BlackVue dash cam installation on Model S – an update (video)

I have (finally!) put together the video describing the process of installing the dash camera on Tesla Model S. I know that there are plenty of how-to videos on the Internet on the very subject, but this one is rather unique: I have done all of it in a 3D modeling software.

The original write up can still be found here, but this should provide even more complete step-by-step procedure. Hope you enjoy it!

California, here we come! (Road trip 2018 – epilogue)

So there we have it: 18-days-long road trip has officially come to an end. We traveled almost 5,000 miles in an electric vehicle, completely worry-free. Zero emissions and zero range anxiety. While every road trip we took was special on its own and provided its share of unforgettable memories, this one was truly epic. I repeat that word quite often when describing our recent journey, because there’s no better way to describe it. Not because it was the longest one so far (both time- and distance-wise), that is an achievement on its own. I think the expectations were high from the get-go, as we would be traveling to some of the most popular destinations that United States has to offer. Yet, every single landmark or attraction on our list proven to be worth it. As always, there were hidden jewels and unexpected surprises (Death Valley and Sedona quickly come to mind, but there were plenty more) which made the trip even better than expected.

When our daughter was little we had the freedom to plan our travels in the off-peak season, allowing us to beat the crowds. Now that we are bound by school year schedule as everyone else, I was worried that it might throw a kink into our carefully planned itinerary. Luckily, none of these fears were justified and we had an absolute blast.

Weather is always a factor and yet again, we were blessed with absolutely gorgeous forecast. We normally don’t worry much about the weather on our trips (watching for extremes, of course), but I’d never say no to sunny or partly cloudy skies with moderate temperatures :).

Last but not least, here’s a reference to all individual blog entries documenting each day of the trip:

Day 1: Denton, TX – Tucumcari, NM

https://evcharged.blog/2018/06/25/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-1/

Day 2: Tucumcari, NM – Flagstaff, AZ

https://evcharged.blog/2018/06/29/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-2/

Day 3: Flagstaff, AZ – Twentynine Palms, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/06/29/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-2/

Day 4: Twentynine Palms, CA – Carlsbad, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/07/02/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-3/

Day 5: Carlsbad, CA (Legoland) – Los Angeles (Getty Museum), CA – Anaheim, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/07/21/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-4/

Day 6: Disneyland California Adventure Park, Anaheim, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/07/30/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-5/

Day 7: Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/07/30/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-5/

Day 8: Anaheim, CA – Huntington Beach, CA – Pacific Coast Highway – Lompoc, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/08/07/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-6/

Day 9: Lompoc, CA – San Simeon, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/08/11/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-7/

Day 10: San Simeon, CA – Big Sur, CA – Seaside, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/08/11/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-7/

Day 11: Seaside, CA – Fremont, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/08/23/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-8/

Day 12: Fremont, CA – Muir Woods National Monument, CA – San Francisco, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/09/02/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-9/

https://evcharged.blog/2018/09/01/tour-de-tesla/

Day 13: San Francisco, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/09/02/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-9/

Day 14: San Francisco, CA – Yosemite National Park – Manzanar – Lone Pine, CA

https://evcharged.blog/2018/10/01/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-10/

Day 15: Lone Pine, CA – Death Valley – Hoover Dam – Las Vegas, NV

https://evcharged.blog/2018/10/04/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-11/

Day 16: Las Vegas, NV – Seligman, AZ – Williams, AZ – Sedona, AZ

https://evcharged.blog/2018/10/09/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-12/

Day 17: Sedona, AZ – Winslow, AZ (Meteor Crater) – Santa Rosa, NM

https://evcharged.blog/2018/10/09/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-12/

Day 18: Santa Rosa, NM – Denton, TX

https://evcharged.blog/2018/10/09/california-here-we-come-road-trip-2018-part-12/

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a note or a comment and I will be glad to respond. Thanks for checking in!

Trippin’ in EV

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since we’ve got Nikola. Over 22,000 miles on the odometer is a testimony to the fact that it is still as fun to drive as when I picked it up. While some of the details might be fading away, I clearly remember the excitement leading to making it happen. The research, the test drive, the approval from my better half and my daughter, the pros/cons debate… finally THE day:

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I asked one of my best friends to accompany me to the Tesla Service Center in Dallas, as he was always very supportive of my journey to Tesla ownership. I could not have it any other way, but to share the joy with him (he’s the one taking a quick photo of me trying to put a believable grin on my face, as at that moment I could not come to terms with the fact that it is really happening ;)). He also had an honor of driving it back – not without a fuss though, as he was insisting the honor should be mine. He reluctantly agreed on the notion that I will have plenty of time to enjoy the time behind the wheel after that. I digress though.

Our family has always enjoyed taking road trips. Some people might think that I am crazy when I say that I love to drive, but I really do. Maybe it is because of the fact that I have only gotten my driving license in my 30s (there was no sight of me ever getting a car when I was growing up, then there was no need for it when I moved to Asia), or maybe it is the breathtaking landscape that United States has to offer. Probably both. Our first trip was just few months after I’ve got my driving license – I was invited to a technical conference at Virginia Beach, VA. What a great excuse to drive there!

It should not come as a surprise then that the tradition continues with our model S. Just a week into ownership we have taken it on a maiden voyage to Waco, TX. It’s about 2 hours away from our home, so it gave us a good opportunity to try out the range anxiety (spoiler: there was none) while sweetening the deal with some great pastries on the way: first at the Czech Stop, then at Collin Street Bakery while testing the Supercharger.

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On the way back we had found out about one of the (many) benefits of owning an electric vehicle – when the weather is nice (such as early summer in Texas) there’s very little penalty for idling in a stop-and-go traffic. The car has hardly lost any range despite being stuck in the traffic for about 45 minutes. Emissions-free, I might add. A win-win.

We’ve been thinking for a while now about revisiting some of our favorite spots from the previous trips, particularly Tennessee and North Carolina. Encouraged by the Waco excursion it was a quick decision to take Tesla for a real road test. Destination: Asheville, NC!

Day 1 (July 30th, 2017): Denton, TX – Memphis, TN

Denton-MemphisMap is courtesy of Google and A Better Route Planner.

