Last Update: 1/30/2017
We recently purchased a Tesla Model S 70D. Much has been written about this excellent electric car—instead of providing a more technical review, we will provide insight gleaned from day to day use of this car in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Our original goal with this purchase was to become more green by eliminating our usage of gas. Moreover, we are supporting our local economy as this car was produced right across the Bay. Being a hard core gadget head, it is hard not to appreciate the way this vehicle is loaded with a beautiful touch screen and tons of options for tweaking and staying up to date. (It does become a distraction.) Compared to a similarly priced sedan from Mercedes or BMW, this car seems to be light years ahead. Especially when you factor in the $7500 Federal and $2500 California tax rebates. The California tax rebate was exhausted in 2016.
Driving a Tesla is akin to driving a futuristic car. It makes all traditional combustion engine vehicles look old. While it’s unlikely that the world will go 100% electric, a reasonable subset of cars (25%?) will one day be electric.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction
The amount of Greenhouse gas emissions that is connected to driving an electric car actually differs depending on where you live. Different power utilities employ different fuel for their power plants. The following list gives you a sample of how different the benefits of an electric car can be. The amount of money you save gas each year also varies depending on local electric utility rates. The Union of Concerned Scientists produced these statistics.
- San Francisco, 79 mpg, Best emissions rating
- Los Angeles, 79 mpg, Best emissions rating
- Denver, 33 mpg, Good emissions rating
- Chicago, 41 mpg, Better emissions rating
- Houston, 46 mpg, Best emissions rating
- New York, 74 mpg, Best emissions rating
As you can see, the benefits you receive depend on your particular location and can range widely. The amount of money you save on gas can vary from $1140 in San Francisco and Atlanta to only $840 in Washington DC.
No more Gas
No need to stop at gas stations. We save time every week by not having to fill up our tank at a gas station. No need to dash to the local gas station to fill up our tank, early in the morning! It takes a while to get used to this fact. Every night we just plug in the charger. Read more about how to install an Electric Car Charger. The only worry is forgetting to plug it in. Our gas station is now the power plug. A minor downside to this is that we have to wash our windows at home.
Though it may not be initially obvious, the eco-friendliness of an electric car may depend on how energy is produced in a given region. In areas like the Midwest, which rely on coal for electricity generation, an electric car may be not as green as originally anticipated. There may be less carbon emissions with the traditional car or the hybrid. In our region, more natural gas is used along with some alternative energy such as solar power.
We have had solar panels on our roof for approximately ten years, making the use of this power source to charge our electric car a no brainer. Some day we will install the Tesla PowerWall Battery Pack. This will allow us to store the energy produced during the day and charge our car at any time.
Thank goodness we have solar panels. Adding the car more than doubled our energy consumption. We estimate that it Tesla model S charging uses 800kWh more each month or about 9700kWh a year. Our normal energy use is about 5500kWh. This jacked up our power bill by almost $140 a month. Still it is cheaper than buying gas.
If your electric utility has an electric car plan, do the analysis and switch if the pricing is favorable. With our utility, PG&E, they have an EV-A plan that would save us a $1000 a year over the normal E6 or E7 rate plan. PG&E was asked repeatedly and would not help us analyze what the change in rate plan would cost us. It is not in their self interest. Electric car plans typically require you to give the VIN number of your car as proof.
The number question people ask is what the range of your electric car is. Our Tesla Model S 70D has an EPA rated range of 240. Frankly, this is an optimistic estimate. Due to hills and horrible traffic, we may get 150. Regardless, this range is able to fulfill 99.99% of our daily driving. We can charge up at night and we’re ready to go again.
Tesla has pioneered the larger battery packs. If we had purchased a car with just 90 miles of range, we would worry about charging much more often. If you are on a budget and need to get a Leaf or other vehicle with more limited range, you need to ensure you can recharge at work or where you shop.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to more electric vehicles than most regions. Our friends have told us that folks battle over the limited number of chargers at different work sites and only receive a limited number of hours charging time before they have to swap places with a coworker.
