My test drive of the Tesla Model 3

model3If you have read any of my previous posts, you know that I am a strong proponent of renewable energy. More than 10 years ago, I wanted to own a car that did not use gasoline, but technology was not ready for a mainstream electric vehicle back then.

Tesla turned that around several years ago by announcing that they would ultimately produce a mass-market electric vehicle. That vehicle, the Model 3, is a reality today. I watched, live, online, on March 31, 2016, when Elon Musk introduced the Model 3 and Tesla began taking reservations for the new car. After pondering for a day whether I should pay $1,000 to reserve a Model 3, I placed my reservation on April 2, 2016. That began my long wait for an electric car.

Although Tesla started production of the Model 3 in July 2017, to date, the only people who have taken delivery of the Model 3 are people who currently own a Tesla or who are employed by Tesla. I am waiting, along with several hundreds of thousands of want-to-be first-time Tesla owners, looking forward to the opportunity to order and take delivery of a Model 3. Tesla has had some issues getting their battery pack assembly line working. All indications now suggest that, by the end of March, the assembly lines will be up and running at good speed.

For each person, who has reserved a Model 3, the online Tesla account shows a delivery date estimation. When the estimation first appeared on my account toward the end of last year, my delivery estimate was February-April 2018. Around December 2017, my delivery window slipped by a month to March-May 2018. A little over a week ago, the delivery window slipped again, but by 3 months this time, to June-August 2018. The latest 3-month delay caused me a lot of frustration. Since Tesla basically delayed all current non-owners by 3 months, at least I was not alone.

The most difficult part of the waiting for delivery of this car has been the anticipation of what it’s like to experience and drive the car. There are a large number of videos on the Internet from people, who have taken delivery of the Model 3 or who have gained access to a Model 3. Watching something on video is fine to a point, but it does not replace hands-on experience. The reviews so far are mostly positive. Most of the negative comments I’ve seen are non-issues for me. What I needed was a personal, hands-on experience, so I could be sure that the amount of money I will be spending for this car is worth the wait.

Last year, when it was clear that Model 3 was going to be a reality, I started saving the monthly amount I expected would equal my Model 3 monthly loan payment. I have saved a sizable down payment. With the most recent delivery delay, I calculated that I would have over $2,000 more than I had planned for my down payment. I decided to make use of some of this extra cash.

Several current Model 3 owners have chosen to offer their cars for rent on a service known as Turo. I decided that, if I had to wait until about July for my car, I would try to find a Model 3 that I could rent and conduct a test drive. After a bit of searching on Turo, I found one Model 3 that was offered for rent in Santa Barbara, CA. It was the closest location to where I live.

Renting a Model 3 is not an inexpensive proposition. You cannot rent a Model 3 for less than about $250 per day. Turo rents by the day, not by the hour. A 2-day rental will result in less than 48 hours with the car. The Model 3 I chose to rent was $295 per day and I could not justify paying more than $600 for a test drive, so I got the Model 3 for about 30 hours total. My pick-up time was 9:00 am on a Saturday and I scheduled to return the car by 3:00 pm the next day.

I met with the car’s owner at the Santa Barbara Airport. The airport was the only place in Santa Barbara where I was comfortable with parking overnight. The Model 3’s owner charged me $10 each way in order to deliver the car to the airport. It was a convenient exchange point and worth the $20 to the owner and the $21 for parking.

Seeing the Model 3 drive up to our meeting was a surreal experience. I had only once before seen a Model 3 in the flesh, which was during my stay in Anacortes, WA last Christmas. I happened to see a white Model 3 drive past me on Commercial Ave. It is such a distinctive car that you can’t miss it when you see it. My rental Model 3 was the second one I had seen in person, and it was the same color I want for my car, Midnight Silver Metallic.

My first couple of impressions getting into the driver’s seat were, I couldn’t believe I was actually sitting in a Model 3 and the central display screen didn’t seem as big as it looks in videos. The owner gave me a quick run-down of the car’s systems. This really wasn’t necessary because I was already familiar with what he was describing. We agreed on my return time and I was on my way.

I started being a little self-conscious. This was a Model 3 I was driving. I wondered if anyone was noticing the rare sight. I left the parking lot, drove to Highway 101, and headed north toward home.

