Thursday, February 14, 2013

Growing Pains.

It seems my recent road trip post  has been getting a lot of traffic.  First of all, let me clarify.  This wasn't meant to be a criticism of EVs.  Mainly, it was an amusing story to tell and I want to remember what this trip felt like when I'm driving around with my kids who will have never known a gas vehicle, let alone range anxiety.  Second of all, lets be clear... I LOVE my car.  I am a 27 year old female with student loan debt who has been in the workforce for less than three years and I somehow let myself be talked into putting down almost 100,000 on the most amazing vehicle I have ever driven, sat in and heard of.  Yes, my car payment hurts every month (it's more than my rent), but not nearly as much as it used to hurt when I was putting $500/month into my gas tank.  I view it as an investment in something I believe in and an unbelievable ride as part of the package.

As a Model S owner there is something known as Tesla Time.  This includes, the double and triple-takes, the nods, waves and thumbs ups and the questions and opinions that are shared with you every day as you go about your business.  There are those who are excited by what they see and many constructive, stimulating discussions are born... and then there are those who are not.  Perhaps they feel threatened?  It's very interesting.  Without asking for an opinion, many people will take it upon themselves to tell you that driving an electric vehicle just really isn't feasible.  Is it not obvious to them they are speaking to an EV owner?  It's feasible.  Here we are.  It's just a choice.  All it takes is a decision.

Back to my woeful road trip.  Let's remember, this was my first time driving even more than 50 miles away from my house.  There were a number of preventable obstacles which, would just one of them been remedied, I would have made the trip an entire night earlier and not been towed.  Also, I'm pretty sure I would have made it without the tow, but I didn't want to even think about risking harm to my battery, so I played it safe (assuming you would consider 3 miles safe).

Yes, everyone, I know about the apps.  I use (and used) Recargo, Chargepoint and Plugshare.  I also now know about the RV park finders which will be very helpful in the future.  One criticism I have is that the EV apps often don't tell you amperage or voltage at the sites -- this would have made a huge difference for me.  There are a wide range of J1772's out there.  My adapter was already replaced and the new one works flawlessly.  Knowing the "30 amp" vs. "50 amp" service lingo will be helpful as well.

I think it's fair to point out that there are a lot of criticisms of the Model S.  It's a brand new American company who has just built and produced their first car from the ground up.  Yes, there are some glitches.  But one thing people (particularly non-EV owners) seem to gloss over is that you never hear an EV owner who regrets their purchase.  If anything, if you know or speak to anyone who is a Model S owner... they likely can barely refrain from gushing about how fabulous it is.  There is no other car manufacturer right now who could have these sorts of issues (glitchy screen, door handle problems, range anxieties, you all have read the articles...) and not be eaten alive by their owners.  Yet Tesla owners are just as willing to wait in the reservation line and do whatever they need to do to get in the drivers seat.  Obviously something is working.

Not only is it a new company, new car... It's completely new technology.  All of it.  The reason why we put up with the 'little' kinks that are being worked out (and they are, rather quickly) is because its the most amazing machine currently on the market.  My fiancé and I's viewpoint was if we're going to spend the money and get a new car... and we're going to go electric... get the best.  And get one that is actually practical as a one-car family.

There are many places in my story that could have been improved.  Learned lessons.  Particularly, I don't think we really saved that much energy by going as slow as we did and with as little heat.  With some experimentation since then, I think we could have made it a lot more comfortably (though still long) without much difference in energy loss. But the point is, yes, it does take some practice, some planning and some research to be a successful EV owner.  I don't think we can really dispute that.  Many veteran EV owners have relayed their own 'first road trip woes' with me while having gone on to take numerous successful roadtrips--even 3000 miles in mid January.  The environment is not as well prepared as we would like.  That will take time.  I think that the most ready resolution for this is the supercharger and expansion of CHAdeMOs.  But again, we're talking about road trips.  I don't know about you all, but outside of the three hours I spend in my car everyday going to and from work, I don't take that many road trips.  Day to day I drive to work, visit my friends and run my errands without so much as a thought about range.

 It will be interesting to see when the competition starts to pick up... How long did it take for Apple?


