Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Future as an EV Owner


Having put down the $1K deposit for my Tesla Model 3, I'm already beginning to think through the kinds of lifestyle decisions I will have to make -- good and bad -- as a daily EV driver. It's actually a lot of fun -- kind of like thinking about what it would be like to be married, have kids, be famous, win the lottery.

NO MORE TRIPS TO THE GAS STATION. YAY!
Every time I go to the gas station to gas up my Honda, I think to myself, "One day, I will drive my this station and think, 'I remember when I had to go there every week.'" I admit, it makes the wait during my tank fill-up a lot more pleasant. One day I won't have to breathe in car fumes, wait in line while another driver fights with the auto-payment machine, or dish out a mini-fortune just to drive my car to work one more week. I'll simply coast on by with my Tesla in regen-mode and smile. And eventually, I'll forget to even acknowledge that gas station's existence.

And I'll also throw in here that there will be no more trips to the mechanic shops only to get ripped off on thousands of dollars of car maintenance. If you're a woman, you will especially understand the feeling. Which also brings to mind the time I save my brother from toting him around with me to get my car serviced just to make sure I don't get exploited. I mean, cmon! It's a Honda Civic! If you're going to save on car maintenance with a gas car, that's pretty much the best you can get. (Rant over -- for now.)

EV-HATERS UNITE. BOO!
I'm already seeing glimpses of it -- EV-haters who say that those who praise EVs are naive and uninformed. And as the EV population grows, they will just get more and more vocal. They say that EV owners don't bother asking the hard questions like "What happens to the environment when the battery is dead" or "Don't you know that it's worse on the environment to just create EVs?" In reality, those who choose or even seriously consider switching to an EV have asked far more difficult questions than that. There's a difference between a hater and an enquirer. Haters generally have already drawn their conclusion before a discussion, and tend to be more interested in listening to themselves sound big rather than be humble and listen. (I deleted a reference to a current Republican delegate here. It was too obvious to waste space on it.) An inquirer will engage in a meaningful discussion. For future reference, it's important to know the difference and not get sucked into a breath-wasting argument.

If you ask me outright if I think electric cars is the solution to our emissions problem, I'll be honest. I'm not 100% sure it is. The study of science isn't exact. Yes, it's possible to get a great of 100% on your math exam (try 100% on an English or Philosophy exam! It never happens.). But even Math at its highest form works in inferences, not absolutes. The truth is, science, like all scholarly study, is measured in probabilities. We do our best to predict as many contingencies ahead of time and address them before we put it into a working protocol. And considering the vast limits of the human mind, debates over possible outcomes can go on forever. People are just too unpredictable to capture all the possibilities ahead of time. The key thing to realize is that there comes a time when you have to take the leap and put your idea into motion knowing that you will always have to tweak things on the fly. The key is to find out when that right moment is. I am not buying an EV because I know it's going to save the environment. I'm doing it because it is far more likely solution than sticking with the status quo in oil and gas. 

ROAD TRIPS. YAY!
I'm already planning my annual vacation in my Tesla to exotic places all over Canada and the US now that I'll be able to afford it! I'm not rich. In fact, having been in student loan debt until my mid-40s has kept me a poor student long after I graduated. So saving up and paying off my Tesla car payments meant sacrificing vacations and other luxuries. I am willing to do it.

But now I realize -- vacation trips with a Tesla means no more transportation costs. It's road trip time! And it's not like the kind of road trips I'm accustomed to. My last road trip to Los Angeles costed me over $700 CAD in my car costs (including servicing my car before and after the trip). I ate crappy gas station food for meals. I slept at a rest stop in the freezing December cold and had to wake up every hour just to run my engine so I could get some heat. And when I arrived at my destination, I needed at least one good night's sleep to clear my head from all the psychological stress of long-distance driving before I could even start planning anything in the city. 

I'm imagining with a Tesla (Tesla-owners you can confirm or deny as needed) that the Supercharger network means no travel costs. I can sit in a restaurant and have a proper meal without having to make extra stops to do so. I can sleep in the quiet confines of my temperature-controlled car cabin pretty much anywhere I want. And autopilot means the car will reduce a lot of the stress of driving. THAT sounds like a vacation to me!