The Model 3 felt very solid. There were no rattles, no squeaks. After having driven a Model S and now a Model 3, there was no question in my mind that a Model S, for me, would be second-best. The Model 3 has more interior space than my Prius, but not as much as the Model S. The space is just right for me. The owner had the steering set to Sport. The 2 other options are Standard and Comfort. I had imagined that Standard would be my preferred setting and I was correct. Comfort is too loose and Sport is too tight. The Model 3 is every inch a Tesla. I pushed down the accelerator and I was pushed back in my seat. There is more than enough power, just like the Model S, and the power is instantaneous. I can’t imagine anyone wanting a car that is faster.

California roads can be rough, and Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo is no exception. I have seen a number of video reviews where reviewers have talked down about the ride of the Model 3 as being too firm. The ride is exactly what I would expect from a sedan that is as sporty as the Model 3. If the ride was too soft, you would loose the feel of the roadway that I want in a sport sedan.

The faux leather seats look just like leather to me, and they are very comfortable. The six-way adjustable seat allowed me to pick a seated position that was just right. The steering wheel is the right size and I like that it is fatter than the steering wheel in my Prius. I had seen comments about poor visibility out the back of the Model 3. I disagree. The visibility out the back is not a picture window, but I had no trouble seeing what I needed to see. The visibility is superior to what I see out the back of my Prius. If I feel I can’t see well, I can always turn on the rear-view camera, which can be activated at will.

I have been amazed by the number of people, who have made negative comments about the single center display in the Model 3. Actually, if I see another video where someone says that they feel like they’re being distracted by having to look to the center screen, I think I will scream!  Why are people, who don’t like the idea of only a single center display, still buying this car?  Among all the other unique qualities of the Model 3, the single touch-screen in the middle of the dash has me the most excited. When I drove the Model S, I didn’t like the huge portrait touch-screen. In my opinion, it’s too much. This highlights how product reviews are very much a subjective endeavor. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would disagree with me about the Model S.

I had absolutely no difficulty getting accustomed to the speedometer on the left side of the center display. For those people, who claim that Model 3 is lacking a heads-up display or a binnacle, I say not so. I had no trouble seeing the information on any part of the screen while driving. I’ve heard comments that the navigation directions are too far away as they are displayed on the right side of the map. I thoroughly enjoyed the large map display and I had no problem seeing the right side of the screen. Perhaps the people, who didn’t like this part of the navigation system, need eyesight correction. Again, a lot of this is personal preference and I like what Tesla has done in the Model 3.

The Model 3 premium package includes a glass roof panel, which is tinted. Some people are concerned that having the sun shine through the roof glass would be too hot. It was bright and sunny during both days that I drove the Model 3. I could see the sun through the roof, but I didn’t feel any heat. The tint is very effective at blocking the heat.

The Model 3 began production with what people have called Alcantara for the headliner.  Alcantara is a type of suede material.  Apparently, since this material has been used a lot in the Model S and X, some Tesla fans believe that this material should be a premium material in all of the Tesla cars.  The Model 3 I rented had the Alcantara headliner.  The Model 3’s being produced now have a different type of fabric for the headliner.  I am glad that my Model 3 will not have the Alcantara headliner.  To me, suede doesn’t look right as a headliner in the Model 3.

The audio system sounds great.  I have a classic rock radio station I listen to a lot on Tune In Radio.  Tesla has Tune In included in the audio system.  I found my station, selected it, and rocked out all the way home.  The sound system sounds premium and it will work very well for me.  I didn’t test a USB drive that holds my music collection, but all indications are that it will play just fine.  As a side note, the audio system does not seem to have an off setting.  Off is achieved by tapping on pause for what you are playing.  The problem with using pause on a live stream is that tapping play resumes where you left off.  If you pause for 30 minutes, your playback will be out of sync by 30 minutes.  My resolution for this was to select another radio station.  Once the alternate station started streaming, I selected my station again and I found I was back to live.  Unless you are a major audiophile, you will love the premium audio system.

Another first for me with this test drive was experiencing EAP (Enhanced Auto Pilot). I absolutely love the traffic-aware cruise control. Cruise control can be activated without the Autosteer function. The cruise control kept the car at a constant speed, it slowed when the car in front of me slowed, it even slows when entering a curve at a speed it considers to be too fast. From the time I got onto the freeway until I got off, I didn’t have to touch the accelerator or brake. I also tested the Autosteer. It did a good job of staying in the lane and I only had to intervene a couple of times. What I found, though, was that I felt like I had to pay more attention when Autosteer was active than I did when I was steering. I imagine this was due to my unfamiliarity with using Autosteer. I just don’t trust it enough to be able to relax. I’m sure it would be of great use when driving long distances on mostly straight roads.