  1. Regarding Plugshare, I typically write a review and upload a picture when I use a new charger. Just need more ppl to do that.

    (Somewhat ironic you drive an EV and your last name is Gasser) :)

    1. agreed. like anything that is crowdsources, it relies on accurate information from the crowd

  2. A good point that was made by someone else on something else -- the Model S is the first car to really demand level three chargers and to demand chargers outside of cities. Being that the Model S has really only been on the road for about 6 months, I think we're making fair progress.

  3. Nice blog, and I'll be following your EV experience. I don't own one (have a 2002 Insight @ 70mpg), but I'm sure someday I'll make the leap to EV or PHEV. Cheers.

    Doc Rings

  4. Hey, don't ever be worried about telling the truth. I used to live in that part of the country, and I know how cold it can get. It occurs to me that the idea you'd have to drive your $100K car without using the heater in zero degree weather is God's way of telling you that you've got too much money.

    You could have spent one-fifth that much money for a car that would've kept you warm and that would've gotten you there much faster. By the way, I own an EV, but not a Tesla. The other thing that occurs to me is that you made the mistake of believing their hype.

    Tesla is not a car company. They are a Silicon Valley computer merchant. They advertise a car with 300-mile range. Pure vaporware.

  5. If any one (god or other) was trying to tell me I have too much money, they would be mistaken. I have made an expensive investment, yes, which could have been spent elsewhere and made me more comfortable. Lets say I wanted it all -- the moral high-ground and the fancy new toy. I don't think any one interested in a Tesla is not aware of the risks that come with being an early adopter. We are all well-informed and accepting.

    You're right about telling the truth. It is frustrating to feel that I can't detail my experiences without people being like "see, I told you so" and bad-mouthing Tesla or EV's in general. People have extremely high expectations of Tesla and so if anything is not up to par, they like to play that card. None of those people are owners. Any time spent on the teslamotorclub forum shows very well that there are plenty of 'glitches' and issues that are to be expected with a brand new company/brand new vehicle, but there is also an exorbitant amount of enthusiasm and praise from the owners. We are a tolerant and excited bunch, willing to bite the bullet here and there in exchange for such an amazing machine. A machine that has been driven over 400 miles when conditions are right. Even if it only had 1/3 of the originally advertised range, it would still be ground-breaking.

    Then again, I'm also an apple user, so maybe we're just looking at this from different worlds.

  6. I apologize for the "too much money" comment. I meant it as a joke, but I'm always trying to remind myself that joking around and the Internet are often a poor fit.

    I've got an EV myself, and I like it. A little subcompact Think, which is an offshoot of Ford. My car is basically an electrified, plastic Ford Fiesta with a heavy lithium ion battery under the floor that keeps the car planted firmly on the ground and makes it all kinds of fun to drive.

    Think claims a 100-mile range, but I get about 65 miles out here in Seattle in 35 to 45 degree temps. I'm not entirely sure about the range because I haven't run it to zero just yet, so I've been doing theoretical calculations. Which is harder than it seems, because you have to estimate an inefficiency factor to account for the difference between the amount of electricity you draw from the plug and the amount that's actually stored and used by the car.

    I think it's about 25%, but I can't be sure until I run it down to zero and then recharge, which I haven't wanted to do just yet. Sometime I'll give it a try. See, what I did was get a "Watts Up" meter for my 240 volt plug, and it allows me to know exactly how much electricity I drew from the plug. That's how I judge "miles per kWh" and "fuel economy" and "cost of fuel." But actual range is something I don't precisely have just yet.

    But I think the winter range is 60-65 miles. The Think owner's manual says you'll get less range in winter, but Tesla doesn't tell its customers that. They just got in a big spat with the New York Times, whose reporter relied on their range claims and advice from the tech support line, and wound up needing to have his Model S towed away. The CEO of Tesla accused the reporter of faking his review, but the truth is that the Model S gets a lot less range in winter, just like every EV does.


  7. From what you wrote, it looks like the winter range of your Model S is somewhere between 150 and 175 miles, not the 300 claimed by the company. My guess is that your fuel cost per mile for the Model S in winter is about 6.5 cents. A gas car the size of the Model S would cost 15 to 16 cents a mile at $3.75 a gallon. About 2.8 cents a mile would be in gasoline taxes.

