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

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

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]

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.

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

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

In June, a Tesla owner-hotline rep told me that an intermediate software update would halve vampire losses by summer, with a final solution due by  year-end. That hasn't happened, either.

Latest word from the owners' hotline is now a Sergeant Schulz-ian "We know nothing." Yes, we're still working on it, but we have no idea if or when a sleep mode will actually happen.

I find it astonishing that a company with Tesla's resources can't solve this problem after more than six months of effort.

Little Stuff

Among the minor annoyances:

  • The 3-G connectivity is poor. I'd say a good 20 percent of the time, my media player is either dead or cutting in and out.
  • The supposedly "smart" windshield wipers are really dumb. Sometimes they wail away at full bore in the barest of sprinkles. At other times they sit motionless in a downpour. Makes me long for the old-fashioned manual intermittent adjustment.
  • Regenerative braking is disabled or limited in cold weather.
  • The front door opening is too small, making it hard for a tall guy like me to get in and out.
  • Without a center console, handy storage space is virtually nonexistent. Tesla's claimed for months that a drop-in console will be "coming soon", but I grew impatient and bought an aftermarket console from Teslaccessories. Big improvement.


I've had one service visit.

Although the facility in White Plains, New York, is unprepossessing to say the least, a couple of minor items were handled quickly and competently, and I was able to talk at length with the service guy.

Tesla's Mobile Service Ranger vehicle

Tesla's Mobile Service Ranger vehicle

And the coffee in the waiting room wasn't bad, either.

But Tesla is still not up to speed on the service scenario it has promised: a Tesla rep comes to pick up your car, and leaves you a a top-of-the-line Model S (or Roadster if you prefer) to drive as a loaner until your car is returned.

I'll put that promise to the test in a couple of weeks, when my car is scheduled to be picked up to fix a glitch with the key fob.

I may get a loaner, I'm told, depending on availability.


The EPA efficiency rating for the 60-kWh Model is 35 kWh per 100 miles.

The Model S efficiency display reads out in watt-hours per mile, which works out to  exactly 10 times the EPA units.

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

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

So to match the EPA efficiency rating, I would need to average 350 Wh/mi.

Actually, I've done a bit better than that. Overall, I've used 1,730 kWh of juice to drive 5,330 miles, for an average of 325 Wh/mi.

That's a tad better than 3 miles per kWh. 

Warm Weather Helps

Efficiency has improved noticeably as the weather has warmed. 

During my first month of ownership--late February and early March--I was averaging about 360 Wh/mi.  Through April and May, the number fell to about 330.

In the last couple of weeks--late July, early August, with typical temperatures in the 80s--I've averaged 299 Wh/mi for mostly short trips around town.

So it appears the Model S loses about 20 percent of its efficiency from summer to winter. That's far better than the Chevy Volt, which in my experience loses about 40 percent of its range in cold weather.

The Model S has surprised me with its efficiency at high speeds. On my most recent trip to New York City, over hilly terrain with an average speed of 65-75 mph, I managed a remarkable 290 Wh/mi.

That works out to a theoretical range of 207 miles for my 60-kWh battery in the fast-and-hilly driving scenario.

That estimate virtually matches the EPA rated range of 208 miles, which assumes a more conservative driving profile.


The bottom line is that after 5,000 miles, I love this car.

It has met or exceeded my expectations. It's still a thrill to drive it every day.

Yes, the range limitations and  vampire power draw have been frustrating.

But, In Elon I Trust...that these problems will eventually be solved.

I waited four years to get the car; I guess I can wait another six months for Tesla to get some of the last details right.


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