Sunday, April 24, 2016

TESLA Model S: I've seen The future and it's already here!

Tesla Model S
Wandering around the El Paseo in Palm Desert with friends, this is the Rodeo Drive of the Coachella Valley, we recently stumbled onto the Tesla Showroom. Tesla, if you don't know, is an all electric vehicle made in the United States but sold all over the world. There is no engine of any sort, it runs on Lithium Ion batteries, and, its NOT cheap! Yet in Norway several years ago they were the best selling car a few months at a time and were thick as fleas in Hong Kong with right hand drive no less.

The showroom car was red which drew me like a moth to flame and in the process of admiring this
The Tesla frame and simple surrounding showroom
amazing vehicle, ogling the frame, sitting in it and realizing how comfortable it really was (often beauty does NOT equate into comfort) started talking to a salesman.

In many ways the Tesla Showroom reminds me of an Apple Store with a stark presence that does not in any way get in the way of admiring this car and the technology behind it. A vehicle chassis clearly shows the underpinning of the Tesla, one wall has frame colors and interior trim options. Another wall shows the available wheels and of course there's the necessary table to get "down to the nitty gritty" with an Apple  27" iMac at hand.

I have written before about the design of electric cars and in that interim nothing has changed. If anything many Hybrids and all electric cars are some of the ugliest vehicles on the planet. Not so with Tesla. Their Model X, a stunning SUV has similar design and restraint and until you are alongside it, doesn't look as big as it is. The new Model 3, a $35,000 variation of the Model S will be offered at around $35,000 and already has 400,000 reservations for its debut in late 2017. If anything it shows that people are ready for this new technology and are eagerly awaiting an excuse to get it. If you've seen the latest Prius, you will clearly understand what I mean about design. Lipstick on a pig.

Somehow I found myself agreeing to a test drive the following Friday even after stating there was no way I could afford a $100,000 car. "Its free," he said. And, well, why not? Little did I know that my truck of 13 years would be stolen the next day.

The Tesla Model S cockpit beckons
Arriving at my appointed time, actually a few minutes late as Siri had trouble locating the showroom, I met my sales consultant, a woman around my age. After a quick tour of the red showroom car, we headed to the parking lot where a variety of cars were located. The Model S comes in several configurations, mostly dealing with battery life, the 70, 70D with a range of around 250 miles, the 90D with a range of 300 miles and a sporty model that will get you from 0 - 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. Only the $2 million Bugatti Veyron will get you on the freeway any faster. A $100,000 for sports car performance sure beats upwards of a million dollars for the likes of Ferrari, Porsche or Maserati, no?

Key fob in hand, nearing the car door handles magically come out when you approach allowing you to enter the car. The air conditioning was already on and the huge touchscreen was lit and ready. There is also a smart phone app that allows you to get the car ready for you before you get to it. It will even open your garage door and meet you in the driveway.

Once in your seat you are presented a range of options on the huge touch screen. Choices include the type of driving you would like ... comfortable (read 1950's Cadillac boat), standard or Sport that I tried on winding hills above the valley and felt just like my old BMW 1600 as we whipped around the curves. Choices include the setting or mirrors, seat, even climate that you set so that it will always be the same way when you enter the car. The gear shift is a short stalk on the right side of the steering where that has R, D, N, P. You move it in the direction indicated and it shows up on the dashboard in front of you. Once you make your selections you are ready to drive the car.

The interior is large and spacious
I had a "Platinum" finish with a full length heavily tinted sunroof. When opened you notice a screen in front of the opening ... I guess to keep those pesky insects away. Already warm, we kept that closed and were very comfy in the cabin. It is roomy without being overwhelming, the seats are firm yet very supportive. Since it can only seat 5, my only complaint is the front center console; there really isn't any. There is a space on the floor but but nothing can be stored there. It seems almost out of place since there is no need for a transmission hump. There are cup holders and thats about it.

You glide over the road in an eerie silence. Road noise is held to a minimum. Accelerating you hear a distant electric hum but otherwise you could be in your living room watching a movie as the world cruises by. The surprise, no I think shock is a better word, is that the car can drive itself. REALLY! As I sat, arms crossed and watched the car's screen show the road and looking out the window we calmly drove up Hwy. 74 as if this was the most natural thing in the world. Google may we working on a self driving car but Tesla is already there. As we climbed the winding road up towards Idyllwild, I asked if the car can drive it by itself. Because the white lines are so close to the edge, I was assured it could but would give you a hair raising ride. I bet.

I took over the "sport" steering and have never driven a vehicle that handled this way. It was both solid and heavy taking 30 mph curves at 50 mph with no lean or hesitation. Even climbing a goose of the pedal had it eagerly adding power, and this was the long distance model. It knows where you are as all controls are clearly shown on the dashboard ... percent of battery left, the temperature outside, your speed and how you are managing your battery. I didn't experience it but I'm told when you reach a certain threshold the car will inform you of the need for a battery charge, will show you where the next available station is and the estimated time to get there.

One feature I really liked was that when you take your foot off the accelerator the vehicle starts to break, really. By the time you get to where you need to stop, a light touch on the brake is all that is needed to completely stop. Milage on the highway is around 300 miles but in the city closer to 350 miles in town as your breaking helps recharge the battery! I wish all cars could do that. It also stops your car if you get too close.

There all kinds of things on the screen to choose from. Music, various controls, syncing your phone. Many of these options can be voice controlled. Getting a call? The car answers for you so you never need to fumble for the phone or take your hands off the wheel.
Not only do you get one trunk, you get two.
Perfect for shopping! Grocery bags can stand up!

The test drive lasted well over an hour and including things like letting the car parallel park itself. It really can and does a damn good job of it too. You just sit back, the rear view mirrors tilt down and it just happens. It can do the same thing in a parking structure too. "It" looks for a parking space and once finding one backs into it. OMG, Tesla where have you been all my life?

The cost of "gas" for all this luxury? The estimate is your electric bill will increase about $20-40 a month depending on your rate. Heavens, at times it cost me $100 to fill the tank of my truck. At home, getting a charge on 240 volts, you get about a mile a minute. The fast charge stations on the road can get the job done in about 15 minutes. You need to stop now and then anyway so I don't find that onerous. They are getting new stations built every day and already you can cross the country without too much bother.

It is recommended you bring the car in for servicing once a year for a tune-up. I was told that one customer had 250,000 miles on his car (that's a lot of charging!!!) and his battery had only lost about 1 ½% charging ability. They are warranted for 8 years though some test cars have gone 12 years with no problems. Currently the cost to replace the batteries is around $4,000 but that cost may come down when Tesla's giant new battery factory in Nevada comes on line.

Environmental concerns will force us to make changes in our lifestyles. The sooner companies realize this and embrace rather than fight new technologies the better life will be for everyone. Obviously GM has listened as they will be offering their 2017 Bolt at the end of 2016 and it too will have a range of about 200 miles beating Tesla's Model 3 to market by at least a year. While is it is not as handsome as any of the Tesla's, it shows what can be done and even more, that if you want a place in the market you had better help with the winds of change or be left in the cold. History if rife with tales of those who didn't heed change. Look at Kodak!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out earlier posts! Comments are always welcome.

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