It is interesting to me that so many people, at least on YouTube, will use Autosteer in situations that would make me quite uncomfortable. Autosteer is not supposed to be used on undivided roads, yet I’ve seen a number of people do just that. I’m not ready to relinquish my control of an automobile, carrying me, traveling at 70 MPH. Perhaps I will feel differently when Elon Musk perfects autonomous driving.

There was only one negative that I could muster from my experience with the Model 3. This is a negative that is inherent with any touch-screen display. While driving, with the motion of the car, it is sometimes difficult to direct a finger to a touch point on a touch-screen and be able to accurately hit the mark. I have the same problem with my cellphone while driving. I had the same problem when I drove the Model S. Since Elon Musk has eluded to the fact that Model 3 will ultimately have voice control for many commands, this will become a non-issue when voice commands become standard. In the meantime, it’s a minor annoyance that I am happy to endure.

When I arrived at my house, I backed the Model 3 into my garage and did my next test. Last October, I installed a Tesla wall connector in my garage, in preparation for my Model 3. I did the installation myself. With the exception of the successful self-test with the wall connector after installation, I had never charged a car with it. I switched the circuit breaker for the wall connector to on, grabbed the cable, put the charge plug near the Model 3 charge port, pushed the button on the plug and the charge port door opened. I plugged into the Model 3 charge port, heard a relay click on my wall connected, and the “T” light on the Model 3 charge port started flashing green. It worked! I watched the center display screen in the Model 3 and the power gradually edged up until it showed it was accepting 40 amps at 237 volts.

I imagine my next experience was similar to any EV newbie. I have solar electric panels on my house, and when I plugged in the Model 3, I was generating 2,400 watts of electricity from the sun. I checked the power meter on my circuit breaker panel and I got a shock. It said I was drawing 8,000 watts. I don’t have anything at the house that draws anywhere near 8,000 watts. My air conditioning system draws 3,500 watts and I thought that was a lot. When I sat down at my desk and did the calculations, I figured out that the car was actually drawing a little over 9.4 kW. The total time I charged at my house was about 6-1/2 hours in 2 sessions for a total of a little over 61 kWh. Even though that seemed like a long charging time, the total cost of electricity for the 2 charging sessions was only about $12.30. On my charging system, the Model 3 charges at 37 miles per hour. With my average driving habits, I will only need to charge every 2 or 3 days and the extra electricity cost will be minimal. So, my garage really is ready for my Model 3’s arrival.

As much as I hated to give back the Model 3 rental, I wasn’t as depressed as I thought I would be. I know I will be getting my Model 3, hopefully by mid-summer this year. One of the hardest parts of waiting had been that I had never driven or really seen a Model 3 up close. Now that I have been able to live with the car for over a day, it’s not so hard having to wait for my car. I have no doubt that waiting for my Model 3 is the right choice.

It is possible to say goodbye to Microsoft Windows

Shortly after the start of 2018, my Windows 10 computer had trouble with an automatic update pushed out by Microsoft.  Unfortunately, my system would not accept the update and the computer began an endless series of download, update attempt, update failure, and system restore.  I wrote about how I was able to turn off Windows Update in a previous blog post.  Getting the computer to stop trying to update itself was helpful.  However, it didn’t resolve the problem of not being able to update the operating system to the current version of Windows 10.

Many years ago, I had a similarly frustrating experience with Microsoft Windows.  It seems like, every few years, Windows just doesn’t want to play nicely with my computer hardware.  On that previous occasion, I experimented with another operating system.  The alternative operating system was Ubuntu, which was a version of Linux.  I had a lot of fun trying to get Ubuntu to work as a primary operating system.  Unfortunately, at the time, Ubuntu and Linux were still no match for Windows.  It took a lot of work to get Ubuntu to do some of the things I do on a computer.  After about a month, I decided that there were too many things I needed to do on my computer that Ubuntu wasn’t capable of doing.

