

Responded another owner, wearily, “You obviously have no experience with software. The hokey-pokey is a basic required user skill.”

Tesla is currently remotely downloading Model S software version 4.2, to cars in the field. It eliminates the sleep mode that apparently caused most of the problems. “Reduced power sleep mode remains a high priority for future software releases,” says Tesla.

*Fogged windshields.  Numerous owners have reported poor defogger/defroster action in cold or humid conditions. Tesla has already come up with a new vent design, and expects to have retrofit kits available  at its service centers soon. Estimated installation time is less than an hour.

2012 Tesla Model S

2012 Tesla Model S

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*Balky charge port doors. Owners report that the doors, disguised as part of the left taillight, occasionally don’t open or close properly, and sometimes  pop open repeatedly. One poor fellow had his charge cord jam in the socket, immobilizing the car. He had to be rescued by a Tesla service rep.

*Substandard Floor Mats. Even top-of-the-line Model S cars come with no mats for the back seats, and cheap, low-quality mats in the front footwells.  “They are the crappiest ever,” complains one owner. If you want nicer ones, Tesla will sell you “premium” mats for the front and rear footwells for $400.

*No regenerative braking in the cold.  The recent Midwest cold snap has revealed an odd characteristic of the Model S: In subfreezing temperatures, the regenerative braking doesn’t kick in until the car has been driven 10 or 15 miles.

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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This is apparently because Tesla engineers don’t want a cold battery to receive the sudden charge that occurs when a Model S driver suddenly backs off the throttle, or descends a steep hill. So the regen is automatically disabled or limited until the battery warms up.

This has proven disconcerting to a few owners who weren’t expecting it. “I was caught off guard by this over the weekend,” commented one owner on the Tesla forum.  “It’s not hard to adjust to, but with something as important as braking, the car should stop in a consistent, predictable way.”

“It’s a wart on what is otherwise a superior, consistent driving experience,” commented another. And, oddly, the Chevy Volt suffers no such quirk. Its regenerative braking functions consistently in all temperatures.Do Chevy engineers know something that Tesla’s don’t? Or vice versa?

A few Model S owners have suffered more than one of these problems.

One unfortunate buyer who took delivery in late December–when Tesla was rushing to deliver as many cars as possible before year’s end–reported multiple problems with his car’s paint, GPS system, body trim, and door handles.

“I am so frustrated with all of these problems,” he wrote recently on the Tesla forum. “Had I known about this before I made a final order I never would’ve purchased this car. I wish I could take this car back to them now. Be forewarned.”

But the vast majority of Model S owners aren’t suffering any problems, or seem far more willing to cut Tesla some slack and give the company time to work out the few bugs.

One of them summed it up this way: “The car is just too awesome to whine about little problems that will (eventually) be taken care of.”

David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.


By David Noland

Tesla Model S Owners Crowdsource Trip To Counter NY Times Report

2013 Tesla Model S before DC-to-Boston road trip, Feb 2013 [photo: Aaron Schildkraut]

2013 Tesla Model S before DC-to-Boston road trip, Feb 2013 [photo: Aaron Schildkraut]

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It’s been a week of Tesla Model S hullabaloo, centered around last Sunday’s critical New York Times road test, Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway.

Now a set of defiant Tesla Model S owners are setting out to prove Times reporter John Broder wrong.

They will replicate his trip from Maryland to Connecticut, fully recharging their electric luxury sport sedans to show that the cars are quite capable of making the trip he couldn’t.

Three cars will set off at about 11 am tomorrow from the Tesla Service Center in Rockville, Maryland.

Two hours later, they’ll arrive at the Delaware SuperCharger site and connect with three additional Model S drivers, setting off fully charged by 3 pm or so.

They’ll stop again at the Milford, Connecticut, SuperCharger and recharge their cars to full.

Three drivers will even stay at a hotel in Groton, Connecticut, just as Broder did–returning the next morning to the MIlford SuperCharger to recharge once again.

