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Sunday, September 17, 2023

Trying to Buy an EV Nearly Cost Me My Sanity

Previously, we've discussed a friend and his nostalgia for the Saturn brand. Now, he shopping for an EV; with Saturn long gone, what brand and model will he choose.

This has been a multi-year journey and it's not over yet. It's fair to say that the process is not going well. I sat down with him for an interview to share that story here, with you.

Solar Is Free EV 'Fuel'

CarsWithCords (CWC):
I understand that you're interested in buying an EV. Why?

Saturn Fan EV Shopper (SFES):
I have a big huge solar array on top of my house and I might as well have free "gas" because of it and I think we all need to be more responsible in terms of our carbon usage. It's becoming alarmingly clear if you've watched the weather at all, that Mother Nature is telling us that we have done bad.

Additionally, one of my side hobbies is carbon capture technologies. I like to play with algae and I've worked with state senators and state representatives trying to get legislation about carbon capture and carbon capture technology. So I really feel like I need to walk the walk here and an electric car is critical to getting less carbon into our atmosphere and I didn't realize when I started on that journey, how just weird and hard it was going to be. 

I knew the pandemic was gonna throw curveballs, but there were some decisions from automakers that just made me scratch my head. It really made me doubt my own sanity at times, which is not something that I thought was gonna happen, you know, while buying a car.

EVs Are Going Mainstream

What was the process you used to decide which EV was right for you?

So the good news is more and more EV options from the long-term brands.

I had been a long-time Saturn owner and that company folded, horrifically folded, as GM started to implode at one point. That left me at a point where I literally couldn't get my car repaired.

Rivian, Tesla, and some of the other start-ups are immediately off of the table because I didn't want to have to relive that tragedy. Also, I wanted a car, not a political statement, so that knocked out what I would call "vanity" brands. 

I wanted a car from an established brand. I wanted a car from the likes of Ford, VW, or Honda; these companies are older than I am and the probability of them surviving is much higher than a vanity brand or start-up; where, yeah, sure the CEO is completely invested now until he buys a new shiny thing and wants to call it X or something and I'm just making that part up.

That could never happen.

It may end up causing a massive distraction for the brand, for the support of the brand. So I just wanted to have, for lack of a better word, a mainstream provider. And so when I was EV shopping, I went to the Portland Auto Show. This was in February of 2021.

I Want A Car, Not A Starship

I tried out every EV they had there and, for me, they fell into two general categories.

Category One: they are trying to be Star Trek, where it was super high-tech and digital everything. And, you know, just weird glass cockpits that didn't make any sense or they were just very thinly reskinned and cludgy.

This is funny/ironic because I'm a huge Star Trek nerd. So that's how I like sci-fi, but that's not how I like my cars.

The second category was what I'd call normal cars. The Ford Mustang Mach-E was in this second category. Yes, it had the big screen, but it still had buttons and knobs in a familiar layout. 

The VW ID.4 was also in the second category.

There were a lot of cars, like some from Subaru and Nissan, that were there at the show but they were locked. What's on the inside? "You're gonna have to trust us."

I'm there to car shop. The car is there and I can't even sit in it. That didn't endear these brands to me.  

Dieselgate Is The Past, EVs Are The Future

I tried out the Volkswagen ID.4. I know some of your readers shaking their fists at me, "Volkswagen! They're the diesel-gate B*#%@#$."

Yeah, they're the diesel-gate B*#%@#$, but this is an EV. Yes, they cheated on diesel emissions. I felt like they had learned their lesson and an electric car is not a diesel. I didn't want to punish the EV for the sins of the diesel. But I went in very cognizant of sometimes, you know, we take imperfect choices because there are no perfect ones.

This was 2021, during the pandemic, and the car show was really weird. You had to have proof of vaccination. You had to wear a mask. They let in a very limited number of people at a time, so it was a pretty low-key show. One of the events was a "test ride." Sadly, they didn't let you behind the wheel, you were just a passenger and one of the sales droids drove you around a portion of the conference floor.

Even though I didn't get to drive, I thought that was really cool. I mean, you're actually on the event floor and they're actually driving it around. I was like, yeah, we can do that.

Right, that's pretty cool. Driving around indoors. You can't do that in a gas car.

EVs, yeah, no tailpipe, no tailpipe emissions.

Sitting in it, the ID.4 felt good. It was the size that I wanted my knees don't work as well as they used to, so I need something that has a little higher sit-point. It had a giant glass sunroof that I really liked. Even with the giant sunroof, they didn't change the location of the roof line, which I thought was really nice. It felt really well put together. That was attractive to me, getting in and out was easy, and it had the range I wanted.

We inherited a Nissan LEAF when my mother-in-law passed away. I drove the LEAF for a little while. It was used when she bought it so we were the third owners and the range was so degraded by the time that it came to us, it was unusable for our needs.

Based on that LEAF experience, I wanted something that had north of 200 miles of range and the the battery pack that was offered with the ID.4 at that time was like 240-260 or something like that. This would be plenty of range for our needs, even in winter with the heater on max or in the summer with the AC on high.

So I was really happy with the ID.4. It had the right feel, features, and range; so I went home expecting an ID.4 to soon be gracing my garage.

I talked it over with my wife. She agreed. Looking at the options online, they even had the color that I wanted. I've always loved blue cars and they offered it in blue. It came with a white weird kind of fake material trim, but I was like, OK, let's do this.

You had to pre-order it effectively to get a reservation. So I went to their website, filled out all the paperwork, designed my car in their configurator, and submitted it, including, you know, putting down some ducats. That got me into the queue. This was all in February 2021.

Sounds good so far. You found a car that you like and you've got the process going. I'm interested when the questioning of your sanity part comes into play.

Oh, it's coming.

The Frayed Ends of Sanity

When reserving the car, you had to pick a dealer that you wanted to work with. One of my current cars is a Mazda from a local dealership and they've treated me pretty well. They have a Volkswagen arm of their same dealership. They've been good enough to earn my business.

So I called them up to find out where to from here. They said they had completely misjudged the market acceptance of the ID.4 and there were 400 people waiting in the queue for an ID.4 at this one dealership alone.

400, wow!

He said, "I hope you've got patience." I was like, you know, I've got perfectly working cars right now, so I'm willing to be patient.

So he said, I'll get you an update in October. I was like, OK, you know, it's February and I'll get an update (not a car) in October.

October comes and my estimated delivery date is set to February 2022. One year after my order was placed. This was when the supply chain in 2021 really started drying up. There was apparently an automotive silicon factory that also had caught fire or had other disasters. There was automotive grade silicon worldwide constraint. That's not going to help. The dealership tells me that all the dealerships now have to compete for the limited stock so February is an estimate.

OK, I can be patient. I'll be patient. Just keep going. Keep going.

EV Racing With My Dad

In late 2021, my dad started looking for his next car. He was thinking he should go green as well. Looking into the EVs that are available, he found the Mercedes EQE.

After reading all the specs and a test drive, he says, "Yeah, I'll take one of those." So in January of 2022, he gets on the reservation list. Now, he and I are having a race. Who will get their EV first? And I'm like, "Dude, I'm totally gonna take you down. I've already got 10 months in the queue." 

His response was a simple, "We'll see. We'll see."

My trash-talkin' are words I'd be eating later.

The Waiting Game

And so I keep waiting and waiting.

Then I got a call from the dealership. I thought maybe the car was here. It wasn't. They're like, you know, this car is popular and in short supply because of the chip shortage. So the Feb 2022 estimate date became a March date and the March date became an October date. October came and went with no car. I would call periodically to let them know I was still waiting and interested. My estimated delivery was August of 2023.

The Ship Sank!

The dealership called me in July of 2023 to let me know that they had a large allocation, including some that matched my configuration, on a ship that was coming and my August 2023 delivery date looks good. Yes! It could finally happen.

