Life With Tesla Model S: Owner's Report After 5,000 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

Enlarge Photo

It's now been more than five months and 5,000 miles since I took delivery of my 2013 Tesla Model S.

The four-year wait after I put down my deposit in 2009 created a huge burden of pent-up hopes and expectations.

With the initial glow of ownership now dulled by the daily routine of  real-world driving, how has the Model S stood up to those grand expectations?

Very well indeed. The car has basically changed my outlook toward driving.

ALSO SEE: Tesla Model S Vs Chevy Volt: Owner Compares Electric Cars

Getting behind the wheel used to be a chore I embraced reluctantly. I'd always been the type to car-pool and bundle errands to minimize driving time.

Although I've usually had fun cars that made the burden a bit less onerous--most recently, a Mazda CX-7 and a couple of Saab 900s--I've just never been the guy who volunteers to jump in the car to go get a loaf of bread.

Until now.

To my wife Lisa's utter bewilderment, in fact, I did exactly that last week.

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

Enlarge Photo

All I can say is that driving becomes a whole new ballgame  when the fuel is free and the car takes your breath away every time you stomp on the gas pedal.

(About that free fuel: I have a hydroelectric generator on the creek that runs by my house in New York's Hudson Valley. It pumps out enough juice to run the house and two electric cars--so my Model S "fuel" is literally free, and carbon-free as well.)

Free fuel and green cred aside, what makes the Model S so extraordinary is simply driving it. The instantaneous, seamless, effortless, silent,  massive acceleration never fails to stir my soul.

On virtually every drive, I punch the throttle at least once, just to feel that rush. I'm addicted.

Not Perfect

The car's not perfect, of course.

In my view, the Model S has two major shortcomings and several minor annoyances. Tesla promises to fix most of them. We'll see.

Big Problem No. 1 is the inability to make long trips.

My car is the 60-kWh version, which has a practical range of about 200 miles. (The 85-kWh version can do about 250 miles, at a cost of $10,000 more.) On three or four occasions, I've been forced to drive my Chevy Volt for trips longer than that.

Tesla is promising a fix, of course. By this fall, eight new Supercharger quick-charging stations are supposed to open in the Northeast, including two along the New York State Thruway and one on the New Jersey Turnpike.

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

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

Enlarge Photo

These will open up most of the Northeast, and allow me to visit friends--who are currently out of range--in upstate New York, Cape Cod, Maine, and Baltimore. The new Superchargers will turn my Model S into a practical long-distance traveling machine. But it isn't there yet.

There are now just two Superchargers within my range, in Darien and Milford, Connecticut.  Although I've had no reason to make a long trip in that direction, I've tried both of them out of curiosity. 

They work well: On both occasions I was able to plug in immediately and picked up about 75 miles range in 20 minutes. Had my battery charge been lower, I would have gained more range.

The Stubborn Vampire

Big Problem No. 2 is the Tesla's "vampire" thirst for kilowatts even when it's turned off and parked.

I've measured idle power losses of around 4.5 kilowatt-hours a day, for a total of about 750 kWh during the time that I've owned it.  That's almost half the electricity I've used to drive the car!

The 15,000-odd Model Ses now on the road collectively squander about 60 megawatt-hours of electricity a day. That's the equivalent of about 50,000 60-Watt light bulbs left on 24 hours a day for no reason--what a waste.

The Vanishing vampire Fix

Once more, Tesla keeps saying that a fix is coming--but in this case, the promised arrival date keeps getting farther away.

This spring, Elon Musk promised a 'sleep mode' software update by July that would slash vampire losses virtually to zero. That has not happened.


 
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