The death of MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe?)

If you have owned a Tesla Model S or X for a while, you have probably heard about the dreaded issue of the MCU failure that is bound to happen after a certain number of write cycles committed to the on-board eMMC module. Typically, this affects older vehicles or ones with high mileage on them. I was surprised then that my car was starting to exhibit the symptoms that eventually led to complete MCU (main computer unit) failure. It was only 2+ years old and I barely crossed the 50,000 miles mark few months earlier.

It started with me not being able to connect to the vehicle using the mobile app. I contacted Tesla’s support online and we performed all the steps suggested by the associate, to no avail. The steps included:

  • complete restart of the MCU (with the brake pedal pressed),
  • powering off the vehicle and leaving it off for few minutes,
  • reinstalling Tesla app on the phone,
  • un-pairing the phone from the car and re-pairing it,
  • trying to install the app on the other phone.

None of the above fixed the issue, but I was not too concerned. I had an upcoming appointment with the Tesla Service Center for some unrelated concerns, so I just added this issue to the list of things to be addressed (this was also concluded and suggested by the online support).

As the date of my appointment was drawing near, I hadn’t observed any major issues with the MCU, other than the fact that it stopped displaying cover images for the music on my USB stick. Ironically, on the day of my appointment, the main screen went completely blank and the car took a minute to power on when I was leaving for work in the morning. The screen stayed blank though (yes, I tried to reboot it again, in case one wonders). The IC (instrument cluster) was working, so at least I had some visibility into the vehicle’s status. The A/C was running as well, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. For now.
Unfortunately, it was one of those rare days in Texas where the weather was very humid, misty and it started to drizzle. There was still fog on the ground when I was leaving and my windows were starting to fog up as well. Without access to advanced climate controls (which includes the sunroof – you are unable to control it with the scroll wheel when MCU is down!) it was quickly getting worse, so much so that I decided to get back home and drive to work using my wife’s car instead. My appointment with Service Center was not until later in the afternoon, so I knew the weather should clear up by then and I would be able to get there even if A/C would fail completely. In the worst case I could still roll the windows down :).

Not being able to control the sunroof or temperature settings using the scroll wheel was probably the biggest surprise, but here are some other things that I discovered:

  • no sound – not just the music playback, but no feedback from turn,
  • indicators, navigation or proximity sensors around the car when parking,
  • the energy efficiency information was not updating (the chart was gone, too),
  • the odometer stopped refreshing the mileage while driving,
  • TPMS information was not available,
  • the outside temperature was not showing either.

Overall, the MCU plays a more vital role than many realize. It is not just the entertainment console, but it controls many of the vehicle features. Luckily, I have purchased the Extended Service Agreement, so the parts have been replaced free of charge (minus the standard $200 deductible for each service visit while under ESA), but I was still baffled as to why it failed at the first place. The only reasonable explanation I could come out with is that my original MCU was already replaced once as a goodwill gesture due to screen discoloration. That was before the UV treatment was available. It must have been a refurbished unit (so was the one I received this time).

It is worth mentioning that if this happens under warranty, Tesla will replace the MCU for free and the replacement comes with 4-year warranty. If you are out of warranty, this can be an expensive proposition.

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!

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 – 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!

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

The Epilogue…