Thoughts on Driving a Tesla Model 3

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I finally did it!  We were in Las Vegas, and my wife said yes, so I rented this Tesla Model 3 for a day to make a quick trip to the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade.

I’ve been dreaming about this car for a while.  I had done my research.  So without trying to classify / rate it overall, here’s the individual things I found:

Acceleration

I started out the day in Chill Mode, graduated about halfway through the day to normal acceleration. I only let it loose once going up an interstate ramp.   About 2x or better the G’s than my Nissan Leaf gives me, and way past 45.   Wow.   Pedal about halfway down = what I’m used to as “strong” acceleration.   Probably not something I’d use a lot.

Autopilot was amazing

Turn it on, and its like the lane I’m in suddenly developed invisible steel rails and the car started gliding on those tracks.  

  • Turns out I drive more to the right than I thought.  I kept trying to correct it.  Wife thought the car was doing a better job than me. 
  • Trying to force the car out of where it wants to go is about the same as..  guiding a car up onto a curb at a very slight angle?  Didn’t measure it, maybe a pound of force?   Easily done, but more than just a touch of the steering wheel.  When it gives, its almost a .. snap? But the car doesn’t veer.
  • The amount of agitation to give the steering wheel so that it knows you’re still there is more than what I normally apply to a steering wheel when I’m driving long distance – I have a very light touch.   It got pissy with me.  So yes, it ensures you are paying attention.
  • It tended to drift a bit when lanes merge in to your lane.
  • it tended to be confused and then snap to a lane when exiting and going down ramps.
  • Telling it to change lanes is awesome.  Its very sure of itself.
  • It tended to be very conservative when people pulled out in front of me in the city.
  • I had way more situational awareness about surrounding cars.   Its like:  see them in side mirror, see them in the display, see them pass me out the driver window, and the whole time: The car knows they are there.
  • I kept it at a follow distance of 5, which is 2.5 seconds.   And pretty much the speed limit. 
  • Even in the city, when not on autopilot, I’d have it in “smart cruise control” where it followed the car in front.  Very relaxing.  It could track the forward car even on windy roads.
  • There were some confusing times – after stopping exiting a ramp – not realizing it still wanted to drive, perhaps?  Or, the car is being a little paranoid, applying braking of its own, and I’m surprised so I apply more brakes as well.  
  • Its already good enough to be a game-changer, and its going to get better.  I want in on this action.   Everybody else, please catch up soon.

Brake, and Hold

Car slows down, press brake to come to a stop.  Remove feet from pedals.  Car stays there.  Like “Hold” mode in a Prius going up a Hill.  Very nice.   Very much a fan.

Single Pedal Driving

I was worried that there wouldn’t be a lot of “Neutral” coast.. but .. I didn’t miss it. I spent more time in auto-cruise-control adjusting speed with the thumbwheel.. and even when controlling my own speed, there’s a very solid feel of “keep this speed going on.”   

I did find that I’d lift my foot a second or two before I intended to slow down – starting to move my foot to the brake – and the car would slow down, startling me.   Probably a few days would get rid of that habit.   Its a different brain circuit.

I’d say first 5-10 minutes are “WTF”, and then its “oh this is nice” + “Whoa why did I do that”, and maybe in 2-3 days it would be second nature.

Steering

It felt like I was holding a heavy steering wheel, which was attached with super-strong titanium links to the wheels.  It felt like I could “feel” the wheels through the steering wheel.  Any little input I gave, immediate response.  Is this called “tight”?  And it wasn’t even in Sport mode.  It was amazing.

Drive, Park, and Walk Away.  There is no Off

This was very freaky.  Yeah, stop the car, put it in Park, get OUT of the car, and lock it.  The car is now “Off”.   Unlock the car.  The car is now “On”.   There is a way to turn the car off while you’re in the car, but its not a common use case.

Range Anxiety

What range anxiety?   Yeah, I don’t even know how far we drove, I’d have to look it up.  No worries about the A/C being on, either.   We got it with 228 miles available, drove it down to .. 168? charged it up to 260.

Supercharging

Easily found.  Easily plugged in.  And then … it starts to ramp up the amps.. and .. OMG, 300 miles in an hour!  (initially). I think we stuck an additional 90 miles on in about 40 minutes.  20 of those minutes were wandering around a convenience store.  It is much more relaxed than when you are getting gas, because you know you’re going to be there a bit.  Which is how I’d prefer to roll – relaxed.  Definitely getting the right snack.  I look forward to taking a long distance trip in a Tesla with Autopilot.