Before July concluded, my hopes were scuddled. The car cargo transport carrying thousands of cars, including one that might've been mine, caught fire and sank in the North Sea. The ship had several month's worth of ID.4 production in it. This made the worldwide shortage of ID.4s radically worse.

The Blue Blues

In August of this year, my patience was wearing thin so I called up the dealership, "Bro, what's going on here, man? We seem to be perpetually delayed? What's the new estimate?"

He said that they were reordering their allocation for the sunk cars and there was a problem. He said, "Well, the interior that you wanted, the interior fabric supplier is no longer supplying that color."

And I'm like, "OK, so put a different color fabric in it." The interior of the car was not a big factor for me. It wasn't some great thing; the materials, the color, it was kind of just good enough.  

They said, "Well, that's not how it works. Volkswagen is discontinuing the blue exterior color because it was paired with this interior color that's no longer available."

That makes no sense to me. Get it from another supplier, put in a black interior, a white interior, or a tan interior. Any of these would work with a blue exterior. And I'm now you can see where the last strands of my sanity starting to evaporate.

They tell me I can have it in silver or gray, or any of the dullest possible imaginable colors. I just wanted blue. If I'm spending all this money on a new car, I should be able to get it in the color I like. I wasn't asking for some rare sapphire-encrusted exterior. I just wanted a normal blue, like I'd ordered. How hard is it to have a blue car?

And it was a little bit like the reverse of the old Henry Ford line of you can have it any color you want, as long as it's black. But for me it was, I could have it in any color I wanted as long as it wasn't blue.

At this point, I'm in the official VW queue and they've long ago locked in my $100 non-refundable deposit and that money is not coming back. 

Jaded By Harsh Reality

I ordered this car two and a half years ago and I still have no car. The fates seem to be plotting against me. The optimist man who thought an EV would be in his garage soon has been replaced by a cynic. I'm pulling the plug on my ID.4 dream. 

I called the dealership and said, "I'm done, you guys. I don't feel like you want my business bad enough. You're not giving me any options. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect delivery in less than 2 years." I know the dealership is only able to offer what VW makes, so my real issue is with VW corporate, not my local dealership; but in the end what matters is whether can I get what I ordered, and in this case, the answer was 'no.'

I mean, how hard is it to use a different interior with the blue exterior. The fact that they were inflexible in this regard made me worried for them as a brand. 

I officially canceled my reservation.

Dad For The Win

I'll call up my dad ready to eat crow and I say, "OK, I'm going back to square one. You're probably gonna win."

He says, "I'm totally gonna win. My car is scheduled to be manufactured this month (August) with delivery in September."

So my dad actually picked his car up last week (early September), so he's got the EQE now and he's starting to learn how to drive it.

He very much so won. He has his car right now, and I don't even have one ordered.

My dad is 79 years old. So you're never too old to get an EV. I never expected this. He's been a total gearhead for his entire life. He enjoys turning a wrench and he has rebuilt and customized multiple cars over his lifetime. I honestly didn't think I'd ever see him in an EV because he has gasoline in his blood. It's just easy for him to see EVs are the path forward. They're the way to keep us independent from oil.

There's been a little bit of a learning curve for him. At 79 things are a little bit harder, but he says the most surprising thing so far has been it goes from zero to "oh, God, how fast am I going?" way too fast for his 79-year-old reaction times. But new cars like his also have all of these new modern safety features like collision avoidance, lane keeping, self-park, and other features. It will be really, really exciting to see how these features mature.

Good for him, at least one of us got an electric car.

Single & Searching 

I'm back to single but searching and I'd put my car status as "complicated." There are still lots of opportunities and there are more and more brands building more and more options, which is exciting. The supply chain issues seem to be mostly resolved, so there's hope. 

But I've had some job variability recently and that made me wanna sit on the sideline financially for a little bit. I want to avoid any large purchases right now. My big problem with EVs right now is that the ones with a practical size and range for my needs are fifty to sixty grand, which is quite a bit of an investment. This is slowly changing, but not as fast as I'd like. 

New models are coming out, existing models are getting updated, and I'm back in the market. I'm really hoping I won't be featured on your blog again as that guy who failed at buying an EV part 2.

It Just Hangs There Mocking Me

One of the annoying parts for me is when they said "Your car will be here soon," I had a residential hard-wired Level 2 charging connector installed in my garage. It's been installed since February and it has had *zero* car charging sessions. 

It's kind of an albatross on my wall saying you spent a lot of money (for nothing - so far). I had to wire her off a separate circuit and do a whole bunch of other stuff to make it work, so it was a pretty penny. I'd like to think it's more Volkswagen's failure than mine, but there's a certain level of spiritual depantsing every time I look at it; oh damn it, why do I not have my electric car.

The good news was I was able to advise my dad when he got his charging connector. And this is maybe a little bit of a heads-up for some of your readers, Dad lives in a house that was built in 1976. It's electrical panel is actually classified as a fire hazard and if anybody with an electrical license interacts with it they have to flag it and tell the state and you have to get it updated. So he called the electrician that installed mine, when they showed up to do the consult they're like whoa boyyo this is gonna cost you. They have to completely replace the panel, they have to completely replace the electrical runs to the meter and the meter as well. They were all out of spec. That's a lot of rewiring, which was an expense that he hadn't expected when pricing the car. The upgrades involve a lot of permitting and working with the local utility for the meters. The county and utilities are not always as timely as you'd like them to be. 

It sounds like he's getting rid of a potential fire hazard, which is a good thing.

Yeah, it was pretty funny because my dad is an electrical and mechanical engineer. He said, "If I'd known that was that much of a problem, I'd have done something about it sooner."

I told him, "You know, I known someplace with a brand new charger that's never been used. If you let me borrow the car for a day or 2, I'll bring it back with a full charge." This little joke reminded me of my high school days, "Dad, can I borrow the car?" 

With Dad replying, "Sure, but you know the rule, bring it home with a full tank." But seriously, he doesn't live far from me and he is welcome to stop by anytime and charge up if he needs it. It would make me feel like I've actually done good with my investment.

Ironically, I installed my charging connector too soon. My dad didn't start the process until after he picked up his car and it's going to be at least 3 months before he has his service upgraded and can level 2 charging in his garage. Until then he can trickle charge on level 1, charge at my place, and use the local DC fast chargers. So he has options. 

So a word to the wise, if you have an older house, maybe the first step that you do is an inspection and estimate for a Level 2 connector installation in your garage because that might end up being the long pole.

I'm Not Giving Up

So what are your EV plans now? 

Yeah, I think I'll rerun the same plan from 2021 again. The Portland Auto Show is coming in a few months. I'll head there and kick all the tires and sit in the seats and everything; go on any EV ride and drive events. There's only so much you can learn about a car online. For me, I have to see it, touch it, and sit in it to really know if it's the right car for me.

And I've been considering opening up my strike zone a little bit. The Bolt EV is a really cute car. I had dismissed it in the past because I blamed GM for killing Saturn, but as I said, there are no perfect choices. So this one may be in the running. I like that it's smaller. They've had some issues though, uh, like where they said, you know, don't park it inside. I'm going to make sure all of those issues have been resolved. 

I like the Nissan Ariya too. The outside is kind of sleek and elegant. The inside has some really kind of weird quirks, so I'm hoping that the next model year will maybe straighten out a couple of those.

The Subaru I only got to see from the outside of the car show I had a Subaru previously. Maybe I'll actually get to sit in one this time. The cockpit layout that they had in the diagram at the car show seemed like they were going the Star Trek route, so I'll have to try it out.

I was looking at the Audi Electric SUV and that was I was really close to pulling the trigger on that one. It's a nice car. It ticked all the boxes. It wasn't a Star Trek car. It was a little bit heavier than I wanted and it was a lot more expensive than I wanted, but I was Jonesing for an EV so bad I was willing to be a little bit stupid. But then when I got that little bit of variability in my life, I was like, nope, nope. This is not the time to financially stretch. No room for stupid right now. I'll put them all back in the hopper again and just kind of walk around the car show and see what I can get.