After that, all the drivers will head home.

“We are trying to replicate the trip as closely as possible,” said driver Aaron Schildkraut, “but showing that with proper full charges (and even not plugging in overnight at the hotel) that the trip can be made.”

The owners have asked Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] for access to their cars’ data logs afterward, to provide the same level of detail that Tesla offered in Musk’s rebuttal post, A Most Peculiar Test Drive.

A Twitter account, TeslaRoadTrip, has already been set up so that team members can post regular updates during the weekend. Perhaps Tesla’s tweet-happy CEO, Elon Musk, will RT some of their updates.

The plans stemmed from various discussions on the Tesla Motors Club forum. The plan to crowdsource drives that will ostensibly disprove Broder’s reporting grew over just a few days.

We’ll bring you more details on Monday about how the trip played out.

Meanwhile, for more details on the spat, read our full account of the discrepancies between the Times and Tesla accounts as of yesterday morning.

What do you think? Will the Model S owners make it?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


By John Voelcker

Tesla Model S 60-kWh Delayed To Jan: Bye-Bye, 2012 Tax Credit

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Well, it looks like there won’t be a Tesla Model S under my Christmas tree after all.

Even more annoying, that means I’ll have to wait until April 15, 2014, to take advantage of my $7,500 electric-car tax credit.

As Model S reservation holder P717, I’d hoped to take delivery of my car this month, after the initial batch of 1,200 premium-priced Signature cars were completed by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].

When I signed the purchase agreement back in August, I was told I’d get my car–a metallic green 60-kWh model–in November or December, in time for the 2012 tax credit.

But with production slippages and a delay in the EPA certification of the 60-kWh battery version, delivery by the December 31 deadline began to look dicey.

Tesla has now officially delivered the bad news in a note to its reservation holders: production of 60-kWh cars won’t begin until January, with initial deliveries in “January/early February.”

With perhaps a couple of hundred 60-kWh buyers in line ahead of me, and the one- to two-week delivery time from California to my place in New York, it now looks like I’ll get my hands on the car in mid- or late February.

Oh, well. At least I’ll be missing a lot of cold weather, in which electric cars typically lose substantial range.

Tesla also announced new delivery dates for certain other options not available at the start of production.

Production of the base 40-kWh Model S will begin in March 2013, with deliveries starting in “March/early April.”

Cars with the standard coil suspension will also now start production in March. (So far, cars have been built only with the optional $1,500 air suspension.)

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

2012 Tesla Model S, brief test drive, New York City, July 2012

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The one option whose start date hasn’t been pushed back is the new multi-coat Red paint color, which will come on line in March, as originally scheduled.

Tesla promises to send Model S buyers regular updates as each option gets closer to production.

“We have not done a great job at all in the past regarding communication on these items,” conceded Tesla VP George Blankenship. “I fully acknowledge our shortfall in this area.”

Going forward, he promised, the company will do “a much better job.”

David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.


By David Noland

Tesla Now Making, Delivering 500 Model S Electric Cars Weekly

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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With a backlog of more than 10,000 depositors for the Tesla Model S, its maker is making and delivering electric luxury sedans as fast as it can.

Among other benefits, that may allow Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] to achieve CEO Elon Musk’s suggestion that the company could be profitable for the first quarter of this year.

George Blankenship, Tesla’s vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience, said in December that the company had reached its target production rate of 400 cars a week.

And that 400-cars-per-week production rate was backed up in January by Jerome Guillen, director of Model S programs.

Now, in the company’s latest blog post, Blankenship says that rate has risen.

“During the past three weeks we have averaged more than 500 Model S deliveries per week, and it looks like we’ll be setting another record this week.”

And that number is backed up, more or less, by a little-noticed article in the Westfield Republican, an upstate New York newspaper that covers the region where Jamestown Plastics is located.

