And then the battery stopped working…

Range anxiety is overrated. I’ve never had the pleasure of going past 0km of range left (a friend of mine has, he went
into -8km!), but I’ve been at 3, 7 and 12km various times without feeling any anxiety whatsoever.

Full range from april to now

But then, on a Thursday morning, I noticed that my vehicle-log had not picked up any data after 04:01. I approached my car: no handles coming out. They appeared, however, after touching them. I stepped into my car and both screens where black; the car was silent and dark.

Of course my engineering background kicked in and I spent the next five minutes examining mirror-motors (they still worked), car lock/unlock: fine and lights (also shining brightly). Except for the dashboard, the touchscreen and, of course, the ‘D’ for drive.

A call to Tesla Road Side Assistance was the only option out of my misery. The first call to Tesla RSA, back in 2013, was very disappointing; they sent someone to tow the car because the car-side connector-lock didn’t allow the connector to go free. I know now that there are at least 3 ways to force a disconnect, none of them were known to the three friendly car mechanics I spoke back then.

This time it was completely different: The only thing I see as suspect is a low 12V system, the rest is fine. Please allow us to prepare another Model S for you and we will be with you in an hour. Hm, the computer boots from the 12V system which is empty? With 58% of the main battery still left? How odd this car is.

fullrangehour

I spent the next five days driving a Model S P85+; a red coloured one; I’m fifty years old and finally I’m driving a red sports car.

It’s fun to see your car locked and parked via the Tesla app, and still making 80 km/h on the highway! It’s also fun to keep tracking all information about the car while it is at the garage, especially the state of the battery.

The people at the garage in the Hague kept me informed twice on the first day and then again at the end of Friday and on Monday to confirm switching the car back.

As I was still under the impression that my 12V system was gone, I thought that tapping 33.4 Amps from my main battery at 12:30 on Friday was used to charge the new V12 lead-battery. As it continued until 13:35 I knew that the new battery went up in flames or something else was going on. The ideas varied from heating up the garage to powering the fridge next door. But none of these turned out to be true: it was the main battery diagnosis process and it failed.

On Friday afternoon I was told they would replace my main battery (the 85kWh one); in fact this happened at 19:30.

Meanwhile I was thinking whether the battery gave any signs of deterioration, I had rather seen this coming of course.

The full range of the battery can be calculated by dividing the ideal range by the battery level. This will return the full range in ideal circumstances.

fullrangehoursnova

As you can see in the graph, part of my battery super nova’d around the 12th of August, giving up soon after that (around the 23rd of August). A bit later, other parts fell apart too (check out the first graph). I can only assume my main-battery stopped charging the V12 lead-battery at some stage, leaving me without the ability to start on this particular Thursday morning.

Whether there is a special part of the battery dedicated to charging the lead-battery or not, I will probably not find out. I will polish up my my statistics skills though, in order to predict the next battery outage, if any.

More on predicting a dead battery in a later post…

PS: graphs from R and org-mode, car-data from pytesla, five lines of Python, ten lines of shell-script and one line of cron.

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The First 10K; Comfort

The proof is in the pudding of course. All these figures mean a lot, but not to the driver in this car who gets agitated about a silly little noise every time he goes over a bump. Or who is nagged by some irregularity in the seating which sticks in his back while turning to the right sharply.

None of this happens in the Model S by the way. I’ve driven BMW 5, BMW X3, Subaru 555 and Volkswagen R36 and this car is by far the best compromise when it comes to safety, handling, acceleration and comfort (I rather miss watching television while drving in my BMW 530d though).

It doesn’t score a 100% mark though.

Headroom is an absolute weak point of this car. When you’re above 185m (or 6 foot and 1 inch), it depends on the balance between the length below your waist and above, whether you are able to sit comfortable. If your legs are a bit short (and your upper body long) you will most surely hit the roof with your head. With longer legs, your chair will go back a bit, avoiding the roof.