I don't think I'll have much of an ability to be patient this time. A few months is okay, but if they want to put me on a list for a year plus again, I might have to choke somebody out.

Whoa, I see the ID.4 experience has left a bad taste in your mouth.

You know, I see ID.4s around all the time and I'm like ohh that could have been mine. I still like the look, I still like the shape. When I see a blue one I'm like hmm, what's the punishment for Grand Theft Auto these days? LOL. 

EV sales are increasing, every year there are more models. There will be a lot of opportunities for me to become an EV owner. It'll be exciting to watch this transition unfold. I'm not going to wait for the next battery technology breakthrough. I'm in the market now. You see headlines every week about solid-state batteries or aluminum batteries or some other thing that's coming down the Pike like a thousand-mile battery. I've been promised jetpacks long enough that I'm you know I'm not gonna hold my breath. I've worked in technology for a long time and I know that it's a lot easier to write press releases than it is to make products in high volume. Being able to make one cell in a lab is far from being able to mass produce something with 5-nines of yield. I definitely don't want perfect to be the enemy of progress here, so I'll get something in my garage and on that charger before the end of 2024. Maybe it'll be something that you haven't had a road test on and I can let you kick the tires on it and write up a happy ending as the next part in this saga. 

Yeah, that'd be fun.


A lot of EV manufacturers have announced that they're going to be switching from the J1772 port to the North American Charge Standard (NACS) port in 2025. Are you worried that you'll be buying in a 'lame duck' year? 

Much like waiting for battery advancements, I don't think it's right to wait for things like this either. There will be adapters, NACS to J1772, NACS to CCS. There are too many CCS/J1772 cars on the road today for support to disappear. There might even be a conversion kit to swap the actual port at some time.

You've got to have some sort of backward compatibility and a migration strategy that doesn't alienate your earliest and most fervent supporters. I work professionally on a technology that is still going strong 40 years on. The original packets still work with today's networks even though the speeds are orders of magnitude faster. Hopefully, they've got that same kind of attitude to have a smart strategy that makes it easy to convert. If this a Betamax versus VHS challenge, uh, you know, they're gonna alienate a lot of people.

I think you have the right attitude there. The perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good. Automakers have to have a plan to not abandon people in some legacy technology. There will certainly be adapters and I like your idea of conversion kits for an easy upgrade path.

Well, so when you actually do go to the car show, we'll have to do this again.

Yeah. You should come with me! It was fun the year we went with a couple of our other buds. 

Yes, that was a fun time.

You can live-blog of the Portland Auto Show. Come on readers, leave a comment telling Pat he should go!

I bring a notebook and take notes on each car I check out, because, as Adam Savage says, "Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down." You can use my notes as field research. 

The notes really help me compare after the fact. I think I get better results this way than real-time and memory. 

I really like having all the cars under one roof. I don't have to go from dealership to dealership. The Auto Show is a bit of a long day, but it saves a lot of time overall. I'll wear a mask, socially distance where I can, bring hand sanitizer etc. It's a public event, COVID and other nasties are still out there.

With the Nissan Ariya that I looked at it online. I didn't really like it, but I know seeing it personally can be a very different experience than a photo can convey. Then when I finally did see one IRL, it was a much nicer car than the photos convied. You just don't get a good sense of scale with photographs. And no photo can tell you how putting your actual cheeks in the seat will feel. Only sitting there can tell you whether or not it's wide enough or not for your caboose.

Exactly, butts in seats is a tried and true method. 

Speaking of butts in seats, I do want to put in a plug for National Drive Electric Week. There are events all around the world. You can find one near you by checking driveelectricweek.org 

The Oregon Electric Vehicle Association is hosting on October 8th with a ride & drive and a lot of different EVs to try out. You can take to actual owners rather than sales guys (although some of them may be there too): 

OEVA’s NDEW Event Ride & Drive Info Expo 
October 8th, 10am-4pm
4330 S Macadam Ave, Portland, OR (Tesla Sales & Service Center)
w/ generous support from Portland General Electric (PGE)
Many local dealers to provide EV ride & drives, 26 different vehicles, 13 Brands

There are a lot of events coming up in late September and early October. So you might be able cheek out some cars and it would be even cheaper than the car show and sooner.

That's a great idea.

It's important to have a community because when you're switching from horse-drawn buggies to motor-powered, it's nice to have somebody who's kind of been on the journey and can talk you through some of the things. I've learned quite a bit from you and your blog on my journey. Switching technologies like this, what charger to get and some other things, having somebody who's been there, done that, it definitely makes it a lot easier to make the move with confidence.

That sounds like a nice wrap-up point. Any final words you want to add?

San Dimas High School Football Rules!

Just kidding.

Ha ha.

Thanks a lot for your time and I will definitely swing by and try your charge connector so it doesn't get lonely.

Next, next time you're playing pickleball and your battery is low, just text me and swing by. Free juice for you and your car.


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Tesla Model 3 New Battery

Like thousands of other excited, soon to be Tesla owners, I stood in line to reserve a Model 3 on March 31, 2016. This was a game-changing car. Tesla was moving from the high-end luxury market, towards more affordable EVs.    

Two year later, our pick-up date finally arrived. The initial deliveries were rear-wheel-drive vehicles. We ordered the all-wheel-drive, so we were far from the front of the delivery queue. On August 21st of 2018, we were handed the key cards and drove off in our new Tesla Model 3. 

Model 3 Delivery Day 2018

Five years and 24 thousand miles later, we still love this car. The white seats have held up well even through car seats, kids, and dogs. Other than a couple of filter changes after the wildfire summers, we haven't done much maintenance until this month.

The app recently popped up a message that we needed to schedule service. Going to the car, I found this waiting for me on the touchscreen. 

The Learn More provided the following: 

VCFRONT_a402 Error Tesla

VCFront_a402 error message: Our 12V battery was dying. A couple clicks in the app and service was scheduled. It would be mobile service and it was about a week out. Luckily, I work from home and this is not our only car, so we didn't need a loaner. 

Mobile service is great! Instead of taking time out of my day, driving to service, waiting around... I get to remain in the comfort of my home, the service technician comes to me.

The estimate was $110 ($85 parts, $25 labor); I approved this in the app. Our service day arrived. A message in the app let me know they had arrived. Earlier that day, we moved the car from the garage to the driveway for easy access. I saw the driver's door and the frunk pop open in the app. 20 or 30 minutes later, another message informed me that they were done.

I went out said thanks and good-bye. I checked that the error message had been cleared and moved the car back into the garage.

Why Does An EV Have A "Starter" Battery? 

The 12V system runs the accessories and safety systems. EVs generally have a DC-to-DC converter that allows the high voltage of the traction pack to be stepped down to allow the traction pack power to be used to run the 12V system and charge the 12V batter when needed. However, during a severe crash, Tesla vehicles (and most other EVs) uses a pyrotechnical safety switch system to disconnect the high voltage pack. This system uses miniature explosive charges to blow apart the connection between the traction pack and the rest of the vehicle. This reduces the risk of electric shock or fire during a crash.

Safety first, we certainly want to avoid fires, but after a crash, you may still want to do something like open your electronically locked door or roll down your electrically powered windows to get out of the car. To do this, if the traction pack is isolated, you'll need that accessories battery.

If the 12V battery is damaged or disconnected during the crash too, you're not stranded in the vehicle. There are mechanical overrides to open the doors. These are conveniently located located on the Model 3; a little to convenient in some cases where people new to the car pull this handle instead of pushing the open button.

Whenever you get into a car with electronically locked doors (most new vehicles nowadays), make sure you know where the mechanical overrides are located. This is not something you want to be frantically looking for after a crash. 

Why Not Upgrade To A Lithium Starter?

Lithium starter batteries are smaller and lighter than the current lead-acid standard. I'm sure these will become the standard soon (maybe as the industry transitions to 48V). 