After my latest issue with Windows, I did some research and found that Ubuntu was still alive and well.  After so many years of being away from Ubuntu, I was pleasantly surprised at how the operating system has matured.  I decided it was time to give Linux another go.

There are many versions of the Linux operating system.  All of them are open-source and free.  While I was bringing myself back up to speed with Linux, I discovered another version that is based on Ubuntu.  After reviewing my options, I settled on testing Linux Mint.

I downloaded the installation package for Linux Mint and burned the image file to a DVD.  At about the same time that I was doing my research, I ordered a new 2 TB hard drive.  I had a secondary hard drive on my system that I swapped out for the new drive.  I installed Linux Mint on the new drive and then instructed my computer to boot from the secondary drive.

For the past 2 weeks, I have been having a grand time with Linux Mint.  Since I am somewhat familiar with Linux, it took me very little time to get the operating system configured for my computer.  My biggest hurdles were getting my Brother laser printer and my Epson document scanner to work properly.  There was no comparison between my current experience with Linux Mint and what my experience was like with Ubuntu years ago.

When I finished my configuration of Linux Mint, it would be difficult to see any major differences from Windows.  I found that my document scanner works better now on Linux than it did on Windows.  I ended up with only 2 applications that I could not duplicate on Linux; one is H&R Block tax software, and the other is a computer sailing simulator, Sailaway.  Unfortunately, neither of these applications have Linux versions.  If not for these 2 hold-outs, I could wipe my Windows drive clean and be done with it.

So, if you have ever felt so frustrated with Microsoft Windows that you almost felt like switching to a Mac (I said almost), consider giving Linux a try.  I wrote this blog post on Opera, my favorite web browser, through the WordPress web interface running Linux Mint.  I’ve noticed that I occasionally forget that I’m not still using Windows.  It truly is possible to say goodbye to Microsoft Windows.

In case you haven’t been paying attention: Tesla’s Autopilot has never been fully autonomous

tesla-model-s-95d_1On Monday, January 22nd, at about 8:30 am, a Tesla Model S, which was reportedly being driven using Autopilot, crashed into the rear of a fire truck on Interstate 405 in Culver City, California.  An article from Reuters quoted a tweet from the fire department, which stated “Amazingly there were no injuries.”   The Tesla’s driver blamed the autopilot for the accident.  The fire truck was stopped in the roadway helping another motorist at the time the accident occurred.

The Model S was reportedly traveling at around 65 MPH when it stuck the parked fire truck, completely demolishing the front end of the Model S.  One fact, which was not highlighted in most of the news articles about this accident, was that the driver walked away from the crash with no injuries.  How likely would it have been that the driver, in any other make of vehicle, would have been uninjured in a similar crash?  I believe it’s not likely.

It was also reported that federal investigators will be looking into the crash.  Why are federal investigators looking into a crash in which it seems obvious that the driver was not paying attention to his driving as he should have been?  If the vehicle had been a Toyota or Subaru and the driver had been using traffic-aware cruise control before the accident, would these articles still have the same tone and would federal investigators be investigating the vehicle manufacturer?  Again, I say not likely.

Since Tesla is way ahead of any other automobile manufacturer, in terms of self-driving technology that is available right now to automobile owners, many are quick to condemn Tesla for not putting enough safeguards on this technology.  I suggest the problem is that some drivers are not serious about their responsibility to safely operate a motor vehicle.

For those not familiar with Tesla’s Autopilot, it is a driver-assist feature that steers the vehicle within a traffic lane and controls the vehicle speed, while considering factors of driver-set speed and the movement of other vehicles traveling in the same direction.  It is not an autonomous driving system, meaning that the driver is still responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.

It is easy to search YouTube for videos of people driving Tesla vehicles while using Autopilot.  In many a video, I have seen drivers using Autopilot under circumstances that would make me feel very uncomfortable.  Proper operation of a vehicle using Autopilot requires the presence of some common sense, something that a few Tesla drivers seem to be lacking.

Earlier today, I drove my mother to a doctor’s appointment in Los Angeles.  We used her car, which is an ICE SUV, equipped with traffic-aware cruise control.  The cruise control on her car is similar to the Tesla Autopilot, without the car doing the steering.  When the cruise control was activated, the car traveled at the speed I selected and would slow or brake if a vehicle I was following would slow or brake.  I was aware of the Tesla accident before I drove to Los Angeles.  I didn’t think much about that accident until I had an unsettling experience with the operation of the traffic-aware cruise control.

