Traveling to Tahoe in the Winter

Lesson learned from last winter. If traveling from the Bay Area to Tahoe during the ski season, be sure to charge all the way in the Sacramento area on the way up. Some things to note:

  1. Driving uphill in the Sierra Nevadas consumes TWICE as many rated miles of charge
  2. When it’s cold out, you’re likely to turn up the heater in the car and that consumes battery charge quickly too
  3. After a few hours in snowy weather, assuming you’ve gone skiing, your Tesla will have 20-40 fewer miles of charge
  4. There’s a Supercharger in Truckee
  5. There’s a PlugShare charger at Boreal that was free of charge
  6. Once you start heading home downhill, for the most part, you’ll be charge-neutral because the regenerative braking will add miles back to the battery
  7. It’s worth paying a chain installer the $15 to put chains on for you if you don’t have a Dual motor model


Model 3

The world is ablaze with excitement when  Tesla Motors unveiled the long-awaited Model 3 yesterday. An astronomical 200,000 reservations have already been made. At $1000 per reservation, that’s an extra $200 million in cash for Tesla to use to prepare for production.

Every 3rd Facebook post or tweet today is about someone else having plopped down their $1000. We did. We already have an incredible Model S as you can see from an earlier post. Since the Model 3 is not coming out until the end of 2017, that means a likely delivery date in 2018, a full two years away. 

We currently have an 11-year old Toyota Sienna. Getting another two years out of it seems about right.

Borrowing a Roadster

When you need to bring your Tesla in for service, you get a loaner. How often do you get to borrow a Roadster though?
When you first step into the cabin, you may feel cramped. You get an immediate feel for the mechanical nature of the car. It is low to the ground. You can feel every bump in the road. There is no power steering. You can feel the torque channeled through the frame of the car, as might by typical from mid-engine ICE sports cars. Minimal shocks. Super-powered go-kart. The equivalent HP (kWh) isn’t as high as the Model S but it does accelerate faster due to being lighter and low to the ground.

Roadster dash
After driving the Model S, there’s almost a nostalgic version 1.0 to the Roadster. First off, there is a traditional key. There are analog dials for the speedometer and energy meter as well as push-button “gears” along the center console. There is a tiny touchscreen that also displays the remaining battery range, temperature, speed, and other diagnostic information across multiple screens that can scroll forward or backward. There is a traditional circular port for the charger, unlike the Model S’ concealed charge port.

Roadster key
The car I drove had a lot of wear and tear, although the pictures may not show it. It didn’t have a visor on the driver’s side; it had broken off. There was an older iPhone charging cable. No Bluetooth. No fancy electronics. Obviously no 17″ screen. As you may have read, the Roadster is borrows it’s body from the Lotus Elise.

As a low-profile car with minimal shock absorption, the speed of the Roadster feels deceptively faster. The ground whips past.

Now that the Model S is so prevalent, I got many more looks driving the Roadster from curious fellow drivers. It was a fun ride but at the end of the day, for my typical commute, I much prefer my Model S.


Initial Charging Lessons – Using ChargePoint

We didn’t have a 240V outlet in the garage so we knew we’d have to get one installed eventually. I wasn’t too concerned at first since we have 110V outlets in the garage and more importantly, we have ChargePoint stations at work.

But those first few days were a bit anxious anyway. We only have 8 EV spots at work and they are regularly occupied by Volts, Priuses, Leafs (Leaves?), and another Tesla. My company covers the cost of charging and it’s not open to the public. Someone in our Facilities department verifies that you are an employee and you are allowed to charge as part of the network once you click a button on the ChargePoint iPhone app.


So the first couple days I didn’t charge at work because the Facilities department didn’t get to my request. I charged at home but I was only getting four miles of range (I later read it’s actually 3.75 miles) per hour of charge. Given my long commute, I only replenished enough charge to cover half the commute round-trip distance.

When I finally did get to charge at work, I was confused on how to use the ChargePoint station. Luckily, my Tesla-owning co-worker walked by at that very moment and helped me out get the plug (with J1772 adapter) into the charge port.


The Big Day

What an amazing looking car

We finally took delivery of the car on the last day of November at 11am at the Tesla Factory in Fremont. My younger son Callan and I got to enjoy a few quiet moments with the Model S first since he was too young to go on the factory tour. The vehicle was spotless. Really immaculate. Every smudge or speck of dirt had been meticulously wiped away. Tesla really is focused on providing an unforgettable customer experience when you first get your new car.

I asked our delivery person what were some of the most memorable moments for him during the process. The most common colors are white and black. He said the most rewarding times were when people got upgraded versions of their car included even though they’d bought it before a new feature came out. Some customers were even brought to tears. A couple famous people that came to check through the Marin store: Santana and Robert Redford…

He said he was really glad that we took delivery when we did because Tesla ships out a really large number of cars in December before the year-end (it’s all about the numbers for Wall Street). During the second half of December, customers don’t get the same kind of white-glove treatment and may either be rushed through the tour or not able to get a tour at all.

Ready to accept delivery on an iPad Mini

After the tour, my wife said that going from the storefront to the Customer Delivery area in the back was like stepping into a hospital delivery room with me beaming like a brand new father. And here I was, convinced that I’d been playing it cool this entire time. I suppose it couldn’t be helped (that huge grin, I mean).

Welcoming the newest member of the family

With two young ones and the appeal of the vehicle as a potential 7-seater, we knew we had to opt for the jump seats. This will be especially handy when transporting hordes of little people to and from future sporting activities. It will also come in handy when traveling certain places with a pair of grandparents in tow as well. Now a 6-person trip to dim sum would no longer necessitate the minivan. They were all too happy to immediately hop into the back and strap themselves in.

