10 days in of owning a Tesla

Ok, so to reward myself for 27 years of touring with Chili Peppers, my 55th birthday and to help me acclimate to having to drive my own self around, I bought a Tesla model S, 100D

A lot of people have been super curious about going electric, so I thought I’d share a my adventure.

1) It was a big decision, I don’t like to make bad decisions and I put a lot of thought into it. I had a deposit on a model X, did demo drive and liked it but the seats don’t fold down and the gull wing doors make a roof rack a challenge, so I passed. Why would I buy a car that can’t carry a surfboad?

2) The model S has a good roof rack available, seats fold and has the room I need.

3) The car drives like a slot car. It just zips, super smooth, fast and comfy, I did not get the super fast “P” model as the non P is already a thrill and the extra $40k was just going to get me speeding tickets and a lofty insurance bill. 

3) There is much debate about whether electric cars actually save the environment more than gas cars, once the impacts involved with the creation if electricity is accounted for. My response is “would you buy a gasoline powered vacuum? A gas powered dishwasher or washing machine and put it in your house? Probably not as gas has toxic smells, it’s messy and we don’t want the up close exposure in our homes. Well the city is our home as well, as is the countryside for many. Then think of all the trucks carrying gasoline, putting it in underground tank, fumes from filling tanks, the entire gasoline I infrastructure that surrounds us. Imagine if all that was gone and outside your front door was treated as clean as inside your front door. I realize that I can not make it all go away but I can be part of helping it go away.

4) I love not going to a gas station, ever. I wake up each morning with a fully charged car and it rules! I put in a 50amp, 220v outlet in my garage and program the car to charge at 10 pm when electricity is cheaper. It costs about 1/4 the pice per mile for electricity versus gas. Oh, and the car asks you what time you want to start charging at this location, when you plug it in. So you can set different times for different places. At work start charging right away, at home, wait for the rates to drop.

5) At the suggestion of a tesla owning friend, I called the electric company. In my area SCE offers 3 plans, standard rate, variable rate that costs more during the day and less during off hours with a higher tier 1 allotment and a seperate meter option where I would have to pay to add a second power meter dedicated to the electric car with power at a lower rate. I have opted for variable rate, will see how that pans out for me.

6) Car charging is talked about in “miles per hour” as in how many drive miles you get for an hour plugged in.  A normal 15 amp 120volt wall outlet gives you 4 MPH. With a 50amp 220v outlet, the car says it’s charging at 40amps and I get about 28 MPH. The tesla super charging station charges at 365 MPH. So if I stop at the supercharger between home and work, walk to get a coffee and return 20 mins later, I get 120 miles of free electricity. The money saved on charging there versus home buys me a free lunch or I just sit in the car with tunes and do emails. 

7) If you get a referral code from a tesla owner, you save $1000 on the car and get unlimited free supercharge electricity for life. If you need a code, mine is david8646.

8) Charging is free and not charging costs money. So if you park at a supercharger, plug in and juice up, it’s all free until your car is charged. The Tesla phone app sends you updates on how much time is left and when it’s done. But, as soon as you are charged, you are taking up a charging space and Tesla a starts billing you .40 cents a minute to not be charging, so move your car. It’s kind of weird as the bill accumulates in your tesla account I am guessing, so I guess the car comes with a credit line attached.

9) You don’t charge up all the way. As you get close to fully charged, the car charges slower, I am guessing because the batteries are getting hot. The car let’s you set the maximum charge you want to reach, which they recommend to be 90% of full for everyday use and 100% if you are headed on a long trip. This is supposed to prolong the battery life a bit as well. My car is a 100D with a 335 mile range which charges to 313 miles when set to 90%. Also assuming you don’t run the battery all the way down and leave 10% minimum, that gives about 280 miles or so typical range.

10) Electric miles are not gas miles. The car is super aerodynamic and efficient. While that extends range it also means that any air drag or lead footing, burns miles. With a longboard on the roof, I lose about 25% to 30% of my range, more at high speeds, less at low speeds. Also, mileage loss reduces with the surfboard mounted tail forward and slid really far back. This hypersensitivity to wind drag is different than a gas car that is nowhere near as sensitive, I figure is because a high percentage of the energy lost in a gas car is lost in the engine itself and the drive system, and a lower percentage is used to move the car. With an electric car, the wind resistance is a very high percentage of how the energy is used. I am sure the surf racks are burning mileage as well.

11) Full vs have. With a gas car, I looked to see if I have enough gas and hit the gas station when need forces me to. With the electric car it’s all about sitting on a full charge. It’s a different state of mind and there is quite a pleasure waking up to a full talk as if by magic each morning.

12) You meet new humans. At first before I had the 50 amp plug at home, I went to the supercharger several times, I met some interesting and odd people there, it’s as if I have joined some strange club. But now I just stop there after a long drive if it aligns with convenience.

13) You can program the rear trunk door to stop before it hits the surfboard. This is huge as I often need to get stuff out of the back and having it hit the board is a bummer.

14) The proximity key thing takes some getting used to. It’s awesome that you never need to lock the car as it auto locks when you walk away. Bummer is that with this feature activated, you have to carry your keys or phone to get in the car. I am constantly running back into the office to grab my keys when I go to get something out of the car. I used to always leave my car unlocked at work.

