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2015 Tesla Model S (85D)
Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S Tesla Model S
Tesla Model S

19 1/2 years seems like a good run, so I wanted to replace the Infiniti before it broke down on the road (still had all the original belts and hoses!). Looking to the future and leaving the past behind, as an electrical engineer the choice of electric car was obvious. I had been thinking about it for some time, and of course was a bit stymied by the price. I really was waiting for the more economical model (eventually named the Model 3). Expected to be out in 2017, I doubt that I would really be able to get one before 2018. I would have to get another car to reach that timeframe. Also, it is now clear that the Model 3 will be no Model S in range or luxury. Beyond that, initially I had three points of concern:

  1. I really liked the sun/moonroof on the Infiniti and didn't see that it was offered by Tesla.
  2. The G20t was a perfect size; the Model S is 21.2 inches longer and 10.6 inches wider; I don't really want to be navigating a larger car.
  3. The Tesla only offered rear-wheel drive. My road has a steep hill which often is snow- and ice-covered. The Infiniti with front wheel drive and limited slip differential worked swell. It looked like I'd be taking a step backward.

It turned out that the panaromic glass roof option included a sun/moonroof -- #1 eliminated. As for #2, I guess I'll just have to accept the wider size (as far as the length, it offers a backup camera and sonar to make parking easier -- and the newly announced autopilot will eventually let it park itself!). When investigating, I learned that the performance of the Model S in snow is celebrated; it has a low and well-distributed center of gravity (heavy battery on bottom). There are lots of sales in Scandinavia, so I figured that my road can't be worse than Norway. I'll just have to hope for the best.

On Saturday August 2, 2014 I test drove one out of the King of Prussia mall in PA. At that point, unless I hated it I had decided to proceed. Well, I didn't hate it! So the following Monday I placed my order. Delivery was supposed to be in November. I intentionally ordered it at the end of the summer because I really don't use my car that much in the summertime (motorcycle weather) and wanted the new car for the winter season. So I waited.

Mid-October, and Tesla announces a dual-motor option for the Model S that provides all-wheel drive. This is so very compelling: it solves my #3 above concern decisively; and in fact it gives the car even slightly more driving range per charge. The control system automatically distributes torque between the front and rear optimally. So I had to get that option.

Turns out it is not really an add-on option; Tesla doesn't categorize its cars with a model year, but in fact the dual motor option is for the 2015 model year and cannot be added to the 2014 model. I had thought that the 3-4 month leadtime was a big disadvantage, but it turned out that it was a boon in my case. I switched my order, which amounted to canceling my initial order and placing a new order. Anticipated delivery extended to February 2015. I was not pleased to have to wait out the bulk of the winter, but really I was lucky. If my car had already been manufactured, I would not have been able to switch to the dual-motor version. So I must count my blessings.

After a 7 1/2 month wait that felt like an eternity, I picked up my Model S on March 18, 2015. I will have to update this post after using it for a while!

I put in a 50 amp outlet for the garage in August 2014 in anticipation. Had to add another breaker to the electrical panel. My estimated cost to run is as follows:

85 KWH battery / 280 mile range = 303.6 watt-hours per mile
x 13 cents per KWH (currently) = 3.9 cents per mile

The G20t got 28.3 mpg; at $2.45/gallon (currently) it cost 8.7 cents per mile.

My Yamaha motorcycle gets 51.5 mpg which equates to 4.9 cents per mile.

The Supercharger network lets you charge for free, but the closest to me is I-95 in Delaware. Of course, currently (March 2015) gasoline prices have plummeted from last year. Who believes they won't go back up again? So effectively, even at current prices, the Model S is cheaper to run than either my motorcycle or predecessor car. But that really isn't a valid rationalization to buy a Tesla, the amortization never would make it cost effective for that reason.

I have always been a do-it-yourself fellow, but must abandon that train of thought for this car. The only thing I'm permitted to do is add window washer fluid. And buy tires eventually. Then again, there is no motor oil (no engine), transmission fluid (no transmission), or antifreeze (no radiator) to check, change, or top off. There is battery coolant, however (not allowed to touch!). So far I am quite happy with Tesla's design decisions -- there's even a mobile app to control various things through your smartphone.