In an EV, the "starter" battery does not have to turn the crank to start car, there's just a lot less stress on the battery. 

Today's cars were not designed for a lithium starter battery. This means that the battery storage area is not temperature managed. Lithium batteries are more temperature sensitive than lead-acid batteries. If you want it to work in summer heat and winter cold, I (for now) am going to stick with a lead-acid starter battery. 

Not all lithium-ion batteries are the same. Iron-based lithium batteries (LFP, LiFePO4 and the like) are more temp tolerant than the nickel-based chemistries are a much better choice for a starter battery that would not receive all of the comforts of a liquid cooling system.

Lithium starter batteries are coming, but I plan on waiting until the auto-OEMs have qualified them with hot weather, cold weather, and crash testing. But if you want to try it out, don't let me stop you from voiding your warranty. Just make sure it's the right voltage, amperage, physicals fits, and is well-secured.

Hays Energy Lithium Battery


This article contains affiliate links 
I am long Tesla 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Sometimes Y

Delivery Day at the Tesla Service Center

We just purchased a Tesla Model Y. After we've had some time with it, I'll post my thoughts on the vehicle and ownership experience; but for this post, I have two questions related to the battery: One, How big is the battery pack? Two, How far can I drive? Plus a little fun.

How Big Is The Battery Pack? 

I wanted to know "How big is the battery pack in a 2023 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD?"

Seems like a straight forward question, but getting the answer was much more difficult than I thought. 

Without dragging this out, here's the answer I landed on: 

The battery pack capacity in a 2023 Tesla Model Y LR AWD is 84.6 kWh.

If you want to know how I got to that answer, read on. 

Since the Model 3 was launched, Tesla no longer badges their vehicles with the battery capacity, so it's not just written on the back of the car.

As one does, first I googled for the answer and I found results all over the place. The only problem is none of them agreed and they seemed more like guesses than authoritative answers.

  • InsideEVs said it is "around 81 kWh."
  • The Car Guide online said it's 75 kWh. 
  • EV Database says it's 78.1 kWh. (very specific, but no source info)
Okay, the web does not know or, at least, does not agree, so let's go to the Monroney sticker. This label doesn't list the battery capacity, but it does say the efficiency is 28 kWh per 100 miles and the range is 330 miles. So with just a little math, that's: (28kWh * 330 miles)/100 miles = 92.4kWh. This is significantly more than the numbers above, so I was skeptical and wanted to double check it. 

The Monroney sticker also says Model Y has an efficiency of 122 MPGe. The math was a little more complicated and resulted in a ~91 kWh capacity size. That's 5 estimates, and none of them agree and the variance is pretty large. But the Monroney sticker is from the EPA; it must be more reliable than some google search. Right? Right? 

I found out that the range and the efficiency are calculated with different tests. So you cannot use those two in the same calculation. That means that my two 90-some kWh calculations are invalid. 

Strike one, the web. Strike two, Monroney. Time for a third (better?) source.

To certify a vehicle for sale in the US, the manufacturer has to submit the EPA test results along with information about the vehicle. These documents are public records, so I looked at the Model Y docs. 

Here are the relevant bits from the document: 

From 2023 Tesla Model Y AWD EPA Test results

First, I find it funny that EV information is lumped under the "Hybrid" category. I also want to point out that this test was done in September of 2022. The cover page says it's for the 2023 model year vehicle, while the comment in the snippet above says "2022 MY" Model Y. Tesla does not really use model years, so take this as you'd like.    

The Tesla submitted EPA document says the battery pack voltage is 360V and that the Energy Capacity is 235. Capacity of 235, but 235 what? There are no units listed. A little digging and I found that this is Amp-hours. Given these to values and we can finally derive the size (360V * 235 Ah = 84.6 kWh). This certainly seems like a better answer than any of the previous. If you know of a better source for pack size info, please let me know in the comments.

You can see the complete document here. Looking at it in more detail, it has several recharge sessions listed where more than 91kWh are used during charging. That does not mean that the battery capacity is that big, there are always some loses during charging for things like heat, thermal management, power electronics, controls...

One important note, assuming the 84.6 kWh is the right size, that does not mean that all of the battery capacity is available to the driver. Automakers often hold back a portion of the battery to improve longevity. 
Special thanks to domenick on TeslaMotorsClub for helping me find these resources. 

Model Y AWD LR Range  

My next question: What is the range of a 2023 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD?

The Monroney sticker says 330 miles, but there's a reason that we have the expression Your Mileage May Vary. I found a hypermiler who goes by the name madmanquadsix that was able to drive 356 miles on a single charge. I'm no hypermiler, EVs are sporty cars and driving 5 or 10 MPH under the speed limit (as hypermilers often do) is no fun (and can even be dangerous). So I have no expectation of meeting madman's results. 

As we saw in the capacity calculations above, the Monroney sticker led us to the incorrect conclusion that the vehicle had a battery pack of over 90kWh. So, let's assume it's wrong about the real-world range too. Using the pack size that we've determined (84.6kWh) and the 28 kWh per 100 miles yields a range of 302 miles. This seems a little more realistic and frankly is the range that should be posted on the Monroney label, IMHO. And note, if you were to drive that entire 100% to 0% drive, the car would be alerting and speed limiting during the final part of the drive, so that makes the usable portion more like 275 miles, unless you enjoy stress.

Even though I think the EPA stated range is too rosy (for all cars), it is still far better than the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure), and the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle). These two tests both have longer range estimates for the Model Y. The WLTP estimate is 350 miles and the NEDC range estimate is a whopping 398 miles; nearly, 400 miles! That is even more than the madman hypermiler was able to achieve. Having an estimated range that far off, one that is nearly impossible to achieve is just setting people up for disappointment and failure.

Range (regardless of fuel source) can be significantly impacted by elevation changes, wind, weather, road conditions, climate control use, speed, driving style, tire pressure, tread, and wear, towing, roof attachments... Given all of this, I wouldn't just assume you can jump in and drive 300 miles before charging up. A little planning helps and Tesla makes that easy.

Tesla In-vehicle Energy Graph

It's not about general range, it's about "Can I get to where I need to go?"

The route planner in Tesla vehicles is awesome. Pop-in a destination and it takes many factors into consideration, plans a route with charging stops (if needed), and shows you the expected battery pack discharge profile, consuming more energy as you ascend a hill and regenerating energy as you coast down the other side. It even shows you the round trip results, so you know at a glance if you can make it home without a charge stop.

I use the route planner and energy graph on most drives. I like to watch the accuracy of the prediction and I like to see if I can do just a little bit better than that. As Tesla often does, they have iterated this feature, considering more factors and looking at historical data... all resulting in better estimates. 

The image above is a great example. This was a ~25 mile drive, with freeway speeds and 1,118 ft of elevation gain. It was a hot day in August; the AC was on. The route planner expected to use ~31 miles worth of range. The drive was completed using only ~27 miles of worth of range.

Using the in-vehicle (and soon in-app) trip planner allows you to have the confidence to know you'll make it there with charge to spare. 

That answers my two questions:

  1. Q: How big is the battery pack in a 2023 Tesla Model Y LR AWD
    • A: 84.6 kWh
  2. Q: What is the range of a 2023 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD?
    • A1: EPA Range is 330 miles
    • A2: real-world range is 275 miles* YMMV

Model Y Accessories 

This car was our new fun toy and we had to buy a few things to personalize it a little. 

The USB ports in the Model Y (in all Teslas today) are USB-C. The majority of my cables are USB-A (at least on one end), so it was time to upgrade. There are two USB ports in the center console, so an illuminated USB cable is an easy and affordable way to have some cool ambient light and makes it easier to find stuff in the cubby. 

Next on the list was a center console organizer. There are two reasons I liked this one better than the others. One, it slides forward to give you easy access to the lower level. Two, is it transparent, so the ambient light that's plugged in below glows through. 