That’s the company that makes liners for the Model S front trunk–which Tesla insists on calling a “frunk”–and ships them to Tesla’s Silicon Valley assembly plant in Fremont, California.

About “500 a week are fabricated at the Jamestown Plastics, Inc., operation in Brocton,” says the article.

Taken together, it sounds like Tesla Motors is now cranking out its first high-volume electric car at a rate of 2,000 per month or better.

Which should make its investors–and depositors–happy.


By John Voelcker

Teslive Event In July To Bring 300 Tesla Owners Together In San Francisco Bay Area

2013 Tesla Model S

2013 Tesla Model S

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Few automakers have built a buzz around their products like Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA].

Like many other electric cars, Roadster and Model S owners and fans are a tight-knit community too, and a two-day users conference in July will bring even more owners together.

Called Teslive, Silicon Beat describes it as being along the lines of the Macworld expo, a conference for all things Apple.

Teslive is hosted by the Tesla Motors Club, while Tesla Motors itself will support the event. Planned for two days from Friday July 12th, the show will take over the Crowne Plaza San Jose in Silicon Valley, with exhibits and a network reception.

Saturday activities include breakout sessions and a Tesla Motors-sponsored party at the Fremont factory where Model S sedans are built, while Sunday will play host to a convoy of Roadsters and Model S in the Woodside hills.

It should be a great opportunity for owners to swap hints and tips on their cars, share stories and even learn about future products and services from the company.

The event is limited to only 300 attendees, but organizers hope it will become an annual event, growing in scope and size each year–and with Tesla’s user base increasing all the time, there’s no doubt it’ll grow in popularity too.

If you’re a Tesla Motors Club member the chances are you’ve already heard of the event, but those wishing to know more or register for the event can head over to the Teslive page.


By Antony Ingram

2013 Tesla Model S Ready For Delivery: So Close & Yet So Far

2013 Tesla Model S in Queens, NY, service center, awaiting delivery to buyer David Noland, Feb 2013

2013 Tesla Model S in Queens, NY, service center, awaiting delivery to buyer David Noland, Feb 2013

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After just about four years of waiting, my 2013 Tesla Model S has arrived.


The call from the Tesla delivery rep came on February 4, the last day of the two-week delivery window promised back in December.

My car, with metallic green paint, 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, black leather interior, air suspension, had arrived at the service/delivery center in Queens, New York.

To say that I was eagerly anticipating its final delivery to my home–just 60 miles upstate in the Hudson Valley–would be the understatement of the year.

But fate can be cruel.

Tomorrow, on February 7, I’m scheduled to leave for a two-week biking trip in Myanmar.

I briefly considered taking delivery before the trip, driving the car for a day or two, and then heading off to Myanmar. 

But I wasn’t sure I could bear the frustration of abandoning the car after such a brief taste of its pleasures.

And I really didn’t like the idea of my brand-new Model S sitting unused, potentially buried in a snowdrift, for the first two weeks of its life.

So, with very mixed feelings, I have postponed delivery until February 22, two days after I return.

Although this kind of short-term delivery postponements can be arranged, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] recently confirmed that once a customer signs the final configuration paperwork, it won’t allow long-term production or delivery delays (as a few customers have now requested).

The delivery rep assures me the car will be stored indoors and watched over carefully.

Hopefully they’ll have plenty of time to inspect it carefully, correct any small defects, and perhaps install the updated defroster vent that the company is apparently developing.

I’ll report what my new Tesla Model S is like to drive, in detail, as soon as I actually drive it–in two more weeks.

Stay tuned.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S reservation holder and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.


By David Noland

New Tesla Testing Technique From Staid Consumer Reports: Drifting!

We’d not normally advise getting information directly from Wikipedia, but its opening line on the sport of drifting is as good as any other definition you’ll find:

“Drifting is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels, while maintaining control from entry to exit of a corner.”