We have traveled this route quite a few times before, so we decided not to stop much between our home base and Memphis. The only stops would be dictated by the need to recharge the car. We knew that we will need some extra time for that, so we left way before dawn. The first stop would be in Sulphur Springs (TX) some 100 miles away.

Sulphur-Springs

It’s a small, but lovely town – one that we promised ourselves to come back and explore later (since it is relatively nearby). The management seems to be taking a great care of restoring its buildings and streets to its prime, but also to attract some tourists by keeping the schedule busy with events. The Tesla Supercharger is definitely a great addition, conveniently located just a walking distance from town square. We plugged the car in and went to explore the town center while waiting for it to be recharged. That mirror-covered structure proved to be very handy before continuing on our journey ;).

Since you can see clearly from inside out, I wonder how it works after dark, when the light turns on…

Next stop was Texarcana, TX. Since we were new to the supercharging game we decided to get some extra “juice” on top of what the on-board trip planner was suggesting. We better not take any chances, especially that early into our trip.
IMG_2457The Texarcana Supercharger is conveniently located along I-30, right next to some chain restaurants and a strip mall.

From Texarcana we headed to Little Rock, AR. The Tesla Supercharger is located next to outlet mall. While getting off a freeway we missed the intersection/road that leads to it, so we had to loop back, which cost us few extra miles. No big deal though, since we had plenty of range left. The outlet was still closed when we arrived, but we took some time to wander around. Again, we spent more time than we needed, just to make sure we can arrive with plenty of range left at our final destination.

Finally, we were off to Memphis, TN.

Memphis

It is a must for us to stop by and have a dinner at Gus’s Fried Chicken. I would highly recommend to anyone to give it a try. It does have a nice kick to it, so be warned 🙂

This concludes the first leg of our trip. We stayed in the city for the night. The supercharger was right behind the hotel where we lodged in. I went to charge the car in the evening, since we would be on our way bright and early next day.

Number of miles traveled: 470
Number of other Teslas spotted along the way: 0

BlackVue DR750S-2CH installation in 2017 Tesla Model S

I have recently purchased the aforementioned dash camera, based on a great feedback and reviews from fellow Tesla owners, as well as a personal preference (I think it just looks slick compare to other devices). After watching a number of how-to videos I grew confident that I could perform the installation myself. Unlike the others, I managed to do it without removing the large piece of trim from the tailgate, which definitely simplifies the whole process (no messing around with speaker and light wires or trying to realign everything when clipping it back on). I thought it might be helpful to other DYI’ers out there.

An update:

I have (finally!) made a video describing the whole process as well. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I consider myself a reasonably skilled handyman. This installation requires some manual skills, as well as basic knowledge of low-voltage electrical systems. If you are worried about damaging your car or harming yourself in the process, you are better off hiring a professional to do the installation for you. I take no responsibility for any of the mishaps along the way, so proceed at your own risk and with caution!

With that out of the way, shall we?

Other than the dash camera (BlackVue DR750-2CH or BlackVue DR900-2CH), here are the items I used:

Before you begin, make sure your work area is well lit and ventilated (there might be some sweat involved). You might also want to secure some soft rags/towels to protect your upholstery and body panels when moving around the car, especially where the fish tape could come in contact with the painted surface. Thank me later.

First Step – making a harness to connect to auxiliary in-vehicle power

  1. Pop down (using your fingers) the microphone grill to find the auxiliary power connector.

microphone_grill

2. Connect the 4-pin fan power extension cable to the in-car auxiliary connector and using multi-meter find a pair of wires providing at least 12 V DC. In my case, it was a black/yellow pair and the reading on multi-meter has confirmed 14 V DC:

14V

Take note of your color combination, as it may vary. Assuming it is the same color combination, here’s a render of the harness I have created:

Wire_harness_047

Do not connect the home-made harness to the auxiliary power just yet.

Fishing the power and coaxial cables through the microphone grill

3. Attach one end of the harness (the one with 3.5 mm mini-jack on its end) right behind the plastic tip of the steel fish tape and wrap it tightly with the blue tape. Gently run the steel fish tape through the microphone opening towards the front of the car until you can fetch it right where the headliner meets the top of the windshield. The tip of the fish tape should come out to the right side of the rear view mirror assembly. Pull the tip of the fishing tape gently down and away from the glass as you pass it through, so you don’t accidentally damage your windshield in the process. You only need to leave a few inches of harness hanging out to connect to the camera. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the picture of this step (probably being too excited after seeing how easy it was!), but the picture below should give you an idea. The microphone grill should be in the open position of course 😉

fish_the_wire

4. Repeat the same procedure to fish the coaxial cable for the rear camera through. I would highly recommend that you use the 90-degree angled end at the front of the car. This insures you have the straight end of the cable to feed through the boot/tube at the back. It is much easier to feed a straight-end connector than the right-angle connector through the tight areas such as the boot. The right-angled connector also looks cooler when attached to the front camera.

5. Before you connect camera to the power, make sure the appropriate fuse (either 3 or 5 A) is inserted into the holder and the harness we made earlier is plugged into the auxiliary power of the car. Then, follow the manual that was provided with your camera to initialize it, but do not attach it permanently to your windshield yet. Once you successfully initialize the camera and connect your mobile device to its built-in wireless network you will be able to preview the image that the camera is registering. This will help you with necessary alignments before you permanently attach the mounting collar/bracket to your car’s window.

Mounting the front dash camera to the windshield

6. The lens of the camera should be vertically aligned at the center of the windshield. You don’t need to worry about the precise tilt angle, you can rotate the camera once it is mounted inside the collar for the final adjustment. The preview on your phone will also help.

Tip: You might want to ask someone for help to stand in the front of the car as you position the camera.

The bracket itself should be about 1/2″ – 3/4″ below its right edge (roughly) aligned with the car’s front-facing cameras (see below). You want to make sure that the camera’s position will not block the sensor at the back of the rear-view mirror!

front_camera

7. Once you are confident that you’ve got the right spot to mount the front dash camera, peel off the protective foil and hold the bracket firmly to the windshield for about 10 seconds (keep pressing it evenly against the glass).

