Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12/30 - Los Altos to Las Vegas

We stayed with relatives in Los Altos on the 29th after the factory tour.  We also had paint protection and window tinting installed on the car while on the tour in Fremont.  After a great dinner party with Bruce and Cheryl Herrmann in Los Altos that Monday evening, we left early yesterday, 12/30, heading to Las Vegas, where we are staying two nights and will see in the New Year.

We charged at four Superchargers yesterday - Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon, and Barstow, all in California.  It was a long day and we did have one close call. We left the Tejon Supercharger with 208 miles indicated range, drove the 137.5 miles to the Barstow Supercharger, and arrived with only 7 miles range.  That means we use a theoretical 201 miles range to go only 137.5 miles.  There was a mountain range crossing, and temps were in the 30's, but we don't like cutting it that close.  We went with traffic or slower, generally 70 miles per hour, never over 75.  The speed limit was 70.

We left Los Altos at 9:00 AM and arrived in Las Vegas at 10:30 PM.  Total distance was 684 miles in 11.5 hours, so average speed with charging was almost 51 mph.  That's pretty decent.  However, we are averaging 403 wh/mile since Portland, far above the 325 lifetime average that we achieved with our Tesla S85 over 31k miles.  This may get better now that we have broken in the tires, which supposedly get more miles per watt after 1,000 miles driven.  However, we're heading into very cold country next, so I remain skeptical.  The good news is that Superchargers are spaced about every 100-160 miles and we must stop because the car can't skip any chargers, so there has been on one close call as mentioned above, and that was due to a mountain climb.  We don't expect any issues getting across the country about as fast as we would in a car driving on gasoline.

Yesterday J.B. Straubel posted a Tesla blog indicating that a new software upload will take advantage of our car's dual motors and ideal the bigger one at highway speeds, increasing range by 10%.  That will be good, but he indicates it will come in late January, after our current adventure.  No worries, but it would be nice to have more cushion on some legs.  The blog post about range is here:

A few pictures, followed by a detailed chart on charges and ranges:

 Supercharging at Gilroy Factory Outlets

The Gilroy location was busy.  California has something like half of all Tesla's and we saw a lot!

Supercharging at Harris Ranch

Harris Ranch is getting a new Tesla battery swap station.  I am skeptical about its usefulness and would not have used it if available, but Tesla is getting big tax credits for this test location.

 Workers were sealing the pavement at the swap station.

Another view of the swap station.

Battery swap station exit.  This was previously a car wash.

Supercharging at Tejon.  This was one of the first U.S. superchargers, so has the original canopy and solar panels.  Later superchargers are simpler, have no canopy or solar panels.

Supercharging at Barstow, CA.  We arrived with only 7 miles remaining range after using up 201 miles of rated range to go 137.5 miles.

The following is a cut-and-past of the electricity record.  It is from Excel and isn't formatted perfectly, but people who care will get it.

Charging Stats
Date Starting Odometer Starting Rated Range Cumulative Average wh/mi Cumulative Total kWh Charging Location Miles Since Last Charge kWh Since Last Charge Avg WH/Mi. Since Last Charge Rated Miles After Charge Notes
28-Dec 12 159 Tesla Tigard Service Center New car delivery
28-Dec 12 134 410 8.2 Woodburn, OR Supercharger 20 8.2 411
28-Dec 32 184 413 40.8 Springfield, OR Supercharger 78.8 32.6 413 78
28-Dec 111 223 410 98.3 Grant's Pass OR Supercharger 141 57.6 408 34
28-Dec 252 221 417 149.6 Mt. Shasta CA Supercharger 118.8 51.3 432 53
28-Dec 370 223 398 186.4 Corning, CA Supercharger 109.3 36.7 336 103
28-Dec 480 202 402 234.1 Vacaville, CA Supercharger 114.1 47.8 419 46
28-Dec 594 200 402 267.3 Fremont, CA S/C (factory) 82.8 33.2 401 81
29-Dec 671 114 401 295.4 Gilroy, CA Supercharger 71.5 28.1 392 17
29-Dec 748 242 396 336.6 Harris Ranch, CA Supercharger 113.3 41.2 364 112
29-Dec 862 225 393 380.5 Tejon, CA Supercharger 117.6 43.9 373 83
29-Dec 979 208 400 442 Barstow, CA Supercharger 137.5 61.4 447 7
29-Dec 1117 245 403 509.6 Trump International,  Las Vegas 160.8 67.7 421 31

Monday, December 29, 2014

12/26 - 12/29 - Portland & Fremont - Delivery & First Leg

After reading about owners having a great experience taking delivery at the Tesla headquarters and factory in Fremont, California, I emailed Xander, our DC-based Tesla delivery specialist about doing a factory delivery.  We had done this in Munch with a prior BMW, and being gearheads, loved the experience.  Xander explained that non-California redidents cannot receive factory delivery due to absurd California sales/excise tax laws that would have ended up adding about $13,000 to the purchase.  However, he offered that Tesla could deliver the car at their Portland, OR, delivery center, and we could drive from there to Fremont for the tour.