MILEAGE COUNTING. BOO!
Right now, I probably take for granted that no matter where I go in my car, I can be assured that there will be gas stations relatively near when my tank is low. I don't have to plan ahead of time how many kms I have to drive to get to my destination and then make sure I will make it there. I just leave. And if my tank is low, gas stations are ubiquitous enough that I will find one within blocks of where I am.

Charging stations are different. I'm not opposed to learning a new network system of "car fuel." But I do imagine that it will be slightly more complicated than what I'm used to. I will have to take into consideration making sure a public charging station has the right type of charge port for my car, if a charging station is complimentary for the public or will I have to pay, figuring out the amp output to tell me how long I'll have to wait there before I can get going again, and even deciding when I leave if I should bring my converter plugs with me for the day. And unlike a gas gauge that really barely moves when you watch it, you can watch the number of the "estimated remaining range" tick down as you drive and wonder how long you can go before you're really in trouble.

This, I take it, is known as "range anxiety." And considering that I'm a naturally anxious person already, perhaps this will be something I'll have to get used to. And after a while, I supposed it will become second nature to know how many kms it takes between destinations and where my favorite charging stations are when I may need them.

A LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP. YAY!
I admit, when I watch YouTube videos of Tesla owners talk about all the ins and outs of driving their Model S, I get green with envy. I mean, sure, I would love a Model S if I could afford one. But I am more envious of their membership in a Tesla community where owners contribute to the ongoing development at Tesla. Their feedback is vitally important to Tesla and steers (ironic) their priorities towards what customers need developed next. I suspect that there will be some adjustments when Model 3 owners begin to have that voice. A middle-class car owner will have a slightly different perspective than someone who is able to afford a $100K-priced car. I think the average Model 3 owner will think more in terms of pure affordability and will identify very clearly what they can and cannot live without based on a limited family budget. Tesla can get a clear picture of what are essential tweaks that need to be built into the price, and what should be deemed as paid upgrades.

I do want to highlight however, that when I look at the upgrades on the Model S, it doesn't even close to resemble what you expect from the traditional car dealer. When I went to buy my Honda, the base price felt like I was just getting a car shell. Pretty much anything that would make the car bearable to drive on a regular basis had to be paid for. But when I look at the base Model S, the car is stocked with such amazing features that it's like buying a turn-key car. Every optional upgrade is definitely a luxury, not a forced requirement. In this respect, Tesla is way ahead on my satisfaction meter.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

At Least They're Talking!

In the District of North Vancouver where I live, the last election did something that many didn't realize would happen one day -- they voted Liberal. The new MP, Jonathan Wilkerson  has many attractive qualities, not withstanding that actually responds to a question in a straightforward manner. But one particular part of his background is of interest to me -- his 20 years of experience in the commercial green-tech industry. Well, his title of Rhode Scholar equally intrigues me, but I'll save that for a different post in my regular blog.


Wilkerson hosted a public meeting for his riding this past Wednesday where he went through the various key topics that were addressed by the recent Federal Budget announcement. There were a fair amount of very credible priorities where budget would improve quality of life in Canada and support increased advancements in projects that promote eco-consciousness and decreased emissions.

After his presentation, he took questions from the crowd. What was most interesting was the number of questions around electric vehicles. North Vancouver is an affluent part of Greater Vancouver, where its residents can generally afford a Tesla Model S and X. And less than a week after the news spam about people lining up to buy the unseen Model 3, the discussion about the effectiveness of EVs to counter global warming was in the air. I mean, when you say "environmentally-friendly" in the aftermath of the Model 3 announcement, Tesla and their electric vehicles seem to automatically come to the forefront of people's minds.

The first question to Wilkerson, in fact, was about EVs and the process of discarding the old lithium-ion batteries. The first thought I had was "This is so off-topic from the federal budget. Wilkerson will brush it off." But because of his background in the clean tech industry, Wilkerson had the answer. That is, that they are generally dismantled and recycled. Bravo, Jonathan!

Another question about EV's came up shortly afterwards. Actually this was more of an accusation -- that the production of EVs create more carbon emissions than they save. I wanted to jump up and say, "That's Not True!" But I kept my cool when I saw the guy beside me shake his head and say those words out loud for me.


