What I learned in 100,000 miles owning an Electric Car

Posted by Ronald Hickland on

On January 5th 2017, I picked up my Tesla Model S 90D from the parking lot of my best friend’s business. I was flying home from Las Vegas when they delivered it and needed somewhere big enough for a semi to park and drop it off. I also needed someone I trusted to make sure it was perfect. The picture on my face says it all.

Simply Amazing

I like cars. I have always had a nice car that I would take care of by washing and waxing it regularly - maybe even occasionally cleaning the engine with a tooth brush.  I have always named my cars, and this one was called Simply Amazing. It had a lot of cool new tech features that were - well, amazing. Owning a Tesla is more like having a cell phone that only gets better with updates.

In Car Information and Entertainment Console

Tesla information console


Supercharging vs Home Charging

The range on my car was about 307 miles.  I traveled a lot for work from Tennessee to Illinois which required me to use the Supercharger network.  These are essentially gas stations for electric cars.  They are located throughout the country.  They're often found in the parking lots of hotels, department stores or shopping malls.

Tesla Supercharger

When I bought the car, Tesla offered free unlimited Supercharging for life. So it didn't cost me anything to charge my car on the network.  Imagine getting a car and never having to pay for gas or electricity to keep it running - ever. That also means no oil changes, no transmission fluid, or anything typically associated with a car that had an engine. There is no engine or transmission in the car, just two electric motors. When you put your destination into the built-in GPS, it would look at your current battery level and automatically route you through the Supercharger network as needed. Initially I would stop only when recommended; which was once or twice for about 35 to 50 minutes each time. Over time, I learned that I could cut down the actual wait and travel time by stopping more often at superchargers along the way. This allowed me to capitalize on the fact that the rate of charge is not linear. Meaning that supercharging is fast at first and slows down considerably once you reach 70% charge. A completely full charge would take about an hour and a half at a supercharger. There were 4 superchargers available along my trip. So I began to stop more often, but for considerably less time - 10 to 15 minutes each stop instead of 35 to 50 minutes. A side benefit to doing this was I felt much more rested and less irritated from driving when I reached my destination because of these built in breaks. Here is a look at the supercharger network. You can go pretty much anywhere. Don't forget you can always charge at home which is where most charging is done. 

Tesla Super Charger Network


When at home, I would charge using a home installed charger. Having a 220V Tesla home charger installed is important.  Though it is possible to charge on a standard 110V outlet, it takes several days.  Using a Tesla home charger at 220V, it takes about 7-8 hours to get a full charge. The charger cost around $500 plus about $200 to have it professionally installed. This is just like your cell phone. You plug it in at night and wake up to a full battery. It was about $20 - $40 a month change in my electric bill charging my car at home. A full charge is really charging the battery to 90%.  This is the recommended charge level for battery health and longevity according to Tesla. I would only go to 100% when I absolutely needed it. This happened more often in the beginning when I was concerned about not being able to make it to my destination because there weren't nearly as many superchargers available.  The supercharger network more than doubled over the time I had the car. Because of this, charging to 100% became not needed over time. The best part is since the GPS routes you through the chargers automatically. You could plan in advance and decide whether you needed that extra 10% or not. 

You can also look for hotels or other destinations around you that offer regular charging stations. These are similar to a home charger so you will get about 7% to 8% battery range per hour. These spots also tend to be in preferred parking locations which is always a plus. You will be surprised where you can find them.

Hotel Tesla Parking Spot and Charger

Tesla charging on destination charger

There are also websites that can direct you to electric chargers offered by other companies.  However, I found the in car navigation to be highly reliable. It uses the Tesla power stations and most are free to use. It also shows you how many people are at a given supercharger or if a charger is not working. When using non-Tesla chargers, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and make sure they are working and compatible with charging Teslas. Calling ahead can be important because some of them aren’t open 24 hours. This can save you a headache of arriving to a charger which isn’t open. The Tesla does come with a cord that can be plugged into a wall outlet in case of emergency. By the way, the car DOES work when it says the battery is a 0% I found this out the hard way and it is NOT recommended at all. So don't do it :)

In Car Supercharging display

Tesla in car charging screen


The Paint on a Tesla

With driving about 38,000 miles a year, I got into the habit of washing my car at a touchless car wash as soon as I reached my destination to help remove the bugs that were hit along the way.

Car Wash Touch Free

Touch free car wash

I can't stress enough the importance of using a touchless carwash. Regular car washes that use brushes can easily scratch and dull the paint. I would routinely wash my car, but the paint would still scratch and dull because I would be forced into using a brush style car wash occasionally. Simply put, the paint isn't as durable as other cars I have owned in the past. As a result of learning about the paint, I would seriously recommend getting a Paint Protection Film (PPF) on the full front and mirrors of the vehicle since this is the highest impact area of the car. PPF will help with nicks and rocks.

PPF being applied to the car

PPF being applied to a Tesla

I would also highly recommend getting the entire car ceramic coated including over the PPF.  This helps with making it easier to wash and provides a layer of protection against scratches and dulling of the paint. Do some research in your area on who has the best ratings and what type of material they use. It’s not cheap. It cost me about $1200 for the PPF and $800 for the ceramic coating; but, it is well worth the money. One of the benefits of PPF is if your car is damaged, in can some cases, you can have the PPF replaced without any damage to the car. 

