Studio711.com – Ben Martens

teslatuesday

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 abetterrouteplanner.com 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 abetterrouteplanner.com 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.

First Tesla Road Trip

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

We recently took our first overnight road trip with our Model Y. We’ve gotten very used to daily driving/charging routines and never worry about running out of battery, but what would happen on a longer trip where we had at least one mandatory charging stop and a few nights away from home?

Our destination was about three hundred miles away, and while the Model Y has an estimated 330 miles of range, just like gas cars, you’re unlikely to hit that in real life. Plus, that would mean charging to 100% (not great for the battery) and discharging to almost 0% (not great for the battery and then how would we get back home?) So there would be at least one stop for charging along the way.

Another factor to consider was that our destination was far off the beaten path. The closest slow Level 2 charger (fairly slow, similar to what we have at home) was about 30 minutes away and the closest supercharger was more like 45 minutes away. Couple that with some mountain driving and I estimated that we needed to leave the last supercharger with about 50% battery to make sure we could get there and back.

The online Tesla road trip planner isn’t that useful if you’re not going to have destination charging because it doesn’t let you specify how much charge you want to have left when you arrive or get insight into all your options for planning the route. I prefer to use abetterrouteplanner.com. On that site, I could tell it my real-world watts per hour average (265), how much charge I’d leave home with (90%) and how much I wanted to arrive with (40%). Then there are even more options for whether you’d like fewer (but longer) stops or more (but faster) stops. The Tesla batteries charge the fastest from about 15-40% so if you’re really optimizing for ~5 minute charging stops, it’s best to stay in that range, but obviously that means more stops along the way, so you have to balance it all out.

My family needs to stop for a lot of bathroom breaks. I plan one every 60-90 minutes and sometimes we’ll get lucky and stretch it out to 2 hours. On this trip, I planned one required charging stop that was right next to a Panera around lunch time. Then I had a couple optional stops before and after that where we could get some electrons while using the bathroom.

On the way down, we ended up doing that lunch stop and then one more stop at the last supercharger before heading off into the mountains. The charging worked out fine, my estimates were good, and we arrived with more battery than planned because our bathroom/food stops were slower than the chargers. In fact, when we stopped for lunch, I had to go out and move the car because it was done charging before our food was done being made!

There ended up being a 110v plug that was right next to where we parked, and while that’s a slow way to charge, we were there for a few days so it didn’t matter. I plugged the car in on the day before we left, and we rolled out with 85% charge. On the way back, we made just a single stop for charging and food. Since I charged up pretty far and it gets slower as you go, that one took longer (29 minutes to go from 28% to 84%) But by the time we got our food and used the bathroom, we only waited about an extra 10 minutes and it saved us from making any more stops. We needed a bit of extra juice on that charge because after we got home, we had to head straight to school for a meeting and a trip to/from school is about 14% of the battery.

When planning the road trip, I had been thinking about how much money we would save versus driving the truck. I get about 20.5mpg on a road trip in the truck and with gas averaging around $4.80 that would have been $140 in gas. I estimated that the same trip in the Tesla would be about $15 in electricity. That was a mistake because I forgot that superchargers are more expensive than charging at home. So overall, it was more like $40 in electricity. That’s still a big savings and the savings are even greater if you factor in maintenance costs.

The truck has so much room that it’s super easy to pack and easy to move around to get comfortable. We were nervous about having enough room in the car since we’re used to packing in the truck, but when we hit the road, we had tons of extra space. The frunk and the under-trunk storage suck up so much stuff! Even with a big cooler in the trunk, we were at about two-thirds capacity.

Having autopilot on the long drive was nice. I could go for long stretches of road without constantly monitoring my speed or making minor corrections to stay in my lane. Traffic was heavy the whole way so it was annoying to come off the autopilot (lane-keeping) feature every time I wanted to change lanes, but in the back of my mind, I knew I could have paid money to avoid that so it wasn’t too bad.

I spent a lot more time planning our route than I would have with the truck, but now that we’ve got the first big road trip under our belts, I think future ones will be easier. It’s nice to know that the car is also watching our battery and if we ever did something dumb, it would scream at us and direct us to a charger. I think long road trips in the truck will be more annoying now without the benefit of Autopilot. It’s amazing how much less fatigued I felt after a long drive just from not having to spend the energy to stay in my lane. It doesn’t seem like much but it really adds up over the hours. And since the battery lasts a lot longer than our bladders, the charging stops weren’t much of a factor other than having to plan to stop at certain places.