Compare that definition with the Consumer Reports video above and what you see is pretty clear: it really is a 4,600-pound Tesla Model S being drifted.

Following their highest-ever rating since 2007, the guys at Consumer Reports decided to have some fun.

After all, when you spend the day doing sensible, objective tests–measuring luggage space, recording noise, counting cupholders–it’s natural that you’d want to unwind a little.

Anyway, their opinions on the car’s fun factor are as high as its overall rating.

“Driving a Tesla Model S is like having your own private amusement park,” said CR.

“Not that we advocate tire-smoking, tail-sliding turns on any public road–ever! But such drifting can be a measure of a car’s great-handling chops, as well as its available power. And boy, can the Tesla drift!”

While the car’s stability systems (wisely) cannot be switched off entirely, the traction control can. The laws of physics always win in the end, and with enough provocation and judicious use of the accelerator pedal it’s apparently possible to get the Model S to wag its tail.

It’s not something you’d do on the road (drifting is bad, mmmkay?) but on the track it’s just another string to the car’s bow.


By Antony Ingram

Life With 2013 Tesla Model S: Range Penalty At Speed Is Lower Than Expected

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan [photo by owner David Noland]

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I’ve been surprised and delighted by how efficiently my new 2013 Tesla Model S has been running at higher speeds.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] hammers home the message that high speeds can drastically reduce the range of any Model S.

It cautions that its original  range figure of 230 miles for my 60-kWh car is based on a steady 55-mph speed, on level ground, and that higher speeds can significantly reduce this number. 

(The official EPA range, based on a variety of speeds and conditions, is 208 miles.)

But who drives 55 mph? On multilane highways, certainly not me.

According to a range-vs-speed graph on the Tesla website, range of the 85-kWh Model S at a steady 55 mph is about 310 miles.  

At a steady 70 mph, the graph shows a range of 240 miles–a reduction of 23 percent.

If we apply the same 23-percent range reduction to my 60-kWh car, it works out to a range of 178 miles at 70 mph.

Cool temperatures eat away at range as well. According to the range calculator at my local Tesla store,  range declines by about 10 percent at 40 degrees. Now we’re down to 160 miles.

Knock off a few more miles for hills, and we’re looking at a projected real-world range–my real world at this time of year, at least–of maybe 150 miles.

But I actually did much better than that on a trip to New York City last week, under just those conditions.

No hypermiling here; I drove 65-75 mph over moderately hilly terrain, with the outside temperature at 40 degrees and the climate control on a comfortable setting (no shivering, either).

The 117.5-mile round trip consumed 39.2 kWh of juice, about two-thirds of the battery capacity. Average power consumption was 334 watt-hours per mile.  That’s almost exactly 3 miles per kWh.

Extrapolate those numbers out to the full battery capacity of 60 kWh, and we get a max range of 180 miles. That’s a lot better than the 150 or so predicted by the graphs and calculators.

It’s a nice little bonus that makes up for a couple of days of “vampire” electrical power usage while the car is parked in my driveway

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.


By David Noland

Life With 2013 Tesla Model S: The Good & The Bad At 600 Miles

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

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Two weeks and 600 miles ago, I took delivery of a 60-kWh 2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan.

I won’t dwell on the ear-flattening acceleration, nor the magic-carpet ride and handling, nor the mesmerizing 17-inch touch screen controls.

Those features have been exhaustively  analyzed and reported by far more expert authorities than I. 

I’ll just say that I was expecting a world-class cutting-edge luxury sport sedan, and that’s just what Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] delivered.

But there have also been a few things I didn’t expect. 

Here are some of the little surprises–good and bad–that I’ve noticed in the Model S so far.

Vanishing regen

One of the joys of electric driving is regenerative braking.  Lift your foot off the “gas” pedal, and the car slows aggressively as the drive motor turns into a generator and sends current back into the battery.

