Tag Archive: Tesla

Apr 12 2016

WaitButWhy and Iron Man

Really first class article about Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, energy use, and the future of the world.

So on my visit to California, I had two goals in mind: to understand as best I could what Musk and his teams were working on so feverishly and why it mattered so much, and to try to gain insight into what it is that makes him so capable of changing the world.

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man

Nov 17 2013

“Tesla Motors may make its own batteries”

It was only a matter of time for Tesla to come to this conclusion. Buying batteries from a foreign supplier left them vulnerable in the long term to single-source risk: suppose Panasonic had a fire, or raised its prices exorbitently? Not to mention that Tesla has no real control over the timing of manufacture or the design of the batteries themselves. It’s too much of a risk for the major essential component of their product.

Tesla Motors may make its own batteries

Nov 12 2013

Yet Another Inane Post: “Is Tesla Motors Doomed?”

It’s getting tiresome seeing lazy blog posters trolling for readers by posting wildly overdramatic headlines. Like this one.

One, Two, and Now Three Fires: Is Tesla Motors Doomed?

No, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) is not doomed…

So why read beyond the first 6 words?

Aug 30 2013

Charging the Model S

I’ve created a small spreadsheet to calculate the charging times at various stations for the Tesla Model S, and the optimal kW/m usage to maximize range.


Jun 21 2013

Tesla phones home

This weekend, my Signature Model S P85 sent out a cry for help.

Not to me, mind you. I never heard it. Instead, Essie went all ET-like and phoned home: she powered up her cellular 3G antenna and transmitted an alert to her Mom and Dad at the Tesla engineering labs in Fremont, California. “Help me,” she whined. “Isolation fault!”

Now, I don’t keep my Model S isolated at all. I love this car, and pay her all kinds of attention. If she feels isolated, it’s obviously something deep inside her, someplace I can’t reach. But she wasn’t talking to me, and I had no clue how she felt.

But Mom and Dad did. On Saturday, they called me. “Mr. Allan?” they said. “We need to see your car. She’s sending out a fault alarm. Can you either bring her to us, or can we pick her up?”

Getting Amped in Dania Beach

Getting Amped in Dania Beach

I was damned if I was going to drive my uncommunicative vehicle all the way to Dania Beach just because she was feeling, well, faulty; so instead the Tesla geniuses arranged for a specially-trained tow service to send a flatbed to my home to pick her up. Specially trained, indeed: the driver is one of the only operators in S. Florida who understands Teslas, and how they need to be lifted into jack mode and driven at a 30-degree angle onto a flatbed tray, secured not with hook tie-downs but with web loops around the wheels, and conveyed like fairy princesses down the Interstate to the shop. Shades of John Broder, I thought: now everyone is going to see how my Tesla is leaving me, running away with a tow truck and looking broken down.

But the next day, the Tesla geniuses called me. “No worries,” they said. “Yes, she was having issues with isolation. But we gave her a brand-new battery pack, and she feels young and healthy again.”

“What happened?” I asked. “What did I do?”

“Oh, nothing!” they replied. “Hard to why or who’s at fault. But rather than try to analyze it too deeply, we just decided a new pack would fix it quickly.”

And a day or so later, back came Essie, clean and bright and shiny on a Tesla trailer, home to my front door. I was admittedly a little concerned when Tesla Genius handed me a five-page document to sign. But as I read it I became positively cheerful. Not only was Essie recharged and rejuvenated; they had cleaned her, and filled her tires, checked and changed the lift gate seals, inspected the A/C and re-routed the system harnesses, replaced the rear axle nuts, checked the PSRCM calibration and J1772 adaptor, and – most delightful of all – replaced the front floor mats and installed a new rear mat as well. It was like coming home from the hospital with a new set of clothes and a haircut thrown in. I’m lucky at Mercedes if they wash the car; forget new floor mats.

Now, just last night, even as Essie was sitting happy and content again in my garage, Elon Musk announced a new battery-swap program. It takes all of 90 seconds. Phew. That’s almost faster than I can find my credit card at Sunoco to start with. It certainly is faster than the 2 days that my Model S was in the shop. But, then again, they don’t give you new floor mats, and I’ll bet that PSRCM calibration takes a little longer. So I’m happy. Essie is happy. And all is right with the world.