I call this experiment a win and look forward to more road trips with our Model Y!

Rimetrix Laminar Black Wheels

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

When we were originally pricing out our car, we had planned to go for the upgraded 20″ black wheels because we liked the way they looked better. But when the price increased right before we ordered, we backed off that and went for the default 19″ regular wheels. In the end, I’m glad we did that because those 20″ wheels reduce the total vehicle range and give a slightly rougher ride, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

The Model Y 19″ wheels have a cover that snaps onto the actual rims and that cover improves range by about 7%, but since they are a cover, they’re replaceable. Rimetrix makes some aftermarket wheel covers for the Model Y (and the Model 3). They give the same aerodynamic performance and aesthetically pleasing black look while being significantly cheaper than the 20″ black rims.

The actual installation itself was very quick and I’m super happy with how it came out. Along the way, I also removed the two chrome Tesla badges and replaced the “dual motor” badge on the back with a blacked out version. There’s no chrome left on the car and now we have a car that is slightly different than the ocean of other Model Y’s driving around our area.

Identifying Tesla Models

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the current prices for the various models, but how do you tell them apart when you see one in the wild? It takes a little practice, but here are some identifying characteristics:

Tesla Model 3

If you don’t know, guess Model 3. Today, this is the most common Tesla on the road (but going forward the Y is expected to overtake it.) The 3 is the smallest of the four models. It’s a four door sedan and, like the Y, it has no main grill openings on the front aside from the opening on the very bottom of the bumper.

Tesla Model Y

The looks like a bigger version of the 3. In fact, they share ~70% of their parts. The Y doesn’t have any grill openings either. The Y is a bit taller (~7 inches) and is a “crossover” style. It has a full liftgate instead of a trunk. It’s easy to get these confused with the Model 3.

Tesla Model S

Like the 3, the S is a sedan, but this one looks a lot fancier. You can differentiate the S and X from the 3 and Y by the grill “opening” with the Tesla logo. The rear end of the newer S and the X models also have a chrome accent that runs between both tail lights. These models usually have an emblem in the lower left of the rear that says “Model S”.

Tesla Model X

The X is BIG. It’s a full size SUV, but like the S, it has a grill “opening” and the chrome accent between the tail lights. If you see it in a parking lot, you’ll notice the gull wing doors. The door handles for the front and rear doors are also centered along the line between the doors.

Charging Costs vs Gas Prices

Welcome to another Tesla Tuesday!

Before we did the car, I did a lot of research and math to compare a Model Y’s long term cost of ownership to the Ford Escape that we likely would have purchased instead. As part of that, I estimated that gas was going to average $3.50/gallon over the life of the car. That was about the average around us when I was doing the research and while I knew prices would go up a bit, I wanted to be very conservative (favoring the Escape over the Model Y.) Obviously the world has changed a lot since then and gas costs an average of $5.44 around us. How does that affect my calculations?

First let’s talk about how I’m collecting data. Finding “average gas prices” is a bit tricky. Most sites that you’ll find show averages for the state by month. That’s better than nothing, but our area is typically more expensive than other parts of the state, and we should be able to do better than monthly data. The GasBuddy website has daily updates on gas prices at a lot of gas stations. I wrote an app that checks the price for regular gas at the 6 closest gas stations to our house. I log that data to a database every day.

The next piece of the puzzle is figuring out how much gas I would have been buying at those processes. Obviously that’s a little tricky to get exactly right, but I’ve estimated it by looking at the total miles driven per day in our new car and assuming that I would just pay for that much gas each day. I get the daily mileage from the Tesla APIs and log that to the database as well. I’m left with a query that shows X miles driven for a given day when the gas price was $Y. I use the average MPG from our last Escape and do the math to estimate how much we would have paid for gas that day.

The Tesla API also gives me a record of every time I’ve charged the car. It tells me not just how much energy was added to the battery, but how much energy I pulled from the wall to account for a small amount of loss in the charging process. We have a tiered electricity cost based on total usage for the month so I assume that all the charging costs are in the highest tier.

When I was working out the math to see if an electric car would be cheaper, I had planned on saving $12.72 on gas per 100 miles. But that as planning at $3.50/gallon, so what does all the data show? After putting 2100 miles on the new car, I’m happy to report that we are saving $18.68 per 100 miles!