Next on the list, driving glasses holder. I like to keep shades in the car in a place where they won't get scratched or dirty. The easy-close strong magnet on this one closes with a satisfying snap. I picked the carbon fiber finish. There are many colors available (you do you).

No one likes trash on the floor of their new car. So where to put it? A bag, that's not a clean look either. The solution is a cyber-can. It fits in a cup holder. I put it in the kicker panel so the center cup holders are available for caffeination.    

Cyber Can 

This is one of my favorite upgrades: Puddle lights. I was intimidated the first time I swapped these in, but it was easier than I thought it would be. It's a nice touch that people see when getting in or out. 

This one is a nice subtle little touch that people are not likely to notice but it improves the experience. And they are super easy to install. You can get them with or without the Tesla logo. I think these go especially good with the midnight silver metallic paint.  

The final Model Y accessory that we've purchased so far is a car smart dog leash. This one is cool because it has a seatbelt clip. This makes it easy to keep your furry friend in the second row. You can even use it with the second row seats folded down. The seat belt clips are right under the 60/40 split. It has a short bungee section to take the jolt out when they tug, a clip for poop bags, and it's reflective at night. The perfect lead for our needs. 

There you have our list of Tesla Model Y accessories. I hope find something that brings you a little joy. 

This article contains affiliate links 
I am long Tesla 

Monday, August 21, 2023

NW Fires August 2023


via https://www.fireweatheravalanche.org/fire/state/oregon

The sky was orange yesterday. Not at sunset, as you might expect, but at noon. The sun veiled behind smoke and haze; you could look directly at it. Our region is ablaze. Northern California to British Columbia; devastation is all around. Now is the time to act. 


Sunday, August 13, 2023

Tesla FSD Transfer - I did it! How did it go?

In the Tesla Q2'23 quarterly call, retail investors (and Tesla customers) asked (for about the millionth time) if Tesla would allow Full Self-Driving (FSD) to be transferred to a new car. The answer has been 'no' every time this has been asked. So when I heard the question, I was thinking "What a waste of time"; however, shockingly, the answer was 'Yes' this time.

It was a qualified yes, but still a yes. Here are the conditions from Tesla: 

from Tesla's website

We've been considering a Model Y. It would be our road trip vehicle. I've been waiting for Tesla's new camera suite (HW4) to be deployed. These new cameras are significantly better than the HW3 cameras and may be required for FSD to ever leave the beta phase.

via AIDRIVR on Twitter/X 

 We checked our eligibility.

from Tesla's website

1) We'd be ordering the Model Y in late July, so it should
     be easy to take delivery by the end of September

2) Make sure you include FSD in the car we're ordering

3) We currently have a Model 3 with FSD

4) We order them on the same account

5) Agree to terms (more on this later) 
We met all of the requirements. We ordered a new Model Y on July 29th. 

Here's what happened next. We received a text from our sales advisor. We told them that we wanted to transfer FSD. They said that we'd have to wait until a VIN was assigned. 

Our VIN was assigned about a week later. We then received the terms and conditions document with both the donor VIN and the recipient VIN typed in a tiny font on a document that looked like a copy of a copy of a copy.

Here are the terms and conditions: 

We signed the terms and conditions and sent it in. Our delivery was scheduled for August 8th. 

I had to get the finances in place. The vehicle purchase agreement had the $15,000 FSD price on it. We know that's being removed from the price, but I can't just remove $15,000 from the final price and use that for the new final price since there are taxes and other things that would be adjusted too. So I texted Tesla and said I needed the purchase agreement updated to show the final price updated for the FSD transfer. They said, "It's coming." Finally, on the day before delivery, we received an updated purchase price.

The way they modified the price was by adding $15,000 to the referral credit. This had me worried. Referral credits could be considered a payment of sorts and could have tax consequences. After a little googling and I found this:
from https://referral-factory.com/learn/calculating-the-value-of-a-referral-reward/

My worries were assuaged when, on purchase day, we received an update and saw that this was only temporary. The referral credit was back to $500 (for using our referral code) and this final version of the purchase agreement removed FSD from the cost altogether. Luckily, the amounts were exactly the same or we'd be running back to the bank for an updated cashier's check. Later that day we received the transfer confirmation.

FSD was removed from our Model 3 on the day before we picked up our new Model Y. 

When we picked up our Model Y. It listed FSD on the vehicle. 

We completed our camera calibration driving, double-tapped the stalk, and Autopilot started. Just AP, not FSD. What happened? FSD was not yet functional on the HW4 platform. There's a note on the FSD screen in the car that says a new (yet unreleased) version of FSD is needed to enable HW4. 

FSD Beta for HW4 is coming soon and our crystal-clear cameras will be waiting for the over-the-air update to enable it.

If you are interested in transferring FSD, I would not wait until the end of the quarter. Things get hectic at that time and if your delivery is moved from Q3 to Q4, you might lose out. 

Disclosure: I am long Tesla

UPDATE: FSD Beta Arrived! On August 30th, we received our first SW update for the car and it came with FSD Beta v11.4.4. So we had the car for less than a month and it is already driving itself (with close supervision). After hearing Musk say that HW4 would be 6 months behind HW3, I thought I'd have to wait until 2024 sometime. 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Summer Solstice

June 21st was the 2023 summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. In the NW Oregon region, sunrise was at 5:23 AM and sunset was at 9:04 PM. That's 15 hours, 41 minutes of daylight on this, the longest, day of the year. 

With all those hours of daylight, this day is a milestone for solar production. I usually like to report our solar production for this day. Sadly, our production for this year's solstice was zero kilowatt-hours.

Our production was zero because our panels are stacked up on our deck waiting to be reinstalled. They were removed to allow for the installation of a new roof. The new roof is complete and the solar panels will be back up there soon.

This was an interesting process and, even after having solar for 16 years, I learned a few things through the experience. But that's a story for another day, after the story is complete and the panels are back on the roof and producing, I'll post the entire saga. 


Once upon a time, nestled in a small suburban neighborhood, there stood a quaint little house adorned with gleaming solar panels on the rooftop. The home belonged to the Smith family, who were firm supporters of sustainable living and the power of renewable energy.

For years, the solar panels had faithfully converted the sun's abundant rays into electricity, providing the Smiths with clean and cost-effective power. They reveled in the knowledge that they were reducing their carbon footprint and doing their part to protect the environment. However, as time went by, the roof beneath the solar panels began to show signs of wear and tear.

Understanding the importance of a sturdy roof, the Smiths reluctantly decided to have it replaced, knowing that this meant temporarily bidding farewell to their beloved solar panels. It was a difficult decision, for they knew that during the construction process, they would miss out on an extraordinary event—the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when the sun's rays would be most abundant.

As the construction workers arrived, the Smith family watched their once sun-kissed solar system being carefully dismantled. The roof was stripped bare, exposing the house to the elements. Day by day, the roofers diligently worked, ensuring the new roof was strong, reliable, and capable of protecting their cherished home.

Meanwhile, inside the house, the Smiths experienced an unusual sense of emptiness. Without the soft hum of the inverter or the knowledge that the sun was powering their home, they felt a loss. The house seemed dimmer, hollower, as if a small part but important bit was missing.

The days passed, and the Smiths anxiously awaited the installation of their new roof, hoping that it would be completed before the summer solstice arrived. However, delays in the construction process made their dreams of harnessing the sun's energy on that special day grow dim.

Finally, just a day before the summer solstice, the roofers finished their work. The Smiths were relieved to have their home once again protected, but the missed opportunity weighed heavily on their hearts. They had missed out on a chance to maximize their solar production on the longest day of the year.

Yet, as the sun rose on that momentous day, its rays gently caressed the newly installed roof. Although the solar panels were absent, the Smiths knew that their commitment to renewable energy extended beyond a single day. Their actions were a testament to their dedication to a greener future.