Feb 14 2013

Tesla, the Times, and everything in between

Well, there’s certainly has been an uproar this week concerning an article about Tesla in the New York Times by John Broder. In response, Elon Musk, Tesla’s charismatic founder and CEO, wrote a critical blog about the article on the company’s website. Musk was a little hasty to call the article a “fake” in TV interviews last week; it seems unlikely that the NY Times would ever fake an article intentionally. But he does have an important point despite his hyperbole.

First point: I’m a former science reporter. I also own a Tesla Model S.

The Tesla Model S is a great car that requires the driver to think differently about travel, for the simple reason that charging stations are not as ubiquitous as gas stations, and won’t be for many years. IOW, you need to give a little thought to planning a long-distance trip, including charging at each opportunity and understanding how the car’s batteries take a charge.

It was immediately clear from Broder’s article that he did not do either of these things. He undercharged the car (pleading ignorance after the fact) and failed to recharge when he could. Tesla understood his purpose was to test Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 07 2013

Questions people should ask about the Model S, but don’t

Everyone asks questions about the Model S. No one asks these. They should.

  1. How much does it cost to wire a high power wall charger?
    Depends on how far your car is from the main electrical feed. If both are near each other, a few hundred dollars. If your car is >200ft from the electrical feed, well…try $2,000–$5,000. Copper is expensive.
  2. Can you lock the frunk?
    Yes. But only when the entire car is locked. You can’t “valet lock” the frunk. IOW, all storage areas in the car are accessible if you have the key. You can’t even lock the glove compartment.
  3. Is it safe to valet park?
    Maybe, if you have a smart valet. Otherwise, they might leave the key in the car, and when the door handles retract, you have to hope the car doesn’t lock itself. You probably want to turn OFF “walkaway locking” if you use a valet.
  4. Do the displays ever crash?
    Yes. Once in a while the touchscreen hangs, or doesn’t correctly work. After the last software update the car wouldn’t stop beeping for me to put on my seatbelt, even though it was on. Fix: reboot the appropriate screen, by holding down both scroll wheels on the steering wheel for about 10 secs for the touchscreen, or holding down the two top buttons on the steering wheel to reboot the dashboard display.
  5. With the regenerative brakes, how does braking work?
    You almost never touch the brake pedal; the regen brakes do all the work of slowing down the car. You learn to change your driving style to use that feature optimally. The brake lights will automatically light when the regen brakes engage, to warn drivers behind.
  6. Is there an alarm system?
    Not really. The new software update 4.2 enables the car horn to sound if someone tries to open the car without a key.
  7. Is there a voice command system?
    With software update 4.2, yes. It’s limited to dialing, playing music, and navigation. But that’s enough.
  8. Can you play music from an iPhone or iPod?
    Yes, but it’s still dumb: IOW, for reasons best explained by Apple I suppose, you must control the music selection from the iPhone or iPod, not from the touchscreen. Also, the iPhone volume needs to be full up.
  9. Can you close the hatch from inside the car?
    Yes. Thank goodness. But not from the key.
  10. Can you raise/lower the windows from the key?
    Lower, but not raise. This seems backward to me. IOW, you can open the windows as you approach the car, perhaps to ventilate it. But you can’t close the windows from the key as you are walking away.
  11. Do the windows work when the car is off?
    Trick question. If you are sitting inside, the car is never off unless you specifically turn it off. So normally, yes, the windows work while sitting in park.
  12. Do the mirrors dim at night?
    Yes, but you have no control over it. It’s fully automatic.
  13. Can I use my old keychain? Can I use the Tesla keychain I got from the showroom?
    No. No! The key is shaped such that no chain, keyring, or other normal attachment will fit it. Duh! You need to use something with a flexible string. Good luck with that one.
  14. Who pays for the cellular 3G link?
    Tesla, at least for the first year. Or at least for Signature owners for the first year. After that, who knows?
  15. How do you change the windshield wipers?
    Good question. I have no idea.

