– Ben Martens


Fitting a Model Y in a Garage

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

Our garage has a separate garage door for each bay of the garage. It makes for a narrow entrance (95″) and our garage isn’t very deep either (233″). As we were thinking about ordering a Model Y, I wasn’t sure how well it would fit inside.

Our 2013 Ford Escape was 178″ long and 82″ wide with the mirrors extended. There were no automatic side mirrors on it so they were always extended. That car fit fine in the garage and with careful parking, we were able to walk in front of the car and still open the rear hatch even when the garage door was closed. It was tight but it wasn’t bad.

The 2022 Tesla Model Y is 187″ long and 84″ wide with the mirrors extended or 76″ wide with the mirrors folded. So it was 9″ longer and a couple inches wider in a space that was already tight with our Escape. I wasn’t quite sure how we’d be able to get the rear hatch open, but it all worked out for two reasons:

  1. The automatic mirror folding works really well. When we get close to home, the mirrors automatically fold in and stay folded in until we’re backed out of the garage.
  2. We park the car with about 22″ in front and 22″ behind. That leaves plenty of room to open the rear trunk because the pivot point is so much further forward than it was in the Escape. The Model Y rear hatch only needs about 10″ of extra space behind the car to open.

This is probably pretty boring if you’re not in the market for one of this specific car, but hopefully it will help someone else out there who was trying to make the same guesses that we were when we ordered.

Tesla Jack Stands

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

There isn’t much maintenance on an electric vehicle. The manual basically says to put some windshield washer fluid in every once in a while and check the brakes, but even the brakes are hardly ever used since regen braking takes care of most of it. You do still need to rotate tires though, and while I could take it in to a shop or have Tesla come to my house (for $50) to do it, I don’t mind doing this at home.

Jacking up an EV isn’t always the same as a traditional car because things look a lot different under the car. If you look under a Tesla, you’ll see the giant flat area of the battery. There are four jack total points which is fine, but how do you put a jack stand under there? Enter the RennStand jack stands. These jack stands are an arch shape with removable legs. You jack up the car with the cross piece between the jack and the car. Once the car is lifted high enough, you insert the legs into the cross piece and remove the jack. Voila!

RennStand sells various adapters for all different cars so hopefully this is something that will be useful on a lot of my cars in the future… because they aren’t cheap. I bought mine from Teslarati. I bought two but for rotating the tires it turns out that I only need one. Both wheels on one side of our Model Y are lifted off the ground even when resting on a single jack stand.

The jack in the picture is the Arcan XL3000 Heavy Duty All Steel 3.0 Ton Jack. It works well but it took a very long time to get it to hold pressure when I initially unboxed it. There are steps in the manual that amount to raising and lowering it a bunch of times to work any air bubbles out of the system. I had to do it so many times that I almost gave up and returned it.

Is this overkill? Absolutely. I’m not crawling under the car so I could let it rest on the jack while I make the swap, or I could let a tire shop swap my tires. But I do like the convenience of doing it myself at home whenever it fits into my schedule. Plus, I’m also sticking with the recommended 6000-mile rotation schedule so that would be a lot of appointments to schedule. I’ve heard that EV tires don’t last as long, but I don’t know how much of that is due to additional car weight versus people driving them harder because they’re fast. I want to do it by the book for our first set and see if the tire life seems reasonable. If it goes fine, then I’ll be a little lazier on the tire rotations like I have been with our other vehicles.

Tesla Road Trip

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

Yesterday I wrote about our trip to Lincoln Rock State Park. Usually when we go camping, we take the truck, but since we were staying in a cabin and it was such a short trip, I decided to give the Tesla a shot instead.

With the Cascade mountains in between us and the park, it would have been pretty tight to make it all the way there and back without charging. I didn’t know what charging options would be available at the campsite, so on the way out, we paused at the Leavenworth supercharger for a quick hit. That charger is so convenient because it’s in the same parking lot as Dan’s Market which is quickly becoming our favorite grocery store in Leavenworth. We had planned to buy some of our food there anyway instead of lugging a cooler across the state. I actually had to let Tyla finish the shopping because our charging was done before our shopping was.