Strong regen is not only energy-efficient, but also gives the car a sporty, responsive feel, like engine braking in a  gas car in a low gear.  Electric-car drivers call it “one-pedal driving.” With strong regen, you’ll hardly ever touch the brake.

Different electric cars have different levels of regen.  The gentle Nissan Leaf is designed to feel like a standard car [but has two different settings for Regen, D and ECO].

The Chevy Volt has two regen settings, one that mimics conventional gasoline cars, and a second stronger one that allows for one-pedal driving. (I drive my Volt in this “L” mode virtually 100 percent of the time.)

Tesla’s first car, the two-seat Roadster, had particularly strong regen, a popular feature with its performance-oriented owners.

The Model S, like the Volt, has two settings: Low, which mimics conventional cars, and Standard, which follows in the one-pedal tradition of the Roadster.

I was eagerly anticipating  the same sporty, responsive regen feel that had hooked me in the Volt.

Not so much, it turns out.

To my surprise,  regenerative braking in the Model S virtually disappears when the battery is cold. Starting out on a winter’s day, it feels disappointingly like any old ICE car–even with the regen on the highest setting.

As the battery warms, the regen gradually increases. But it can take a maddeningly long time to get back to the max level.

Model S vs Volt

On a sunny 40-degree day last week, it took almost 25 miles of driving for full regen to come back. On my typical shorter trips around town, I never get it back. I’d guess that overall, perhaps only a third of my driving so far has had full regen available.

Blame the Model S battery management system, which is programmed to limit the charge rate when the battery is cold.

Under normal circumstances, abruptly backing off the gas pedal at high speed can send a jolt of up to 60 kW into the Model S battery. Tesla engineers believe such bursts of charge are not healthy for cold batteries, and therefore limit regen accordingly.

The Model S has a dashboard dial that shows exactly how much regen current is flowing back into the battery at any given moment.  Its maximum reading is 60 kW.

When regen is limited, a dotted line appears on the dial, and the  meter won’t go beyond it. On a cold day, the dotted line starts out at around the 15-kW mark and gradually moves up to the 60-kW level before disappearing altogether when the battery reaches its normal operating temperature.

By contrast, the Chevy Volt’s regen is unaffected by temperature. It’s the same sporty feel, winter or summer. Apparently Chevy engineers don’t see a problem with high charge rates for cold batteries.

Do they know something Tesla engineers don’t? Or vice versa?

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

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Whoever’s right, and long-term battery health notwithstanding, one thing is indisputable: From the driver’s point of view, the regen system of the Model S is a lot less consistent and fun than the Volt’s in cold weather.

One more reason to look forward to summer.

The key fob that won’t shut up

For the last 35 years, I’ve  left my keys in the car as it sits overnight in my driveway. (I live in a low-crime area, deep in the woods, at the end of a long driveway.)

It’s a great system. I never, ever forget my keys on the kitchen counter or in the wrong jacket pocket. They’re always waiting in the car.

Until I got the Tesla Model S.

When I casually described my car-key system to the Tesla delivery guy, he frowned and said, “If you do that with this car, you’ll be replacing the key fob battery every month or so.”

He went on to explain that when the key fob is in the car, it stays in constant communication with the Model S computer, which remains on all the time. Even though there’s nothing really to talk about, the key fob  keeps talking to the computer 24/7. That takes juice. And that kills batteries. Moral: Don’t leave the key in the car.

I’m trying to reform. It’s not going well.

About half the time, by sheer force of 35-year habit, I walk out the door not thinking about my car keys.  I walk up the 200-foot path from the house to the driveway, go through the awkward getting-in contortion the Model S requires of tall, creaky drivers like me, and put the shift lever into Drive–only to be greeted with a “Key Not Inside” alert.

Help me out here, Elon. Could you please make a key fob that shuts up after a while?

Coasting fool

I’m ready to wager that no production car in the world coasts better than a Model S.

