Six months of driving a Tesla: What I know so far

First, let me just get the obvious, in your face Tesla fact out of the way. Yes, by the time I’m halfway to my house, your growling V8 is still revving up to get you out of the parking lot. Hang in there buddy!

Now, let’s get down to Tesla Model S owning business. We get lots of questions about our car from people we know, but also from strangers in parking lots. Based on the questions we get most, I decided to compile a list of information and answers in this post!

Of course, I’m an eco-blogger and this is all written from my point of view based on personal experiences with this beautiful machine.

It’s not zero emissions, but it sure can be

On paper, our Tesla is zero emissions because all the money we spend on electricity goes to a 100% renewable energy provider, but in real life our carbon footprint per mile is around 50% of that of a comparable midsize gas-driven sedan.

See, In Texas the energy is made up by several different sectors; nuclear, coal, natural gas and about 10% wind power is pumped into the grid. Since we use the grid for power, a mix of those technologies fuels our car. That combined with the higher efficiency of the electric engine, adds up to us emitting about half the pollution that a single gasoline engine emits. As Texas moves more towards wind and away from coal, that number of course will improve (there’s hoping!).

In states like Oregon, Idaho and Washington which are mainly powered by hydropower, driving an EV (electric vehicle) is actually very close to zero emissions, so owning one there boosts the eco benefits. If you have your own solar panels, of course you’re emitting zero carbon per mile for real. (We are looking into it!)

Flipping off the oil companies feels SO good (every day)

Let’s face it. Filling up the car with gas is not an enjoyable moment. Not having to do so at all is amazing (and less germy).

Each time I drive by a gas station I feel pretty darn good about the fact that my car was fully loaded by the time I jumped into it in the morning. People seem worried about the 4-5 hour duration it takes to charge the car at home (from completely empty to full), but honestly, don’t most of us spend at least 7-8 hours in our homes at night? I know I do. And for the charge to take that long, the car must be running on empty. If you drive 40-50 miles in a day, the charge time is more like an hour.

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At home “fueling”. Safe. Cozy. Smell free. No pin code needed.

Not giving my money to ExxonMobil or Chevron is also wondrous (every day). Like I wrote above, our electricity provider is 100% green, so that’s where our money goes now instead of going to oil giants.

Savings? About 30 dollars per month with our driving habits and electricity provider (and current low gas prices!).

You can charge your Tesla in a regular 110V/10A outlet, but in order to charge as fast as we do, you must have your house, or garage, wired with at least a 240V/40A outlet, a $700-$1000 one time cost. The higher the power, the faster the charge. (A certified electrician can tell you what is possible in your home.)

Do we ever forget to charge? Nah. Plugging in became habit right away. Do we forget to pull the charger out before a trip? No, the car won’t let us go.

Range anxiety is (pretty much) uncalled for

The furthest we’ve taken the Tesla so far is Waco, TX. A good 215 mile trip (one way) from Houston, ending in a town with six Tesla superchargers waiting for us. And with a 270 mile battery life, a trip like that isn’t an issue.

Here’s the thing. The Google maps system in the car is programmed to guide your travel so you stop and charge when you need to. Type in that you’re going to New York and the car will make a plan for your trip including which chargers you should stop at, and for how long to “fuel”. There is no risk of you running out of power, as long as you have half a brain and listen to the car’s needs.

Of course charging at the Tesla superchargers is free, so no need to save up for road trip gas money (just coffee money, unless you happen to find a café that offers that for free as well for Tesla owners, like the Collin Street Bakery chain in Texas).

Sure, charging may take 20 minutes instead of a gas stop that takes five, but on a road trip, it’s not that big of a deal. Take a break, have a snack (the chargers are often walking distance from other amenities) and frankly, we’ve been on one little road trip in six months. 99% of the time we stay in the Houston area, and 270 miles is more than enough to get us anywhere we want to go (or we could just charge at the superchargers here in Houston!)