The autopilot hardware is installed and the software will gradually be rolled out. Currently it will warn me if I cross over a lane marker without using a turn signal. The cruise control also follows the car in front and will even slow to a stop -- and go again if not stopped for more than a few seconds. One only needs to steer! Still reaching for the missing clutch occasionally. But I'm now back to a hatchback (a la my Tercel) which lets the car transport large objects easily -- and I really enjoy the powered up/down hatch for grocery shopping, etc. Also, it is neat to never use a key: the pocket fob unlocks the car just by walking up to it; get in and drive away immediately! (The mobile app can activate the climate control to get it ready before you arrive, plus you can honk the horn or flash the lights with the app to find the car in a parking lot. But you don't even need to do that, because the app shows you where the car is on a map via its internal GPS.) I also like that the car shows you exactly what the voltage and current is during charging, in addition to the current charge level and time remaining to completion.

Consumer Reports described the Tesla with the words "sheer technological arrogance." I can't argue with that description. But the phrase I would use is "smooth elegance." With no transmission or shifting, it simply glides seemingly without effort. I am not unaware of the multitude of technical functions going on figuratively under the hood to mask its true complexity, but those intricacies are hidden from the casual driver. Which is a pretty good definition of smart design. I take pride that my fellow engineers have created such a phenomenal marvel. I will strive to inspire my students to do likewise.

Back in 1995 when I bought the Infiniti, there were very few of those on the road in the vicinity. Now they are extremely common. Currently I spot a Tesla on my journeys about once every two or three weeks. Maybe in 20 years Teslas will have become as commonplace on the road as Infiniti?

Here is Tesla's Model S page.

Supercharger
Above is my first visit to the Supercharger at the Delaware rest stop on I-95. Took me a while to find it (add a road sign!) and tedious jockeying to get close enough to the very short charge cable (the painted lines don't match the proper parking spot). Initially I was alone but shortly thereafter two other Tesla's showed up. 290 amps at 371 volts!!! No wonder the cable is so short. I got my Maryland registration so it now sports N3IC license plates.

Gas Can!
Blasphemous, or at least incongruous -- taking a Tesla to a gasoline station! But how else am I going to fill up a gas can for my lawnmower, leaf blower, and backup generator?

October 23, 2015 update: last week they rolled out the long-awaited v7 software which incorporates autopilot and autopark. They work quite well. Jury is still out on the autopilot; if highway is relatively clear I am less concerned about keeping hands on steering wheel; otherwise caution keeps hands on wheel, but that can create more mental tension than simply steering manually. My attitude might change after getting more experience. I especially like the new dashboard radar/ultrasonic view of the actual field response instead of simple icons. The autopark is impressive (it parallel parks on right or left side of the road, must have two cars with curb in between). Also, the automatic hold feature is great: and so simple that I cannot think of any reason for any capable vehicle to not provide this; if you step on the brake while stationary, it automatically holds the brakes on (so you can release your foot); whenever you touch the accelerator or brake pedal the brake hold releases. Simple, useful, and elegant!

I now have accumulated 7038 miles, averaging 295 watt-hours per mile. I know that that number is going to rise significantly over the winter because the battery performs more poorly in cold temperatures. Between charging at the supercharger and the JHU garage (which is free after paying the $9/day parking fee), I don't often have to even charge at home! For the last three visits the garage charger showed consumption of 35.3, 58.3, and 34.6 kwh for 112, 189, and 112 miles, which equates to 310 watt-hours per mile; which means that the electric charger conversion efficiency is 95%. If I didn't use the free chargers, the cost per mile at my current 12.82 cents/kwh would be 4.0 cents/mile. At the current gas price of $2.09, my Yamaha costs 4.1 cents/mile.

January 10, 2016 update: Over the weekend they rolled out a v7.1 software update. This extends the autopark to perpendicular parking in addition to the previous parallel parking. It backs into the space, which is what I normally do; I am guessing that it uses the rear backup camera as part of its process. They also added a summon feature, which lets you use the fob (when outside, but near the car) to have the vehicle creep forward or backward! Neat! The purpose is to let you get out of the car before backing into a tight space, and to roll the car out of the spot before getting back in. It is a little more sophisticated than just simply going straight, as it will observe and evade nearby objects. This update also offers automatic garage door activation: now I don't even have to tap on the drop-down menu to open the door -- it automatically opens it when I approach! After a few months of using the autopilot I have gained more faith in it; I routinely drive 100 miles or thereabouts on I-95 letting it steer for the most part. In fact it really does reduce normal driving stress.