There’s a long, ruler-straight, very slightly downhill stretch of highway near my home. Visually, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the grade.

But drive the Model S along this stretch and slip the gear lever into neutral, and the car seemingly glides on like magic, maintaining 60 mph with zero energy input. It’s surreal.

Credit the car’s aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.24, the lowest of any production car. Likewise the low-rolling resistance tires, inflated to 45 psi. As far as I can tell, that’s the highest tire pressure on any production car.

The result is a hypermiler’s wet dream.

Which raises the question: if you’ve got regen braking, why bother to coast?  By shifting to N, aren’t you losing the chance to put free energy back into the battery?

Yes, you are.

But regen braking slows the car. And to accelerate back up to coasting speed takes all the energy you’ve just put back into the battery, and more.

Assuming a typical motor/generator/inverter effciency of around 80 percent, the regen process wastes about a third of the energy it processes.  100 watt-hours of kinetic energy from the car turns into 80 Wh of electricity back into the battery, which turns into 64 Wh of energy delivered back to the wheels.

Coasting, on the other hand, wastes nothing.

Hypermilers, rejoice.

More efficient than the Volt….in winter

After 594 miles of driving, the Model S Magic Screen is telling me I’ve used 217 kWh of electricty, for an average of 365 watt-hours per mile.  (Or, if you prefer, 36.5 kWh per 100 miles.)

That’s just slightly above the Tesla’s official EPA rating of 35 kWh per 100 miles. Considering that all my driving was done at  temperatures of 25 to 40 degrees, that’s a splendid number indeed.

By comparison, on a typical winter’s day, the Volt uses around 40 kWh per 100 miles. 

Thus the Model S–although much larger, around 800 pounds heavier, and with much better performance–is actually more efficient than the Volt in typical winter temperatures. Amazing.

The Volt’s electric efficiency, however,  will shoot up dramatically once summer arrives. In 80-degree temperatures, the Volt’s appetite for electrons drops to about 25 kWh per 100 miles.

Will the Tesla’s numbers improve that much in warmer weather?

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

2013 Tesla Model S electric sport sedan on delivery day, with owner David Noland

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Tesla has stubbornly stonewalled my questions about cold-weather range loss for almost a year now.

But based on my winter numbers so far, the Model S appears to lose no more than 10 to 20 percent–dramatically better than the Volt, which in my experience loses up to 50 percent of its range in winter.  (As does the Nissan Leaf, according to owner reports.)

I find this to be one of the most intriguing technical mysteries of the electric car world:  How does Tesla manage to kick every other company’s butt when it comes to cold-weather efficiency?

Feeding The Vampire

I keep a close eye on my home electric meter. For some reason, it  seemed to be running a little faster than normal after I got the Model S.

That was odd, because the Tesla was simply substituting for the electric miles I had already been driving in my Chevy Volt. The two cars are comparable in efficiency on winter days; it shouldn’t have taken more power to run the Model S than the Volt.

And then one night I happened to leave the Tesla unplugged.

When I left the car at 9 p.m., the Rated Range display said I had 169 miles remaining. But next morning, I was surprised to find that the range had dropped to 153 miles.

As an experiment, I left the car unplugged again the next night. (Temperature was in the 20s, a bit colder than the previous night.) Indicated range dropped from 89 miles to 66, a loss of 23 miles.

That’s the equivalent of about 8 kWh of electricity–which is one-third of my daily electric use, not including electric-car miles.

What’s going on here?  Does it really cost as much in electricity to let the Model S sit static as it does to drive it?

I’m currently researching the topic further, and plan to use a watt-hour meter to determine precisely what goes on when a Model S sits unused, plugged in or not,.

Till then, I wouldn’t advise leaving your Model S unplugged at an airport for a couple of weeks–despite the owner’s manual’s assurances to the contrary.

Stay tuned.

David Noland is a Tesla Model S owner and freelance writer who lives north of New York City.


By David Noland