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Owning A Tesla Model S: New Book Offers Tips, Tricks, Inside Info (Book Review)


2013 Tesla Model S in old-growth forest, Bella Coola Valley, Canada [photo: owner Vincent Argiro]

2013 Tesla Model S in old-growth forest, Bella Coola Valley, Canada [photo: owner Vincent Argiro]

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Regular readers of Tesla forums will recognize the name of Nick J. Howe, whose hundreds of astute comments recently earned him accolades for "best forum postings over time," according to a reader poll.

A Florida chemical engineer and owner of a Tesla Model S P85, Howe has technical savvy, dogged curiosity, and some inside Tesla contacts.

He may know more about the Model S electric luxury sedan than anybody outside the factory.

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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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Howe recently published a book based on his voluminous postings, called Owning Model S: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Owning the Tesla Model S.

Think of it as an encyclopedic owner's manual written by an expert friend, rather than by a lawyered-up corporation driven by marketing.

The book is also an antidote to the Tesla factory's maddening reluctance to give out technical information about the Model S to the info-starved owners who've paid them large sums of money for the car.

After a brief history of the company and the development of the car, Howe's book continues into chapters on range and performance, configuring and ordering, charging Infrastructure, maintenance, and  virtually every other aspect of Model S ownership.

And it's all written in a frank, tell-it-like-it-is style.

2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station on NY-to-FL road trip [photo: David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S at Supercharger station on NY-to-FL road trip [photo: David Noland]

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For example, Howe flatly states that the real-world range of the 85-kWh Model S is 200 to 220 miles--far less than Tesla's claim of up to 300 miles or the EPA's official figure of 265 miles.  Really cold weather, he says, can cut that number by up to 30 percent more.

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And as an 85-kWh Model S owner for more than a year, I can confirm that Howe's numbers are spot-on.

There's also a section detailing common problems with the Model S: excessive tire wear, panoramic roofs that creak, and cracked windshields. A very detailed delivery checklist allows owners to ensure the car is at close as possible to perfect when they get it.

A couple of graphs in the book caught my eye. One shows the energy consumed by rolling resistance, aerodynamic drag, and motor/inverter inefficiencies at various speeds.  It's a geek's delight.

2013 Tesla Model S in Florida, during New York to Florida road trip [photo: David Noland]

2013 Tesla Model S in Florida, during New York to Florida road trip [photo: David Noland]

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The other is a torque curve for the Model S (the only one I've ever seen) juxtaposed over the torque curve for the Porsche  911 Carrera.  The graph speaks volumes about how this four-door sedan can blow the doors off a high-performance sports car with a famous German badge on its hood.

One of my favorite sections is the exhaustive analysis that concludes there is a secret 15-to-17-mile range reserve hidden away in the Model S battery, even after the Rated Range meter reaches zero. More geek brain-candy.

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But, given the risk of stranding too-trusting Model S drivers less than 17 miles from home, the ever-candid Howe concedes that his theory "may be wrong."

Secret 17-mile buffer or not, there's a copy of "Owning Model S" currently stashed in my glove compartment, on top of Tesla's standard-issue owner's manual.

If I have a problem or question about my car, there's no doubt I'll consult Howe's volume, first.

Howe's book, Owning Model S: The Definitive Guide to Buying and Owning the Tesla Model S, is available exclusively through Teslaccessories.com for $24.95. The site will send a free downloadable chapter on request.

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