I came away from that event encouraged. People are talking about electric vehicles. They are challenging their viability and putting the questions out in the open where they can be answered for others to hear. EV enthusiasts aren't in some secret club anymore where they are dubbed "tree-hungers" or "hippies." The fact that EVs are being questioned in public means that even the concept of considering an electric car has gone mainstream. This is just the beginning of a true rEVolution, and I'm really excited -- even honoured -- to get to be a part of it!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

All Hail the Model 3!!

I did it! I managed to go to the Tesla store after work. While Vancouver store did have a lot of visitors, I didn't end up having to stand in line long before going in. It took all of about 3 minutes to register my name and credit card, and I was out the door.

The Vancouver store had a big white poster for future Model 3 owners to sign after they reserved with a deposit. I am glad to have been one of the signatures there!

As for the Model 3 unveiling, I didn't get to see it until the evening the next day after work. It is possible I may have cried a little when they finally unveiled the car. It really looks more amazing than I had expected, and it felt like I was looking at my car to be. But I think my favorite part was all of the unstoppable cheering for Elon when he walked back out on the stage after the cars were unveiled, and someone in the crowd yelled "You did it!" That's exactly how I felt. He has done it. This is the unveiling of the future. I am looking forward to finally ditching my dysfunctional relationship with gasoline and get on board with the pace of progress. And it feels GREAT!

Hello to my future transportation! :)

Monday, March 21, 2016

The official announcement from Tesla Motors about Buying a Model III


Tesla Motors just tweeted this update to their blog. I can see a few pieces of new information there:

RESERVATION AMOUNT IN YOUR HOME CURRENCY
So it looks like the deposit to reserve a Model III is not $1000 USD but $1000 in your own currency, approximated by how your country's numerical currency system. They have a link there to see what the specific deposit is in your country's currency. Knowing how much higher the exchange rate is for the (Euro) and the £ (British pound), those deposits look substantially higher than those in North America.

WAITING LIST QUEUED BY REGION
So instead of going with an all-inclusive waiting list, the lists will be divided by regions. This makes sense to save on shipping costs. It's much easier to ship a lot of cars to one location than it is to ship them out piece by piece to separate addresses all over the world. They will start with the western-most part of North America and move East. Afterwards, it's the countries with right-hand driving systems. Hm, so if I live in Vancouver, Canada, that's technically the west coast of North America, which puts me closer to the front of the line. *insert grin here*

However, it appears that they will deliver the first Model IIIs to Tesla owners in each region first before they get to the new Tesla hopefuls.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Tesla Model 3 Unveiling Event


As the date and time approaches to Tesla Motor's announcement and unveiling of their Model III sedan, gradually more information is being posted. Here's what I have figured out so far from various articles I've read:


DATE: MARCH 31, 2016
If you are one of the lucky owners of a Tesla, you hopefully got drawn for a ticket to the event. 650 of the total 800 people who will be in attendance will be current Tesla owners.

TIME: 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM
Those attending the event should be there when the doors open at 7:00pm.

LOCATION: TESLA DESIGN STUDIO, HAWTHORNE, CA

LIVE STREAMING
At TESLAMOTORS.COM and so far I hear that autoblog.com/green will provide live streaming as well. I'll update this with more alternate locations if needed just in case Tesla Motor's website can't handle the traffic. Or I suppose you could just wait for the video to be uploaded to YouTube the next day.

$1000 USD DEPOSIT TO RESERVE YOUR MODEL III
If you are lucky to get time off of work and stand in line at one of your nearest Tesla Stores, they start taking resevations at 10:00 AM PDT. This means you probably have to go earlier if you want to be one of the first in line. Oh, and get your "Tesla-fanatic" on because the press will probably be there wanting to take your picture. (Sorry Utah, Virginia, and the other 6 states who have banned Tesla from opening a store... it's a road trip for you if you want to do this. Tell your members of legislature to stop taking money from the Kochs and GM and maybe they will grow a brain.)

Online orders will start at 8:30 PM PDT as soon as the event begins. In preparation, I highly suggest that you create an online account at TeslaMotors beforehand to save yourself time.

