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Thursday, October 26, 2017

10 Years of EV Driving (Part 1 - It Started With The EV1)

Our gradual path to a 100% EV household.

I have been driving EVs for 10 Years now. For the last year, with a Tesla Model X and a Nissan Leaf in our garage, we have been an EV-only household. Our transition was gradual. It started with a Prius in late 1999. My wife was in a wreck in early 1999, she walked away but (through no fault of hers) her car was totaled. She wanted something eco-friendly for her new car. We had heard about an electric car from General Motors called the GM EV1. Researching it we found out that it was being sold at Saturn dealerships. We called our local Saturn and asked about it. They laughed and said unless you lived in California and were "an influencer" such as a Hollywood star, you were not going to get an EV1.

We didn't live in California (and weren't movie stars) so the EV1 was off the table, but my wife still wanted an eco-friendly car. There were these new hybrid cars coming out from Honda and Toyota. What about those? We found a Honda dealership that had an Insight on the lot and we scheduled a test drive. The sales guy wanted to make sure that we were serious buyers before he would schedule our test drive. He said that a lot of people had been coming in to drive the car because it was new technology. Many of them were not even in the market for a new car; they just wanted a hybrid joyride. I assured him that we were serious buyers and that my wife had been taking the bus to work for the last week, so we'd drive it home that day if we liked it.

1999 Honda Insight
When we arrived at the dealership, it was not a positive experience. He showed us the car and we asked to take it for a test drive. Again he interrogates us about being "real car buyers" and again I assure him that we were. "OK then let's sign the paperwork," he says. What? He wanted us to BUY the car before he would let us test drive it. No way. I explain that there is no way that we would buy a car before test driving it. He says, "Sorry, I can't just keep letting people test drive it." I explain that we have an appointment and we are there to test drive it and if that's a problem, I want to talk to the owner. He walks off and comes back with the keys.

Now we have the next problem. The Insight was a two-seater. All three of us cannot fit in the car. My wife and I want to take the car with just the two of us. The sales guy said that he has to be in the car and we could each have a turn driving it. I offer to let my wife go first since it's going to be her car. She's not interested. I can see in her eyes that she would never buy anything from this guy. But we drove all the way there, I am at least going to drive it after all that. So I hop in the driver's seat and get a quick lay of the land. It had a manual transmission; shifting gears was easier than other manuals I had driven. I liked the car.

In 1999, it was nearly impossible to buy an EV and it was difficult to find a hybrid.

I return from the test drive and again offered the keys to my wife. She was not interested, so we left. Our next stop was Toyota. The Prius was not in the US yet, but they were on sale in Japan and were scheduled to be brought to the US. At the dealership, they showed us the literature that they had. It was 4-door, 5-seats, and it was automatic. The sales team was great, they answered questions and were friendly and not pushy. My wife loved it. We put down a deposit that day and we were on the waiting list.

A couple weeks later they called to tell us that one of the cars from Japan was touring the US. We wouldn't be able to drive it, but we'd at least be able to see it in person. The car arrived and we went to see it, it was at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI). They had it roped off like a museum piece. It was exactly what she wanted in a car.

2000 Toyota Prius
We went back to the dealership, picked out our color and finalized the order. The irony here is not lost on me. We refused to buy the Insight without driving it, but that is effectively what we've just done with the Prius. But there was a difference; the deposit that we had with the dealership was fully refundable. When the car came in, we could drive it; if we didn't like it, we get our money back. The dealership said that they would have any problem selling it to the next person on the waiting list.

Now we wait. Weeks turn in months, the season changes from spring to summer, the dog days of summer yield to a late summer, this was washed away by late September rains. During all of this, my wife is riding the bus to work. All because she wanted a Prius and she thought it was worth the wait, even though she had never driven it.

Finally, the car arrives. We take for a test drive and it was all that she had hoped for. We drove it home; we were now Toyota Prius owners. We were among the first in our state to own one. I admit that I was not that interested in green transportation at that time in 1999. Eco-cars were her thing. Back then, I was driving a Honda Passport SUV. At that time I was enjoyed the outdoors, I rock climbed, skied, camped... the 4-wheel-drive was nice when you needed to take a rarely used road to an obscure crag and the Passport could pull our camper. But I admit, the hybrid technology fascinated me.

Hybrids were unlike anything I'd ever seen. There were times (albeit brief) when the Prius would run on only the electric motor. It was ghostly. When we pulled up to a red light and the engine would shut off. I reflexively stomped for the non-existent clutch. The eco-friendly seed was planted, but would still take time to grow.