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Three mean machines supercharging in Waco, TX

My manager thinks 400 miles in one charge will be the magic number to get people to lose the anxiety. Once the EVs get that, the market will boom. I hope he’s right. (Tesla’s new 100kwh battery package already gets 350+ miles.)

Silence is truly golden

No, we don’t miss the sound of a gas guzzling engine when we start the car, or accelerate. It does make a swishing sound, like a turbine starting, when you hit the pedal hard and it is quite awesome (and addictive). The silent cabin makes listening to music pure joy.

Speaking of which, it comes with internet radio (Slacker) and most of the radio stations in the world are accessible for live streaming, anytime, anywhere. There’s no extra charge for this radio awesomeness.

Service is not a problem and the software is constantly updating

At least it has not been for us. Living in a large city with several Tesla showrooms and service locations of course helps us feel confident and relaxed, if something was to happen the car would be picked up or serviced at the location as soon as a Tesla Ranger could make it there.

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Tesla Pick up day :)

And what other car actually gets better with time? As you drive the Tesla it can learn your patterns in order to use energy more efficiently, share road knowledge with other Teslas and the software is automatically updated with the latest improvements as well (via wi-fi).

I don’t care what the news say, the Autopilot works and it rocks

Every time there’s a car accident involving a Tesla, news agencies are having a field day. Imagine if CNN reported each time a Ford or Chevy was involved in an accident! Of course corporate media have ties to oil industries and large car makers, and will report negatively on Tesla whenever they get a chance. They’re hating on Tesla like they were hating on Bernie Sanders. So be it. New ideas and inventions are a little scary for the conservative crowd.

The truth is the Tesla Model S and X are the safest cars on the road today, exceeding the five star crash ratings in every aspect and the AutoPilot (the car’s ability to steer and control speed itself) really works. It is super convenient, especially when I have to peel a banana. Like, who can do that with one hand?

Keep your hand on the wheel (as soon as you’re done with the banana!) and be observant of traffic and when the car beeps and tells you to take control, don’t ignore it and continue watching Harry Potter on your phone (the 17″ awesome touchscreen will not let you watch movies!). Again, listen to the car’s needs.

Needless to say, having a long-range electrical car is just like having any other car, just way more convenient with less pollution, gas pumping and noise. Even if I keep saying that electrical vehicles are the future, I admit our car doesn’t feel futuristic at all, it feels contemporary. And why wouldn’t it? Why should a car in 2016 look, drive and function like a car did ten years ago (or make that a hundred years ago)?

I believe in and passionately promote a future where all our cars are electric! That’s why our family made it a priority to lease one. It matters to us. A lot.

Not everyone will or can have a Tesla, but other than the much longer range and free charging, several benefits above apply to other electrical cars as well. As the Tesla Model 3 is released in 2017, with a $35,000 price tag, we’re one step closer to making long range, beautiful EVs accessible for the masses.

(Ps. Tesla is made right here in the States, boosting American ingenuity and providing thousands of jobs out west and in motor city. Thanks Elon Musk!)

12 thoughts on “Six months of driving a Tesla: What I know so far

  1. I love this post! It’s really interesting to hear how the Tesla fits into your lives and how you guys go about your daily routines with it. I’ve got a Prius and I really love it, but my long-range (pun maybe intended!) goal is to get a full EV! One of my concerns with them, which you mentioned, is the availability of charging stations for when I’m on the road. Maybe it’s because I don’t look for them, but it feels like there are no stations in Louisiana!

    Next time I’m in Houston, I might just have to go drool in the Tesla showroom. :)

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    1. Hi Caitlin!
      When it comes to charging stations, I guess the question would be how many times per month or per year do you drive more than 270 miles in a day? And how often do you not come back to your own house? We have only charged in superchargers 4 times in 6 months. 3 times on the Waco trip and once when we visited Tesla in Houston. Not because we needed power but we think it’s so fun ;) (Nerds!)

