An “insane” day

One of the benefits of owning an EV is an absence of the regular maintenance (such as oil  changes). I haven’t had a need to bring my car for a service since I bought it. My tires, though, were overdue for rotation. Having a list of small issues to be addressed that I accumulated since the purchase (mostly minor inconveniences), I decided to make my first appointment at the Tesla Service Center nearby. One of the items on the list required an overnight stay (a missing part), so I was greeted with another Model S as a loaner vehicle:

P85D

Yup. A nicely equipped pre-facelift P85D, featuring dual motor and Insane performance mode. I was quietly hoping to put my hands on Model X (so I could compare the features/functionality to Model S), but I won’t complain in this case!

I’ll jump to the “insanity” part in a bit, but first a brief comparison to the “base” model 75:

Model S 75 Model S P85D
Drive Single motor, RWD Dual motor, AWD
Battery capacity 75 kWh 85 kWh
Horsepower 382* 691 combined (470 rear + 221 front)
Acceleration (0-60 mph) 5.2s* 3.2s
Autopilot hardware 2.0 1.0

* – Model S75 built prior to June 2017, when Tesla introduced a more powerful motor. Newer cars are faster from 0-60 by almost a full second (4.3s).

Among other differences between the two, P85D comes with air suspension, next gen seats and Bi-Xenon headlights.

As far as ride quality/comfort, my non-scientific and time-limited test would conclude that air suspension has a slight advantage over coils (that my car is equipped with). It feels like vibrations from the road are dampened a bit better, but it might as well be the difference in tire type and pressure. I find the level of comfort on standard coils as adequate, but that’s just me.
The cool thing about the air suspension though is that you can adjust the ride height to accommodate things like speed bumps or steep driveways. The latter scenario paired with geofencing helps to remember commonly visited locations (such as your house) – the car will automatically adjust the suspension to previous setting.

air_suspension

The next gen seats on the P85D felt definitely less comfortable than the premium seats on mine. It almost felt like there was not enough padding on bottom and back of the seat, making the ride somewhat a pain (literally). Again, this is just my take on it. Everyone’s body is different. I am also missing the adjustable headrest, but that’s just being picky.

Xenon headlights have a nice, even spread/cut off of the light beam, but the newer LED headlights are definitely brighter.

Other than these, the cars offer very similar experience when it comes to comfort and functionality.

So, now that the boring stuff is out of the way, how about that insane mode?

insane

Does it live up to the name? You betcha. My S75 has already plenty of oomph to push you back into the seat, but this… it takes it to another level! While in the driver’s seat you are prepared for what’s coming when you floor it, but there’s no way the passengers can anticipate the instant G-force and rapid acceleration that’s about to ensue. Paired up with the excellent traction control and all-wheel drive the car feels solidly planted and quickly corrects its path should you go over slippery spot on the road. The best part, you have access to this power at any speed. Just press and go! The best compliment to conclude it with is the constant sound of “wow!” and “holy s…!” coming from the mouths of the other occupants. In my case, they all were accustomed to quick and powerful ICE cars (either because they own one or are long-term gear heads), but yet the experience left them stunned. That says a lot.

After such an exhilarating and exhausting drive it’s hard to get back to reality. The graph displaying energy consumption and projected range serves as a gentle reminder that we are still Earth-bound:

insane_range

The particular P85D I had a pleasure to spend some time with was showing 491 Wh/mi average lifetime consumption (my car displays 281 Wh/mi in comparison). It shows that people take advantage of what the car has to offer. A lot. I know exactly what you’re trying to do there, Tesla. Sneaky!

So, would I buy a performance version of Model S? The current equivalent to P85D is P100D (85 kWh battery option has been discontinued) and it costs almost double of what similarly equipped 75D. There’s no practical reason to do so, nor a way to justify it. For all intents and purposes my S75 does just fine, it brings a grin to my face every time I hop in. There’s no price tag though on the sheer pleasure one gets from an insane acceleration and the heart-pumping driving experience it provides. If I ever win a lottery or find another unlimited supply of money, I would not hesitate a bit to get one. That would be ludicrous, I know.