Oh, and the deposit is 100% refundable, and no you can't start paying off your car before you get it. 

WHO GETS THEIR CAR FIRST?
If you are one of the 15,000 lucky ones employed by Tesla worldwide, you'll be near the front of the line (I assume after Elon has granted all the first bin #'s to his various friends and family members). Next are current Tesla owners. Yes, I'm bummed about that too. Then it's whoever is next in the reservation order. So getting your order in as early as possible helps. This includes special features like the colour of the car and others that we'll find out about.

WHAT ARE WE GONNA SEE?
So far, it's been leaked that we'll be seeing a working, driveable prototype. I suppose this means that they are much further along with the development than first thought when all we were getting excited about were possible pictures of maybe some parts of the car. However, it's a prototype. That means the final production version may be a watered down or altered version of what we will see.

Frankly, I don't know how Mr. Musk is planning to fill 3 hours of time. Perhaps the presentation is only about an hour, and the rest is to give test drives to those present. Or maybe he'll announce the leaked P100D Model S (affectionately being nicknamed "PLOOD." Yeah, I hate it too.) and Gigafactory updates.

What I know for sure is that it's gonna be one hell of a celebration. We've been waiting for so long. It's like 10 years of  waiting for the arrival of Christmas Day.

Unfortunately, I work on Thursday nights from 8:00 to 9:30 PM. Go figure. I guess I'll be getting my car in 2019.

Enjoy the show everyone!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why Tesla Can't Operate In Utah.

Before I get into my responses, let me give a quick background on the issue with the Tesla store in Utah. You may need to double check the dates and numbers since I'm piecing the information together now after the fact.


About a year ago, Bill HB294 (substitute 1) which was in the works for about a year was defeated in the House. This Bill outlined regulations for new car dealers -- in this case, Tesla Motors, to operate in the State without the use of a third-party dealer. This issue is being debated in virtually every State in the US with varying success.

On February 23, 2016, the video of a Utah House of Representatives meeting was published on YouTube containing raw footage of the presentation and discussion of Bill HB294 (Substitute 2), another attempt to get the Bill passed. If you aren't a Tesla fanatic, this may come across ridiculously dry and boring. But if you are wondering what the issues are that blocks Tesla from opening direct sales stores in various States, the lengthy discussion in this meeting may be an eye opener.

DISCLAIMER: I should say that I'm not up to speed with all of the details of this issue. That includes the exact date of the meeting in the YouTube clip. Ask a Utah-residing Tesla owner/follower if you want more indepth insight into the matter. I'm just highlighting the issues raised in the discussion at the house via the video post.

The discussion of the bill starts at 19:51 and ends at 1:16:18. Yup, a lot of people have a lot to say.



Now you may call me a bit of a conspiricy theorist here, but I'm very suspicious about the outcome of the vote and frankly, am surprised considering how Utah prides itself in supporting free-market as a driving force for their economy.

1. It was not clear that the last minute changes made to the bill the weekend prior to this meeting were completely vetted by the two negotiating parties, the motor vehicle dealers and the new car dealer, Tesla Motors. 
Based on the discussion, my sense is that the house members are either unconvinced that a true consensus was reached, or that their interest in the issues have gone stale, and they just prefer the bill to shop showing up over and over for discussion. Most of the members who did speak are clearly passionate about the bill and want it to happen. But the unclarity in Sen. Coleman's responses to questions about whether or not consensus was reached leaves one to think that full consensus was not confirmed prior to the bill's presentation.

2. The car manufacturers who "control" the dealerships are much more involved than they let on.
It's clear, and frankly not too surprising, that the franchised dealership owners are not happy with the decades of abuse that they have suffered under the heavy hand of the auto manufacturers. I commend them for even considering the amendments to allow Tesla to set up shop in the state and not forcing them into this dysfunctional relationship-type business model. But what was surprising was Sen. Coleman's statement that they reached out to the car manufacturer's directly and it was clear they were not interested in getting involved with the negotiation. Considering GM's desperate attempt to push down Tesla (consider their involvement in Indiana) in favor of their upcoming new Bolt EV, and their direct involvement in the Bill in Indiana (which was probably less of a compromise and more of a ban) they certainly would have a vested interest in this bill. Or perhaps they have paid off enough senators to have the majority of them vote against the bill. If you notice in the video, the nay-sayers seem to be eerily silent throughout the whole discussion. We don't want to think that the legislature has been corrupted, but we can't turn a blind eye to the US problem of corporate endorsements in exchange for political gain.