Running the coaxial cable to the back of the vehicle

8. Unplug the power from the front camera, but leave the coaxial cable plugged in, so that you have an idea how much slack is needed as you pass the other towards the rear of the car.

Note: in case you are at the crossroads if you should run the rear camera cable through the driver (left) or passenger (right) side, here’s the correct answer: use the passenger side. The boot/tube on the left side contains wiring that feeds the antennas. It has been reported that BlackVue and antennas can be impacted when close to each other. Also, be extra careful not to damage the shielding of the coax cable. This also includes a temptation to trim the cable to optimum length to avoid any excessive slack. The cable is shielded for a reason. You don’t want to introduce any interference.

9. There’s a nice gap between the headliner and the roof, perfect to tuck the cable in:

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Run the cable along the passenger’s side, continuing towards the back:

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“Jump” over the B pillar and continue your way toward the C one:

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10. Now, we need to remove the two pieces of the trim. The top piece (with the texture matching the headliner) is held in place by spring metal clips against the C pillar and plastic latches against the lower piece of the trim – simply grab it around its edges and wiggle/pull it straight towards you.

The bottom piece is held in place with a single Torx T20 screw (an arrow on the picture below marks its approximate location). Remove the screw and pull the trim toward you.

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Pass the cable behind the headliner to the open area where the upper piece of the trim was attached:

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Passing the cable through to the tailgate

11. Without applying much stress/pressure, pull both grommets until they snap out of the holes in the car’s body. Be extremely careful not to damage the interconnecting tubing or wires that go through in the process!

Gently push the steel fish tape through to fetch the coaxial cable.

Warning: Don’t use your steel fishing tape if the plastic tip has been misplaced. This could cause damage to the tube or the existing wire bundle running through. The boot can be replaced only by the Service Center personnel and will most likely come at your own expense. Bottom line, you want to keep it intact to prevent any damage caused by water leaks!

Hint: It helps to compress the tubing to shorten the path, but also to minimize the tension or possibility to puncture the tube.

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12. Once you are on the other side, attach the tip of the coax cable to the fishing tape. Slowly and carefully pull it back and detach the camera wire.

13. Remove the horizontal piece of the trim (top edge of the tailgate, but appearing as if at the bottom when the tailgate is open) by pulling it straight towards yourself. It is attached to the car’s body using standard retainer clips, but it is also interlocked with the adjacent vertical trim pieces. I pulled it starting from the points indicated by arrows (picture below), then wiggling it free – one side at a time – from the interlock.

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14. Remove the passenger’s side vertical trim as well. Similarly, it is also attached using retainer clips and interlocked with the adjacent panel, so start from the bottom and move your way up. I have highlighted the area where the two pieces of trim interlock together.

15. Since we are here, remove the single torx screw (I think it is T16) that helps to hold the large piece of trim in place – the red arrow marks the spot where the screw is located. As promised earlier, we won’t be removing that part at all, but removing the screw will give us some additional wiggle room when running the cable. Don’t worry, it will become clearer in step 20.

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16. Remove the door handle assembly by pulling it towards you – I used the trim removal tool that came with the camera to pry one of the edges upwards without scuffing it. This step requires some force. There are no clips holding it in place, just some notches.

I have also applied some blue tape around the handle mount to protect the plastic from scuff marks (and my own skin when rubbing against it, the edges are sharp!).

Important note: if your car is equipped with automated lift gate, there is a wire harness attached to the back of the handle. Be careful when you pull the handle towards you, so you don’t damage the cable. Detach the cable and tape it to the trim, so you don’t have to fish for it later!

17. Run the fishing tape through the tailgate. Start at the location where the grommet attaches to the tailgate (marked with an arrow pointing up on the picture below) and finish out through the hole where the handle was:

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18. Connect the ends of fishing rod and steel tape together. Pull this contraption back – one end of the fishing rod should protrude through the grommet opening on the tailgate and the other should be sticking out where the handle is attached.

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Are you wondering why this could not be accomplished by just using the fishing rod instead? Simply because it is not flexible enough when being pushed through (as compared to steel tape which has a flat profile and can be easily twisted and turn it to adjust the angle). Pulling the fishing rod is easy in comparison. The whole point was to avoid removing the large trim piece, remember?

19. Attach the end of the coaxial cable to the fishing rod and pull it all the way back until it comes out through the handle mounting hole:

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20. Use the steel fishing tape again, starting underneath the trim (the spot marked with an arrow on the picture below). To make it a bit easier, use the trim removal tool to lift the plastic trim away from the metal. That’s why we needed to remove the Torx screw in step 15. Genius, I know.

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21. Attach the end of the coax cable to the rod and pull it back:

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The worst is behind us.

Just in case it became confusing why we need all this trickery to pull the cable back and forth, here’s a picture illustrating it:

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Basically, we are running the cable through the rubber tubing, continuing through metal part of the tailgate and underneath the large piece of the trim without drilling additional holes in the aluminium panel or unnecessary disassembly.

Mounting the rear camera

22. Connect the coaxial cable to the rear camera. Mount the unit in the bracket and center its lens (along vertical axis) on the rear window. Restore the power to the front camera (this will also provide the power to the rear). Now you can use the phone app to preview the image.

The image preview appears upside-down. Use the BlackVue mobile application to rotate the rear camera view 180 degrees.

If you are happy with the results, remove the backing foil and attach the camera permanently to the window. Hold it still against the glass for few seconds to assure a firm contact.

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Final steps

All that is left at this point is to put things back together:

  • Start with adjusting the coaxial cable across the whole run. Make sure you have just enough slack in the front and that the cable is not hanging loosely or visible anywhere around the roof. Ensure that you have enough slack where the cable runs through the tubing connecting car body with the tailgate panel (close and open the tailgate few times to test it).
  • There should be some additional length of the cable left. I used the space beneath the horizontal trim of the tailgate to tuck it in, taping it in few places to avoid the cable being pinched when I insert the trim piece back.
  • Remove the trim removal tool from the large piece on the tailgate and fasten the trim back in place with the Torx screw.
  • Replace broken or damaged retaining clips and reattach the panels, starting with the vertical one. Do the same with the horizontal piece, making sure the clips do not pinch any of the wires. Give it an honest punch with your palm to push it back in place.
  • Reconnect the power to the lift gate handle and reinsert the handle.
  • Reattach the C pillar trim pieces. Don’t forget to fasten the Torx screw underneath the shelf support.