Other major drawbacks are the lack of side mirror heating. It’s great to be able to warm up your car remotely (it’s a €2000 option for most petrol cars, it’s included in the Model S), but it looks silly when you have to remove the ice from the mirrors before being able to drive off. It turns out to be not missing however, it’s not connected to the heater but it turns on when switching on the rear-window heat-element. This doesn’t matter much, as I it takes too long to get the mirrors clean by heating them up after getting in the car. A control in the Tesla App to switch the rear-window heater on would be really helpful.

The Hifi-system is great, but the radio sucks. DAB doesn’t work at all (I had a brief 4 second pitch from Radio 1, but it never worked after that). FM is OK most of the time, but it gives up in areas where other car-radio’s indicate a weaker signal and an incidental glitch. Reliability of the bluetooth system is terrible in most cars, this one is no exception. The only car with a well functioning bluetooth system I have encountered until now is the Toyota Prius Plugin. It never failed in 9 months.

Sight isn’t great. The car is safe, but mostly for the driver and his or her passengers. You might hit a bike some time, as the A-pillar is very thick. This is necessary of course, otherwise it would be impossible to put four Model S’ on top of each other without structural damage; it’s still something to keep in mind though.

The colours to choose from in the early days were a bit moody. I wanted blue, but that was not available. These days blue is available; very darkish. I don’t go to funerals every week, so I found myself a car-wrapper to make my car a bit more lively. Pictures later, as I’m delivering my car on the 10th of February for a wrap job. Bright Blue Metallic will replace the silver completely by the 12th of February.

Finally

The Model S is a great car if you care about the environment. It’s great in case you want to experience the whole EV circus. It’s also great if you are interested in really fast car with lots of space. If you drive more than 350km a day on a regular basis, and you cannot intervene by using another car, the Model S is not for you.

Also, if you depend on your car for a long vacation, don’t use a Model S unless you like travelling tiny bits every day.

The First 10K; Environmental impact

In his first 10.000km blog about E-impact, Wido uses car-reported figures on the amount of energy used and adds a percentage loss to get to the amount of energy from the tap. As I authenticate myself also to my own EV-Box charger, I have an exact overview of the amount of energy I used in October and November.

This was respectively 813 and 858 kWh. According to Wido, every kWh in the Netherlands is responsible for 400 grams of CO2 pollution. Hence a solid 121 grams of CO2 per kilometer.
From all numbers I have on my R36, the given CO2 rate of 249 gr/km turns out to be exactly what I did with this car; more than twice as much.

But this is not fair, as the petrol used in my R36 was fabricated too: another 400 grams per litre petrol should be added. This adds 44 grams to the already big number of 249: 293 gr/km CO2.

You may say to yourself: ‘surely this number of 44grams is already included in the 249’. Why then would the ISO-test report 0 gr/km CO2 for the Tesla Model S or any other pure EV?

For a lot of people the number of 121 grams CO2 per km is a disappointment. Note however that local governments are extremely happy with EV’s as the CO2 (and dust particles) are emitted in areas where they don’t reign and don’t care. Hence the broad support by local governments for EV’s and public chargers.

The first 10K; Costs

Costs per kilometer and month

Because being pricier than my previous car, the Model S is be more expensive per month (it’s a lease car).

Apart from the bigger consumer price, there are only reasons for being cheaper than the R36: no road tax (because of being a 100% EV), less mechanical maintenance among others. It doesn’t work like that however. Lease companies are banks and insurers. They calculate costs based on risk and interest. These calculations are based on previous experience, common sense and statistics. As this car has no history, especially not with regards to the market value at the end of the four year lease period, the risk associated with the market value prognosis starts blinking red.

As the fuel for running it is a lot less expensive, these cars meet each other at 3000km per month. Currently I’m doing 2750km, so the Model S is still a bit more expensive.

News flash: I did exactly 3000km in January 2014!