More on this photo in part 2
On to Part 2


Friday, October 20, 2017

1 Year of Tesla Ownership

We've had our Tesla Model X for just over 1 year now and it's been great. The X is my daily driver, we've taken it on multiple road trips, we've been through the desert in the summer, over mountain passes in the winter, through the heavy smoke of forest fires, and more. Thirteen thousand miles and it has spent a few days in the shop too. I'll tell you the good and the bad from my first year of Tesla ownership.

In 2016, on September 15, I rolled my old gas vehicle onto the Tesla lot with the low fuel light on and traded in the first vehicle that I had ever owned for a new Tesla. But, I'm jumping ahead. It all started several months before when I ordered the vehicle. Here's the timeline of events:
  • Feb 2016 - Placed a reservation and made a $5,000 deposit 
  • Mar 2016 - The design studio opened and I configured my vehicle (Blue 5-seater with the biggest battery available at the time (90 kWh))
  • April 2016 - The order was confirmed and locked in, changes would not be accepted beyond this point without fees
  • May 2016 - Emailed my delivery specialist and asked for an ETA. He said we'd know more when the vehicle entered production. 
  • July 2016 - Emailed my delivery specialist and asked for an ETA, pointing out that my birthday was at the end of the month and having the vehicle delivered would be a great present. In response, I was informed that the 5-seat vehicles would not be in production until the end of the year
  • Aug 2016 - Changed the configuration to 6-seat. The change fee was waived since I was changing it from a configuration that was not currently in production to one that was. Our vehicle was in production by the end of the month. 
  • Sept 15th, the day I took delivery and where this story began.


The online order process was great. I played around with a lot of options and you could easily see how it impacted the cost and payment. I opted for the big battery, tech package with the bio-hazard filter, carbon fiber décor, Autopilot, subzero weather package, and the towing package.

During the months from ordering in February until our delivery in September, I'd email our delivery specialist each month and ask for an update or if the expected delivery date was known yet. Sometime during these months, our assigned delivery specialist left Tesla and my emails were not getting a response. Eventually, I received an email saying they'd left Tesla and a new delivery specialist was being assigned. The new delivery specialist failed to reply to my emails too. I complained and my case was escalated to a manager. I was not emailing them frequently, but I did expect a reply within 2 business days. The manager that took over my case was great. He was knowledgeable and responsive.

Our new delivery specialist manager was the person that explained that the 5-seat config was not yet in production in July of 2016 and that we'd have to switch to 6 or 7-seat if we wanted the vehicle sooner. This is something that I wish was presented in the design studio when we configured the vehicle. It would have allowed me to make decisions based on the schedule as well as the cost. The good news is that Tesla seems to be doing this for the Model 3. When you select dual motor or the standard range battery pack, you can see the schedule impact this has on your estimated Model 3 delivery date.

Factory Delivery Woes 

While we were waiting for the Model X, my wife had an idea. She suggested that we pick up the car at the factory in Fremont, CA. We could make a family vacation out of it. We'd fly there, take the factory tour, pick up our Tesla, go to Disneyland and then road trip home. I thought this was a great idea. It would be about 1,400 miles of driving and a great way to become familiar with the car. This was especially fitting my first EV had been a service vehicle at Disneyland before it came to me about 10 years before (I'll tell the story of my first EV another day).

I contacted our delivery specialist and described our factory pick up and tour plan. He said that certainly was possible, but I should be aware that if I took delivery in California that I'd have to pay the California state vehicle sale tax of 9%. "But I don't live in California," I protested. He said that it didn't matter; that was the state law. I looked into it and he was right. That was the California law and (according to the forums) many Tesla buyers like myself had scrapped plans to fly to the factory for delivery. So we stuck to the plan to take delivery at the Tigard service center near our home.

Delivery Day

On September 14th we received the email that the car was here and ready to be picked up. I made arrangements to pick it up the next day after work. At this time, due to one of our cars being totaled earlier in the year (again a story for another day), I was driving my old 1997 Honda Passport. On my way to work that morning, the low-fuel light came on. Since I was trading in the Passport that afternoon, I didn't see a reason to fill the tank, this would be the last day that I was driving it. I was not happy with the $800 trade-in price that I received for the vehicle, somehow filling in the tank seemed like it would only make this worse. This is petty, I know.