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Congratulations! We are done!

P.S. If you found this guide helpful, kindly leave your feedback. If you have additional questions/comments/tips, please leave comment in as well, so others can benefit too. Appreciate it!

On range anxiety

It’s always fun when people approach me to ask a few questions or make a comment about the car. Two of the most commonly asked questions are:

  1. What is the range on the single charge?
  2. How long does it take to charge the battery?

This usually ensures that it is not going to be a short conversation ;). Both of these questions are often referred to as “range anxiety” when driving or owning an EV (electric vehicle). I thought it would be good to answer these questions here and hopefully relieve folks of some of that tension.

The maximum range on my Model S is about 240 miles (75 kWh battery). There’s a number of factors that will affect the real driving range though. Driving speed and style, weather conditions (temperature, precipitation, wind) and topology of the terrain – they all play an important part. On a warm and sunny day (85 F / 29 C) with no headwind, a person cruising at around 65 mph on a relatively flat terrain while avoiding abrupt acceleration or deceleration will probably get very close to the rated mile. Possibly even better. Any deviation from these conditions will most likely have a negative impact on the range.
While Tesla does a great job maintaining an optimal temperature of the battery pack, low temperatures will quickly eat up a good portion of the range. I am yet to experience the winter conditions, but those who own a car for some time suggest numbers in the range of 20-30%. I find it a bit extreme, so I will reserve my judgment till I go through at least one winter season. Other weather related conditions such as wind or rain will have an impact, too.
Same goes with driving style: the more heavy-footed you are, the more impact you will notice on how many miles are remaining before you have to make a “pit stop” to charge (similarly to a gasoline fueled car where you would waste more fuel when driving more aggressively).
One thing that differentiates EV from ICE (internal combustion engine) car is regenerative braking. Most, if not all, EVs are equipped with this functionality and it really helps to extend the range. It takes a bit of practice to get used to at first, but quickly becomes a second nature. I always use it to my advantage and apply the mechanical brakes only as a final assist to bring the car to full stop or in emergencies. Where this feature shines the most is during long descents on a mountain roads. You hardly have to press the brake pedal (just ease on accelerator) and the car takes care of the rest. How efficient can it be? VERY. Here’s an example from our road trip where we traverse parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway between Tennessee and North Carolina:

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Notice the big dip (in green)? It helped us to extend the range so much that on a 136-mile-long stretch of the road we have effectively consumed only about 70 miles of the battery’s range. Of course, this is an extreme example. Regardless, regenerative braking works and you should always use it to your advantage.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Tesla does a great job signaling the drivers behind you when regeneration takes place. One of the cool features is that you can observe it on the dash in front of you, as it will display the status of all vehicle’s lights (brakes included) on a miniature model of the car.

The last thing I want to mention regarding the available range is the available capacity. You don’t want to run your battery completely dry (just as you would not want your ICE car to go empty). Even if the car will let you drive all the way till it reads 0 (some people have already tried), it is generally not recommended for the sake of battery health and longevity. Others already covered the tips on how to maintain the battery at its optimum, so I won’t go into that here.

So, how long does it take to charge the car?

It simply depends on what type of charge you apply. Tesla is famous for its network of rapid chargers (called Superchargers). In United States they are conveniently placed along the major routes and allow worry-free travel across the country. Tesla is continuously expanding its Supercharger network (both in the US and abroad) which should help to make the range anxiety go away.
Back to the question though, typically you can get about 150 miles of range back within 30 minutes. The car’s built-in computer does a great job estimating the time it will take to charge in order to reach the next supercharger (taking into consideration pre-existing charge level and consumption to reach the next point) and it will propose how much time one has to spent at any given location.
When we first started using superchargers we would often stay longer (much longer) than needed, just in case. This proves to be a moot point, as the car’s brains will automatically start limiting the charging current in order to maintain battery’s efficiency, so you might spend another 30 minutes or more to gain the remaining 20% of the capacity. Eventually, we have learned to trust the computer more and be on our way rather than wasting time :).

The Superchargers work great on the road trips or any long distance commute. On a daily basis though, there’s plenty of other ways to get the car charged up. My typical daily commute ranges from 50 to 60 miles. I simply plug the car in the garage and go about the rest of my day. There are also plenty of public Level 1 and 2 charging stations available that can accommodate ANY electric vehicle, not just Tesla. Some of the most commonly found solutions would be:

  • NEMA 14-50 outlet (240V 50A) – it would restore about 24 miles per hour of charge in my car;
  • NEMA 14-30 outlet (240V 30A) – which provides about 17 miles per hour of charge, respectively.

In a worst case scenario I could easily plug my car to a common 110V 15A outlet to restore at least some of the range (it would be painstakingly slow @ about 3 miles of range per hour restored, but it would work!).

It is also worth mentioning that there is a number of useful mobile applications that help to find nearest charging outlet in case you end up in unfamiliar territory. Some of them are tied to commercial operators providing the charging infrastructure, some are maintained by community. Either way it is easy to find an outlet nowadays using any app.

The simple (and somewhat smart aleck-ish, I get it) answer to this question would be that… it doesn’t. Just plug your car at home when you’re done for the day and forget about it. It beats the 5 minutes of wait time at a gas station when refueling an ICE car, every time :P.

Why Tesla?

The beginning of my journey was not exactly unique. Someone at work has mentioned a startup company named after one of the genius minds of the 19th century, Nikola Tesla. I would have probably dismissed it quickly if not for one small detail. The Roadster, while based on Lotus Elise’s body design, was capable of travelling 200+ miles on a single charge while maintaining the performance (and looks!) of the respectful sport car. There was nothing like this on the market at that time, not even close. For a start, there were very few electric vehicles available at that time. They all had very limited range (60-80 miles at best) and somewhat hideous looking. Uninspiring at best, as if the potential buyer should be moved with pity when committing to a purchase, rather than being filled with joy and excitement. Needless to say, Tesla Roadster has gotten my attention albeit I knew that it was completely out of my league due to a price.