I was traveling on a 5-lane freeway in lane number 4 at around 65 MPH.  I had the traffic-aware cruise control set to a maximum speed of 70 MPH, but the car was traveling at about 65 MPH because that was the speed of the car directly in front of me.  At some point, the car in front made an abrupt lane change to the left.  The reason for this quick movement was now visible in front of me.  There was a semi-trailer directly ahead of me, which was traveling much slower than 65 MPH.  I waited for the traffic-aware cruise control to slow my car, but it didn’t.  I had to apply the brakes myself to avoid crashing into the back of the trailer.  Had I not taken control to slow my car, we would have crashed into the back of the semi-trailer.  The cruise control didn’t seem to recognize the trailer as an obstacle since its speed was so much slower than the car that had been between us.

So, if I had not been fully in control of my vehicle, and I had crashed into the back of the semi-trailer, would I be able to claim that the accident was the fault of the traffic-aware cruise control and not my fault?  Using a driver-assist function that is not fully autonomous does not relieve the driver of their responsibility to be in control of their vehicle at all times.  It’s a pretty simple concept.

Windows 10 Version 1709 Failure

Of all the Windows versions, I have enjoyed Windows 10 the most, that is up until about 6 months ago.  My particular Windows 10 installation is an upgrade from Windows 7.  It always seems that, when you upgrade from one major Windows version to another, there are problems.

Windows 10 had one big difference from previous versions.  When updates were needed, it would do them mostly without letting me know what it was doing.  I wasn’t particularly comfortable with this arrangement, but such is progress.  It was possible to check on what updates were being installed.  To do this, one had to search for the information.

About 6 months ago, Windows 10 informed me that an update had failed.  In the update window, a button said Fix Issues.  I clicked that button and was ultimately presented with an ominous warning.  The new update might make some of the music and videos on my system unusable because Windows had changed Digital Rights Management.  This scared me from clicking the OK, I understand button, and Windows Update seemed to be somewhat satisfied for a while.

This past week, Windows 10 had clearly run out of patience with me.  My computer launched into a constant cycle of downloading the update, trying to install it, reporting that it was restoring my previous version, then saying that the update to version 1709 had failed.  I did a little research about what Windows had changed for DRM in version 1709.  It looked like the only music that would be affected were WMA files, of which I had none.  All of my music is MP3 format.

After a lot of troubleshooting, which resulted in my operating system crashing once, requiring a disc restoration, I finally clicked on the OK, I understand button and I thought I was good to go.

What followed was the same cycle of downloading the update, trying to install it, restoring to the previous update, which is version 1511, then advising that the update to version 1709 had again failed.  I did additional research to try to find a reason why the update was failing.  At some point, after wasting many hours trying to fix the problem, I decided I had enough.

My final option in this saga was to try to find a way to turn off Windows Update.  The computer with this update problem is over 5 years old and I decided that being stuck with version 1511 until the computer stopped working completely was my best option.  If you find that you are in the same situation that I have described, what follows is a description of what I did to pull the plug on Windows Update.

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Click on Administrative Tools.
  3. Double-click on Services.
  4. Right-click on Update Orchestrator Service.
  5. Select Properties.
  6. Click the Stop button.
  7. Above the Service Status (which should now say Stopped), there is a drop-down menu. Select Disabled, then click Apply and click OK.
  8. Scroll down and right-click on Windows Update.
  9. Select Properties.
  10. Click the Stop button.
  11. Above the Service Status (which should now say Stopped), there is a drop-down menu. Select Disabled, then click Apply and click OK.
  12. Close the Services window.
  13. Double-click on Task Scheduler.
  14. In the left window pane, drill down to the directory Task Scheduler Library / Microsoft / Windows.
  15. Click on UpdateOrchestrator so that it is highlighted.
  16. In the center top window pane, I had 10 scheduled tasks.  For each of these tasks, click to highlight, then in the right window pane, find Disable and click.  The corresponding task in the center top window pane should now show Disabled for a status.  Do this for each task until they all show a status of Disabled.
  17. In the left window pane, click on WindowsUpdate to select it.
  18. In the center top window pane, I had 4 scheduled tasks.  For each of these tasks, click to highlight, then in the right window pane, find Disable and click.  The corresponding task in the center top window pane should now show Disabled for a status.  Do this for each task until they all show a status of Disabled.
  19. Close the Task Scheduler window.
  20. Close the Administrative Tools window.
  21. Close the Control Panel.
  22. Click the Windows Start MenuPowerRestart.