The Smith family vowed to make the most of their solar panels once they were reinstalled. They eagerly awaited the return of their energy-generating companions, knowing that every day would be an opportunity to contribute to a sustainable world. They understood that the summer solstice was just one day, but their commitment to renewable energy was a lifelong journey.

And so, the Smiths' home stood proudly once more, with a new roof, waiting to embrace the return of its solar panels. The story of their temporary separation from the sun's power would be shared, serving as a reminder that even amidst setbacks and missed opportunities, the pursuit of a sustainable future remains steadfast.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Tesla's 2 Million Year

In January, we predicted that 2023 would be the year that Tesla produced over 2 million vehicles in a year for the first time. Now that we're halfway through the year let's see how that's progressing. 

Tesla recently reported their Q2 2023 production and delivery results. They produced 479,700 vehicles in the quarter. That's a run rate of 1.9 million annual units, and it brings Tesla's production up to 880,000 for the first half of the year. That's less than halfway to the 2 million unit target, but (absent force majeure) you can expect them to increase the production rate in Q3 and again in Q4 as Giga Austin and Giga Berlin continue to find their footing and take longer strides. 

With that increase in the second half of the year, will they hit the 2 million mark?

Tesla's guidance is merely 1.8 million units for the year. Given the first-half results, let's plug in the numbers and see if 2 million is still a possibility. 

Here's a chart of recent production with simple growth trend estimates to complete the year.

Q1 Actuals: 439,701
Q2 Actuals: 479,700
Q3 Estimate: 545,000
Q4 Estimate: 610,000

If these estimates are correct, that's a total of ~2,074,000 for the year.

That's not a lot of margin for error, but 2 million is still a possibility, assuming Tesla can continue to scale production in the 2nd half of this year. Giga Berlin and Giga Austin are both ramping up and have hit significant milestones in the first half of this year. 

2 million units this year is no guarantee, but it is still a possibility for this year. With such a small margin of error, another Covid variant shutdown, supply-chain issues, or the like and we'll have to wait until 2024 to cross this big milestone. See you after Q3 to see how we're trending. 

It will be exciting to see how this plays out. 

disclaimer: I'm long TSLA.

Update: July 22nd, 2023
Tesla recently held their Q2'23 financial update and they reported that Q3 production will be down due to production line upgrades. The 2-million milestone had very little margin, so with this scheduled downtime, it seems unlikely that this will be the 2-million vehicle year. This will still be a historic year for Tesla with the first Cybertrucks rolling off the line.  

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Keep Summer Safe - Hot Summer Power Outages

Tesla Powerwall backup power events for Summer 2022

Summer is here and it's a hot one. Texas, Louisiana, Ireland, India, Mexico, Beijing, Siberia (yes, Siberia) and other areas are setting new record high temps during these heatwaves. When it's this hot, for most homes, air conditioning is a *must-have*. High indoor temps come with higher all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and more emergency hospitalizations. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the negative impact of high temperatures on health. So just like I wrote in your high school yearbook:
Stay Cool This Summer!

When it's this hot, the electricity grid can feel a strain on its health too. Last summer, as you can see in the image above, we lost power 5 times of note in July for a total of 16 hours, with the most extended outage lasting 6 hours. If you're without power for 4 or more hours, that's long enough for freezers to defrost and for food to go bad. 

Above I said that we lost power 5 times; I should correct that: our grid went down 5 times, but our home didn't lose power at all because we have Tesla Powerwalls to provide backup power to our entire home. So even after 6 hours without the grid, our air conditioner continued to run and our refrigerator stayed cold; we didn't have to throw away our milk, cheese, and leftovers.

I hope our grid stays up all summer this year, but hope is not a strategy nor the pathway to energy independence. If you want to learn more about Powerwalls, check out All You Ever Wanted To Know About Powerwalls.

The Texas grid is currently stressed as people are trying to stay cool during this heatwave. I​t recently reached 118°F at Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park and it's still June.

During this heatwave, some Texan Powerwall owners are able to sell energy to the grid at rates as high as $5 per kilowatt hour. Many other regions have generous feed-in tariffs too (although not likely as high as Texas is currently seeing) or smart battery incentive programs. These incentives are in addition to the blackout protection and the savings that you'll get from avoiding grid usage during peak rates by utilizing the battery.

Powerwalls can be installed either stand-alone or coupled with solar (Tesla solar or other).

If you want to buy your own Powerwalls, you can use my referral link for any referral bonuses that Tesla may be offering. Disclosure: I'm long TSLA.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

20 Years of Tesla :: 2003 to 2023

Twenty years ago, on July 1st, 2003, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning incorporated Tesla Motors! Elon Musk, JB Straubel, and others joined and helped make it the incredible business it is today. The company's name is a tribute to inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, specifically for his polyphase electric induction motor design.

Tesla Inc. (previously Tesla Motors Inc.) turns 20 this year. The traditional 20th-anniversary gift is China dinnerware. Considering the significance of Tesla's presence in Shanghai, this seems apropos. We'll discuss how they got to where they are today and where Tesla could be 20 from now.

Today, Tesla is one of the most valuable car companies in the world, with a market capitalization of over $800 billion as of early 2023. In addition to electric vehicles, the company is also focused on renewable energy, energy storage, and AI-based autonomous driving technology.

In this post, we'll cover the founding, internal strife, product introductions, and finally conjecture about what the company may deliver over the next 20 years.

The Founding

In February of 2000, Eberhard and Tarpenning sold their e-reader company for $187 million. While developing and revising their e-reader, the Rocket ebook, they saw that lithium batteries were making great strides. Each iteration of these fancy new batteries made their e-reader lighter and allowed it to run longer.

With the windfall from the sale of their company, Eberhard and Tarpenning started wondering what they could do for their next endeavor. Eberhard, like many who strike it rich in Silicon Valley, wanted to buy a sports car, but he didn't want a polluting gasoline vehicle. California was in the shadow of the electric car's murder, so buying an electric car (sports car or otherwise) was not an option. While car shopping, Eberhard stumbled onto AC Propulsion, an electric motor and motor controller company. Eberhard made an investment in AC Propulsion and joined their board.

Given the battery advancements that Eberhard and Tarpenning had witnessed combined with the AC Propulsion technologies and they knew an electric car company was the answer to their 'what do we do next?' question. 

Ian Wright joined Tesla Motors late in 2003 as the company's third employee.

In parallel, JB Straubel and Elon Musk had driven the AC Propulsion T-Zero prototype roadster EV and they were impressed. Musk asked them to make one for him. They said they were not making cars, the prototype was only to demonstrate their motor and controller products. If they wanted a car, they should talk to the folks at Tesla.

Straubel and Musk looked into Tesla and saw that (at that point) they had not made much progress. Musk and Straubel discussed the idea of creating their own EV start-up to compete with Tesla. From his PayPal days, Musk saw firsthand that two competitors (Confiniti and X.com) could merge, rather than compete, and the resulting company could achieve their goals faster. So, rather than creating a competing start-up, Musk and Straubel would invest in and join the fledgling Tesla.

Musk invested $6.5 million in February of 2004 in the company's series-A investment round. This made Musk the largest Tesla shareholder and chair of the board of directors. Straubel joined Tesla in May 2004 as Chief Technology Officer.

Innovation is Tesla's Lifeblood 

The legacy automakers are being disrupted by 4 simultaneous megatrends (Electrification, Mobility as a Service, Self-driving Cars, and a Relentless Pace of Innovation). If the legacy automakers cannot navigate all four of these, they will not survive. 

Whereas, Tesla is in a position to be propelled by each of these trends. Tesla has a culture of innovation. Their very first product was one that the auto industry said no one wanted. Then Tesla made their second vehicle, the Model S, and again the auto industry forecasted Tesla's demise. These waves of doubt have preceded each of Tesla's products (the Semi was called impossible by multiple "experts") and doubt still precedes planned product introductions like the Cybertruck and the Robotaxi.