Our P85D order was confirmed in late November, with a "late December" expected delivery date.  Xander and the Portland delivery specialist, Jesse, believed that the car would be ready for delivery in Portland on Saturday, December 27.  Although quite skeptical, we proceeded with plans to fly to Portland the day after Christmas and receive the car the following day.  I made hotel reservations and flight arrangements, including an optimstic reservation at the Las Vegas Trump hotel for New Years Eve.

As the date approached, the car was still in queue, and not in production.  Around the 18th it went into production, and Jesse in Portland confirmed that the car would probably be ready on the 27th, and if not, the next day, a Sunday.  As Tesla was in engaged a major year-end push, all hands would be working over the weekend to make deliveries.  This is also an important deadline for many owners, who are counting on the $7,500 federal income tax credit for buying the car, but only available for deliveries by 12/31.

After a Christmas Day hike up Maryland Heights and dinner at the Bavarian Inn with our girls Jennifer and Sarah, we took an early flight to Portland, Oregon, on Friday, December 26.  

Good Las Vegas Omen

We had a long layover in Las Vegas.  In an hour I was up $845 playing airport poker slots, and stopped while ahead.  Lee lost $100, so the $745 paid for our flights and lunch!  Note the screen.

Portland, We're Here.  Car's Still In Fremont?

The Portland delivery specialist, Jesse, had emailed while we were in the Las Vegas airport, that the car was still at the factory, and he hoped it would be on a late Saturday truck, with possible delivery early on Sunday, 27th.  Darn, we had an appointment for paint protection and window tinting in Fremont on Monday.  That could make for a long day on Sunday, as it is nearly 700 miles between Portland and Fremont, with bad weather predicted.  We also had tentative plans to stay for two days with relatives in Los Altos, about 20 miles from Fremont, so they were up in the air. 

We checked into the Courtyard Marriott within walking distance of Tesla's Tigard, OR location.   Early the next morning, we walked in the rain over to the Tesla store, and saw only two old loaner cars, but no new cars.  Jesse said hi and offered one of the loaners for the day.  He also confirmed that our car was in a shipment of 20+ cars expected to arrive overnight from the factory.  He said it would be the first prepped in the morning, and sent us off in a dark blue P85 (old school Tesla model without dual drive) for the day.  We were still skeptical about our car getting to Portland from Fremont, but decided to make the best of the loaner, so headed out through the Columbia River valley on historic Route 30.  It was raining and cold, but it was still a good day.  We made it as far at the new Supercharger in Dalles, had lunch, and turned around.  We entertained taking the route around Mt. Hood, but it was snowing at high elevations and chains were required.  We didn't have snow tires or chains, so retraced the outbound route and went to the movies in Tigard instead (Big Eyes).

One of many waterfalls along the Columbia River 

A foggy, cold and rainy day, but a fun tour nonetheless.

The Vista House on Historic Route 30.  Not much "vista" in the fog.

Delivery & First Leg

Early on Sunday we took the loaner P85 back to the Tigard store.  It was transformed - the empty lot was now full of Model S's, mostly P85D's that had appeared overnight.  After the paperwork and  a few pictures, we were underway around noon, with 690 miles to cover and get back on schedule for Monday's tour and paint protection appointment.  

Jesses making sure all is right with the Maryland title, California registration, and Oregon paperwork.

Hm, looks just like our old car except the wheels, brake calipers and badge on the back.

Ready to head for Fremont.

The car's first Supercharge!

The second Supercharge!

We made it to Fremont!  No range anxiety but, but we averaged over 400 wh/mi, far above the 325 lifetime average with our old S85.  This was all conservative freeway driving, so we will have to be careful crossing the country.

The factory tour requires a confidentiality agreement, and no pictures are allowed, so no pictures of the tour, but it was excellent.  For a view inside the plant and how the car is built, watch the "How it is Made" episode for Tesla, or the National Geo special on the plant.  Links here: (How It's Made - Dream Cars - Tesla) (National Geographic special on Tesla factory)

So how did the car do?  Well, it took five Supercharges to make it to the Hampton Inn Fremont.  The car is much better put together than our old S85, tighter, quieter, smoother.  We were in range-preservation mode on the first leg, so I managed to avoid flooring it, and we still haven't experienced the 1.3 g launch.  Despite driving all the way very carefully, never more than 5 over the limit, the car is proving to be less efficient at using battery range than our older S85.  We could routinely get 225 miles of range on that car, and confidently go 190 miles in the "worst" freezing conditions.  Our average lifetime wh/mile for the older car was 325 over 30,000 miles.  We averaged almost exactly 400 wh/mi with the new car yesterday, 100% highway driving, and needed to stop at every supercharger along I-5 between Portland and Fremont.  We never had any range anxiety, and charges were fast, but I do not see this car getting over 200 miles range under any circumstances.  That's a dissapointment, and unexpected, because Elon Musk was much more optimistic in his projections.  He says in recent tweets that a new software release will restore the P85D's mileage to roughly equal to our prior car, and we hope so.  