PPF and Ceramic Coated

Tesla with PPF and Ceramic Coating

Rocks

The aerodynamics of the car make air flow around the car effectively. That does the same thing for rocks. Which can hit the car easily and damage the paint.  I did hit a rock that chipped the windshield enough to force me to have to get it replaced. I had the option of getting a replacement using an OEM company. This is a company that makes similar style parts in a couple of days and the insurance company would take care of the bill. Or I could wait longer (2-3 weeks) for an actual windshield from Tesla. I went with the Tesla replacement which I had to pay for and the insurance company reimbursed me after the job was completed. This is critical because it's more than just a windshield. There is some calibration that has to be done with the cameras (there are 3 behind the front windshield) and who knows better how to get that properly done than someone certified to work on Teslas. 

Updates

The car has cellular service installed and as a result you can receive software updates.  These are most convenient when downloaded on your home WiFi.

App Showing Software Update

Tesla Phone app showing software update in progress

  The over the air software updates bring improvements to the vehicle. It is recommended that you have an hour and 40 minutes when the car can sit to install the updates. I found they normally take 40 mins or less but the car is unusable while updating. So it may be better to do it at night when you don't need the car.

In car updates being explained

Tesla software update explanation screen in car


Auto Pilot

I became a big fan of auto pilot. It is a driver assistance feature that allows the car to help control the foot pedals and steering wheel. It's NOT a replacement for paying attention, however if you are in stop and go traffic. It can be very helpful, as it can lower the stress level for sure. The car will go with the flow of traffic. When on the highway, it acts like an extra set of eyes which can't hurt. I would say there were a couple of times that the Auto Pilot helped to avoid an accident. Given the option, it should be an automatic purchase without question.

August 25th 2019

I was driving to a Professional Bowling Event because I am a bowling coach. I was headed to "work" when I was at a stop light. As the light turned green, I was rear-ended at 50 mph. I was hit so hard that I hit the car in front of me, and that crash deployed the airbags in my car. I was banged up, my car was destroyed, but I was able to walk away and get help. A couple of things to note. If you are in an accident in a Tesla Model S. Once the airbags deploy, there is a kill switch that will kill power to the batteries. However this does not shut the vehicle off as the 12 volt battery (the same one that is in all cars) still works.

Kill Switch

Tesla kill switch

This means the car will appear to function. I mention this as the fire department was concerned about how to shut the car off. There is no on/off switch, no key to turn and no power button to press. There is a key fob that  stays in your pocket and tells the car when you are near it and to power the car on. The same thing happens when you leave the car to turn it off. In this case, it wouldn't shut off but it was technically dead with only power coming from the 12 volt.  The car is started by applying the brake and it shuts off by putting it in park and exiting the vehicle. So it may be a good idea to have a note in the glove box that has instructions for EMS or the Fire Department to explain that information or how to shut the 12 volt off. There are specific instructions in the owners manual.

Insurance

I had AllState insurance at the time. Be prepared to go around and around with insurance on these types of cars. Since they are so new, I have found that it is important to do your homework before accepting compensation. Go find a certified Tesla repair shop and ask them what their rates are as well as how many Teslas they have repaired.  This is crucial as my insurance company said my car had $17,000 worth of damage. However, after several phone calls and internet reviews, I took my car to a place I felt comfortable with. The actual number for damage to my car after being looked at by a Tesla Certified shop ended up at $56,000. Which made my car go from the insurance saying it was repairable to it being totaled. Also make sure you have a list of options on your car. I have found that insurance companies tend to treat Teslas like every other car, and go with the model year.  The problem with that is there were more and 26 major changes to the Model S in 2016 - including a major body style change, new heating and air conditioned seats, hardware changes, self driving hardware, sunroof and more. Nearly all of this was ignored by the insurance company. I had to work to get it included in the value of the car.

When it was all said and done, I got a fair value for the car.  It had lost about 5% of the battery life (which is normal) and there is no doubt in my mind that it was the best car I had ever owned.

Death of Simply Amazing

Screenshot of Tesla mobile app after car was totaled

 

September 28th 2019

There was no question I was getting another one. This time, I went with a performance model. I noticed there were some changes in that 3 year time span.  The battery range is now 345 - up from 307. The available options are less - no heated/AC seats, no sunroof; but, they changed some of the options that were upgrades to standard features.  The best part was that the cost was LESS. Overall, they made a lot of noticeable improvements and I am happy I got another one. Immediately, I got PPF and Ceramic Coating done as well as a few other small changes like chrome deleting on some of the car.

Chrome Delete

Tesla Model S with chrome delete

I appropriately named this one Simply The Best, and this time we plan to get to 250,000 miles.

If you are interested in buying a Tesla, use my referral link to receive 1,000 free Supercharger miles with the purchase and delivery of a new Tesla car, or earn a $250 award after system activation by purchasing or subscribing to solar panels: http://ts.la/ronald9560