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Sunday, September 20, 2020

4 Years of Tesla Model X Ownership

Four years ago, I bought a Tesla Model X. I've written an annual "Owner's Report" each year; you can see previous years' reports here: 1, 2, 3. In these reports, I talk about our adventures in the X, like the time we took it to a drive-through safaritowing our camper, or the hack we used to haul home a tree on the glass roof. Here's the year 4 report:  

2020 has been anything other than a typical year. The pandemic has meant that I'm now working from home. I'm lucky that I have a job that allows me to work from home. This means that the Model X is not getting as many miles as it used to, but we did have a few trips worth mentioning. 

Vista Ridge at Mt Hood Meadows

Mt Hood

During the 2019/2020 season, we took the X to Mt Hood for several skiing day trips. A quick stop at the Sandy, Oregon Supercharger gave us plenty of juice to crank the heater and defroster as we climbed the mountain and zipped through Silent Rock with the surefooted all-wheel-drive of our 90D. On one of our trips, when we should have stayed at the Supercharger a few more minutes, we stopped at Ski Bowl on our way home and charged up at the West Coast Electric Highway station there while we had dinner after a long day on the slopes. 

The Astoria Column

Fire Dancer at Fort George in Astoria, OR

Festival of The Dark Arts

Our last pre-COVID trip was to Astoria, Oregon for the Festival of The Dark Arts. This "Carnival of Stouts with over 70 rare and unique offerings from 50+ breweries" is at Fort George. We stayed the night in Astoria and toured around the city the next day. It was a fun time and sadly, given the pandemic, I doubt the event will be held in 2021. We charged at Seaside on the way there and drove straight home on the way back. Unfortunately, we could not charge overnight at our hotel (not even on a lowly 120V outlet). But the onboard nav said that we'd make it home with a 9% charge. We arrived home with 7%. We arrived home a little lower than the nav estimated likely because we had our snow tires on, but we made it with plenty of buffer to avoid any range-anxiety. As a backup plan, we could have stopped at any of the various CHAdeMO stations in Banks or Hillsboro if we needed a few extra Watt-hours.

Comet Neowise

One dark night, we drove out to a friend's farm, far from the light pollution of the city to get a good view of Comet Neowise. In addition to a great view of the comet, we came home with some farm fresh eggs. This was an easy there and back drive with no need to charge in-route. 

Rockaway Beach

Soon after the Astoria trip, we went into lock-down mode; no more commuting, trips to the gym, tipping a pint with the lads, or dining out... The only miles added were for the occasional take-out food or a grocery run. Our only lockdown exception was a socially-distanced end-of-summer trip to the beach. We chose Rockaway Beach as our destination. There are no Superchargers along this route, but there are a few destination chargers in Tillamook, so we timed our trip for a lunch stop at the Blue Heron Cheese Company.

A peacock and an old tractor at Blue Heron Cheese Co.

As we pulled into the Blue Heron parking lot, we saw that the destination charger was occupied by a Model 3. Luckily there was a J1772 available next to it. We grabbed a quick lunch and sat at their outdoor seating area as we ate and charged up. Soon the 3 left and we were able to move over to the faster destination charging station. We took a stroll around their facility seeing a white peacock, chickens, rooster, goats, llama, and more; then we were back on the road. 

At Rockaway, we hiked the Cedar Wetlands Preserve on a nice boardwalk over the wetlands to a giant cedar. If you ever plan on going there, here's a quick tip: the trailhead is right off of Hwy. 101 at the "Welcome to Rockaway" sign at the south end of the city. This is not where the onboard nav (or Google maps) sent us. After our short hike, we headed to the beach and spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the sand and surf. We had dinner at a little diner near the shore and headed home; arriving home with 28% charge remaining.

Boardwalk to the Giant Cedar Tree 

Wild Fires 

Soon after our beach trip, the entire West Coast seemed to go up in flames. There were at least a dozen fires in various parts of Oregon. Some areas were evacuated, some Oregon towns like Talent and Detroit were severely damaged. The skies over the western part of the state darkened with smoke. The smoke was so bad that flights in and out of the region were canceled. The masks that we'd been wearing for COVID, now served double duty if you had to be outside. 

Why do I mention this? Because the bio-hazard defense mode air filter in the Model X came in handy when we had to go out during the ~10 days when the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 were unhealthy. 