If, during the above procedure, Windows tries to interrupt you with the update it is trying to install, I was able to interrupt the update by just restarting the computer.  So far, I haven’t heard from Windows Update.  If my situation changes, I will update this post.  My computer will no longer update itself, which is a downside.  The upside is that I am spared the endless update/restore cycles.

There’s nothing like an electric car

models

Alternative, Sustainable Energy

I have been interested in alternative, sustainable energy for longer than I can remember.  In 2003, I convinced my wife that having solar electric panels installed on our house was a good idea.  Today, I doubt she’d admit it was a good idea, but she long ago stopped commenting about how she could see the solar panels from the street in front of our house. On sunny days, we get about 80% of the power we use each day from the sun.

In the late 1990’s, General Motors produced an all-electric car called the EV1.  I’m not sure why GM made the car because, a few years after it was introduced, they repossessed all of the cars, which were all leased, and then had them destroyed.  My belief has always been that, once the cars were introduced and the oil industry saw how popular they were, Big Oil convinced GM to scrap the car.  No one, who had an EV1, wanted to give it up.  It was still early in the history of battery technology, so it would be almost 2 decades before the electric car got another chance.

Electric Cars Become Viable

Fast forward to 2016.  I had been aware of a company called Tesla for several years.  They started making the Tesla Roadster in 2005, moved on to the Tesla Model S in 2012, and then started producing the Tesla Model X in 2015.  I was intrigued by Tesla because their cars were beautiful, all-electric, and had a range on one charge of over 200 miles. Tesla had also invested in a vast charging infrastructure, something that no other car company had done.  The only problem with Tesla cars up to this point, for me at least, was that they were priced above what I could afford to pay for a car.  As badly as I wanted an all-electric car, there was no way I could afford a car that cost nearly $100,000.

I frequently scan YouTube for videos that are of interest to me.  On March 31, 2016, I happened to be scanning YouTube and I came across the live reveal event for the Tesla Model 3.  During the event, when the Model 3 was introduced, the car blew my mind!  Here was a car that would be all-electric, had a base price of $35,000, a range of over 200 miles per charge, and was stunning.  After that event, I started devouring anything I could find on the Internet about Tesla.

I’m not a person, who spends $1,000 on a whim.  Tesla started offering reservations for the Model 3 to anyone willing to pay a $1,000 refundable deposit.  For the next 2 days, I pondered whether I should pay $1,000 for a chance to get my dream all-electric car.  In the morning of April 2, 2016, I went to the Tesla web site and paid $1,000 to reserve my Model 3.  Looking back in retrospect, I should have paid the $1,000 while I was watching the reveal event on the 31st.  My hesitation relegated me to getting my Model 3 sometime around May of next year, instead of January.  I probably only have about 100,000 people ahead of me in line for this car.

What is so mind-boggling is that there are about 1/2 million people all waiting to buy the Tesla Model 3.  How many car companies can say that they introduced a car model and that they very quickly had a half-million people wanting to buy their car?  Tesla is the only one.  Once my reservation was made and it was clear that the car was actually going to be produced, I started putting aside what I thought my monthly car payment would be.  I have since amassed a sizable down payment for my Model 3.  Tesla opened up orders to non-employees during Thanksgiving week.  I expect my turn will come sometime around March 2018.

I have done several things to prepare for the arrival of my Model 3.  In October, I purchased a Tesla High Power Wall Connector.  I installed it in my garage so that my Model 3 would be ready to be charged at home.  I didn’t want to find that Tesla was out of stock for their HPWC when I needed one.  I purchased a car cover for my Model 3, which is still in the box in my garage.  I have watched every Model 3 video that I can find.  I will not need much of a briefing from Tesla when I take delivery of my car.

The one experience I had been missing up to now was actually driving a Tesla.  I didn’t see the point in doing a test drive of a Model S or X because those cars are out of my price range.  I was actually afraid that, if I did a test drive, I’d try to find a way to buy a car that I could not afford.  There was another way to try a Model S.  I rented one.