Enter 2012. By that time I was well aware of who Elon Musk is, as well as of his bold master plan. With official introduction of Model S as a premium sedan I was really hooked. Here comes a beautifully designed car that can travel up to 265 miles (85 kWh model) on a charge, loaded with state-of-the-art technology, offering comfort, performance and safety. Accolades and praises quickly followed: named Green Car of the Year in 2013 and Car of the Year by multiple magazines in the same year, top scored car by Consumer Reports, top safety rating, to be finally called Car of the Century in 2015 by Car and Driver magazine. The hype was on. It felt like not a single day has passed without news about Model S. Rightfully so, as the car truly deserved all the attention. It was still outside of my price range at that time, being often positioned as a rival of Mercedes Benz S Class or BMW 7 series. One can always dream, isn’t it?

Fast forward to 2016 – Model 3 has been officially announced, bearing an affordable price tag of 35 thousand dollars while maintaining the same impressive range of at least 200 miles per charge. Sign me up please! Sign up I did. Like many others, on the day of the official reveal I dutifully put down my 1000 dollars deposit. No risk involved, as it is fully refundable. Plus, I knew that realistically it will be at least couple of years before the car is really available for the masses and at least a year before the final production design is shown. No hurry. I do want to be a part of the mission set by Mr. Musk, so this was my way of saying that I am committed (just like 400,000 others).

How did I end up buying Model S then? There’s many angles to this story, but here are a few deciding factors that helped me to jump the fence. First of, I am a big car enthusiast and am always looking for what’s out there in terms of new design, innovation and technology that comes in the package. Being an IT guy and a geek, technology is as important for me as any other aspect when buying a new car. That’s why I always seem to favor the cars that are well equipped (tech package, upgraded sound etc.). The car is more than means of transportation for me. I like driving and I enjoy road trips with my family, so all the “extras” play a part when configuring the new car. When I compare the integrated 17″ screen in Model S to 15″ in Model 3 (somewhat awkwardly protruding from the center of the dash) I think Model S is a clear winner here for me. I am also not (yet) sold on the idea that Model 3 won’t have a dedicated instrument cluster or HUD in front of the driver, but I digress…
I also started looking for CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) cars available. Surprisingly, most of the well-equipped second-hand cars hold their value rather well. So much so that they either come close to equally well-equipped Model 3 (I know that I would not settle for just the base configuration) or come very close to a discounted showroom Model S with similar features. I was also debating whether I should stick with 1st generation Auto Pilot hardware or go for the 2nd one. Hmm…
You know, one should listen when they warn you that you should not step into a Tesla Showroom unless you are ready to buy a car. They are absolutely right! Jokes aside, by the time I was ready for a test drive the number crunching was complete and budget analysis done with. Plus, having been following Tesla company all this while I knew everything there was to know about the car by the time I visited the store. I just needed to experience the actual drive to make the final decision. With some input from my girls (my wife and daughter) we managed to pinpoint the exact car we were interested in and on June 30th of 2017 our family became the proud owners of Model S. 🙂

So, why this blog, one might ask? If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a huge supporter of Tesla’s mission to provide zero-emission vehicles that will help to curb the pollution and give the future generations a chance to live in habitable environment. Climate change is real, regardless if it is caused by human activity or natural cycles. We can continue wasting time debating this over and over again, or we can do something to minimize our impact. Elon Musk, in his own genius, helped to lay down foundations and despite all the criticism and no-saying is already proving that sustainable alternative to ICE (internal combustion engine) powered vehicle is possible. I am well aware that there’s a premium to be paid when you are an early adopter and pioneer, but I am blessed to be able to contribute and support this mission today. I hope to share my experience with others, so hopefully more people will realize that Electric Vehicle IS the future and one doesn’t have to be afraid of it.

Stay tuned…

A Year of Tesla

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is coming to its end, as it surely feels as if it barely started. The end of the year is usually a time of reflection: on tasks we accomplished, on things that happened in our family or in the world surrounding us, on stuff we would have, could have or should have done, on getting older (I certainly am reflecting on the last one!).

The passing year was certainly full of exciting news related to electric vehicles, but the one company that deserves special credit is Tesla. What a ride it has been! In early February, Elon Musk’s personal Roadster had been launched into space with the help of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, a nice distraction from the flood of negative press surrounding the Model 3 production ramp up – despite its best efforts Tesla managed to produce less than 10,000 units in the whole first quarter of 2018 and had to adjust its production estimates numerous times to provide at least some answer to both investors and folks eagerly anticipating delivery of their dream car. To say “all hands on deck” would be an understatement, as the company was pulling all strings to boost the production output. In an act of both brilliance and desperation a gigantic “tent” was erected outside of Fremont factory building. All in order to get closer to the promised 5,000 units per week.

Celebrating a production milestone of 5,000 units of Model 3 per week. Photo credit and copyright by Tesla, Inc.

Elon has freely admitted that one of the reasons of the struggle was excessive faith in automation when dealing with tasks that human are just better at, even calling it ironically foolish. It was a hard lesson to learn, but yet another hurdle that Tesla’s team managed to overcome thanks to its dedication and ability to think outside of the box.

In July, Tesla had delivered its 200,000th vehicle, thus triggering a gradual expiration of federal tax credit. It also signed an agreement with China to start manufacturing cars there, essentially laying foundation for the Gigafactory 3 that, once constructed, will definitely ease the burden of keeping up with the demand for Model 3. It will also help to produce future Tesla models.

By August, Tesla Model 3 became the #1 best selling car in United States by revenue. It was also reported that Tesla was crushing its competition in terms of sales.

By then the situation surrounding the Model 3 was much better and Tesla
not only reported a steady increase in production output, but it also reported profit, first in a long time. All this while steadily increasing the battery production rate at the Gigafactory and shortening the time required to assemble the battery packs. It only gets better from there. The Model 3 has been awarded a top safety rating from NHTSA. Tesla later published on its blog that it also achieved lowest probability of injury of any vehicles ever tested by the very same institute.