I had intentionally not topped off the car there in case we could find a way to get free charging at the park. The only easy option was a 110v outlet on the back of our cabin. It was a little too far for our Tesla mobile charger to reach, but I had bought along a beefy 12/3 extension cord. Charging on a standard home outlet is exceedingly slow, but we had time and it was free so why not.

On Saturday, I drove over to an unused RV spot and plugged into their 240v 50amp circuit which charged about 7 times faster than the outlet at our cabin. After a couple hours a ranger stopped by and asked me to move the car though just in case someone happened to have that site reserved. I get that it was the rule and I didn’t put up a fight, but it seemed unlikely that in a park with 100+ empty sites, that specific one would be reserved. In retrospect, I wish I had put a note in the window with a short explanation and my phone number so that I’d at least save them the work of looking up my license plate if they didn’t like it.

I didn’t leave the mobile charger plugged in overnight because I wasn’t sure how waterproof the whole setup was, but by the time we left, we had added about 25% to the battery which meant we could easily make it home without a stop, and it also saved us about $7 versus charging at the supercharger.

Yes, you read that right: $8. I love the challenge of being as frugal as I can with my charging to really milk the most savings we can, but when you look at the work required to save even a few bucks, it really doesn’t pay off unless you’re having fun doing it.

While it was a little tricky to fit Elijah’s bike into the car, all our stuff fit pretty easily. The frunk and the under trunk storage swallow up so much gear. And I was glad we had all wheel drive for the trip through the pass. There was quite a bit of snow over the weekend but thankfully we missed the worst of it. I did have chains along just in case.

All in all I’m glad we took the Tesla instead of the truck. These adventures with the Tesla are helpful in expanding my comfort zone. We’re still hoping to do a long road trip with it this summer!

One Year of Gas Prices

As part of my effort to closely track the cost savings of our Tesla, I wrote a program that uses Gas Buddy to track the prices of the six gas stations closest to our house with the logic being that these are the places we’d be most likely to buy gas from. In reality, we buy almost all our gas at Safeway but for some reason that one doesn’t usually have prices listed on Gas Buddy.

That program started running a year ago and below is the chart of how things have changed. The orange line (the cheapest gas) is usually the Costco near us.

When I was doing the calculations about whether I could save money with a Model Y versus buying another Ford Escape, I had planned on $3.50/gallon. So with the average gas price barely ever dipping below $4/gallon, I’m ahead of my estimated savings mark. But I’ll more on those specific savings numbers when we reach 20,000 miles in a few months.

Cold Weather Tesla Experience

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

Our Model Y is parked in a garage and the temps outside rarely get much below freezing. Those two factors means that when I read the user manual, I skipped over all the cold weather information. That came back to bite me a bit when we spent a weekend in Leavenworth.

On our second night there, it got below 20 degrees and snowed an inch or two. We were leaving that morning so when I woke up around 6am (like I always do), I snuck out to go charge so we’d be ready to go when everyone else was awake. I turned on the climate control before going out to the car, brushed it off, and I was able to open the car door just fine. If that didn’t work, I knew I could use the app to release the door as well.

During the 4-minute drive to the supercharger, I told the car where I was going so that it would start preconditioning the battery. But when I arrived and tried to open the charge port, it wouldn’t open. Uh oh. I sat in the car for a while reading through the owner’s manual and found out that there is a small heater inside the charge port that is engaged with the rear window defroster. I turned that on and when I checked the charge port 5 minutes later, it opened easily.

So that was annoying but it’s not a big deal now that I know about it. I think the big takeaway was experiencing firsthand how the car would behave in cold weather. A few days ago, Tesla released a video talking about the innovation in their heat pumps, and my experience shows that it’s working. When we drove there last summer in 100 degree weather, we averaged right around 300 Wh/mi. On this trip in the cold, we averaged about 310 Wh/mi. In 60-70 degree weather with little HVAC usage, I’d expect around 265-270 Wh/mi. So temps in the teens or above 100 mean maybe a 10-15% increase in battery usage.