The first 10K; Charging

In order to use a tool effectively, it’s not enough to deploy it for the properties you selected it for. One has to accept it’s peculiarities and shortcomings as well.

This is true for hammers, screwdrivers and cars. In the end, this means that my favourite hammer may well perform below optimal, exactly because accepting it’s shortcomings limits my ability to consider other options. Other hammers or another tool altogether. The attitude I’m describing is the result of the so called confirmation bias; see e.g. confirmation bias on Wikipedia.

I’ve written a lot about the Tesla Model S in this blog. Mostly in a positive way, but not always. It’s hard to tell whether I’m suffering from confirmation bias or not (you are probably a better judge). After 10K kilometers, I’m prepared to start again en look at my experiences with the Model S as if it’s forced upon me and as if I can exchange it for any other car when I feel necessary (which is most likely true anyway). This will avoid the most important causes of confirmation bias, which is mainly a strategy to cope with complex situations and to motivate oneself doing something new but scary.

I’ll write about costs, charging Logistics and environmental impact. Yeah, about comfort too.

If you want to save time and skip to finally, please do so.

Charging Logistics

I complained about the charging cable being locked at both the car and charging pole. As Wido explains in 10.000 elektrische kilometers however, this is absolutely necessary. Charging without locked connectors is not recommended as it allows one of the connectors to be pulled out while transferring huge amounts of current at 240V or higher. Imagine the incremental corrosion damage inflicted upon the connector with each turn ending in a fire as the connectors get hot because of all the sparks while charging for it’s very last time. No conformation bias here, I was too sceptical about the charging procedure and didn’t realise that locking the connectors was actually useful and was not designed for annoying me.

This is also the reason why not to keep your charging pole end of the cable plugged in, because you’re the only one using it. The car
end of the cable should not hang around in outdoor conditions.

Wasting time

Charging is a pain however. It takes me approximately 25 seconds to connect or disconnect the pair of connectors, including signing on and signing off with my EVBox charging-card. Hence a full charge-cycle takes 50 seconds (25 twice; in and out of course).

In order to compare this with my previous car (the already mentioned Volkswagen Passat R36), I need some figures. I need to come to a number which tells me how much time is spent charging (or getting petrol) per km.

The petrol car has a slight advantage, as it is easy to optimise visits to the petrol station. These are located close to each other and it doesn’t matter where I go, it always takes seven minutes. Based on my trips in October and November, the amount of charging/loading time lost with a petrol card would be: 969 milliseconds per kilometer; or 45 minutes every single month.

With an electric (ev-only!) it is a lot harder to cancel out the time lost with charging logistics. There’s not a lot of charging stations and it is very impractical to use a charger en route, because charging-time is ridiculously high. An EV-driver will avoid charging at a non-destination location.

Based on October and November again, I spent 839 milliseconds per kilometer running around with cables: 39 minutes in total each month. That’s 6 minutes gained!

I know now that this amount can be reduced, as I’m less of a victim of range anxiety these days. Also, more about this later, charging at work is a lot more cost-effective than charging at home. When possible (as of the first of February 2014), I may be able to cut the number of charges to 30 per month (it was 47). This actually happened in January 2014 already.

Have you ever gone of the highway for petrol and discovered that the gas station was closed or out of service? Well, this hardly ever happens; maybe 1 out of 50 times. With public chargers things are a bit different. Of the 94 times I charged in October and November, I encountered 5 malfunctioning poles, none of which were recoverable while talking to it’s help desk. On one occasion, charging was vital in order to complete the day’s routine, I had to go and look for a charger pole in an OK state, this took 9 minutes.

The local government of Utrecht complains about non-EV cars being parked at charging-locations. This has happened to me only once, in the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The charging pole turned out to be one of the malfunctioning kind; I could still reach it with my special 8m cable. I’m pretty sure the complaints of the Utrecht government have a political or strategical background (i.e. good old Soviet Union propaganda).

Do not charge yet!