Tesla has a series of moats, but they frequently actively work against their own selfish interests to move the entire industry forward such as opening the Supercharger network to EVs from other manufacturers and open-sourcing their patent portfolio.

More on how they perform these marvels of engineering later, let's get back to the founding storyline.

Internal Struggles 

Wright and Eberhard could not agree on the Roadster engineering direction. How much should they rely on external vendors like AC Propulsion and Lotus, and how much should they do themselves... The disagreements between Wright and Eberhard became heated to the point that the two men could not be in the same room without a firestorm erupting.

Wright approached the board attempting to oust Eberhard and name himself as Tesla's CEO. As chair of the board, the decision fell to Musk. It was clear that one of them had to go. Musk chose Eberhard to stay and continue as the CEO. Wright was asked to leave the company. Wright left Tesla in 2004 to start his own EV company, Wrightspeed. 

This was not Eberhard's only struggle with Musk and Tesla's board. In August 2007, Eberhard was asked to step down as CEO. Eberhard did step down and ultimately left the company in January 2008. Co-founder Marc Tarpenning also left the company at the same time. 

When Eberhard stepped down as CEO, Michael Marks was brought in as interim CEO. Just 4 months later, Ze'ev Drori replaced Marks. Nine months later, in October 2008, Musk succeeded Drori, becoming the 4th person to hold the title of CEO at Tesla. 

Founder Lawsuit

Eberhard may have left Tesla in 2008, but his scrap with Musk was not over. In June 2009, Eberhard filed a lawsuit against Musk for allegedly forcing him out. Of all of the allegations thrown back and forth during the lawsuit, one of the more trivial and heated fights during the lawsuit was about who gets to refer to themselves as a founder of Tesla. Eberhard argued that there were only two people there when the company paperwork was filed, founding the company. Musk argued that the company was just two people with an idea on a napkin (more likely engineering paper) before he funded it. The net result of the lawsuit was that five people were named by the court as official co-founders of Tesla (Eberhard, Tarpenning, Wright, Musk, and Straubel). 


Despite the fighting within the C-suite, the mission moved forward and on July 19th, 2006 in Santa Monica, California, Tesla unveiled the Roadster! 

Tesla began production of the Roadster in 2008.

Tesla faced many doubters

After the launch of the Roadster, it was not immediately obvious to the industry, media, or most of the public that EVs were the future and that Tesla would change the auto industry forever. Instead, they were met with skepticism and derision. 

This attitude also applied to many auto parts suppliers too. This meant that many suppliers would not return Tesla's calls, or if they did, Tesla did not receive top-shelf service. Why would a supplier put their best team on a niche, small-volume player that is likely to be out of business soon? They didn't. This made it painful for Tesla, but it also meant that they developed the muscles(skillsets) that they'd need to do that no one else was doing. Tesla makes their own circuit boards, writes their own software, and even makes their own seats. This in-house design, engineering, and vertical integration allows the company to have more control over the driver experience, adapt to supply-chain issues, and innovate more quickly. The lack of support from the industry forced Tesla to vertically integrate and now vertically integration is one of their greatest strengths.

Despite the auto media's mockery of the Roadsters and the EV market in general, Tesla persisted. Two thousand ten was a big year for the company, they purchased their first factory and the company became publicly traded. 

What Makes Tesla Different?

We'll cover more about the internal workings (and occasional dysfunction) of the company later. Now, we'll look at the north star of the company. Tesla is a mission-driven company; they are an innovation company. The products are the means, not the end. Here's a (far from exhaustive) list of ways that Tesla is unlike legacy automakers:   

  • Tech company first: Tesla comes to the automotive industry from a very different angle than every car company that preceded them. Tesla is a technology company first. A technology company that makes cars (and other things), rather than a car company that uses technology. One obvious example of this is the connected car. Every car that Tesla has made since 2012 has cellular wireless connectivity. Over-the-air updates are pushed to the car several times each year. This allows Tesla to add new features, improve performance, fix bugs and address recalls, all without bringing the car in for service. Even though this has been a standard feature from Tesla since 2012, it is still highly uncommon for legacy automakers.
  • Mission Driven: Tesla has a long-term plan to use their technical prowess to move planet Earth from fossil-fuel energy sources to renewable energy. This includes energy production, energy storage, and energy use. This is not a plan that requires you to drive a limited short-range vehicle, or huddle under a blanket for warmth while wearing multiple layers in the winter. Instead, this is a plan where humanity has more comfort and more conveniences. With renewable energy, when done right, energy will be more abundant. With renewable energy, every kilowatt-hour does not require mining, drilling, or some other extraction process. Humanity can move beyond "mine & burn."
  • Customer Experience: All automakers manufacture vehicles and parts, but usually sales and service are handled by dealerships, not the automaker themselves. Dealerships are independently owned and while they have contracts with the automakers, they are their own business and they may have a very different agenda than the automaker's banner that flies over their lot. Tesla, on the other hand, provides the sales and service directly via service centers that they own. 
  • Charging Network: When you fuel up an internal combustion vehicle, you are generally buying gasoline from an oil company, rather than the company that made your car (you don't go to a Toyota or Ford branded gas station). Tesla, on the other hand, has a vast network of Superchargers where owners can recharge (while paying Tesla directly).
  • Insurance: Similar to service and recharging, Tesla also offers insurance in some regions. Allowing another option for owners and another revenue stream for Tesla. This is yet another example of vertical integration by the company.

First Factory

In May 2010, Tesla purchased a factory in Fremont, California from Toyota that would become the Tesla Fremont Factory. Tesla paid $42 million in cash and stock for the plant and opened the facility in October 2010 to start production of the Model S.


On June 29, 2010, Tesla became a public company via an initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ with the ticker symbol TSLA. Tesla was the first American car company to IPO since the Ford Motor Company had gone to market more than five decades prior in 1956.

The IPO price was $17 per share. Today, the stock trades at around $200 per share; but that's only part of the story. The stock has split twice since its IPO. The first split was 5 for 1 and the next was 3 for 1. So rather than $200 per share today, the split-adjusted share price is around $3,000 per share. If you bought Tesla stock in the summer of 2010, you'd have 15 times more shares than you bought and the split-adjusted share purchase price would be only $1.13 per share and you'd be up 175 times or 17,500% on your investment. 

Vehicle Introductions

If Tesla had only made the Roadster, they could have been a niche high-end electric sports car maker, but they had much bigger plans. The Model S luxury sedan was introduced in 2012 (and won Car of The Year), the Model X SUV in 2015, the Model 3 sedan in 2017, the Model Y crossover in 2020, and the Tesla Semi-truck in 2022. They also plan to start production of the Cybertruck later this year (2023).

The Model 3 is currently the all-time bestselling EV car worldwide. In June 2021, Model 3 became the first electric car to sell 1 million units globally. Model Y sales have ramped even faster than the Model 3 and Model Y is on track to usurp the bestselling crown from its older sibling this year.

Tesla's 2022 full-year deliveries were 1.31 million vehicles, a 40% increase over the previous year. The company's cumulative sales from the first Roadster (2008) through Q1 2023 is 4,061,776 vehicles. That's over 4 million EVs in total. This year, 2023, will likely be Tesla's 2 million production year. If things go according to plan, Tesla will have produced about 4.5 million EVs when they slice the 20th birthday cake and about 5.5 million by the end of the year; each one with zero tailpipe emissions.


In November 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity, in an all-stock $2.6 billion deal. This launched Tesla into the solar photovoltaics market. The solar installation business was merged with Tesla's existing battery energy storage products to form the Tesla Energy division of the company. 