One year update (March 18, 2016): Today is my car's one year anniversary. 11,723 miles; 3550.8 KWH; average of 303 Watt-Hours/mile. Interesting that I actually predicted 303.6 a year ago! At current gas and electricity prices ($1.95/gal, 12.9 cents/KWH) it costs 3.9 cents/mile; my Yamaha motorcycle costs 3.8 cents/mile. But that presumes that I actually pay for the electricity; between the weekly supercharger visit and the weekly JHU parking garage visit during the semester, I sometimes "top it off" at home for 30-50 miles worth before a trip, or not at all; effectively the actual mileage cost is close to zero. It definitely gets less range per coulomb when it is cold, which shows up as fewer actual miles driven than the console predicts. In the summer the reverse is true. It is a bit mysterious in that I believe it uses some juice to warm up the battery manifesting as a higher energy draw in the first few miles of travel from cold. When it was very cold outside earlier this winter I took advantage of the phone app's remote activation of the climate control system: so the cabin was up to temp upon entry! Surely that used up some battery energy. It also seems to use up a few extra miles of predicted range almost instantly. A while back I had tried their two "range" modes of operation but didn't notice an appreciable difference in realized miles, so I went back to normal operation. Re cold weather operation, it limits the discharge rate, which means you can't get the maximum acceleration (but there's still plenty to spare); but more noticeably, it limits the regenerative braking which at times can be close to zero (until it warms itself up). That is a bit disconcerting, because it affects the way one drives; normally backing off on the accelerator pedal effects the regenerative braking so much that it is often not even necessary to touch the brake pedal other than to come to a complete stop. When the regen is limited one has to be ready to actively use the brake like with a combustion engine. The battery gradually heats up and the discharge limits move towards normal operation. That can take over a half hour when it is very cold.

The car simply remains a dream, especially with the autopilot and autoparking options I mentioned above. I have pinpointed several software bugs, all related to the entertainment system, which I have reported; it is uncomfortable being on the customer side instead of the embedded system developer side because all I can do is wait for the fixes when otherwise I would debug and fix it myself. But these are not horrible bugs, just silly things that should be corrected. One feature change which I do find horrible is the effective elimination of the cruise control's Resume action: when you stop the cruise, previously a tap of the button resumed cruising at the previous set speed just like every other car out there; now the "improvement" has that same tap restarting the cruise at the speed it thinks you should go based upon the speed limit and offset setting. I hate hate hate this as it is not deterministic (if it doesn't see a speed limit sign it does resume to the previous set speed, so it is a race to resume before it can observe a sign and sometimes the set speed changes in the split second between looking at the predicted number and tapping the control). I have submitted input on this and hope that many others will do so too, so Tesla will either put it back the way it was, add a binary control to select the operating mode, or choose separate actions to activate one or the other behaviors.

I don't have the heart to go into this right now, but on February 2 an idiot 21-year old Sinai Hospital (Lifebridge Health) shuttlebus driver decided that she could squeeze past me on a narrow road. I stopped completely on my side of the line and she sideswiped me in the process. There are no Tesla authorized body shops in the Baltimore area, and I have a three-week(!) repair scheduled for March 28 at a shop in PA that restores Ferrari's. I am really not looking forward to being Tesla-less for that duration. After I get it back I'll put the damage photos up here. I am also now due for the "Annual Service Inspection" which I will have done after the body repair. This service does: Multi point inspection (w/ tire rotation and alignment check), Cabin air filter replacement, Wiper blade set replacement, and Key fob battery replacement. It's not like there's any oil or radiator fluid to change, points or spark plugs or transmission to play with!

Accident Accident Accident

Repair update (April 8, 2016): Karosserie, the Tesla-authorized body shop, had the repairs completed in 10 days instead of the specified three weeks -- I guess they didn't want to over promise. Well, it looks brand new (which it should for an $11,406.79 bill)! I'm happy, so I posted the before pics just above. While I had the rental car I caught myself a few times when I realized it wasn't going to slow itself down in traffic, couldn't zoom past suspiciously oblivious drivers, or of course drive or park itself. Last week Elon Musk gave a nice presentation (video on their website) announcing the $35,000 Model 3. To be delivered starting at the end of 2017. So my estimate back in 2014 that that model wouldn't really become available until 2018 seems like it was accurate. Still glad I went ahead with the Model S, which gives me three years more with it plus a better car to boot.