Tesla recommends connecting the car to a charger as often and as long as possible. There are lots of reasons for this: power used for conditioning of the battery and running the air conditioning unit is drawn from the pole, if available, and not the battery. Also, if you make a last-minute decision (well, last two hour decision) to max-charge your car instead of levelling it to 90% capacity, you can do so from your armchair.

My situation doesn’t allow this. I have a (for me only) charging pole at work. This delivers me 11kW now (and 22kW as of January 2014) at a price of €0.12 per kWh. At home, I can only use a public charger as I don’t have a garage and can only park at the opposite side of the road, if at all possible to get closer than 15m from my house.

Public chargers are fine though, they’re located 60 and 120m from my house and frankly, with my petrol R36 I was happy to park that close to my house.

The pricing at the public charger is €0.28 per kWh, which is a lot more than what my office pays. The low price I pay at the office is due to the mass-contract we have with our energy supplier and taxes. It’s mainly taxes; these boil down to €0.1410 per kWh, but above 10MWh per year it’s reduced to €0.0513. This is why my office ends up paying €0.12 per kWh (our Unix servers have to run too, you know).

Note that although this amount of 10MWh seems like a lot, my Model S comes close to surpassing it. Based on October and November, I will use 8.5MWh per year (not 9.3MWh as I subtract one month of driving due to holidays, more on that later). 3 more Tesla’s at the office and we will most surely progress into the next tax-class for electricity!

After 10K kilometers my range anxiety has moved from high to moderate. Hence, I’m perfectly willing to not charge, even when it is possible. This contrasts with Hybrid EV owners: their batteries are almost always empty upon reaching their destination, they will always want to charge!

Not always charging requires a bit of planning though. I used max range three or four times, because I knew that the following day I was going to travel over 250km.

In September, the indicated range of a 90% loaded battery was 382km (which should cater for a range of 382km at a rate of 200Wh/km). This is actually exactly the outcome of dividing the energy (90% of 85kWh) and the typical rate. This rate is carefully, I’m sure, determined using a standardized ISO car trip. I’m not that ISO employed driver however. I’m doing 260Wh/km, so my range becomes: 294km. 250km seems like a good water mark for making decisions about swapping cars or taking the train.

I drove more than 250km on a single day, on 3 occasions in 3 months. 301km, 324km and 383km to be exact. All trips were done while adding power during the day, without that, my Tesla would not be able to complete these trips. The 301km to home, the Hague and home again was juiced up also, but the charger at the parking garage in the Hague let only 5.75kWh through in 4 hours: an extra 22km, 7 of which were really necessary, as I forgot to load up to 100% that day (which would have given me a range of 326km).

Although in September a nominal range of 382km was indicated, December had worse news which I had already seen coming in November. With the cold weather (I hope that it is the weather and not a malfunctioning battery) the indicated range went down to: 341km at 90%. I’m afraid that my trip to and from the Hague on a Friday night will not ever succeed in the winter if I don’t charge at 100%.

Of course using 260Wh/km for these calculations is not really fair. When you see a dead battery coming, you will ultimately slow down and start not driving like a maniac. I’ve done 200Wh/km for more than 40km in a stretch, so this is possible (but boring).

`It cannot be the best car in the world’!

After my blog-post about the first 2000 kilometers, some people asked me how I could possibly write that the Tesla Model S is the best car in the world. Surely, there are better cars!

They may be right, but not for me. Let me explain this by telling you what the second best car in the world is: the Volkswagen Transporter.

I see a car as a tool; a bit like a screwdriver, a hammer or a vise. I don’t mind that a tool sometimes gives up on me, as long as I can see it coming, I have no issues with the odd malfunction.