3. Two words: Koch Brothers
The best way to stay out of trouble is to stay out of the limelight. If it is correct that the Koch Brothers are investing 10 million dollars to combat environmental government subsidies, I suspect this is just a smoke screen for a much more underhanded business. They want to kill the electric car -- again. That part is clear. And politics is one very powerful way to do that. I'm just saying...

I should add that I have read elsewhere that Tesla is suing the State of Utah over the unfair regulations. After all, they allowed them to invest 3 million dollars into a new store, and then put a stop to their grand opening celebrations just days before it was to take place. Now it has stayed empty for over a year, racking up property fees and taxes, while they wait for the politics to play catch up. They also are appealing to the Federal Courts for help.

Read the defeated Bill here: http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/HB0394.html

A small sample of news to read and watch for a snapshot of the issues:

Run-in with Utah law could block Tesla's grand opening plan. The Salt Lake Tribune, Mar 4, 2015
Bill Opening Door for Tesla, other online dealers advances to House. The Salt Lake Tribune, Mar 5, 2015
Lawmaker pushing for compromise over Tesla Sales in Utah. Deseret News. July 15, 2015
Tesla sales bill in Utah sputters to halt after multiple changes (updated)  "Green Car Reports" Mar 16, 2016

And another YouTube Clip:



Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tesla Model 3: These are the Bells and Whistles I Want...

So from what I heard from Musk, the Model III will be about 20% smaller than the Model S and will not come with all the bells and whistles. So just for the record, here's the list of Model S features that I've identified that I would like to see on the Model III, or otherwise would be okay to go without.


ALUMINUM BODY
In my limited understanding, Model S chose to go with aluminum because it's durable, and its light weight can offset the weight of the battery. For the Model 3, even Elon Musk has said that it will likely be a steel body and still be about 30% lighter than the Model S. Assuming steel is cheaper than aluminum, I'm fine with this.


AUTO-PILOT
I can't emphasize enough how important it is for the Model 3 to come with auto-pilot. This is a footprint to the future of mass individualized transport and needs to be there in the mass-market Model III if he is to get other auto makers on board. The expected widespread market means an massively larger intake of data that will speed up the development of this technology towards autonomous driving. If this is not present in the Model 3, all will be lost.


OVER-SIZED TOUCHSCREEN
It could be argued that it isn't necessary to install such a large touch-screen between the two front seats. But in all honesty, large screens means less distraction because you don't have to squint to read the map or the various option buttons. However, I do think the price of exponentially increases with screen size, and may perhaps require Tesla to reduce the size in order to keep the price affordable. It would be sad, but it would not be a deal-breaker for me.


PANORAMIC ROOF
I guess it's just personal preference, but I don't use my sunroof that much as it is already. I have to admit that I am intrigued about having a bigger visual range while driving. But this is definitely more of a luxury than a necessity.



DUAL-MOTOR
This one is a toughy. To start, having a single motor at the back wheels in a Tesla is not the same thing as with a gasoline car. The typical gasoline car is front heavy -- and disproportionately so. So while back-wheel powered driving may feel smoother in this type of car, it's the reason why it's a much more dicey drive in bad weather. The Tesla, on the other hand, has a low centre of gravity smack in the middle of the vehicle. This alone gives you substantially better handling and control. The second motor at the front wheels, which is a smaller motor, just increases the range slightly because you have more sources of regeneration. So while having an all-wheel drive is attractive, it's not as essential as it would be in a front-heavy gas engine car. For this reason, I've made my peace with foregoing the dual-motor to revert my extra funds towards other stuff, like...


AUTO-PARK
When I went for my Tesla test drive, I seriously thought the best part was going to be testing the acceleration, or witnessing auto-steer. But by far the feature I got most excited about was the auto-park. The idea of a stress-free experience backing up your car into a tight spot delights me to no end. Now it's hard to imagine Tesla keeping the auto-pilot feature and not including auto-park, mainly because they seem to use the same 5 sensors built into the Model S. So I would assume that if Musk removes one, he'll remove this too... and in-so-doing, possibly remove a Tesla customer from his wait list. I simply can't imagine buying a Tesla without both of these features.