On the trip home with a rejuvenated Model S, I stopped at the Delaware supercharger; perplexed when it wasn't there, I found that they had constructed an entirely new set a few hundred feet away. This area has 12 spots instead of the lacking 4 of its predecessor. (This time they painted the lines correctly, too.) Alone initially, three others appeared while I was there:

New Supercharger New Supercharger
Tesla Charger

Four year update (March 18, 2019): Today is my car's four year anniversary. 42,150 miles; 12.6 MWH; average of 299 Watt-Hours/mile. The car is great, but now it is being left behind somewhat: the vehicles sold since 2017 have newer hardware (more cameras and I think more powerful computers). Eventually full self-drive is supposed to become available for those; presently only a Navigate on Cruise option is available (not for me): it prompts for directional signal action in order to change lanes on an interstate highway trip to get to the off-ramp and seek a faster lane. Contrary to what Elon Musk demonstrated on 60 Minutes, it does not do it on its own! Not too impressive. The newer hardware -- with its 360° cameras -- can upload videos to the cloud automatically if someone hits the car in a parking lot. That's a nice feature. If and when Tesla delivers true self-drive I might consider upgrading to a new Model S.

I have given up hoping for fixes to the cruise Resume I mentioned above and the flash drive mp3 organization that they destroyed in the v7 software rollout. I am aggravated because these problems are trivial software fixes that they apparently don't care about. Instead, Tesla puts programmers on assignments to add a fireplace video, Mars views, and whoopee cushion sound effects to the flat screen and entertainment center.

I installed a Tesla wall charger in my garage to make the 240 VAC outlet I originally put there for the portable charge cable provided unnecessary. It's nice, but I rarely use it because I am grandfathered for free supercharging plus the pseudo-free charging I get at the JHU parking garage. I only installed the new charger because I finagled a free one from them as a consolation gift over a disagreement on a Model 3 order. It looks nice, though!


Five+ year update (August 28, 2020): I forgot to comment here on the car's five year anniversary, but I'm only 5 months late or so. 53,507 miles; 16.092 MWH; average of 301 Watt-Hours/mile. The car continues to be par excellante, but my dismay with Tesla the company is growing. First, battery issues: I bought the 85 KWH version, the largest offered at the time. This amounts to an estimated 269-270 mile range. I routinely charge to 90%, and remarkably for over four years it never changed, charging to 241. I had actually expected it to gradually diminish, though not by much. Prior to purchase I researched this and expectations were that after 100,000 miles or 8 years or so to see a 5% reduction. Well, a software update in May 2019 had its capacity suddenly drop to as low as 235 (-13%). It varied as they tweaked the Battery Management System (BMS) and with temperature, etc. Right now it is at about 246 (-8%). Forum users call this "batterygate." It was supposed to affect a subset of the Model S', but really it is unknown to what extent this is true. Related to this, at superchargers the charge rate is reduced. Prior to the BMS software change, it took about 50 minutes to go from about 15% to 90%. Now it's generally a little over an hour; power starts around 70 KW and drops down to about 30 KW. This is still faster than my home 240VAC charger, which is about 10 KW. This isn't horrendous but the major gripe is Tesla's lack of clear information. Speculation ranges from they're responsibly maintaining the battery's health to they're stretching out its failure past the warranty period.

They eventually restored the alphabetical USB music listing. In April 2020 a software update completely broke USB music availability. I wasn't alone in thinking I had some particular problem with my flashdrive and I wasted too much time diagnosing across drives and cars. It simply stopped recognizing the flashdrive. But this problem was only for MCU1 cars. Apparently they don't even bother to do the most rudimentary testing across platform hardware! I am quite offended as a professional embedded systems engineer. They were advised of this and it literally took them 30 days to send out an update to restore functionality. (All they really had to do was resend the earlier software version while they figured out the problem.) I should mention that there is no mechanism to revert to an earlier version. Which in general makes us reticent to install new updates because we don't know in advance what it offers and what it breaks.