They loved scampering into the back


It was an incredible and unforgettable day. Next up… interesting things I learned about the car.

Exciting status updates

First of all, shortly after we confirmed the order, the big announcements around Dual Motor and Autopilot came out. I knew we were never planning on getting a P85 so availability of the Dual Motor didn’t bother me. But I was really curious about Autopilot. You needed certain hardware on the car (like a radar). So was our car going to be “Autopilot-enabled”? Given everything I’d heard about the Tesla experience, I was optimistic.

Each email was more exciting than the last

As far as timing, our sales specialist felt pretty confident that we’d be able to take delivery sooner than the original expectation of mid-to-late December. I emailed our assigned “Delivery Experience Specialist” and after a month he confirmed that the car went into production sooner and would be ready by the first half of December.

In the meantime, we knew we needed to add a 240-V outlet in the garage so we needed a recommended electrician and started that process. Here the Tesla Motors brand pays enormous dividends. I felt comfortable that anyone Tesla recommended was going to be first-rate because they wouldn’t want recommended vendors to tarnish the brand by association. Unfortunately, it wasn’t cheap, but I’ll cover that part in a future post.

Also, we needed to get financing in order and decided we were going to with Tesla financing through US Bank in order to keep things simple.

How long would it take to build?

Then, I got another exciting email November 24 about the car entering Production. All signs pointed to taking delivery in very early December.

By this point, the accelerated production schedule had me worried about the inclusion of Autopilot. One day, since we were in the area, we decided to stop by the Tesla store in Santana Row and inquire. They confirmed that paying for the Tech Package would indeed include Autopilot hardware to eventually enable Autopilot mode with future software releases. Phew!

Only two days later (the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), I got an unexpected voicemail from the regional delivery manager that the car was ready! Unfortunately, by this time, we were already in Southern California for the Thanksgiving break and wouldn’t be able to return until Saturday evening at the earliest. I returned the call Wednesday evening but wasn’t sure when the delivery people at Tesla would return it. Would they have Friday off? And the weekend as well? Would they not get back to me until Monday? And I’d have to schedule delivery then?

Not to worry! The regional delivery manager called me back Friday morning and we scheduled for us to take delivery Sunday morning at 11am, assuming the return trip Saturday wouldn’t allow us to get back early enough. Also, we wanted to make sure we could enjoy the factory tour.

Test Drive!

Two days after I ordered the car online, I got a call from Ian in Sales out of the Fremont headquarters. He asked very matter-of-fact whether I had even test driven a Model S. Although I’ve been desiring a Model S forever and visited the Tesla Store at Santana Row three years earlier when it was only stocked with Roadsters, I still hadn’t actually done a test drive after all these years.

former NUMMI plant

Ian was spot on to suggest coming in to see a configuration close to what I’d ordered online to visualize in-person. Then we could make any desired changes and even confirm the order. Confirming the order would bypass the normal 2-week waiting period before the deposit becomes non-refundable and officially puts your Model S order into the production queue.

The fun part of the visit was that my parents were in town from Shanghai and they were just as excited to see the cars and ride in the back during a test drive. My dad quite a few photos. Too bad my dad won’t be around for the factory tour. Every owner gets a factory tour when you take delivery of the car. It’s not open to the public and doesn’t allow photo or video although there are plenty of images available online.

We actually did two test drives. The first one was me driving first, Ian sitting shotgun, and my wife and older son sitting in the back. There is a short stretch of road near the factory that is owned by Tesla and would-be owners get to gun it for about 5-6 seconds to feel the car’s acceleration. After I drove for about 10 minutes, my wife took over. We both felt nervous, as if we were being graded on our driving skills and wondering whether we were worthy of being behind this impressive piece of Silicon Valley design and engineering and Northern California manufacturing. (By the way, that’s one of the parts that I love most about Tesla – is that it’s a Californian company! I assume technically, it’s probably a Delaware company like most other corporations’ legal entities.)

The second time was me behind the wheel once again. This time my parents sat in the back instead of my wife. And my older son got to ride for a second time. Our younger son didn’t get to ride because he’s a few pounds shy of being able to use a booster seat. My parents weren’t shy and inquired into all kinds of things and Ian was happy to oblige with what he could answer.

One of the more interesting tidbits is that Internet connectivity is free for at least four years and possibly longer but it hasn’t been officially decided. There are Teslas in Shanghai but Ian wasn’t divulging exactly how many were going over each month. In fact, they will even build cars in Shanghai to avoid a sizable import tariff. With regard to the overall car experience, there are obviously no gears to shift. The car starts with the push of a button. Door handles open and close depending on (the key’s) proximity to the vehicle. The electrical plug is hidden underneath a tail light.

Using the huge 17″ touchscreen along with voice activation means 1) I no longer have to rely on Siri or Google Maps to get around so I no longer need to fumble around with a phone holder and my mobile device, and 2) with Slacker Radio, it was a cinch to request a specific artist. In addition, owners and would-be owners indicate that Spotify and Pandora seem to work just fine.

It was a no-brainer to confirm the order on-the-spot once our test drives were finished. My parents are going to be more excited than me to drive the car in December once we take delivery. 

Ordered It Online

After you spend time choosing every option for your Model S comes the big moment. You enter your credit card information and hit Submit to plop down the $2500 deposit.

Then, moments later in cyberspace, you receive email confirmation of your order with the car spec’ed out exactly as you’d configured.