It was ironic to be trading in such a cheap vehicle for such an expensive one. The trade-in value didn't even cover the delivery fee for the Tesla. And the fact that I wanted another $200 on my trade-in value would not impact the cost of the Tesla in any significant manner, but still, I was not going to trade it in with a full tank. So, here's a tip, don't expect a great trade-in value. If you want to maximize the value of your old car, sell it privately (but this can be more work and beware of scammers).

Leaving work that afternoon, I hit traffic heading to the service center. The fuel light was on and had been on since that morning. I was not sure if I'd make it all the way to the service center. People talk about range anxiety related to EVs, I was in a gas-powered SUV and I had range anxiety worse than I'd ever had in an EV.

I made it to the service center. I'd planned to bring my camera and take some "out with the old, in with the new" photos, but running off to work that morning I didn't grab it. Here's a quick shot from my phone of my new Tesla on delivery day.

2016 Tesla Model X 90D Delivery
As a side note, the new Portland South Waterfront Service Center has a delivery center that has much better lighting for photos.


I am not the type of person that names his car. However, going through the configuration for the car, it asks you to name it and this is how it would be referred to in the app too. So I wanted to come up with something fun, clever, and non-obvious. Nikola?, Lightning?, ... no, these are too obvious. Mulling it over, I eventually settled on calling it Beast.
The Beast, Art by Jim Lee
Why Beast? Well, it's big, blue, strong, smart, and (wait for it) it's an X, man.


I drove the X home and I loved it. It is the best vehicle that I've ever owned. I turned on Autopilot and watched the steering-wheel adjust to the curves and the vehicle slow down on its own as we (Hank and I) approached the traffic in front of us. The big screen, the clear backup camera, falcon-wing doors (FWD), easter eggs, this was a fun car. To be fair, this is the most expensive vehicle I've ever purchased and a comparison to any other vehicle that I've owned would very unfair to the other vehicles. So rather than a review of the vehicle, this will be the story of my ownership experience. You can find plenty of vehicle reviews if that's what you're looking for.

AP1 v AP2

Soon after I received my Model X, Tesla announced that they were updating the Autopilot hardware (more cameras, better ultrasonics, better video processing...) and that cars with the new system would eventually be able to drive with full level 5 autonomy. Wow, I had owned the vehicle less than a month and it was already outdated (or so it seemed). There were plenty of new owners in the same situation and many of them were upset that Tesla offered no ability to upgrade their vehicle. If the car didn't come with the hardware, retrofitting it was a near impossibility.

I think some of these new owners in my situation took this too far. They claimed that it was unfair or that they'd been cheated. I had a different opinion. I had received the vehicle that I paid for; this had not changed just because something new was announced. I wanted a Tesla because they were so innovative. I had no expectation that Tesla would stop innovating just because my car had been delivered. I was still driving the same great car that I was on the day before I heard this news. If owning the latest tech is important, then get the shortest lease they offer. I had bought my Tesla (rather than lease) and I plan to drive it for many years. Hopefully, by the time I trade it in for a new one, there will be vast improvements. Who knows, by the time I am ready to trade this in, maybe we won't even own cars by then. Maybe we'll just hail a Johnny Cab from our cyber-implants 😄

As it has turned out (so far), Autopilot Hardware 2 (AP2) was not the promised panacea. Details came out later that Tesla and Mobileye had a falling out. So even though AP2 promises to eventually have far more capabilities than my AP1 system, Tesla has a lot of work to do before AP2 would be fully functional. And now, even a year later, AP1 is arguably still more the capable system. So while I know that soon AP2 will be the far more capable, at least I've had this one year of gloating rights.

My Tesla Model X and a few solar panels

Road Trips

During the year that we owned this car, we put 13,000 miles on it. This is far more miles than I typically drive in a year. We drove to Grants Pass in the winter, the Painted Hills in the desert of eastern Oregon in the summer, we pulled our camper, went to Comic-Con in San Diego, to Crater Lake, the Oregon Caves, through a wildlife safari, to a butterfly pavilion, and to Thor's Well on the Oregon coast. It was a lot of fun and it was all fueled by free Superchargers and destination charging. 

Comparing the Model X to similarly-sized gas vehicles, I would have used more than 500 gallons of gas and spent more than $1300 to fuel my vehicle. Instead, the road trips used free Supercharging and my daily commutes were powered by overnight electricity rates of 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. So instead of spending $1300, I only spent about $200. 