Where I did see a lot of loss was in warming up the car after it had been sitting. I didn’t know how long it would take to warm up and defrost so I probably let it run longer than it should, but between the normal loss from the car sitting around and the additional loss from having to do more work to warm up, I could see a 2-3% drop before I drove it the next morning. Thankfully it only costs $0.24 to fill 3% of the battery, but if I had planned a trip that was cutting it close on battery, I would want to factor that in.

We’re planning a multiday, 1000+ mile road trip next summer and I really want to do it in the Tesla so this was another good learning experience. That trip won’t be cold, but it’s all good data and it also helps me feel comfortable getting more of the usable range out of the car. When we do that trip, I want to do a full blog and possibly an accompanying video showing what it’s like to road trip in an EV. Maybe someone will find it interesting now, but I think it will be very interesting to watch it in 20-30 years when there are EV chargers everywhere and battery technology has progressed even more.

Random bonus story: As we were driving around Leavenworth looking for parking, a blue Model 3 was doing the same thing. I happened to notice their license plate and it was sequentially less than 50 numbers away from ours.

Why Tesla?

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

If you’re interested in an electric vehicle, you might be wondering why Teslas are so popular despite their higher price. The price has gone up quite a bit from when we ordered ours, but we were asking the same question back then too. My one-word response is: experience. Other companies are making lots of announcements about EV models, but it’s not as easy as writing an idea on paper. The supply chain, manufacturing process, and support models are all quite different for EVs. Tesla has a ~10-year head start on other companies.

For example, battery efficiency is a mix of not just the physical design of the car but also the software that manages the battery. Take a look at this report which shows the energy used per mile. Our Model Y Long Range with 19″ wheels is one of the most efficient vehicles you can buy despite the largish size. Even the Model S Plaid (one of the fastest vehicles on the planet) has better efficiency than a Nissan LEAF.

As I was thinking about this post, a good video was posted to YouTube about this exact topic.

I don’t really understand the title image and the title itself is click-baity, but the video gives 10 good reasons why you might want to choose a Tesla over another EV.

  1. Direct sales – no surprise markups, no dealer haggling
  2. Safety – Model Y is both the safest car and the best at preventing accidents as tested by multiple agencies
  3. Charging – Road tripping in anything besides a Tesla is painful
  4. Depreciation – EVs hold value better than ICE because they run much longer and Tesla’s hold value much better than any other car
  5. Built in the USA. Teslas are the most American made vehicles.
  6. Technology – Over the air software updates every month
  7. Dash Cam and Sentry Mode – Alerts to your phone and recorded footage from all exterior cameras
  8. Autopilot – Keep centered in the lane on almost any road, enormous investment in AI so it gets better with every update
  9. Experience – There’s a lot to learn when a company starts doing EVs and Tesla is very far ahead of anyone else.
  10. Tesla App – Precondition, scheduling, valet mode, charging stats, avoiding peak rates, sentry mode live stream, scheduling service

I tried to pick my top 3 from that list but it’s too hard. We loved the direct sales model. It’s awesome to know that my family is driving around in the safest car on the planet. Charging doesn’t worry us on road trips. Our car gets better every month with new software updates. Autopilot is fantastic and makes driving so much more enjoyable. And as I already said, it’s comforting to buy with the company that is effectively operating 5-10 years ahead of other companies. Ford and Volkswagen are doing better than most, but then you have behemoths like GM that are struggling mightily.

That being said, I’m happy whenever someone buys a non-Tesla EV. Competition is healthy for the market and there’s so much demand for EVs that even Tesla can’t provide enough vehicles to satisfy it.

Choosing An EV With Enough Range

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

Range is a key factor when picking an EV. Until superchargers are as ubiquitous as today’s gas stations, EVs do require extra planning. So how much range do you need?

