Monday, December 29, 2014

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

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