June 19, 2013

My Wonderful Troubled Weekend with the Tesla S, Part 2


In part one of this series, I discussed the positive features of the new Tesla. Here, I’ll cover some of the drawbacks.

Discords

There aren’t enough chargers out there and really aren’t enough Super Chargers. We had planned the trip at under 200 miles to visit a Blu-Home (very energy efficient manufactured home) so it would fall well within the Tesla’s advertised 285 mile range. However, at start we actually showed 226 miles because, to preserve the battery, you evidently don’t charge it to capacity (the battery pack costs around $20K so I can appreciate the decision). In addition, the range is optimistic and apparently assumes you drive the car like a Prius, and I don’t drive like that, so it was clear I wasn’t going to make it home without charging. Searching for a charging station was a problem. The local Tesla store had one Tesla S charger and it was in use (apparently Santana Row won’t let them install any others); there was one generic charger, but a Chevy Volt had it, and they did have a Tesla Roadster charger but someone had stolen the adapter for the Tesla S.   


Image via Shutterstock

We found another place that had a charger and it was free, but after about an hour, we only got about 25 miles from it. So we decided to go to a movie and, fortunately, the theater had a charger, but it was on the Blink network and we didn’t have the right RFID credit card. Fortunately, we could log into the website and gain access and, after about 10 minutes, we were charging again. This got us another 80 miles, and we made it home with about 50 miles to spare. Had there been one Super Charger on the route, I’d have only needed to have stopped once. But it felt like much of the drive we were hunting for chargers. There are apps for this, but Tesla hasn’t allowed apps to be installed in the car yet so we couldn’t install them. However, the car is connected and we could search for them online, but were a driver to try and do this, the distraction would likely land you in someone else’s trunk.  

The car does know where the Super Chargers are and does keep track of every charger you find so you can find it again.   

The car is really big -- deceptively so. On the plus side, it has two big trunks and huge interior so you can haul tons of stuff. On the negative side, it is a pain to park and the wheels showcased that other drivers had issues missing curbs (I parked about two feet away from them, I was so afraid of dinging a wheel). 

For navigation, the car uses Google Maps and it got a bit confused (one time having me turn left and then make a U-turn to go right). My gold standard navigation solution is the Magellan Smart GPS offering and, while I have no doubt Google is cheaper, in a car like this I’d think a better solution would be preferred. 

Finally -- and this almost ended badly -- the settings for the seats are active while you are driving and there is apparently no good way to disable the center screen if you want to clean it while driving. My wife decided to play with the buttons on the screen and my seat suddenly moved me back to where I had trouble holding on to the wheel; then she tried to clean the screen and that turned the air conditioner off and put us on some 50s radio station (which was kind of distracting). Children in the front seat who like to touch things could be very dangerous in this car. 

Wrapping Up: Tesla S Isn’t For Me

After driving the Tesla S, I’d love either a smaller version of this car or an SUV version, both of which are coming, but would likely still hold off until there are more of those wonderful Super Chargers. As it turns out, in about a year, the SUV version is coming out, in about two years, a smaller version of the S is due and each year they are installing tons of Super Chargers. For someone who needs the room and has a commute under 60 miles, this could be the car for you, but I’ll wait until they build a car for how I drive. I left feeling I’d driven the car of the future, and my problems largely had to do with the future not quite being here yet. Still, I’ll miss the Tesla; it truly is a wonderful ride. 






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