Voice Navigation and Navigation in General

Better than any other car I’ve been in, on par with what I expect Google Maps and Apple Maps to be.  Probably closer to Apple Maps in terms of accuracy – it did miss the start of one offramp entirely, and chose the less optimal way into a parking lot, and the long way around involving a roundabout when a simple left was available.

The Car Itself

I think I’d rather get a Model Y.    The Model 3 was too close to the ground.   And almost too cute.   Probably go with gray or black, red is just not me.   Wife says Blue.

Using Turo

I think I’d recommend trying it out.  Granted, this host was maybe better than most?  He had an assistant who took care of all the details and made everything super simple.  Its about the same as how it felt going from Taxi’s to Lyft/Uber .. as it is going from Avis to Turo.  The same corollary applies – its a one to one, pre-meditated thing, with more details to figure out – vs a “go to one place and just get a car” (equivalent to go to one place – at a hotel taxi line – and get a taxi).   While renting, I had insurance cards provided by Liberty Mutual on my phone.    There’s a checkout and check-in process that involves documenting the state of the vehicle.   

At the end of the day, I was sad we didn’t have more errands to run.  

Regrets buying my Nissan LEAF EV

I wish I could have bought a Tesla.

I’m still super-glad that I switched from an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car to an EV.   I do get a little twinge when I see a Prius Prime plug-in-hybrid, however, I have to go back to the big deciding factor:

$300/month.

Yep.  That was the number.   I couldn’t do it with my initial reservation .. maybe I could have done it with the 2019 base Model 3, however, I love technology, and … that would not have been honest with myself.   At least the technology package and AP2, which brings that up to $43k.

However, before I get too far in to my pity party, I need to review:

ICE Car Used Leaf in my Price Range My future Tesla
No Gas!
ditto
Super quiet + Jet engine sounds
ditto
Nice acceleration
Even better acceleration by the numbers
Remote start A/C and Heater
including a timed heater start in the garage because no emissions.               
ditto
All-Around-View Camera
Could happen
Inexpensive maintenance
– no oil changes, etc.  Service every 18k miles.
ditto, except about $600/y with prepay options.
Prius got to 15 cents per mile. Inexpensive per-mile costs
– 3 cents per mile
ditto
Many inexpensive ICE cars available. Reasonable Car Cost
– 28 cents per mile (assuming 60k miles payoff)
Not there yet.  Best I could do was around $1/mi at the moment.
Can fit many things Awkward, can’t really fit all the stuff that I could fit in a Prius. I hear its better.
Easy around-town range as long as you visit your gas station 85mi is almost enough. Almost.  There are chargers that make things better. Much better ranges
Long Distance Travel. Not in the Midwest. I can perhaps get to Cincinnati, if I go at 60mph. Superior infrastructure and range.

To be fair, the newer Nissan Leaf had a better range, which solves some of the problems, and if I had done a lease, I could have gotten as low as $300/mo.   However, there’s another angle – I wanted to experience the frustration of a short range EV. So that I have a realistic sense of what was possible/what is not, so I can point people at stuff that’s even better than what I have.

How close till my future Tesla?

If I back track the $ trail – lets say $400/mo (car payment, I’m not adding the $90 in gas that I don’t pay anymore) – at 3.5% APY that gets me to around $21k.   How long till a used Tesla gets down to $21k?

If you go to https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/price-trends/Tesla-Model-S-d2039 and play with the dates, I can currently find this chart:

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See that little rise at the end?    Annoying.   And, It seems to take about 3 years to drop .. about 40%.  Also note they have no info on price trends for model 3’s and model X’s.

Another tracker:  Used car listings on carguru.com showed the cheapest model three at $51k.

Another tracker:  Used car listings on Carmax … only show Model S’s, and they are way more expensive than the used cars at Tesla.com.

Another track would be a much larger car payment, but .. that’s not something I’m willing to bet 5 years of cash flow on right now.

Its safe to say .. not soon.

So here I am.  I DO love that I’m driving an EV;  Yes, its a bit hard and clunky in some ways; but give it a few years or so (time goes by faster as I get older) and lets see.