      Here’s a link to all the stations in Louisiana. Not sure where you go when you’re on the road, but there are quite a few. Especially along I-10. (Going to Houston wouldn’t be a problem). A Tesla can also charge in regular outlets, it just takes longer.

      https://www.tesla.com/findus#/bounds/33.019544,-88.8182881,28.9292699,-94.043352?search=supercharger,destination%20charger,&name=louisiana

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      1. You rock! And I didn’t realize we had the superchargers in Louisiana – now I can’t wait to see one added in Lafayette (the one major city in the state that doesn’t have one apparently, ha!)

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  2. Cool. I’d like one! Is it only powered by electricity or are also other means possible? If you’d end up in the middle of nowhere without power, but plenty of, let’s say, vodka ;)?
    How much does one load – from empty to full – charge/cost, in kWh/dollars? (Or what ever the correct measure would be). I guess you could benefit a lot from solar panels on your house right..? That would be cool!
    It was on Russian news hour today that Tesla has a new autopilot. Today of all days, when I just read this post :)

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    1. No on the Vodka! LOL. I wouldn’t venture far into Sibiria but you can charge in any electrical outlet you can find, but you can’t bring a jug of anything with you… No other means than the plug.

      I am sure Klaus can figure out the load and charge! Ask him next time, he loves talking Tesla. I have no idea. We’ve just compared our electricity bill to what it was last year, and done a quick average of what we spend in a month. We drive 1000 miles per month. Solar panels would mean we’d charge “for free” so that would be awesome. There are regulations in Texas on where you can put them (of course oil is here!) so we are not sure how it could work in our neighborhood. But next house for sure ;)

      Ps. Europe is already full of chargers, I think it’s even easier there than here to make it work. :)

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  3. Enjoyed the article Anna. We are getting a Tesla showroom just outside our neighborhood. Will it be effective to upgrade the batteries in the future if technology provides dramatic increases in charge ranges that makes older models obsolete? I heard Tesla would upgrade older batteries but find that unrealistic. Understand you will be reviewing solar strollers in the near future.

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    1. Hi Terry! Tesla does have the capabilities to effectively replace and upgrade battery packages. The question is who would pay for it? A person who only needs a 270 mile range will be just as content with a 85 kw package (like what we have) in 10 years as we are now. More battery power just equals longer range, therefor I see no reason for Tesla to ever suggest an upgrade, the consumer would have to initiate it if he wanted the latest, longest lasting package. The older versions with “only” 270 miles will still have a market (lower cost, older car) in the future.
      One of the reasons many people chose to lease and not buy is because we believe there’ll be rapid changes in the market, and we want to keep with the developments. Tesla can of course upgrade the batteries of leased vehicles when leasing customers return their cars after three years, if Tesla deems it better for resale.

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  4. So what was the difference on the electrical bill..? I don’t think that’s clear.
    So basically you can remove your iPhone charger and plug in the car!? That’s way cool! :)
    (notice my new found love for the word ‘cool’ :))

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    1. Yes, any plug, you just need a cord.
      We spend about 60-70 dollars more on electricity, that’s $0.6/ mile driven (1000 miles a month). Gas pricing is at about $2.50/gallon right now and one gallon would get us 26 miles in the Audi. ($96 per month cost). We of course have very expensive electricity, lol, green costs more but it’s still worth it and cool ;)

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  5. I am 100% jealous that you own a Tesla. I am not a “car person”, but the minute I sat in one I knew I wanted to have one. We haven’t pulled the trigger yet, I’m still hoping the cost wil come down and they’ll build more charging stations near me. So for now I just daydream about it. I appreciate you sharing your experiences, even if it makes me jealous! :)

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    1. We’re real car people and have struggled before with cars, because we like fast, lol! Now we can have fast, locally made and electric – that’s how we decided it was time to make it reality :) Dreamed about one for a long time! I am sure prices will come down within 5 years. Audi, VW, BMW, Nissan, everyone is investing in long range electric!

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