We will post more statistical detail on this leg in a separate post, with stats on each charge and driving segment, signing off for now.

Why? - Prelude to Insane Mode

This blog will document our trip across the U.S. in a new Tesla P85D. The first question is why.


Today's post is about how we came to be in Fremont, CA on a Monday in late December 2014 waiting for a Tesla P85D to have its Xpel paint protection and window tinting applied.  However, as to why, there's really no good answer.  

I come from a family of "car guys" who sat around on holidays discussing the relative merits of oil and gasoline choices.  My mother's side was a GM family.  My Grandpa, Hudson Kellogg, was an executive and engineer at Ethyl Corporation, where he held patents on the low-horsepower, high-displacement engines used to measure and certyify gasoline octane levels.  His career, start to finish, was about the fuel additives made at Ethyl. He never said much about it, but I could tell that he didn't care for my  parent's switch to VW's in the 1960's.  However, I went with them, eventually owning more than a dozen old VW combi busses and beetles.  Lee-Ann's first car was a '71 Super Beetle convertible.  We progressed through other mostly German and Japanese marques, including newer VW's, with a sprinkling of Chrysler minivans while raising the kids, and then a series of Mercedes and a Porsche.  The oyster business brought us back to Ford pickup trucks, which are still indispensible on the farm.  We still have two antique VW's and a '52 MG-TD, so prefer frugal, practical cars.

In 2004 we got our first Toyota Prius, eventually buying three, and enjoyed the thrifty gas-electric combo as a second car to commute between home and the weekend farm.  The Prius was the first car to integrate a serious battery and electric motor with gasoline power to incxrease efficiency to around 50 mpg.  We were hooked.

I have always been a car magazine reader, and in 2008, noticed an article about Tesla, a little California company whose CEO, Elon Musk, was making serious noises about electric cars with long range and fast charging.  A bit of investigation and I decided to place a deposit on the planned Tesla Model S, at that point only a preliminary sketch and a set of parameters - four doors, big battery, long range, fast charging.

We decided to retire in 2010, and amid increasing concerns about Tesla's viability, received a refund of the initial deposit.  However, we remained fans of green energy, and installed a large solar panel array on the farm's barn roof in 2010, and on our other home in 2011, enough to produce far more energy than we consume.  In June 2012, Tesla began deliveries of the Model S, which received rave reviews and numerous car-of-the-year awards.  In November 2012, I checked out the Tesla website, and within a few minutes the phone rang. "Hello, this is Jason from Tesla Motors and we noticed that you were on our website.  Is there anything we can do for you?"  To make a long story short, Tesla restored our position in queue, and on February 3, 2013, we took delivery of a pearl white Tesla S85 at the Tesla service center in Rockville, MD.

Fast forward through two years of being amazed at driving "for free" a quiet, incredibly quick car, with numerous hiccups for repairs - replacement battery, new drive motor/inverter, and a list of other, mostly teething items on a new model, all of which were fixed with a smile and a loaner car or "ranger" service at our home.  In October 2014, I found myself in the hospital the day after open heart surgery for a new aortic valve, reading internet accounts of the "D", a new model that was announced to great fanfare - a car with 691 horsepower, and a long list of features not found on our early Model S, including autopilot, upgraded interior, folding mirrors, parking assist, four wheel drive, and a long list of smaller changes.  The videos of the rollout were amazing, demonstrating supercar acceleration (3.1 seconds to 60 mph) and new autopilot functions (more in another post).  Elon Musk was particularly proud of the user-selectable power modes, including three choices - Normal, Sport and Insane.  Although I doubted the lawyers would allow "Insane" to remain a choice on the final customer cars, I was hooked again. 

With an extended recovery due to complications from the heart surgery, I surfed the Tesla web forums, and the media frenzy about the new car.  Before I knew it, while laying in the Johns Hopkins hospital cardiac recovery ward for two weeks, I had placed the old S85 for sale on the Tesla web forum, accepted an offer, and ordered a P85D, also pearl white.  There is no rational reason for doing this.  I blame the pain meds, combined with old family gearhead oil in the veins, and maybe too much time coinciding with the press rollout of the new model.  That and 691 horsepower - an insane number.  No one needs it.  It is a number for adolescent boys and supercar dreamers.  To acheive the 3.1 zero-to-60 head-snapping numbers, one must typically spend $300k or more - even some million-dollar supercars struggle to keep up - and here it was being offered for a fraction  

I could rationalize this, saying it is cheap compared to comparable cars, point to the new features, and four wheel drive practicality, and savings from driving for "free" due to no-charge superchargers and the solar panels.  However, that would not be honest - it really is about never growing up.  No excuses, no environmental platitudes.  We drive a lot, and it is cool.  And the car really does have a button for "Insane" mode.  That's it.

Next Post: Portland and Fremont - Delivery Delay & First Leg