Feb 06 2013

Just the FAQs

Tesla Motors has a FAQ page. It’s for potential buyers. Real people on the street have their own FAQs. Here are some of them.

  1. How much gas does it use?
    Uh, zippo.
  2. How far can you go?
    EPA claimed maximum is 268m. At 80% “standard” charge, 240m. You use about 20m for air conditioning and driving faster than 55mph, so call it 225m.
  3. How long does it take to recharge?
    On a 110V outlet, days. On a 240V outlet, overnight. With a high speed wall charger, a few hours. With the highway superchargers (when available), less than an hour.
  4. What happens if you’re on the highway and you run out of electricity?
    What happens when you run out of gas? You don’t because you plan ahead. Same thing.
  5. How often do you recharge?
    Trickle-charge every night. More prolonged charge after a road trip greater than, say, 50m, but still overnight. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 06 2013

Rollin’ with the Model S

A little more than 2 months with the Tesla Model S, and I am loving this car more and more every day.

It’s not as plush as a Mercedes. Hasn’t got quite the raw sex appeal of a 911 or the stunning looks of an Aston Martin. Not as, well, garish as the Fisker Karma. Instead, it is the best balanced, smoothest, most responsive car I have ever driven. It is whip-ass fast, and in ways you don’t realize from the numbers: it moves so quickly when asked that passing and cutting through traffic is effortless and instinctive; the power curve is so linear, with no fade as engine revs peak, that you simply move like a rocket while others are hesitating at their shift points. It has a flat, predictable, straight-line acceleration unlike any other vehicle I know.

The battery floorbed keeps the car dead flat on curves, with no sway when swerving to avoid road debris or other inattentive drivers. No oversteer or sense that the car might roll or skid away from you. The specs say it is heavy, but there is absolutely no perception of it, since none of the weight of the car is up where it would affect handling.

The seats are spare yet comfortable, more so than the Panamera, whose seats my wife detested. Visibility is generally quite good, with the sole exception being the rear window, and even then only in reverse gear. The panoramic sunroof is dark enough that here in Florida I don’t even notice it (though summer is coming….) Lack of a transmission tunnel through the interior means far more legroom and storage capacity in the back.

Of course there are some minor flaws. The phone history’s call times are three hours off, while the clock is in local time (I’ve made calls in the future, apparently); occasionally the display switches to night mode late in the afternoon (related to the time zone issue, perhaps?). The brakes squeak. But these are such trivial issues that I am almost embarrassed to mention them, and in most cases, they can be rectified with a software update.

So, all in all, I love this car. The pre-purchase apprehension and uncertainty has melted away, and the press hype has been revealed to be no hype at all. As the ever-increasing number of high-speed chargers approaches a certain critical mass, recharging concerns will also vanish. The Model S stands as the most impressive new sedan available, and there isn’t another car I would rather own.

Feb 01 2013

Tesla and the long-distance drive

I have just completed a 400m round trip from Palm Beach to Orlando and back in my two-month-old Tesla Model S sedan. Let me say right off that, with each passing day of driving, I enjoy this car more and more. It is a balanced, smooth, powerful joy to drive, and the new software update (which arrived as I was en route; more about this later) has only improved the car’s functionality and pleasant temperament even more.

I called the hotel (Disney’s Grand Floridian) in advance to learn about charging the car while I sat for several days in a financial conference. The staff were thoroughly ignorant of any EV chargers on-site, and only after several calls (and disconnections) did I find one bright reservation clerk who in turn reached the engineering staff to find out. In effect, nothing: but I could park in the cast parking lot and plug into an outlet used to recharge one of the hotel’s ubiquitous golf shuttles. No doubt it would be 110V, and given the low current available it would take most of my two-day visit to refill the car’s batteries.

Naturally, before I left I set the charge mode to maximum and filled the batteries to full. The car read 268m available when I set off, and during the next 3 hours of 75mph cruising with the a/c on, I burned through 210m of range for the ~190m trip. Lesson 1: you burn about 10% more when driving at speeds over 55mph and using accessories like a/c.

Of course, when I arrived with 40m remaining no one knew anything about where I should go to recharge, beyond Read the rest of this entry »