I expect a car (especially the best car in the world) to carry myself and my family. Also, I expect it to allow me to give them a smooth ride, a ride which leaves them nothing to wish for. Not a bumpy ride e.g. (this is why my Subaru 555 did not come second) or an altogether lousy ride (Prius anyone?). The BMW 530 didn’t come second because of space (although the TV, working while driving, was a terribly good feature) and the BMW X3, Volkswagen Sharan and some other not-very-descriptive cars were either too unreliable or not enjoyable enough. The Volkswagen R36 came close, but it’s neither a Model S, nor a Transporter. Compared to these, it’s, what we in the Netherlands call, a grey pigeon (boring).

The Transporter I once owned is fast, smooth and spacious. Also, reliability, safety and agility (well, for a van, this car is extremely agile) are addressed in a very good manner. I say is as some guy from Eastern Europe cracked one of the weaker points of this car, the alarm, and drove away with it. I’m sure he enjoys it every day.

Although the Model S is a pleasure to drive, I will never take this, or any other car, for a spin like other people do when they drive it around aimlessly. It’s still a tool.

Brief encounter

I met an old colleague of mine yesterday who is into the second hand car business now (and before being a colleague also actually). He is mainly selling big Volvo’s these days.

He was pretty excited about the 10 minute test drive and, after hearing the consumer price of the Tesla Model S he said: it’s not too expensive. A similar BMW, Audi or Mercedes will cost you more.

Yesterday was one of those days I drove a lot more than normal. Going up and down to Eindhoven, Geldermalsen and two 30-minute diversions, there were still 90 kilometers left on my battery when I came home. As I wasn’t going anywhere that night, things were cool.

2001 kilometers and counting

The first 2000 kilometers with a car are important. Last Saturday, the few kilometers after that proved challenging at least.

I was invited to a party down town. As my youngest was invited also, I went by car. Down town Utrecht is a mess at the moment, I didn’t quite realize how messy, until I got there. Lucky for me there was a free spot at one of the busiest public chargers in the Netherlands: the Mariaplaats. All other cars had to wait in line for the parking garage. With today’s knowledge, choosing the disabled parking spot would have been better…

I used this charger for the first time; it behaves different from other chargers I’ve used until now. You connect your cable to the car and then swipe you charger pass in order to identify yourself. After that a hole in the charger opens up to put your cable in. Both my Tesla and the charger started checking each other out. Normally this results in some kind of agreement and charging starts in 15 seconds. Not this time. The car waited for the charger and the charger waited for the car.

This happened once before and the procedure is simple; call the number on the charger-pole and report the failure. Off I went to the party.

The logistics after the day-part of the party were a bit hectic, so I was a in a bit of a hurry when I went back to the car, ready to deliver my son to the soccer-field where my eldest played. I discovered that the operational team of e-laad was not successful in getting my car to charge. No problem, as there was enough energy left. Then I found out that my Tesla refused to spit out it’s end of the cable.

There are two different ways for unlocking the cable on the car-side, no, actually there’s three, but we will find that out later. The first one is the preferred way, which is not available for European Customers: a button on the car-connector. This button is powered by the charging-pole and transmits some RF-signal in the 433Mhz range. Combined with a near-car key, this will open the charger-lid and unlock any connector.

The second, more cumbersome, way, is to get into the car, start the charger control panel and hit the unlock charger port button. This didn’t work. Somehow the Model S can either wait for a charger-signal, or unlock, but not simultaneously.

This is not too fatal you might think: you can the drive around with the trunk almost closed, with the connector hanging out. Nope, the car refuses to drive in case the connector is plugged in. This silly 3mm pin, which locks the connector, stops the car from driving. This stupid software fault, where the car knows things better than you, stops you from doing what is perfectly reasonable: drive.

The roadside service of Tesla Motors in Europe is still booting up, so I spoke to three different people, two of whom asked me for my VIN, telephone-number and license plate. They were very nice of course, so it’s hard to get agitated with them. Towing the car was their solution, ignoring my suggestion that this could not be a solution to a 3mm pin pushing in the wrong direction.