Towards the end of the third quarter, Tesla has introduced the Mid Range Model 3, priced at $45,000 and being available for delivery within 2-4 weeks from the date of purchase.

Model 3 production numbers per quarter in 2018. Data source: Tesla, Bloomberg. Q4 estimates by Bloomberg.

According to Bloomberg’s Tesla Model 3 Tracker, we should see about 60,000 units manufactured in the last quarter, putting it on track to a sustainable 5,000 units per week. In the meantime, Tesla has finally opened up Model 3 ordering for reservation holders in Europe. All that mad dash effort is finally paying off!

Speaking of mad dash, one should not forget about Model 3 Performance with Track Mode. It already proves to be a force to be reckoned with and a competitor deserving a respect.

Despite all the negative press Tesla has received throughout the year (as reported here, here and here), the company keeps proving every skeptic out there wrong, staying on-course to achieve the mission of providing sustainable transport of the future. Such an achievement is only possible with help of extraordinary team of dedicated workers, willing to pull up the sleeves and work additional hours to make things happen. It requires an extraordinary management team as well, able to think outside of the box and apply unconventional methods as needed in order to accomplish the goals. Having a visionary such as Elon Musk at its helm helps too, of course.

As a long-time fan of Tesla and proud owner of one of its vehicles I am happy to witness the realization of the dream – a mass-produced car at affordable price, helping to convert people to electric vehicles, one person at a time. I’m smiling whenever I see another Model 3 on the road. It has been such a long journey for Tesla and everyone working for the company deserves the credit.

Since 2019 is has already started for some and is about to kick off for the rest in just a few hours, here are some of my wishes for Tesla and for everyone:

  • Get past the “production hell”, so Tesla can focus on sustainability of the company rather than constant firefighting. Enough of the stress.
  • Make the base ($35,000) Model 3 a reality. It cannot come soon enough.
  • Show off Model Y and the pickup truck at last – I’ll be hard-torn choosing between the two anyway!
  • Get the Semi on the road. It will change the trucking industry as we know it.

Happy New Year, all!

It’s happening!

While Tesla is selling Model 3 faster than it can manufacture it, the current Long Range variant might still be out of financial reach for those patiently waiting for the more affordable, $35,000 variant promised to be available sometime next year. If you are one of those people or were on the fence whether you should wait a bit longer or sell your wife and kids in order to afford one, Tesla just dropped a bombshell that might help you to make that decision sooner (sans turning the loved ones’ lives upside-down)!

As of today, you can order a Mid Range version, with a battery allowing 260 miles of travel on a single charge:

Model3_mid_range

The base version (solid black paint, 18″ wheels with aero covers, premium interior) will cost $45,000 before the tax incentive. If you order before the end of the year, you will be eligible for a full, $7,500 credit, making it essentially a $37,500 car!

Model3_mid_range_summary

The price will not include the Enhanced Autopilot package ($5,000 extra during purchase or $6,000 after delivery), but if you can live without it, it comes closer to the magic 35k figure.

I would say this is big news that deserves to be spread around! 260 miles is plenty of range, even for road trips. Our recent trip to California was accomplished in a Model S that comes with about 240 miles on a full charge, so I speak from experience. Rear-wheel drive is not an issue either, as Tesla offers excellent traction control that will easily surpass a gasoline powered car. Here‘s my recent encounter that can testify to it.

This should further inspire the confidence that despite all the recent negative press that Tesla does not deserve, the company is well on track to continue its mission and delivering on important milestones. If you are ready to support a sustainable future and be a part of this mission, hope this newly introduces configuration will help you to make that decision sooner.

California, here we come! (Road trip 2018 – part 12)

Day 16 – Las Vegas, NV – Seligman, AZ – Williams, AZ – Sedona, AZ

We left Las Vegas behind and headed towards Arizona. Our first stop was in Kingman – to charge the car and grab a bite to eat at a nearby Carl’s Jr restaurant. For some reason this supercharger became one of my favorites. Maybe it’s because of the still-fresh memories of the journey through New Mexico and Arizona to California? We stopped here on the way there after a joyful drive from Tucumcari. Maybe because of an exceptionally friendly staff that greeted us at the restaurant last time? I don’t know, I just like this particular stop for some reason.

LasVegas-Sedona

Staying true to our mantra of not following the exact same route both ways we planned to check out some other parts of Route 66 that we haven’t before: Seligman and Williams. Ironically and sadly, the first is where it all started while the latter was the last one to be bypassed by modern Interstate Highway 40. So many people that travel trough here before, so many memories and stories to be told. I am glad that there are still folks that try to preserve whatever bits and pieces are left of this legend of the road, to capture its spirit and folklore. Some of it is cheesy and serves as a perfect tourist trap (thanks to the popularity of the “Cars” movie one doesn’t have to venture far to find yet another Mater or Doc Hudson), but could and should be forgiven to benefit the greater good – to keep the memory of the Mother Road alive and kicking.

As usual, we took our sweet time exploring the artifacts of the Road. Thanks to my wife and her planning we had ample of time to stop as much as we wanted and take pictures. In Williams we came across The Grand Canyon Railway – something we really want to try next time. Arizona is relatively close to us (at least as far as our family driving norms are concerned), so this should make for a fun excursion.

We finished our day in Sedona. I am glad that one of my coworkers recommended this place. The drive from Flagstaff through canyons on scenic route 89A is spectacular. The winding road requires proper attention, but there’s many spots to stop and admire surrounding mountains and famous red rocks. Sedona itself is a jewel well worth visiting. Many of the buildings reflect the natural hues that are present in the rock formations, thanks to the strict building codes that the city imposes on any land development initiative. The traffic can be heavy, especially during peak season, but the city deployed roundabouts wherever possible, which are way better than 4-way stops or traffic lights in my opinion. I would highly recommend Sky Ranch Lodge as a place to stay overnight. Placed on top of the mountain it offers great view on Sedona, day or night. Its well maintained garden (often used for wedding receptions) offers one of the best spots to admire gorgeous sunsets.