* * *

Coming to a stop at the traffic light I can hear and see a lifted RAM pickup, growling and shaking with anger. Green. A decisive press on the accelerator pedal and all I can see is the surprised and confused face of the other driver in my rear view mirror. He was probably expecting me right next to him while I was already ahead, driving away at the speed limit. It never gets old.

 

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An inspiring story

A post on TMC forum by Alan Miller on behalf of his friend Matthew Chan, who has been diagnosed with advanced stage of cancer is both touching and inspiring. Matt, 39, is an EV nut (as his friend calls him) and a Tesla fan (he owns two). One of the items on his bucket list is to be able to meet either J.B. Straubel (a co-founder and CTO of Tesla) or Franz von Holzhausen (a man behind the beautiful design of these cars). Their success story must be very inspiring to Matthew’s inner geekiness.

Alan has reached out to community to see if anyone can help to fulfill the dream of a dying man. It didn’t take long for things to be put in motion and the meeting has been arranged, thanks to the efforts of forum members and Tesla employees, including Jon McNeill (Tesla President of Sales and Service). Kudos to Alan for being such a true friend!

It reminds me of another story posted not so long ago about a wish of a dying man to put his hands on Model 3 before his time comes. A wish that has been fulfilled, too.

It’s the stories like this that help to restore the faith in humanity. They encourage us to do more good and be kind to one another. They also put things back in the perspective whenever we are caught up in complaining how miserable we are.

 

Tesla Autopilot – A Cautionary Tale

I have covered the Autopilot in detail before. While it works great on divided highways and in stop-and-go traffic, I’ve seen many attempts to use it in situations that the system has not been designed for, such as narrow and windy roads and two-lane highways. While the passing scenery might be serene and provide the driver with a blissful feeling, it should not be confused with what the system is capable of in its current form.

Before enabling the driver assist features in Tesla vehicle, the driver has to acknowledge the following:

Autopilot_disclaimer

Regardless, many people ignore it and push their luck instead. To make it worse, many Tesla owners will publish their accomplishments online for everyone to see, without providing a word of caution. This provides the audience with a false sense of security and trust that the system is flawless and can handle even the most challenging scenarios. Not quite, as proven as this tragic accident in 2016.

I guess every driver has their favorite road, one that helps them to relax and offers a joyful experience. I am no different and occasionally enjoy to take my cars on such a route where I can be by myself, absorbing what landscape has to offer and forgetting about daily issues, if only for a while. The route I am so familiar with (every car I have ever owned had a pleasure to travel on it) that it almost feels like I could drive there with closed eyes. Engaging the Autopilot surely sounds like a tempting idea in such a situation. Should you then?

Here is a video that should help to answer this. It covers about 30 miles of curvy 2-lane highways and farm-to-market roads. Exactly the type of roads Tesla is cautioning the drivers against. While the car was able to handle most of the journey just fine, there were a handful of situations that could lead to a dangerous incident if the driver was not alert and prepared to overtake immediately. It is lengthy but I encourage everyone to spend some time watching it as it demonstrates how quickly a peaceful drive can turn into a disaster with dire consequences. Don’t use the Autopilot against what it was intended for! Be responsible and stay safe!

Poland is jumping on the EV bandwagon as well

PolandDespite being one of the largest countries in Europe and with the economy that managed to escape recent financial turmoils relatively unscathed, Poland is lagging behind when it comes to electric vehicles or curbing pollution.

Early in 2017, the government has laid down the plans to change it. Named Electromobility Development Plan. Part of the plan assumes that by 2025 there will be 1 million electric vehicles on the roads (today there’s approximately 26,5 million cars registered), which should help to eliminate at least some of the smog in the busy cities.

The other incentives will include:

  • No excise duties for EVs and no property tax for the households equipped with a charging station,
  • supporting and building charging infrastructure (something that is terribly lacking today, there were only few hundreds of those by end of 2016 in the whole country),
  • replacing the gas-guzzling buses with electric ones,
  • establishment of Zero Emission zones.