I tried shutting the car down and powering it up again; no result. I tried locking/unlocking all locks; no result. I tried all this from my Android App; no result. No wait, there is the same unlock charger port button on my app, the one that resembles the one in the car! I heard Click and I could detach the cable.

I called the incident off, which went quite smoothly, and drove away. After five minutes the last Tesla guy I spoke with, the one who decided the car would be towed, called. He wanted to know what happened and how I got the car working again. We will add this to our knowledge base sir!.

Apart from being polite, the roadside service seems limited to only a few scenario’s, one of which is the two-away scenario. I guess most issues end up down that dark alley. The guy calling back made my day acknowledging his role as a self-learning institution.

I understand there are isuses with this 433Mhz RF solution at public chargers, where you need actual power to send out a signal to the car. But this could be foreseen, tested and solved before delivering cars. Why is the car-side locked anyway? It’s useless to do that. It serves no purpose.

2000 kilometers

After I stopped my Model S at my son’s school parking, I saw that some of the chauffeurs smoking and drinking coffee, were discussing in an agitated manner. One of the guys came to me and said: `Can I ask you something?’. Without waiting he continued: `Is that a new car?’. `It’s one week old’ I said, expecting to explain the novelty of the car after that. `OK, thanks’. While he walked back to his peers, he said `I was right, wasn’t I? It’s a new car, so they skipped all the letters after `K’ and continued with `S”.

I was getting used to turning heads while driving by, people slowing down on the motorway taking pictures and total strangers stopping me to ask questions about my Model S. I know now there are people not interested at all in the best car in the world, they rather discuss the order in which the government gives out license plates and skips possibly suspect three-letter combinations.

Apart from some minor issues, this is the best car in the world. Of course, the glove box doesn’t always open, the navigation has strange quirks. Of course the traction control intervenes a bit too early and much too harsh. But this is the first car I drive which doesn’t lean sideways when turning, which sits very low, but can still do speed bumps I didn’t dare take on with my Passat R36. It’s the first BMW 7/AUDI A8 type of luxury car, which doesn’t give you the downside of driving a car which is much too big and much too heavy. Yes, this car is much too heavy and much too big, but that doesn’t matter if you can hardly experience these shortcomings.

I’m driving the Model S for 14 days now and waited with writing this text until I found some major disappointing feature of this car. Well … I wrote this text anyway.

My neighbour writes a daily column in the national newspaper Trouw. It’s the only daily publication in print which still shows growth in the Netherlands. He sat besides me last Sunday and wrote about his experience on Tuesday. One quote from his column will stay around from some time I guess: `Then it happened. He accelerated. An elephant seated itself on my lap, my stomach bulged out …’ and the last line of the column reads `Next to me sat no driver, he’s an astronaut’.

What am I? An Appleproductlover or a drunk?

The article in groen7.nl (Dutch) writes about a report (English) from Gravity which addresses typical Tesla drivers as opposed to the general public.
People interested in a Model S were interviewed, possibly in the US only. I’m sure European Tesla drivers behave completely differently, but the outcome is still interesting. It included other EV’s in the process; the Prius as well. This gets more interesting now, as I’m driving a Prius right now.

One of the revealed conclusions is that Prius-drivers love Apple products and chose the car mainly because it would help them protecting the environment.
This is spot on for me. I hate my Prius, I do not use any Apple product and the main reason for driving a Prius is to get used to (and to get others used to) EV-driving. I do care about the environment (I hope nuclear power plants get a boost because of driving EV’s), but most people don’t recognize this.

However, my salary will not double once I get hold of a Model S and I will certainly not start smoking weed once my Model S is delivered. These were also findings from the research performed by Gravity.

Speaking about delivery; Athlon, the company through which I will lease my Model S is awarded a time-slot coming Friday by Tesla. I can pick up my silver Signature Model S on September the 20st between 14:15 and 15:15. Actually it is between 12:00 and 15:15, but I’m skipping lunch, speeches and a tour to save a few hours.