From the beginning all software versions permitted the user to have a full- or half-window browser. I'm skipping complaining about the removal of user options as to what and how the display windows are arranged. An October 2019 update eliminated the half-browser option and it has never been restored. As an explanation, Models S and X have a portrait orientation flatscreen. Models 3 and Y have a landscape configuration. The half-screen browser was never available for the 3 because that makes no sense with that setup. But it was very nice for us S and X owners. For instance, I generally had the browser on my home video camera (which recent software versions forced to be at the bottom half of the display) while the upper half was the road map. With only the full-browser size, it leaves about 10% of the screen available to show a miniscule section of the map. That's a great disincentive to have the browser display at all (when it manages to function). This also doesn't sound too awful, but it was fine the way it was before; they just removed a very useful display mode. We S and X owners tend to believe that Tesla doesn't care at all about us even though the company itself would not exist without the "early" adopters -- only mass-produced 3 and now the Y matter.

Originally Tesla offered telephone and email assistence. They didn't necessarily respond in a useful manner, but at least they received messages and usually replied. Over the last couple of years all contact has been transferred to the phone app. Which could make some sense, although there are times when actual real-time connections with a live person is preferable. This issue, and service quality in general, is very dependent (from the forums) upon the particular Service Center (SC). I have had pretty good luck with my SC (they put a post-it note at intake providing a phone extension that sometimes gets answered). It seems to now be generally accepted that Tesla provides very low quality service. The saving grace is that many of our cars rarely require any.

Because I read the forums, I have been aware that a lurking problem exists for the computers. As an engineer this gets me very angry. The nonvolatile eMMC memory card is specced for a finite number of erase/write cycles, just like any EEPROM or flash memory cell (they tend to range from 10,000 to a million lifetime cycles). It turns out that Tesla had the CPU write inordinately long debug trails to the eMMC, and predictably eventually it fails because it is written to entirely too often! I don't care what Tesla says, this is a design flaw. One which I would not let my inexperienced students get away with. As the memory fails, the operating system manages what portion works invisibly, but the result is a general degradation in system operation. Eventually too many bits are out of service and the computer can't even boot. On July 10th this year the problem caught up to me. I couldn't reboot it. Now the car still drives because the "entertainment" computer isn't needed for that, but one cannot access the heat or air conditioning, defroster, sunroof, etc. Instead of trying fruitless phone contact I just drove directly to the SC (I am lucky because they built one two miles from home a few years after I bought the S). They were very good and immediately took it in; after about an hour they had managed to get it back working. I don't know what they did, maybe there is a hidden hard reset switch. The tech told me that (without asking) he had put a replacement CPU board on order in case I opted for its replacement. Which actually was very nice. For six weeks I received semiweekly emails indicating that the MCU1 part was "pending." Then my phone app indicated that a repair appointment was scheduled for this past Wednesday. I thought that was a mistake because it also showed that the part had not come in yet. Also, I had never indicated that in fact I wanted it replaced. And while the app showed the appointment, I didn't receive an alert, email, phone call, or any contact whatsoever about this. Note that while the 3 and Y mostly require use of the app, the app is purely optional for the S and X which have keyfobs. The MCU1 computer has become quite deficient like any aging hardware due to never-ending software bloat. The browser has always been barely functional, and many times won't work at all (probably due to reduced eMMC memory availability). Map display updates become sluggish, etc. The newer MCU2 is much improved. It turns out that Tesla finally has offered an MCU2 "upgrade" for the older vehicles (which really makes the software function as well as it was when the car was purchased). The upgrade cost is $2250. I seriously had to decide if I wanted a replacement MCU1 or the better MCU2. Because I purchased the Extended Service Agreement, an MCU1 replacement costs me "only" a $200 deductible. They would not offer any discount off of the MCU2 price even though they were on the hook for the cost of the replacement MCU1 (beyond $200). MCU2 would give the car some of the newer software options, like Netflix (which I wouldn't use). But the existing radio is incompatible with MCU2 so I'd lose the radio entirely (there are non-Tesla off-market workarounds). I admit I almost never use the radio anymore but it seems crazy not to have one! (The intenet radio is always available.) Adding in to the equation that my battery range is diminished, especially compared to current new models, my hardware doesn't provide 360° cameras for Sentry Mode, etc., I decided to just get the MCU1 replacement. Leaving it alone didn't seem prudent, I did see it fail two other times but it managed to reboot those times. My original intention in 2015 was to keep the car for the full 8 years of service and then buy a new Model S with many improvements and the promised Full Self Drive (haha). While the car is great the numerous Tesla corporate deficiencies have me wondering if I even want another Tesla. I'm still hoping that the company will get it together in the 3 years remaining on my service agreement and I'll be willing to go with the newest S. If so, the extra $2050 for an MCU2 didn't seem like such a great deal.