Battery Degradation

I have recently started tracking the battery capacity of the Tesla, just as I've done in the Nissan Leaf we've owned since 2011. I'll have more to report next year when I've collected more data. It looks like the Tesla has lost 2% in the year that I've owned it. This is far better than the Leaf's first-year degradation performance. Degradation slows over time, so 2% in year one is awesome.


All the fun that we've had has not been without issues. When I picked up the car, there was an issue with one of the windows and as we used it a few things popped up. Here's the list:
  • The rear passenger-side window wasn't seated properly, it stuck out farther than it should. They replaced it. 
  • I was showing the car to a group of my coworkers, when one of the falcon-wing doors was opening it made a loud pop and crack sound. A piece of plastic at one of the hinges had broken. 
  • One of the falcon-wing doors stopped working. I pushed the button to open it, it moved about 2 mm and then stopped. It wouldn't move. I called Tesla service, we tried a bunch of things. Eventually, a cold reboot (disconnecting the 12V battery) solved it.
  • The car made a repeating clunk noise under medium acceleration when it was cold. They replaced a front half-shaft.
  • The parking brake was recalled. This repair was done at my house. A mobile service ranger brought a service truck out and fixed it in my driveway. That is great service.
  • The passenger side mirror stopped retracting after the Model Xmas easter egg display. A software update fixed this.   
For all of these repairs, they were covered under warranty and done in less than 2 days. Additionally, I was given a Tesla loaner car while mine was in the shop. Talking to other owners, I guess I was lucky in this regard in that they occasionally use non-Teslas for loaners. The folks at the service center here in Tigard (now Portland) are great and they even washed the car for me. After all those road trips, there were more than a few bugs plastered on the fascia that I know they weren't easy for them to remove.

You might look at that list and think, wow that's a lot of issues for just one year. I don't mind if there are issues. I bought the first model year of a new vehicle from a bleeding-edge company. My VIN is around 16,000, I expect issues. What matters more to me is how they deal with them. In every case the service center took my concerns seriously, they acted promptly, resolved the problem, and gave me a Tesla loaner. Which, in one case, meant that I got to drive a P100 Ludicrous vehicle for a day. I have no regrets, I would buy it again in a heartbeat.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Electric Republican

A fellow EV-advocate just shared an exchange that he had with a Republican friend of his. Without going into detail, I'll just say that the EV-advocate was attacking his Republican friend for not supporting EVs.

I believe that a maligned assault, like the one that this EV-advocate was undertaking, has very little chance of success. In fact, it is more likely to cause a backfire effect and the attacked-person will just entrench deeper into their current belief and further shield themselves from anything that contradicts their current ideology.

So to all my EV advocate friends, I want to say, honey works better than vinegar.

Use tact, not attacks.
If you want to talk to someone, find out what is important to them. See things from their perspective, even if it is radically different from your own. Their reasons for doing things don't have to be the same as yours. Agreeing on what the right thing is, that is what's important.

If you say things like "The Republican Party is wrong" then EVs become a tribalism symbol. When this happens, the facts no longer matter and you no longer have any ability to influence them.

Instead of attacking, try listening. After listening, let's say that you learned that jobs and patriotism are important to them; if you have, then you could then try a tact like this:

Which political party uses smartphones?
Which one uses the internet?
What about computers, Google, YouTube...

The answer is both political parties (or all of them).

These technologies don't have a political party. And I don't think electric cars should have a political party either. Every American, and especially every Republican, should drive an Electric car. Why 'especially Republicans'? Because these cars are fueled with American made energy and that means more American jobs. When you spend money on electricity, it goes to the local power plant and your neighbor that works at the utility repairing downed power lines, instead of the rich ruling families in the Middle East.

And Electric Cars are made by American companies. GM and Ford have both made commitments to invest heavily in EVs. Tesla is an American company and they are winning market share from German and Japenese luxury car makers. They are shipping cars around the world; cars that are built in the US. That, again, means more American jobs.

As Victor Hugo said, "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come." Things happen when the time and place are right. The time for EVs is now. If the time is now, where is the place going to be? I want the place to be here. EVs are inevitable. If the place is not here, it will still happen and it will be someplace else. If it's someplace else, they will get the manufacturing plants and they will get the jobs and we'll be buying from them. The move to electrify transportation is a tidal wave; we can surf it or be crushed by it. The choice is yours.