Charging stops:

  • Las Vegas, NV (138 miles left; avg 315 Wh/mi; charged to 175 miles)
  • Kingman, AZ (47 miles left; avg 351 Wh/mi; charged to 230 miles)
  • Flagstaff, AZ (42 miles left; avg 322 Wh/mi; charged to 125 miles)

Day 17 – Sedona, AZ – Winslow, AZ – Santa Rosa, NM

We woke up early, partly to catch the sunrise while surrounded by the beautiful red rocks, but also because it would be one of the longest drives on this trip – close to 500 miles to cover in one day. We didn’t want it to be mindless exercise in swallowing the endless miles, so we had some attractions planned along the way.

Before leaving Sedona we have stopped by the supercharger for a quick top up (we would go by Flagstaff anyway), mostly because it is one of the newest additions to the ever-growing network of charging stations. This particular one is equipped with the newer generation and style called Urban Superchargers. Unlike the traditional ones that have the maximum output of 125 kW shared between two stalls, these newer types are independent from one another, but top at 72 kW each. They also have a smaller footprint, being better suited for tight spaces such as city parking garages. The one in Sedona comes with another perk: it is located next to a colorful strip mall that matches the architecture of the rest of the area. Even if all the stores were still closed when we arrived it was well worth checking it out.

On the outskirts of Winslow lies probably the most famous “hole in the ground” – The Meteor Crater. Formed some 50,000 years ago by an asteroid colliding with Earth is one of the best preserved craters in the world, allowing scientist to evaluate various theories that are floating around in attempt to separate facts from fiction, as well as study the impact of celestial bodies that decide to end their life with a big bang on our planet. Needless to say, if you’re in the area it is well worth a slight detour from I-40 to check it out.

The only other significant attraction on our way to Santa Rosa was The Jack Rabbit Trading Post located in Joseph City. Despite the fact that Route 66 no longer serves as a main thorough-way, the post is still open for business!

We did our best to keep the returning journey unique. No matter how great and exciting our road trip has proven to be, we were slowly but surely sensing that home is getting nearer – the closer we were, the more we wanted to get back to our own beds already. Such is our nature that after long time on the road there comes a time that you start missing your own pillow in your own house. Not wasting any time then, we zoomed by familiar by now superchargers in Holbrook, Gallup, Albuquerque until we reached Santa Rosa for the night. It was getting late, so after a quick meal at DQ we were more than ready to call it a day. Our hotel was located right next to supercharger. It is true that this place gets busy at night and the spots are often blocked by various gas guzzlers belonging to contractors or other workers who happen to stop by on their way. Knowing this, I plugged the car in, allowing it to charge while we check in and settle in our room. I would come back later to re-park, so I didn’t hog the spot unnecessarily.

Sedona-SantaRosa

Charging stops:

  • Sedona, AZ (100 miles left; avg 142 Wh/mi; charged to 134 miles)
  • Flagstaff, AZ (65 miles left; avg 391 Wh/mi; charged to 195 miles)
  • Holbrook, AZ (94 miles left; avg 256 Wh/mi; charged to 191 miles)
  • Gallup, NM (96 miles left; avg 300 Wh/mi; charged to 200 miles)
  • Albuquerque, NM (64 miles left; avg 259 Wh/mi; charged to 190 miles)
  • Santa Rosa, NM (81 miles left; avg 259 Wh/mi; charged to 185 miles)

 

Day 18 – Santa Rosa, NM – Denton, TX

It’s official: this was the last day of our trip. It was also the longest distance to drive (600 miles). Knowing well what’s ahead of us we didn’t waste any time. Too bad there is still no supercharger in Wichita Falls, this would allow us to cut some of the driving off, skipping Oklahoma. Nothing against OK, it offers plenty on its own, but we live close enough to explore it some other time. So, whatever powers are involved in getting the charging infrastructure between Childress and Denton, please hurry up. The Tesla community will be eternally thankful to you!

SantaRosa-Denton

Other than some yahoo drivers serving as a reminder that we were indeed getting closer home, the day went by smoothly and free of unexpected events. As we were getting closer, it was hard not to reflect on the epic journey that we had, the vistas and places we were living behind and the memories that will hopefully stay with us forever. A random thought related to hundreds of emails and numerous issues that would require my attention once I am back at work tried to interfere and spoil the joy, but it couldn’t. There was just too much of the wonderful experience to savor, cherish and relive for as long as we remember that I would not be saddened by return to reality of daily chores and responsibilities. If anything, it would serve as a reminder that we work hard, so that we can step away every once in a while and explore the world around us. I feel truly blessed to be able to have a taste of it. Even more so when sharing it with the people I love – my wife and my daughter. I could not imagine experiencing it alone.

Charging stops:

  • Tucumcari, NM (128 miles left; avg 286 Wh/mi; charged to 176 miles)
  • Amarillo, TX (59 miles left; avg 302 Wh/mi; charged to 165 miles)
  • Shamrock, TX (58 miles left; avg 299 Wh/mi; charged to 167 miles)
  • Weatherford, OK (55 miles left; avg 317 Wh/mi; charged to 130 miles)
  • Oklahoma City, OK (65 miles left; avg 301 Wh/mi; charged to 171 miles)
  • Ardmore, OK (59 miles left; avg 295 Wh/mi; charged to 150 miles)
  • Arrived in Denton with 64 miles left, avg 311 Wh/mi consumption

Tesla vs Oil Patch

I have watched numerous videos showing off how the car handles varying weather conditions (snow, rain) in different hardware configurations (single vs dual motor). I have watched demos and read articles explaining the inner works of the traction control system that Tesla puts in its vehicles (one such example here). I’ve had my share of fun in a loaner P85D where it self-corrected its course in a split-second when encountering a wet patch of the surface. I knew the system works very well and thanks to much simplified mechanism as compared to traditional gasoline car it can respond much quicker, too. I was not looking forward to additional ways of proving its effectiveness, but the opportunity came without being asked for.