For normal daily use, the only factor to consider is whether you will comfortably make it home at the end of the day so it can charge overnight. I underestimated how much I would love knowing that my “tank” was full every single morning! On a road trip the range can impact how many stops you make along the way.

Just like in a gas car, your driving style can dramatically impact your range. We average around 250 Wh/mi (watt hours per miles) which means our 75KWh battery is good for 300miles. The EPA estimated range is 330 miles, but that number always seems to be high for all cars.

As the car gets older, the batteries are going to lose some effectiveness. There are lots of studies about this, but data suggests that we’ll lose 5% of our range after 50,000 miles and then another 5% by the time we hit 150,000-200,000 miles. At 50,000 miles, our range will be an estimated 285 miles of real-world driving.

Most current battery technologies do not like to be charged up to 100% or drained to 0% (though Tesla has some models that do like to be charged to 100%.) The Tesla manual suggests charging to 90% and not draining below 10% for regular use. This knocks our 285-mile range down to 228 miles.

It’s not just driving that will impact your range. The car is using battery all the time. Teslas all can record from four cameras around the car while they are parked, and your battery management system might be running various fans to heat or cool the battery. If your day involves a lot of sitting in parking lots, plan for another one mile of loss per hour. There’s also a feature called “Cabin Overheat Protection” which makes sure the temperature in your car never gets above 105. If you have that enabled on a sunny day, you’ll be losing battery to run the air conditioner. Let’s assume we’re parked in the hot sun at work all day and knock off another 15 miles. That brings our example down to 213miles.

Heating and cooling the passenger compartment can use a significant amount of energy too so you’ll want to build in some buffer for that as well.

We put about 75-85 miles per day on the car so ~200 miles of range is plenty. It gets charged up every night and we’re ready to go the next day. The only time I really think about range is when we’re taking a longer trip.

So why am I sharing all this? It may sound like I’m hating on EVs, but my goal is to encourage you to get the biggest battery you can get if you’re thinking about an EV. Even if you’re only planning to use it for your normal daily routine, take your normal daily mileage and double it. Use that number when you’re considering various vehicles. Assume you’re only going to comfortably get ~1/2 to 2/3 of the EPA rated range.

We don’t think about this as much with gas cars because it’s easier to stop and fill them randomly. But on the flip side, if current battery ranges are more than enough for almost everyone’s daily commute, would the market really going to pay for even bigger batteries? What’s the incentive for car companies to shove bigger batteries in the car when that’s already a huge part of the cost of the car? A better fix is getting people to realize that they have more than enough battery for daily use and getting the fast-charging network built out more for long trips. This whole post will probably feel silly in 20 years.

United States Fully Electric Vehicle Sales

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

In the last three months, one in every 26 cars sold in the United States was a Tesla.

Staggering! In the third quarter of 2022, 6.1% of all US auto sales were full electric vehicles with about two thirds of those being Teslas and most of the Teslas are either the Model Y or the Model 3. With the way things are going now, it is looking like the fourth quarter will end with Tesla will be one of the top 10 auto brands by quarterly sales in the United States. They’re growing very rapidly while traditional auto maker sales are still roughly flat.

Electric vehicles are very common in my area. I pulled up to a stoplight the other day driving our Model Y and of the six cars waiting at the light with me (all going the same way, not spread around the intersection), FIVE of them were Teslas. Ford is coming on strong too and looks to be in solid possession of second place. I know that I’m living in a bubble of EVs so while the percentage of EVs being sold is huge out here, I didn’t expect it to average out to 6.1% for the whole country.

There’s a long way to go as the country shifts to EVs, but it’s awesome seeing so many people choosing this on their own and not being forced into it by legislation. EVs might not be for everyone yet, but they’ve certainly earned serious consideration in every car purchasing decision.

First EV Savings Milestone

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m pulling in a lot of car stats with TeslaMate. I’m also using the GasBuddy API to record the prices at the six gas stations closest to my house. This lets me calculate how much I would be spending on gas if I drove the exact same distances at the same time. I assume that I would fill up every day which isn’t accurate, but over time, it should be nearly spot on.