15) Where to put the key FOB while surfing is a challenge I have yet to solve this issue. I bought a waterproof pouch for the key but where to put the pouch? Currently I put it down my back between my shoulder blades in my wetsuit where is moderately annoys me until I catch a wave and forget about it. The is no way to get in the car without leaving it unlocked, having the electronic key or having your phone and using the app.

16) The phone app is cool and you can vent the roof, turn on the air conditioning, unlock the car and check battery and charging status. I have my dogs with me nearly always, so it’s nice to be able to set the temp for them. Bummer is the air auto turns off after a while, maybe 30 mins so you need to be way on top of turing back on. I set alarms and crack windows as well as open the sunroof and don’t park in the sun. Where I live it’s overcast and cool out usually. Though I wish the timer could be bypassed.

17) The stereo is awesome. I got the upgraded sound system, of course, and the sound is fairly good, still sounds like a upper end generic car system but it comes with unlimited data and an LTE connection. Full streaming music, normal radio, podcasts and all around excellent to have loads of music choices. “Play Black Sabbath” and boom, it starts playing Sabbath and music related to the genre. Hit “like” , skip or “never play this song again” and it learns. Play “favorites” and it focuses on songs and bands you have liked.

18) It is tied into Google maps so “drive to Rincon” will take you surfing. In fact you can tell it to do just about anything that you have controls for.

19) “Summon” is a cool parlor trick and handy for parking in the garage. Hold down a buton on the key and then touch forward or backward and the car will drive itself in that direction 25 feet or so or until it approaches a curb or obstacle, then stop. When you open the doorse they swing wide so I just pull up to the garage and have it park itself. It will also open the automatic garage door then drive in or out, but my garage door is not compatible.

20) The storage area in the front is called a “frunk” . I got the 4 wheel drive version so there is not a lot of space up there but I do find it handy for a spare change of clothes, some running shoes and other stuff I don’t need often. The Frunk is kind of hard to close and takes a good push on the aluminum hood, and it feels like a bad push will visible bend things.

21) I bought the full rubber floor mat set from Tesla and it was expensive but for what I’d hauling bits of gear and the mess associated with salt water, sand and dogs, it was well worth it.
22) Autopilot started as an interesting fascination and quickly turned to a useful stress reliever. In rush hour traffic, using autopilot rules! The car does all the short stops and starts and let’s me watch and listen to music in calm happiness.  I find I am in less of a hurry, why change lanes, just hang and let the car do the work. 

23) Autopilot currently requires you to let the car know you are paying attention and makes you grab the steering wheel a every few minutes, it easier just to gently keep one hand on the wheel and treat it as a copilot that does the work while I oversee.

24) Autopilot and cruise control don’t always work.  I think the car sees or Google the weather and if it is foggy or heavily overcast it will not engage.

25) The car tells you what it sees. There is a display where the speedometer usually is that shows you if the car sees the road lines as well as if it sees a car in front of you and how far away it is. Also it tells you if it senses cars or obstacles on either side or behind. This info helps determine whether to trust the car and gives confidence when the car knows what is going on.

26) The autopilot currently is not very good at dealing with merging traffic and vehicles coming closer from the sides. The crash avoidance is very good though and if a car stops quickly in front it will catch it as fast or fast that I can. I set the follow distance fairly high as in the short follow distance setting it feels like I am tailgating. 

27) The regenerative breaking takes some getting used to but once you get used to it, it is great. Let off the pedal and the car starts charging the battery and you slow down pretty fast. There is something satisfying about hardly ever using the breaks.

28) If you are working in the garage around the car, don’t keep the keys in your pocket. Everything I get near the car, it wakes up and the door handles pop out, it gets old fast and I have to get the key out of my pocket.

29) Tinted windows were not an option and  though the glass sunroof is cool, am going to tiny the shit out of everything and reduce all that ambient light. I am a sound guy, I don’t need all that light.

30) I got the smaller rims, yes the 21″ rims look cool but the tires don’t last as long, they cost more and the ride is less smooth. I also am told that the tires last longer on the 4 wheel drive versions. I go snowboardin in the winter so 4 wheel drive is a big plus anyway.

31) If you are thinking of buying one, be sure to check the price of car insurance and account for that cost.  For me it was $350 every 6 months but I do high deductibles, have a good drive record and I think some good rates. The P version had a much higher insurance rate.

32) The car like to party. As soon as you open the door, boom the music starts (assuming it was on when you got out). And as soon as you get in and close the door it returns to listening levels. Then when you open the door. The music drops in volume, shuts off when yo close the door and you are out side and just waits for you to return to crank it up again. I really enjoy how persistent it is at making sure the tunes are rolling.

33) Oh, the charging port is hidden behind a small reflector driver side rear. If you press the button on the charging nozzle, the little door automatically pop open and then auto closes when tho remove the nozzle. Once plugged in the nozzle locks in place and you press the button to stop charging and release the nozzle. Super clean and easy.

34) There are 8 cameras mounted around the car as well as a bunch of sensors. Currently only the front camera and sensors are active while using autopilot. At some point they are supposed to release an update that activates all the cameras and allows the car to navigate itself from strategy to end of a journey. Since I did not prepay $3000 for the feature, it will cost $4000 to activate when available, should I choose to have it.

All in all, I really really like the car. I am a bit of a hermit and hole up and build things. I avoid driving places as much as I can andhathate going down the hill (driving from Ventura/Oxnard to Los Angeles. But I must admit, I now actually don’t mind making the trip and find myself going places just because getting there is kind of fun.

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Author: Dave Rat

Sound Engineer at Red Hot Chili Peppers