On one fine morning, while merging onto another freeway I ran over a patch of freshly spilled oil, most likely from a canister dropped by a vehicle that must have just passed that way. I saw a darker patch of the road, but thought it was a standing water (hard to differentiate, especially when it is still dark outside). Before it even registered, my car’s stability control quickly kicked in in two rapid successions: first one must have been due to a wheel slip when it came in contact with the oily surface, second due to both left tires now being covered in a messy grease and continuing to lose the grip. It all lasted only few seconds, all while traveling about 50 miles an hour on a curvy on-ramp. One scary experience for me, but my Model S handled it flawlessly and without hesitation, despite being equipped with just a single motor (rear wheel drive).

I have caught the event on my dash cam (one more reason to invest in one!). Here’s the edited footage:

Shortly after this incident I have found a patch of unpaved terrain, to get rid of the excessive oil from the tires. It also gave me a safe opportunity to scramble and find the local police department’s number, so I could inform them about the spill (they already knew and told me that the cleaning crew was already dispatched).

Thanks again Tesla for an extraordinary safety behind every vehicle you put on the road!

California, here we come! (Road trip 2018 – part 11)

Day 15 – Lone Pine, CA – Death Valley – Las Vegas, NV

Whenever planning our road trips we try to avoid following the same route there and back. It makes for a more interesting journey and allows for seeing more places. This trip was no exception. When the planning and preparations started we were considering a visit to Grand Canyon either on the way to or back from California, but we quickly abandoned that idea. For one, it would add a significant amount of driving to an already lengthy trip. Two, we don’t want to rush things unnecessarily, as you hardly have enough time to see a thing. The Grand Canyon is important of a landmark enough to make it a pivotal point of a trip all by itself. Arizona is not that far from us (we like driving, let’s leave it at that), so why not leave it for our next adventure? The question then: what else should we check out on the way back? I suggested Las Vegas, so my family can experience it at least once in their lifetime, even just to form their own opinion about this place. In order to get there from Lone Pine we would have to drive through Death Valley first.

LonePine-LasVegas

While driving along Highway 190 you only scratch the surface of this land. I was immediately captivated by its beauty. Many people would quickly associate Death Valley with desolate, flat sands, but there’s so much more to it. Yes, there are sand dunes here as well, but so is Rainbow Canyon (shaped in part by rare – at least in these parts – volcanic activity in the past) and Hells Gate. Each specific area has its unique landscape, but they all have one thing in common: it is really quiet out there. So quiet that one can almost hear their own heartbeat at times. OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but not by much. The air was very still during our visit, not even a breeze. There were hardly any cars passing by. The complete quietness that surrounds you can only be compared to an acoustic chamber that I experienced many years ago (part of a mandatory hearing test when applying for a job at manufacturing facility). The major difference: if not for the road that led us here I was surrounded by a vast terrain that seem to stretch all the way to the horizon, no matter which direction I turned my head. In some spots that view was only interrupted by a mountain range or a canyon, but the feeling of being there, in the middle of nowhere, with no other living soul as far as eye can see was something I haven’t experienced for a long time. This is the kind of place to be if one wants to escape civilization, even if just for a while. The place to meditate, heal or whatever our inner call might be. It was special. Magical. Sacred even.

Unfortunately, being creatures of a modern world, we had to get going. We were soon leaving California behind. Shortly after crossing the Nevada state line we stopped at the nearby town of Beatty to charge the car. Despite being a very small place (population of about 1150 according to a recent census) we stepped into one of the best candy stores we’ve even been to: Death Valley Nut & Candy Co. Not something you would expect to find in a remote place. They also have great beef jerky, ice cream and coffee, so something for everyone.

An interesting observation related to the supercharger location was that it also had some standard Level 2 plugs available, making it a universal charging stop, not just reserved for Tesla owners. The L2 charger was a standard ChargePoint’s dual port model, so I am not sure if this has been an initiative of Tesla to invite others to share the space or if the property manager had the necessary foresight. Regardless of which one it was, kudos!

Since there was not much of an itinerary left for the day, we decided to stop by Hoover Dam before entering Las Vegas (the initial plan was to do it the following day in the morning). I know my wife is not that much into admiring engineering marvels, but I really wanted to show it to our daughter.
It’s been several years since I visited the place for the last time and quite a lot has changed. The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge (or Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge) is now complete and operational. There’s also a newly erected visitors center, offering guided tours of the dam. They also added more parking spaces in recent years, as it can quickly get crowded. The drawback is that you need to pay 10 bucks to park, but who would argue about that on a 100-degree day? Due to the latter our visit was rather brief. We were spoiled by now by the moderate temperatures that we were blessed throughout our trip. Even at Death Valley it never exceeded 80 F. So after a few minutes of exposure to the typical Nevada heat, plus the strong gusts of wind resembling a hair dryer, we were D.O.N.E.

One additional thing I have noticed is the ever shrinking water level of Lake Mead. It is clearly visible on the rocky walls surrounding the lake and it is definitely lower than the last time I was here. The major contributing factor is the population of Las Vegas that just exploded in recent years. Who’s idea was it to build a city in the desert anyway?

Before entering the city we stopped by the famous “Welcome” sign to take a family picture. I have been to Las Vegas many times before, but I have never had a chance to check it out. All my trips are business related and the events are held downtown, so I don’t ever rent a car. This was an opportunity for ticking it off the list finally.

We haven’t done much while in Vegas (not that we have planned to). I brought my girls for a walk along the strip in the evening, so they can experience it when it all lights up. Between the skimpily dressed girls inviting guys to strip clubs, people pestering you with business cards offering similar services, the ever present stench of pot and rather interesting crowds that the city attracts I really don’t think Las Vegas is as family friendly as the advertisements try to sell it. Neither my wife nor daughter were really appreciative of any of that. I wasn’t either, but I guess I was used to it after years of visiting. I regretted for dragging them into this though. On a positive side, that one is off the list now as well. Enough on the Vegas subject. Tomorrow’s another day of adventure!

Charging stops:

  • Departure: 215 miles of range (rated)
  • Beatty, NV (98 miles left; avg 273 Wh/mi; charged to 196 miles)
  • Las Vegas, NV (56 miles left; avg 298 Wh/mi; charged to 230 miles)