So I phoned the SC on Tuesday and actually reached a tech, who assured me they did have the part for me. I prefer just to wait for service, but was told it would take a day or two so I left it there Wednesday morning. At the end of the day I received an email saying she hadn't been able to reach me by phone (I had no incoming phone calls from Tesla), they had encountered some firmware issues and it would be carried over to the next day. I'm fine with that (except for the bogus phone excuse). Now to backtrack a little bit. If the MCU is completely dead it is somewhat reasonable that none of the settings can be retrieved. But it was my understanding that if the computer was functional, as mine was, they first would extract my user settings and apply them to the replacement (it's not really "new" -- it's an old part they've reclaimed). I had the foresight however to take dozens of pictures of the various settings before dropping the car off (forgot about the browser bookmarks, though). Needless to say, when I got the car on Thursday there were no user settings transferred. It took me a few hours to re-configure it all back. (Of course it would be great if they let us offload the settings to a flashdrive, if not the cloud, so we could retrieve it ourselves.)

I attempted to re-log into my Tunein account; previously all one had to do was enter the Tunein email and password (just like any other device). Now this option wasn't available! Instead the car displayed a QR code image and nothing else. So I installed a QR scanner on my phone and scanned the image. That took me to a Tunein log-in page on the phone's browser; from there I could enter my Tunein email and password. After the second or third try both the phone and car indicated that I had successfully logged in. I really don't see how this process simplifies matters. Next I tried to actually use Tunein. There used to be a Favorites tab which lists my account favorites. That is now gone. Eventually I figured out that if I selected the For You tab I could then scroll down to a Favorites section and tap on that to get to the same screen I had before for favorites. (But that has to be re-done whenever returning to Tunein.) And while I can re-arrange the order of those streams while logged in on a PC -- and that order is maintained on other devices -- this has never worked in the Tesla. Still doesn't. I just don't understand these user interface changes, they seemingly complicate use. I don't know how many of these changes are dictated by Tunein or arbitrarily chosen by the Tesla programmers. I tend to use Tunein and USB mp3 files exclusively in the car; when those don't work properly I use the phone's bluetooth audio connection instead (but then I have to use the phone for anything more than pause/play and it is using my phone's data plan).

Then I noticed that my odometer had gone from 53,507 to 36,435! Maybe this is a conspiracy theory, but the paperwork has the incoming mileage shown but the outgoing mileage is blank. Hmmm... On the one hand, that should increase the resale value at some point in the future. I really don't want to be dishonest, though. I will see if they can restore the proper mileage, but I haven't even driven the car yet (she actually delivered the car to my door) so I think I better make sure nothing else is wrong before bringing it back in. Of course the two trip odometers were reset to zero. Which I don't like because I kept one that was originally cleared so that I had a running tally of the total energy used. Nothing to be done about that. Everything seems to be working except for the texting. It was always touch-and-go anyway: the system claims to need a newer Android version for my phone but it worked properly anyway. Multiple flatscreen reboots can get it in the right frame of mind, and I've only tried that once or twice so far. I had gotten to the point where I was afraid to reboot in case it couldn't come back up, now that shouldn't be a problem. The next day texting was available, but I had to manually reconnect the bluetooth to the phone -- this might have been due to the vehicle renaming?

Got a software update this evening which actually is useful: phone app notifications if a door, window, or sunroof is left open. Too bad the app doesn't generate notification alert sounds. (I swear it did five years ago but then it stopped -- across multiple Android devices.) After the update my car forgot its name! This has never happened before, I'm guessing it has something to do with the new MCU install.