This was a major step in Tesla's progress to become more than "just a car company." Soon after the acquisition, the company changed their name from Tesla Motors to just Tesla; indicating the broader scope of the company's ambitions. Some investors sued Tesla because of this merger. In my opinion, these investors never truly understood the company. The original 2006 Master Plan states that Tesla's goal is to "expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy..." So it should not be a surprise to investors that understand the company, that they would move into solar energy production products. The vision of Tesla as a full-cycle energy company has only recently been laid bare, front and center in Master Plan 3.0

S&P 500

Tesla reported four consecutive profitable quarters in the second half of 2019 and the first half of 2020. This made them eligible for inclusion in the S&P 500. Tesla was added to the index on December 21, 2020. Tesla was the largest company ever added and the sixth-largest company in the index at the time its of inclusion.

What Makes Tesla Different - The Agile Manifesto 

We've covered Tesla's product development in some detail recently (here). Tesla fundamentally designs and develops vehicles differently than legacy automakers. Tesla uses technology development methods and deploys improvements as soon as they can. This means there are no model years for Tesla's products. 

To support this rapid pace of change, each vehicle has a suite of built-in self-tests. These tests know how the vehicle hardware and software are supposed to work. If a change is made and a self-test fails, you know that change didn't account for all of the interactions that it needed to.

These built-in automated self-tests allow for rapid feedback. Rapid feedback allows for experimentation. Experimentation enables innovation. This allows Tesla to do things that are impossible at legacy automakers. 

The pace of innovation allows problems to be solved, costs to be reduced, and the product to be improved. Having a rapid pace of change inherent in the system has other advantages too. When the supply chain problems hit in 2021, Tesla was able to adapt. Rapid innovation combined with their verticle integration, allowed them to change to new control chips when the ones they had been using were not available. They had to change their software, but when the built-in self-tests passed, they can have a high level of confidence in the new hardware and software components.

Tesla Energy Comes Into Its Own

Tesla's Energy Generation and Storage division brought in $1.3 billion in Q4 of 2022. This is more than 12% of the company's revenue for that quarter. To be clear, Tesla has a business, outside of electric vehicles, that brings in several billion dollars annually. Tesla's energy business is currently growing *faster* than Tesla's vehicle business (although starting at a lower level).

We've covered solar energy in the SolarCity section above. The bulk energy revenue primarily comes from selling energy storage products from industrial-scale to residential. Megapacks are their biggest industrial-scale battery systems. Powerpacks are the smaller (but still industrial-scale) units. These are well suited for critical operations buildings (such as a hospital). And last on Tesla's energy storage list is the Powerwall. This is for residential use. These provide blackout backup and solar energy storage (and they are a lot of fun!).  

Tesla is an electric utility in deregulated regions of Texas. This is yet another direct-to-customer relationship that legacy automakers would never even consider. 

Tesla Becomes the Most Valuable Automotive Brand In The World

In early 2023, Tesla surpassed Mercedes-Benz and Toyota to claim the top automotive spot in automotive brand recognition. This is level of recognition is estimated to be worth a valuation of $66.2 billion. Quite an achievement for a company that spends little on advertising.  

As recognizable as the stylized Tesla T has become, most people don't know that the logo comes from a cross-sectional view of an electric motor. The "T" is part of the rotor and the curved bar across the top is a portion of the motor's stator. The shield that used to surround the logo (shown at the top of this post) was dropped in one of the few updates that Tesla has made to their mark over the years.  

Making The Impossible Merely Late 

"There is…an enormous reservoir of relatively untapped genius–that is, the capacity for exceptional accomplishment–which existing systems of motivation have failed to reach.”
– Saul Gellerman, Management by Motivation

We've previously covered, how Musk and Co. focus on 
Class ½ Impossibilities. These are things are have been recently enabled by related breakthroughs, but the engineering work has not yet been done to put all the pieces together. The computer controls needed to land rockets, the battery advances for compelling EVs, the AI technology for full self-driving. The underlying technologies are available, this makes it possible (but that does not mean that it's easy).

Here's a list of some of the "impossible" tasks Tesla has achieved during their 20 years: 
  1. Roadster: Both creating it and, perhaps more impressive, finding a market for $100k electric sports cars from a startup.
  2. Model S: This moved Tesla into the luxury car market and gave Tesla sales around the world.
  3. Supercharging: EVs were considered slow. The Roadster disproved that. There's no place to charge an EV. The Supercharger network solved that. 
  4. Energy Storage: Vehicles are just part of Tesla's business. Tesla's Megapacks have 3.9MWh of capacity. This is enough to run the average home for over 130 days. This is now more than 10% of Tesla's revenue and growing fast. 
  5. Semi: Multiple "experts" deemed long-range class 8 semi-tracker trailers to be impossible for at least another decade. Tesla ignored them and just did it. 
"Those who work to solve problems are more highly valued than those who merely label them.” 
– Robert Mager and Peter Pipe in Analyzing Performance Problems

Tesla's Future 

Tesla has no shortage of audacious goals. If they achieve even a third of them, they'll be far (or should I say farther) ahead of competitors. 
Tesla has outlined several key goals and initiatives that it plans to pursue over the next several years:

Increase electric vehicle production: Tesla's primary goal is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy by increasing the production and adoption of electric vehicles. The company plans to expand its production capacity to meet growing demand and introduce new models, such as the Cybertruck and the Semi. This year Tesla will produce about two million vehicles. They plan to 10X this number and eventually produce 20 million vehicles per year. 

Develop new battery technology: Tesla is investing heavily in battery technology research and development, with the goal of reducing the cost and increasing the performance of its batteries. The company is also exploring new materials, refining, and manufacturing processes to improve its battery technology and reduce costs.

Battery Recycling: Tesla is thirsty for battery raw materials. Recycling will become an ever-increasing source of these materials. Will Tesla develop this in-house, partner with Redwood Materials and others, or is there an acquisition in the future?

Expand into new markets: Tesla is expanding into new markets and plans to continue to grow its global presence. This includes new Gigafactories in more locations to allow deliveries to happen quickly without large shipping costs.

Develop renewable energy solutions: Tesla is also focused on developing renewable energy solutions, such as solar power and energy storage systems. The company's acquisition of SolarCity in 2016 was a key step in this direction, and Tesla is now offering integrated solar and energy storage solutions for homes and businesses. Master Plan 3.0 makes it clear that Tesla is looking into all the areas where fossil fuels are used as potential disruption opportunities. You can expect to see a Tesla heat pump sometime later this decade.  

Side Hustles: You can expect to see Tesla Insurance and Tesla Electric Utility expand into new markets. What other business could Tesla get into? 

Dojo-as-a-Service: AI systems are becoming more and more common. There are many problems that traditional programming cannot easily solve. Artificial intelligence, neural networks, machine learning, and the like all require significant compute power to train. Only after the training, can they deliver the desired results on simple devices. Many businesses will want to have AI products, but won't want to build a massive datacenter to train these systems. Instead, they might rent off-hour time on Tesla's Dojo system to do this work. 

Continue to innovate: Tesla is known for its innovative approach to technology and design, and the company is likely to continue to push the boundaries of what is possible with electric vehicles and sustainable energy solutions. This may include new features, such as fully autonomous driving, as well as new products and services that have yet to be announced.

General Purpose Artificial Intelligence: Tesla is putting the pieces in place to be a powerhouse of the next generation of tech. The vision system and neural net training system (Dojo) developed for Tesla's cars have spillover into the robotics space. 

Wrapping Up 

Tesla has had a storied first 20 years of life. They've done things that conventional thinking deemed impossible. There's no doubt that the auto market is forever changed because of Tesla.

The next 20 years will be exciting to watch as an owner or investor. Tesla spent the majority of these past two decades running uphill. During most of its history, most of the auto-industry considered them a joke and during most of these years, they lost money. Today, things. have. changed. 

Tesla is now in a position of strength. They have $22.4 billion in cash in the bank (as of Q1'22 reporting). EV sales are growing every year in all markets around the world and no other automakers have invested in EV technology to the same level or as long as Tesla. Tesla's vehicle sales will continue to grow with growing global EV adoption. By 2030 the majority of car sales will be EVs and Tesla is on track to be the largest automaker in the world.

Disclosure: I am long