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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.