Our last car was a high performance BMW 5 Series. The Tesla has instant acceleration of the line. Not even a Ferarri can out do it off the line. We test drove a Porsche 911 Turbo and felt even this supercar lacked the punch of a Tesla. This car is perfect for stop light wars and navigating the heavy traffic of San Francisco. We had a P85+ as a loaner car and found that it accelerates so fast that we would get car sick even while driving it. A light touch with the accelerator pedal is a must. We have since learned that setting brake regeneration to less, whille help prevent the naseau.
This sports sedan is pretty big, with interior cargo room exceeding a 5 series.
The Tesla Model S is very low to the ground, almost like a sports car. Handling definitely benefits from this stance. It will grind its front bumper on many driveways, so beware. This reminds me of a performance car, not a large 4 door 5 passenger sedan. Pot holes also need to be seriously avoided.
The Tesla has the standard AM/FM/XM Satellite radio, but lacks a CD player. Instead, the Tesla is set apart by its integration of online streaming. Our car has Slacker and XXX. With these two online services, you have access to tons of music, news, Podcasts, etc. No need to use your phone to access this entertainment. We thought we would miss a CD player but that is definitely old school now.
There are Tesla Supercharging stations near us. (You can quickly charge up your battery about twice as fast as at home) We can go there to charge at anytime for FREE. One is located in the parking lot for Whole Foods, guess what we do while our car charges. Kudos to businesses that have the foresight to acquire valuable customers through free charging. They are becoming more popular and occasionally there is a line waiting for access. Compared to paying for gas, this is one awesome perk.
Fast forward to Summer 2016, this supercharger is so busy during mid-day, Tesla hired a valet to move cars around when charging is done.
Minor Niggling Items
Every new vehicle has its share of minor defects. The Tesla had a ground wire problem which caused an erroneous error message. It has occasionally buzzing noise from the lane departure warning that incorrectly fires off. The vehicle isn’t perfect.
Body Shop Delays
Our Tesla needed some minor body work. Only 1 body shop is Tesla certified in San Francisco, and one on the San Francisco Peninsula. We have been waited over a month for a body part to arrive, so beware of this. Other areas may not have a Tesla approved body shop.
The amount of range shown on the dash may not be very accurate. Electric cars use a lot of power climbing hills. We have seen instances where the listed range was 120, but the instantaneous range was only 40. The system cannot read your mind and estimate how far you can go based on your future route unless it is entered into the GPS.
You normally charge the car to a limited of 90% capacity, not 100%. That last 10% takes a great deal longer plus it taxes the battery life more. Only do 100% when you need the extra range for a longer trip.
It is a bit difficult to see the car to the left at a four way intersection, given the fact that the Tesla’s A-pillar blocks peripheral vision a bit more than most other cars would. This problem is more obvious for people with shorter inseams (around 30”). Visibility out the back window is extremely poor.
A few other ergonomic issues: the cup holders are not very usable. We have to reach slightly backwards and twist our arms in order to grab a cup. The visor is about 4 inches tall and barely covers any glass area.
There is no storage in the cabin aside from the glove compartment. You can purchase a center console that adds some storage as well as much more usable cup holders. Tesla listened and made this console standard on the Model X.
The light in the trunk is way too weak.
The side mirrors can automatically fold down when you select reverse, useful when you are parallel parking. However, there is no way to disable this feature (unlike the Mercedes and BMW which disable this feature if you have the right mirror selected).
The Tesla is so dependent on Internet connectivity that it makes the car a target for hacking. Hackers have broken into other network connected cars in the past. We worry that another breach may hit at anytime.
Alarm or lack thereof
Our Tesla was literally sideswiped and the front bumper ripped off, while parked, and the alarm did not go off!
Having Tesla Model S is an experience distinct from owning any other car. It is not flawless, but given our transportation needs, the car has been fun, fascinating, and green in new ways for us. We met our original goal of eliminating gas dependency with this purchase and are getting a taste of the future every time we drive it.