There is a car rental service known as Turo, which is similar in concept to Uber.  Individuals can list their personal vehicles to be rented on Turo.  For my trip to Seattle this past weekend, I found someone who was renting out their Model S.  For 4 days, I rented a Tesla Model S for $480.  It was a steep price for a car rental, considering that renting from Dollar for the same amount of time would have cost less than $200.  The extra cost was necessary for this trip.  This was an experiment, of sorts.  Would I like driving an all-electric car, complete with having to figure out where to charge it?

The Experience

I met the Model S and its owner at Seatac Airport on Saturday afternoon.  I had already watched every video I could find about the operations of a Model S.  There wasn’t much that the owner had to tell me that I didn’t already know.  He briefly described how to reboot the on-board computer, should the main display screen freeze.  I knew how to charge the car, so the only other thing we discussed was the regenerative braking and the power that was available when pressing the “GO” pedal, as he called it.

The owner likened driving the car with driving a golf cart.  Press the accelerator to go and lift up from the accelerator to slow or stop.  He said it was nearly possible to drive solely using the accelerator and not touching the brake.  That sounded very intriguing to me.  The other warning he gave me was that, when I pressed the accelerator, the power would be instantaneous.  There was a steady rain when I picked up the car and he recommended that I go easy because of slick roads.  He handed me the Model S-shaped key fob and sent me on my way.

For the first 20 miles or so, I had to concentrate on my right foot and the associated pressure on the accelerator pedal.  I found that, with the exception of the last couple of feet before stopping for a traffic light, I never had to touch the brake.  This was seriously cool!  Before long, I was not having to think about my right foot pressure.  My brain quickly adapted to this new way of driving.  Occasionally, someone ahead of me would slow suddenly and I’d instinctively move my foot to the brake, only to find that my car stopped short of where I intended to stop.

The other impressive feature was the power.  In my Prius, when I press the accelerator pedal, there is a time-lag before I actually get power to the front wheels.  When comparing the Prius to the Model S, the Prius is a bit like pushing one’s foot into a bowl of oatmeal.  The Model S instantly responds when the accelerator pedal is pressed.  Uphill, downhill, flat makes no difference.  After I did a couple of quick accelerations, my wife politely asked me to stop playing around.

Where to Charge?

My weekend trip would take me north to the town of Anacortes, WA, then travel by ferry to Sidney, British Columbia, Canada.  I spent 3 days in the area of Victoria, BC, in my rented Model S.  In preparation for this trip, I had researched my charging options.  The state of Washington has only 9 Tesla Superchargers.  There are no superchargers in the Seattle area.  Between Seattle and Anacortes, there are 3 superchargers; one in Monroe, one in Arlington, and one in Burlington.  The Burlington Supercharger is the only one that is right along I-5.  I had decided that, for the trip from Seattle to Anacortes, I would stop at the Burlington Supercharger and get as much of a charge as my wife would tolerate sitting in the car doing nothing.  My wife was a good sport about the idle times charging.

The Model S was given to me with just over 200 miles of range.  When I arrived at the Burlington Supercharger, I had just over 100 miles of range.  I used more than the normal about of energy during the drive up from Seattle, not because I was driving aggressively, but because of the amount of water on the roadway.  It rained hard most of the way up and electric cars use more energy driving through water on the roadway than they do on dry pavement.

There were 2 other Tesla’s at the Burlington Supercharger when I arrived.  I made sure to choose a charger that was not paired with one already in use.  After 35 minutes of charging, I was back over 200 miles of range.  We left the supercharger and headed to our hotel in Anacortes.  At the hotel, I had about 175 miles of range left.  I wondered how much range would be lost with the car sitting overnight.

The next morning, I checked the car and found that it had only lost about 4 miles of range overnight.  That had been one of my concerns and it was now not a concern.  My other concern was where I would charge on Vancouver Island.  The problem with a Tesla on Vancouver Island is that there is only one Tesla Supercharger on Vancouver Island.  That supercharger is located in the town of Nanaimo. Since Nanaimo is located almost 2 hours north of Victoria, it was not an option for charging.  I had to resort to other non-Tesla charging options.

There are a number of Level 2 charging options around the area of Victoria and Sidney, BC.  These were not good options for me because level 2 charging is slow and requires the car to be connected to the charger for several hours at a time.  The closest level 2 charger to my hotel in Brentwood Bay was a 20 minute walk, one-way.  I wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving the car plugged into a charger that far away from me.