INSANE / LUDICROUS MODE
As insanely ludicrous as this feature is, the truth is that paying $10K for this upgrade is pure luxury and will have to remain something that the wealthy can have. Essentially a show-off feature, I would be surprised if Musk bothers making room for this option in the Model 3. It's definitely a show-stopper, but probably not worth the price tag.



STEERING OPTIONS
I think many of us would agree that this is probably not an essential feature to have, or even to offer. Switching between comfort and sport mode was definitely illuminating, and while it's nice to imagine being able to choose between the two, having no option isn't really giving up much, in my opinion.

SMART AIR SUSPENSION
Likewise with this feature. I do have a very steep driveway where I've had other cars and even a moving truck scrape their bumper on the pavement trying to drive up to our front door. So it makes me wonder, if this option isn't there, will the car be high enough to not damage itself everytime I come home. In general, the idea of having the car lower itself at high speeds to reduce wind resistance and thus increase energy efficiency is brilliant. But probably not essential enough to boot up the price of the car.


3/4G WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY COMPLIMENTARY SERVICE
I'm not sure if it was just me, but I was shocked when I found out that the LTE wireless service came with the car. I was sure this would have required another monthly subscription for the service. The fact that it is complimentary (meaning I can cross the border into the US and not even worry about roaming fees -- or any fees for that matter), blew my mind. But it makes me wonder how this affects the price of the vehicle. I don't know how long Tesla will be able to offer this if the car really does go to mass-market. Am I being nervous for nothing? (Clearly, I've never owned a car with wifi. Someone want to enlighten me on this?)


WINTER PACKAGE
Um, I'm Canadian. Please make this an option, Mr. Musk. Full stop.

HI-FI UPGRADE
Up until now, I've never bought this upgrade in any car. Then again, my nicest car to date is a Honda Civic -- nice and loud, and clunky. There was simply no reason to get nice sound in your car if it's always going to fight against the roar of an econo-class transmission. Well, I look forward to finally having a nice quiet inner space to finally hear the beautiful overtones of my Rachmaninov piano concertos, or whatever awesome hit Ed Sheeran comes out with next. I hope this comes as an option.


TESLA MOBILE APP
I thought I'd throw this in here even if it's really not a point of contention. It will be interesting to see if they incorporate the Model 3 into the existing app, simply because it's hard to know which features in the app will remain to support the Model S, and which will go inactive if it is synced up with the new Model 3. Having never used the app (because I'm not yet a Tesla EV owner), this is something I guess I'll come to discover when it's my turn join the Tesla club.


FOLDING SIDE MIRRORS AND HIDDEN DOOR HANDLES
Personally, I find minimal need to have my side-view mirrors tuck into my car while it's parked. It's a nice idea to reduce the amount of protrusion from your car, reducing its exposure to more damage. But sometimes having the extra mechanical feature is more of a bother than an enhancement. I watched a video where the car had frozen over enough that the side mirrors were stuck in the tucked position until the car heated up. I feel the same way with the door handles. It's a neat feature, but it feels like it's just something else available to break down (and I think there have been some issues with the earlier Model S's with the door handles). If the Model 3 were without these, I wouldn't miss them at all.

WHAT ELSE?
Well, it would be nice if I could somehow download my driving stats shown in the car into a spreadsheet so I can do my own analysis. This includes not just distance or power used by minute or day, but also stats like how much energy I regenerated on a trip. 

It would also be really cool to see a finger-printing technology to access certain features, removing the need for the use of a key fob or any other external device. I realize the doors right now can open without removing the fob from your pocket, but there's something about the idea of putting your fingerprint on the vehicle that really makes it feel like its your toy.

I'm excited about March 31st. I can't get a day off of work to line up to put my deposit down at the nearest Tesla store, so I'll just have to hope for the best that the site doesn't crash on April 1st when I try to do it online. Part of me is expecting to be disappointed at how little will actually get revealed. But whatever we get, it's more than what we have now.