Smoky Skies in Oregon

Year 4 Stats 

Miles added: 5,602 (9016 km) - my lowest year yet
Total Milage: 38,309 (61,652 km)
This Year's Battery Degradation:  2.6% 
Battery Capacity Remaining: 91% (233 miles) 
Software Upgrades: 13 
Current SW version: v10.2 2020.32.2


As I write this, it's a few days before Tesla's Battery Day 2020. I expect that they will announce the "Million-Mile Battery" and much more. The million-mile battery will be a milestone for EV longevity. It will mean that the batteries will far outlast all but the toughest road warriors and even for them, battery replacements will be infrequent, if ever. It will also mean that batteries could have a significant second-life in storage applications or that salvaged batteries could be used in conversion projects and still have significant range and lifespan. 

I, unfortunately, do not have a million-mile battery. I have a 90 kWh pack from 2016. The 90 kWh packs have proven to be Tesla's fastest degrading pack; with some older 85 kWh packs having longer range today than many of the 90s. To be clear though, even Tesla's "worst pack" is far better than the degradation that my 2011 Nissan Leaf suffered

Here's the chart of my 90D's pack degradation:

As you can see, I have lost about 9% range. Looking at charts where other drivers have aggregated their data, it looks like degradation flattens out significantly after ~10% degradation. That is the way the green line is bending in our chart above and I certainly hope that proves to be the case here. With less than 40 thousand miles over 4 years and most of my charging done at home, the batteries are not in an especially taxing situation, yet there's more degradation than I'd like to see. If it flattens out, we'll be fine. If we keep losing 2% per year, road trips will start to become difficult by year 6.

Future of the Model X

Some members of the Tesla community think that Model X is not long for this world. The design is ~5 years old and due for an update or to be discontinued. Musk has described it as the "Faberge egg of vehicles" and the many problems they had getting the falcon-wing doors right for production are well documented.

I'm not in the camp that thinks the X will be discontinued. This is their aspirational or halo vehicle in many ways. This is the vehicle that appears in music videos with the falcon-wing doors swung high. This is the car with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra Wizards in Winter song and dance easter egg. 

Sure the Model Y fills in much of the SUV/CUV market that only the X previously served in Tesla's line-up. As great (and more affordable) as the Y is though, it's not the same type of aspirational vehicle as Model X. (Let me know when you see a Model Y in a rap video) and you can't spell S3XY without an X.

Each Tesla vehicle (announced and in-production) fills a niche. The Roadster is the fast one. The Cybertruck is the badass one. The S is the luxury sedan that's faster than a Porsche 911. The 3 and the Y are the relatively more affordable ones. And all of them are sexy.

Given all this, I hope to see a redesigned Model X with more range, a vertical screen, more towing capacity, faster charging, and other upgrades unveiled as the 'one more thing' at battery day or another Tesla event soon.

I plan on buying another X in ~2025, so they better still be making them ☺☺☺

Parting Thoughts

This has been a strange year in many ways. I'll continue to work from home until at least June of 2021, so I expect year 5 to be a similar low mileage year. When COVID struck, we heard a lot about flattening the curve. For year 5, I'm hoping that my battery pack's degradation curve flattens out too. 

I still love the X and have no regrets. If I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now, maybe I'd have waited a few months and got a 100D with AP2, but if I waited for the 'perfect' Tesla, I might still be waiting for some feature or upgrade that has the Tesla followers abuzz and I'd have missed out on 4 years of incredible fun. And when I do finally upgrade, I'll be getting all this and more. If you see a Tesla that meets your needs and your budget, don't hesitate, grab the opportunity. Will there be other innovations from Tesla? Absolutely. You (and I) can get those in our next Tesla.

Disclosure: I am long Tesla stock. 


1 comment:

  1. We, too, are in our 4th year with our 90D Model X. Our 90% charge is between 204-221m @86,000 miles on the ODO. It’s been an expensive year. New tires at over $1000, new transaxle/half-shafts at $2000, new MCU @$2200, new 72amp onboard charger at $2800 — which also necessitates replacement of our Gen 1 Wall Charger because it isn’t compatible with the new onboard chargers. MCU replacement means that night mode doesn’t work properly on the backup camera, so backing out of the garage on early mornings is treacherous.

    Car still drives great, but these out of warranty expenses are adding up.