The city of Victoria has one fast charging option, which is located in the parking garage of the Uptown Shopping Center.  The DC Fast Charger is operated by Greenlots.  In preparation for this trip, I had downloaded the Greenlots app onto my smartphone and I set up an account.  The owner of my rented Model S included an adapter to connect to a CHAdeMO charger, which is what was available at Greenlots.  As soon as we arrived in Sidney, BC, we headed for downtown Victoria.  I had decided that, if I could get a full charge at the start of our visit, I wouldn’t need to charge again until we returned to Burlington.

Range Anxiety

Before we arrived at the shopping center in Victoria, I got to experience something that all electric car owners have probably experienced at one time or another, range anxiety.  I was already experiencing range anxiety, even before I arrived in Seattle to start this trip.  It was the unknown part of driving an electric car and not being sure of having enough range to get where we were going.  Had there been a supercharger between Sidney and Victoria, I wouldn’t have been concerned.  Tesla Superchargers are simple.  I had never used another charging source.

After we arrived in Sidney, BC, I switched the car over to metric.  Being that there are 1.6 kilometers to 1 mile, it looked like we had more range than we did.  When we arrived at the shopping center, I had about 140 km of range left.  I knew that my wife wanted to do some driving around and that 140 km was not going to cut it.  I was happy to find both parking stalls for the DC Fast Charger were unoccupied.  I backed into one parking space and proceeded to get connected to the charger.

After trying unsuccessfully to mate the Tesla adapter with the CHAdeMO cable, I figured out that I had the Tesla adapter upside down.  Once it was attached, I plugged the Tesla end of the adapter into the Model S.  Next, I brought up the Greenlots app and started my charging session.  When I hit the start button on the charger, I was happy to see the flashing green ring around the Model S charging receptacle.  The main screen in the car confirmed that I was indeed charging and it reported that I would have a full charge in 60 minutes.  That would give us plenty of time to walk around the shopping center.  We ended up buying lunch at Starbucks and returned to the car to eat lunch.

Back at the car, the center display of the Model S reported that the battery was nearly full and that we had 423 km of range.  That is when my range anxiety vanished.  It was not possible that I would drive more than 400 km during 3 days in Victoria.  I had no doubt that I would be able to reach the Burlington Supercharger without running out of power.

Giving Up The Car

The return trip to Seattle was mostly uneventful.  I had several opportunities to talk to people about electric cars when they came up to the Model S and expressed curiosity about it.  The last person I talked to was at the Burlington Supercharger.  I was one of 4 Tesla’s charging there.  I saw an ICE car pull up and the driver snapped a photo of the Tesla’s and the superchargers.  The driver parked, got out and walked over to my side of the car.  He told me that his son loved Tesla’s and he asked me whether Tesla gave out maps to show where the superchargers were located.  I explained that the supercharger locations could be found on the navigation system in the car.  The only downside to these interactions was that I was not in my own Tesla.

My wife and I stopped for dinner in Marysville and then continued to the airport.  When I returned the Model S to its owner, it still had 90 miles of range.  He had asked for at least 20 miles of residual range.  I said goodbye to my first Tesla drive.  I hated the idea of going back to driving an ICE car.  April or May of next year seems like a long time to wait for my Tesla.

Prologue

When I returned home and drove my Prius out of the airport parking lot, I immediately had an uneasy feeling.  I accelerated and then lifted my foot off the accelerator.  The car kept on going and it momentarily shocked me.  During the 3 days I had driven the Model S, my brain had been programmed to operate an accelerator pedal that slowed the car when pressure was removed.  It took me the whole drive home of about 35 miles to reprogram my brain back to using the brake pedal when I needed to slow quickly.

It has been 2 days since I gave back the Model S.  If I could justify a $90,000 new car, I would go to Tesla today and buy a Model S.  When comparing the Model S with the Model 3, I would still choose the Model 3.  It felt like the center display in the Model S was too big.  Two functions can be display at once on the Model S display and I would have been fine with half of the display and only one function displayed at a time.  The single center display in the Model 3 is what really has me excited.  Nothing more is necessary than that one center display.  If I had $90,000, I would buy a Model S today just because I hate having to wait 6 months for a Tesla.  It’s probably good that I don’t have $90k because the Model 3 is my car.