I take all that gas price data and compare it against the cost for every charge I’ve put into the car. Most of the charging is done at home (92%), but if I’m on the road, I have all those prices as well too.

So if I compare my actual charging costs versus the estimate gas prices for the same driving pattern, we have saved our first $1000! Despite the high entry price, we bought this car because I believe it will be cheaper than if we bought another Escape. Using my conservative estimates and the lower gas prices from last summer, I expected to save $1000 every ~8000 miles, but we hit the first $1000 of savings at 5800 miles.

Digging into those charging costs at home a bit more, here’s a chart for our electric usage for the last 11 years:

You can see where we got the new car at the end of the chart, and our monthly usage can vary quite a bit based on how much we drive. Do you see that spike back in January 2014? That winter we tried running a space heater in one room. I cut that off quickly after monitoring how much power it used. The space heater wasn’t cheaper than just turning up the furnace a bit more. So if you’re nervous about the additional cost of charging an EV at home, look around your house at those space heaters. If you have one or two of them running, that’s roughly the same as charging an EV (caveat caveat caveat but they can be in the same ballpark.)

Gas savings alone won’t make this car cheaper. I’m also counting on lower total service bills (no oil changes, less moving parts to fail, etc) and a higher resale value. We won’t know how all that plays out for many years, but it’s fun to see it working out better than planned so far!

Mountainous Tesla Trips

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

We took the Tesla on our trip to the Sunrise Visitor Center at Mt. Rainier (200 miles round trip). Before the trip, I had used to check how the charging would work out. I’ve done a bit of work on that site to tweak the settings to pretty accurately match our real-world behavior and it said that if I left home with 90% charge, we’d hit the visitor center with 45% and we’d get back home with a comfortable 24%. I didn’t think much more about it

When we got in our car to leave, I punched the route into the car and it said that I would get to Sunrise with only 28% charge but then we’d get home with 10%. I knew that we had to gain a lot of elevation going up to 6400 feet at the visitor center, but those numbers seemed wild and since I’ve had experience with those estimates being pretty far off in the mountains, I was a bit nervous. But we went for it anyway.

My battery concerns were further fanned by ~30mph headwinds once we reached Enumclaw. That sucks energy too, but how much? The car was still confident that we’d make it back home fine, and I knew there were enough superchargers along the way to use as a fallback if needed. In the end,

Sure enough, the climb up to the visitor center did take a lot of battery, but not nearly as much as the car had originally estimated. We arrived with 44% battery remaining, only 1% off from what had estimated! I guess if the Tesla estimate had to be off, I would prefer for it to be pessimistic like this, but that’s so far off that it feels unhelpful. (Note that the trip shown in the image is only the distance from Enumclaw to Sunrise because we had a bathroom stop.)

The green line is actual usage and the gray line is estimated usage.

I’ll have a separate post about the hike, but after the hike, we headed back down the mountain. In a normal car, the best you can hope for is that your car smartly uses engine braking to generate enough power to run the AC, radio, lights, etc and you use no gas when you go down the mountain. In an EV, the story is even better. Not only is it running all of those things for free, but it’s also storing up all the extra energy that it doesn’t need right away. On the 16 miles down from Sunrise back to Hwy 410, we charged back up to 47%. We then proceeded to use that extra energy to drive an additional ~30 miles before we were back at 43% charge. So yes, we used more battery going up the mountain, but then we drove for 50 miles from the top for free!

This shows how much energy was consumed driving up and then coming down.

At the end of the day, we averaged 227 Wh/mi for the trip. We average 250-265 on a normal long trip so I don’t know if the lower usage on this was due to something with the mountain, changing winds, or the fact that most of the roads on this route were 50mph speed limits instead of 60-70 on the highway.

I’m continuing to learn more about what to expect from the car, and each time we do a trip like this, it makes me more and more comfortable exploring the limits of our range.