    For the time being, Illinois doesn't charge a separate road use tax for EVs, but that day will come so I think the fair comparison is between (currently) untaxed electricity and the pre-tax gas price: 6.5 cents a mile for the Model S and 13 cents a mile for an equivalent gas car.

    So you're saving 6-1/2 cents a mile. In summer, maybe 9 cents a mile. Blended over the year, call it 8 cents a mile. Drive your Tesla for 75,000 miles, and you'll save $6,000 in gas, plus you won't have any oil changes or exhaust system to replace. On the other hand, there'll eventually be the batter to replace. Even if you get rid of the car before you have to replace their uber-expensive battery, the next buyer will take it into account when buying your used car.

    All in all, it's going to cost you a lot to have that EV relative to a gas car. With my Think, electricity per mile is running at 5 cents in winter, and will go down to 3.5 cents in summer, for a blend of 4-1/2 cents or so. The equivalent gas car, a Scion iQ, costs 8.4 cents a mile for gas, before taxes. Where I live, the gas tax is 1.6 cents a mile and the EV tax is 3.3 cents a mile. So I can actually do the accurate comparison: 7.8 cents a mile in the Think vs. 10 cents a mile in the Scion iQ.

    I, too, am paying for the fun of it all. Fortunately, my Think comes from a company that just went through Chapter 11, which is corporate America's way for one company to screw another company. I was able to buy mine for $16,000. Net of the federal tax credit, it was $8,500. I'll save $1,600 in fuel costs over 75,000 miles, and the oil changes, but will face the same battery issue.

    So the bottom line is that EV ownership is more expensive than gas car ownership. To be quite honest about it -- and hell, why not be quite honest about it? -- an EV is a vanity statement on wheels. Which, given the American car culture, is very much par for the course, no?

  8. The Think is a piece of crap glorified golf cart, embodying everything that was wrong with EV's previously, and you're criticizing Tesla? Well played.

  9. I don't know anything about the Think, but I know that I used to spend about $500/month in gas and with my switch to the Tesla, I now spend roughly $100/month in electricity. That's $4800 savings every year that I own my car. We hope to keep our car for 10 years = 48,000 savings. Our battery will be under warranty for eight of those years, negating the expensive battery cost you mentioned.
    Sounding cheaper (and more fun) to me than a gas car, not to mention all that vanity you mentioned thrown in for good measure. Oh right, and the fact that we're driving an american made car with zero emissions, using american energy.

  10. JP, insult my car as much as you want. Really, go for it. I've owned so many cars, at all points of the price spectrum, that I'm immune. But as long as we're talking about terrible cars, I've never driven anything even close to as bad as a gas-powered Dodge Caliber.

    Anyway, at least be truthful. I actually road tested a "glorified golf cart, i.e., a "Neighborhood Electric Vehicle" that had none of the comfort or safety equipment required for full certification. Think's "City" is similar to a Mercedes Smart car, except it's a foot and a half longer. It's great around town, which is why I bought it.

    I have seen Tesla's Model S in the showroom. Very attractive and plush, although the big screen in the middle turned me off. Call me old-fashioned, but I want a videogame to be a videogame and a car to be a car. But different people will be different.

    In any case, I'm not doing p.r. for Think, but rather noting that the cold-weather performance relative to manufacturer range claims is about the same. The simple fact, regardless of which car you like or hate, is that a lithium-ion EV's range degrades sharply in cold weather. The Think's degradation closely matches that of the Model S.

    Regina, before I bought my electricity meter, I thought I was saving a lot more money than I was. I suggest that you do the same. I doubt you have a Tesla "supercharger" at home. I'm going to guess that you charge the Model S on a 240-volt circuit like the one used for an electric dryer.

    If I'm right about that, you can spend $175 for a 240-volt meter from WattsUp. The 240-volt meters are kinda rare. I had to hunt around for mine, but I finally found it. If you're interested, say so and I'll give you the link.

    You use it by filling your car to the "full" level (either range or standard will do, as long as you're consistent between fill-ups), and then noting how many miles you drove between fill-ups. The Watts Up meter will dump all the numbers into your computer. It takes a little while to get used to the details, but you'll get the hang of it quickly.