The move to electrify transportation is a tidal wave; we can surf it or be crushed by it. The choice is yours.
So to answer "Why especially Republicans?" Because the Republican party supports jobs, it supports America's growth and, most importantly, it is the party of patriotism and driving an American made, American fueled car is patriotic.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

When Will Tesla Hit 200,000 Sales in the U.S.? [Q3 2017 Update]

We've been tracking Tesla's sales for some time now. Specifically, the sale of the 200,000th vehicle in the US is an important milestone since it will trigger the US Federal incentive to begin its phase out 3 to 6 months later.

There are hundreds of thousands of people with Model 3 reservations, the timing of the incentive phase-out could impact many buyers, so it's an important question.

Earlier this month, Tesla released their Q3'17 sales numbers. This was Tesla's best quarter for vehicle deliveries, representing a 4.5% increase over Q3 last year. They added over 26,000 cars to the roads worldwide and 15,000 of those in the US. This moves Tesla another step closer to the trigger-point with their current total at just over 145,000.

Model 3 production was less than Tesla's forecast and they attribute this to "production bottlenecks". As they said, they are in production hell. As we've projected problems are to be expected and these early ramp-up pains will be resolved and are not consequential to the eventual volume forecast we've made.

Given the new sales data, here are the up-to-date US sales data and our forecast.

For the past six months, our prediction has had the 200,000 trigger-point occurring would occur in the second quarter of 2018. News outlets and other blogs have been predicting the more optimistic Q1'18 or even Q4'17. Well, after adding the latest sales data, the trend move out even further to late in Q2.

However, it is unlikely that Tesla will cross the threshold near the end of a quarter. If that were the case, they would be more likely to withhold shipments (to the US at least) to allow for the maximum delay of the period before the phase-out begins. This could result in the trigger-point occurring in July. However, I am going to assume that we'll see a step up in Model 3 deliveries later this year that will pull the 200,000 mark solidly back into Q2. If so, for now, we'll keep our 200,000th US sale forecast in Q2 of 2018. If this turns out to be true, here's how the US Federal incentive will phase out.

By the end of the year, we'll know if Tesla can break the Model 3 production bottleneck. Production hiccups on Model 3 at this stage don't have a big impact on the overall delivery data, as Model 3 production ramps, this will change significantly as it will dominate Tesla's sales volume.

Assuming that the above forecast is correct, the incentive would remain in full effect until the end of September of 2018. This would afford Tesla more than one year of Model 3 deliveries with the full US tax incentive. This should include delivery of the dual motor all-wheel-drive and performance versions of the cars that are expected to start delivery in early 2018. So if you placed your reservation before Independence Day of this year, there's a good chance that you could have your car in time to qualify for the $7500 federal tax credit.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Traveling Oregon in a Tesla - Photo Journal (Part 6 Oregon Coast)

In part 5, we'd left the butterfly pavilion and headed to the Driftwood Shores Resort on the coast. It's a beautiful drive.

Bridge as seen from the beach
After checking in, we headed to Cape Perpetua and hiked along the beach to see the rugged spouting horn Cook's Chasm, Devil's Churn, and Thor's Well.

Tesla Model X Parked at the Obeach

Hiking down to the Pacific Ocean

Walking Along The Shore

Thor's Well
After our beach trip, we drove into town for dinner and found an old fashion drive-in restaurant. We thought it would be funny to park one of the newest high-tech cars on the road in this relic from another era. The 1950s car parked next to us completed the juxtaposition.
Tesla Model X in an Old Time A&W Drive-In Diner

Our next stop was the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Heceta Head Lighthouse in the fog seen through the falcon wing door of a Tesla Model X

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head Lighthouse

The next day, after all the miles of driving the Tesla for the last week, we decided to try a couple different forms of transportation: one that eats sand and another that eats hay.
Riding quads on the beach and the dunes of Florence, Oregon

Riding Horses on the Pacific Beach
The next morning we hit the road to head home. The final day of our big summer adventure was here. Before we left Florence, we stopped at a local donut shop, Big Dog Donuts.
An old gas station converted into a donut shop
This donut shop was in an old gas station. The non-functioning pumps were still there. It's nice to see that when everyone starts driving electric cars, there will still be a use for these locations 😋

After grabbing a few donuts for the road, we started up the coast. We were taking the scenic route home. We passed through Newport and made a quick bathroom stop at the Superchargers in Lincoln City.
Driving Home on the Scenic Highway 101 up the Oregon Coast
Later that day we arrived at home. We'd added about 900 miles to the odometer during our week-long adventure. The Superchargers and destination charging spots made getting around in the state easy. I had packed my bag of RV adapters but never needed them. We made some great family memories this summer.

To see where this adventure began, you can start here; or for our latest post, click here