Some developments are already on the way. ElectroMobility Poland is supporting an initiative to design an in-house EV (some of the winning concepts are shown here). Some of the cities are working on electrifying their bus fleet. Polish manufacturer Solaris already has an electric bus in their offering.

It is all for a good cause. I think the next logical step would be to focus on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, as majority of country’s electricity comes from burning coal.

It’s never too late and this is definitely a step in the right direction!

Tesla adds a trip planner to their website

Similarly to a trip planner in the car, Tesla has introduced a new feature on their website now, called Go Anywhere.

Tesla_trips_sample_route

A bit of fiddling around and I found several differences right away:

  • When selecting the model of the vehicle, only the current production lineup is available. For example, you can only select S 75D (with dual motor), since the RWD model S is no longer available. Similarly, you can’t select a Roadster or any of the previous battery pack capacities (60, 70, 85 or 90).
  • It assumes 100% initial state of charge and it doesn’t show the remaining capacity when arriving at the supercharger (only an estimate on how long it will take before you can get going).
  • You can click on the Supercharger icon to find more information about it, but it doesn’t display the current status (available or how many stalls are in use).
  • It does not have an option for a round trip.
  • It also doesn’t seem to account for elevation changes, wind etc.

The website has its quirks, too. As cleverly spotted by one of the TMC forum members (BerTX), it does some funky stuff when calculating the route where there’s no adequate Supercharger coverage along the way:

Tesla_trips_quirky

It would make for a heck of a road trip if one would follow that suggestion!

As far as I can tell, there’s one new feature that Tesla vehicles are lacking – you can add stops to your itinerary:

Tesla_trips_add_stop

Way points have been requested by Tesla owners for a long time now, hopefully this is a sign that it will be introduced in the cars as well.

An introduction of the trip planning tool coincides with a recent tweet from Musk about the revamped navigation system coming our way and I am starting to wonder if this is just a teaser of what’s coming. Wouldn’t it be great if we could plan the whole trip on the computer or phone and download it to the car using the Tesla app? I guess time will tell if there are more works on the way. There are some reports already about updated maps being pushed to the fleet, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long!

As it is, the tool seems to be targeting potential buyers more than the existing owners, so they can try and see where the car of their choice could bring them.

First World problem solved – enter automatic windshield wipers in Tesla!

As reported in this thread on TMC (Tesla Motors Club) forum, there is a new update being pushed to the fleet that enables automatic wipers on Tesla Models S and X with Autopilot hardware 2.x. Cars with AP 1.0 already had that feature (using rain sensor, just like many other higher-end cars). The difference is that the newer Tesla cars don’t have a dedicated sensor anymore. Instead, the car was supposed to use some of the cameras that the car is equipped with. The feature has been long promised by the automaker. So much so that it has became a number two complain on the list by the unsatisfied Tesla owners feeling cheated and lied to by this omission. Number one would have to be the promise of Autopilot and Full Self Driving (FSD) capabilities, but I guess it depends on whom you ask in particular. I know, First World Problems from the people that already own and drive the best car on the planet ;).

I think there were numerous valid reasons for the delay. Not an insignificant one being the parting of the ways between Tesla and Mobileye, the latter of which was responsible for most of the developments around autonomous driving until then. Assembling a new team and starting to develop your own know-how in a discipline which is not exactly as old as bread baking takes time. Creating the software algorithms that would allow for the cameras to detect precipitation without interfering with the rest of the functionality designed around EAP/FSD poses a great challenge and most likely was not on a priority list, either.

The feature is available in software release 2017.50.3 as a beta. As far as I know, it is also the industry-first implementation that uses cameras and neural network bits instead of traditional sensors. There’s a number of companies holding patents or having technology around vision-based rain sensing, but seems that Tesla is the first to actually implement it!

How does it work? Is it better than the systems in other cars currently on the market? Is it capable to replace human intervention with manual adjustments of sensitivity/speed? I will be happy to report as soon as my car gets the update!