    Check your electric rates and see what you pay for the incremental electricity you use to charge the car. Not your average rate, but the incremental rate. That's what I've done. The numbers are real, and that's how to judge all of this. If you were paying $500 a month for gas, at $3.75 a gallon and a conservatively estimated 20 mpg, you were driving the gas car 2,666 miles a month, or 32,000 miles a year.

    At $100 a month for electricity, and an average of 2 miles per kWh for the Model S as an average of cold weather and warm weather, with an electricity cost of 10 cents per kWh, you are driving your Model S 2,000 miles a month, or 24,000 miles a year. Obviously, electricity rates vary, so maybe 10 cents a kWh is the wrong number. If your electricity is cheaper, say 8 cents a kWh, then you're driving the Model S 2,500 miles a month or 30,000 miles a year.

    That's a lot of driving, anyway.

  11. p.s.: EVs are still new, and somewhat experimental. As a result, EV owners trend toward the nerd side of the ledger. That's definitely the case for me. And if you look at the various user groups, you will see that a lot of others are.

    So, with me and a lot of others, I'm interested in actual documentation of all these things. That's why I got the electricity meter, and it's why I dump the numbers into a spreadsheet, and its why I compare the numbers to a comparable gas car's numbers, and it's why I checked the electricity rates, and it's why I use the rate I actually pay for the juice that goes into the Think, and it's why I considered the taxes on each side, and its why I look at miles per kWh, and its why I look at the impact of temperature, and consider the difference between the amount of electricity at the plug and what's actually used, and so on.

    I'm not on any quest to discredit EVs. I want to know what's factual. I haven't reached conclusions yet. I need to get numbers over a range of temperatures and usage conditions. By this fall, I'll have a good idea of how these things REALLY perform.

    My guess today, though, is that EVs cost more to own than their ICE counterparts. There's nothing wrong with that. Look at all kinds of consumer products, and you'll find people paying a premium for various benefits, some of which are purely psychological. Nowhere is this truer than with the automobile, the ultimate American status symbol.

  12. I think Placeholder forgot whose blog this was? Great job Regina. I love my Tesla too!

  13. Dear Placeholder,

    You keep saying that Tesla advertises this car as 300 miles range (unconditionally). Could you provide a reference to one of those adverts?

    You see, Tesla doesn't advertise. They don't need to, as they currently have 10,000+ orders still to fulfil. They do sometimes let their customers advertise for them

    The closest thing to advertising is their website. Here's what they say there on the Model S features page (
    Estimated Range at 55mph: 160miles(40kWh), 230miles (60kWh), 300miles (85kWh).

    I think that is pretty clearly listed as "at 55mph". No little "*" with tiny-text legalese footnote (compare to, etc). Just a very clear "at 55mpg".

    Click on the "learn more about range" link ( and they present their testing data:
    * Constant speed (such as using cruise control)
    * Flat ground, no wind
    * Climate control OFF or using vent only (no heat or air conditioning)
    * 300 lbs of vehicle load (driver plus passenger or cargo)
    * Windows up, sunroof closed
    * Tires inflated to recommended pressures
    * New battery pack (<1 year, <25,000 miles)

    They even provide a clear chart showing range at different speeds. You'll see it even shows range exceeding 400 miles, so long as you reduce speed. One owner set out to prove this, and did ( - he did 423 miles on one charge, by simply reducing speed.

    Still confused, or interested in what happens when the parameters are changed (driving type, speed, temperature, vehicle), just click "Your Questions Answered" and see what they have to say about range ( You'll find some little dials you can adjust to suit. For example, driving highway in 32F temperatures at 65mph brings range down to 243miles. Turn on climate control and that drops to 218miles.

    False or misleading advertising? I think not.

    Regina - fantastic story, and thanks for sharing. Haters will hate. Others will twist your words to suit their own agendas. But, the truth will out.

  14. Please don't quit blogging. You write too well and your stories are too interesting. You're late for your next post!

  15. Tesla is a very typical Silicon Valley computer company. The way to determine whether they are lying is to check to see whether the C.E.O.'s lips are moving.