Six+ year update (December 23, 2021): I forgot again to comment here on the car's sixth anniversary and it's coming up on the seventh next March. Not too much new to report. Last winter the car started giving me urgent messages that somthing had failed and it might not continue to drive. So I took it in for service on 2/3/2021; they replaced the "Battery Electric Coolant Heater" (I paid the $200 deductible for it). I don't really think it would have stopped driving, but this apparently is a very common problem with Model S'. Probably similar to a refrigerator's defrost coil burning out. The S and X use this but the 3 and Y don't: to save money those heat up the entire car with the regular HVAC instead of just warming the battery. Since it was being serviced I had them restore the odometer to its proper value. I forgot to mention that on 4/22/2019 I had Tesla replace all four tires -- 43,000 miles seems low for tire wear, but actually that's a pretty good result for such a heavy vehicle.

The replaced MCU1/eMMC card do continue to work; all systems remain sluggish and mostly the browser won't work. Tesla paid me back the $200 I paid for its replacement after NHTSA required them to do so (they viewed loss of the backup camera as being a safety issue when the MCU fails to boot). I am getting a little more irritated by the system shutdowns. There are separate Instrument Cluster (dashboard) and Entertainment (flatscreen) computers. Either or both of these systems shut down to save on power consumption, but when they do is seemingly random. I really wouldn't mind if this happened on first usage each day. But simply going to the store and coming out 15 minutes later and finding I have to wait at least 30 seconds to go into Drive isn't desirable. I know this isn't the end of the world, but it is not something any car owner is used to. When I stop at my mailbox I intentionally don't close the door while checking mail because I don't want shutdowns to happen in that 20-second stop. To be fair there is an option to disable power-saving shutdowns, but I don't want to disable it because everything will remained powered-up overnight in the garage -- which is stupid. The car has GPS and it knows where it lives, so it wouldn't take too much code to determine that it is home for the night or not.

I am wary of installing software updates because we never know what will break in MCU1 systems -- they apparently no longer bother to even check new software on them. So I monitor the forums and see if others have had problems. Sometimes it's hard to tell because individual cars have their own problems that aren't necessarily related to software upgrades. And I've found the forum users sometimes don't bother to update their situation. Most of the update functionality doesn't apply to my old version anyway. But some are simply bewildering. For instance, I have always had the capability to open/close the sunroof with the phone app (and still do); a while ago they added the ability to crack open the windows for venting through the app -- but not to close them! To be fair the app warns you when opening the windows that you won't be able to close them. This doesn't really matter to me as I would use the sunroof for that purpose anyway. It just seems crazy. Also, there has always been a single mph-offset used for a warning should the speed exceed the setting. It uses this same setting when resuming the cruise control, though it can be changed from there (see my note about that in the March 18, 2016 update above). I received a software update which supposedly provides a separate mph-offset setting for these two functions; it actually does on the Model 3 but not on my MCU1 Model S. I don't see any justification to leave it out for my version, especially because they broke the traditional resume cruise control method in the 2016 software update. This is a feature I use nearly all of the time, so I remain unhappy over it.

My car now routinely charges to 234 miles at 90%, which corresponds to a 100% range of 260 miles. Originally it was 270, so I'm not upset about that at 63,000 miles. But at superchargers it now takes about an hour and fifteen minutes when it used to be closer to 45 minutes. I can handle that but it does make trips longer.

I have about another year before I planned to replace it with a new Model S, but I am unsure about that now. Many of my complaints would go away with the newest CPU, but will owners be back in the same spot a few years after purchase of a new model? I haven't yet seen it in the flesh, but the new Model S has a game-type of yoke as its steering wheel; I've become conscious of where I place my hands, and find that often I do rest them on the top of the actual wheel. Motortrend didn't like the yoke for city driving and parking, either. The new Model S no longer offers a sunroof, so a new model would be a downgrade to my 2015 model in that respect. I am semi-seriously considering a Lucid Air instead. I have not seen one yet, and they just recently started deliveries too. The biggest problem is that Tesla built a service center two miles from my house, but Lucid's closest service center is in Alexandria, VA -- that is close to a deal-breaker for me. I'd also lose the Tesla supercharger network, but the alternatives are growing. We'll see.

Seven+ year update (August 30, 2022): I forgot again to comment here on the car's seventh anniversary and it's coming up on #8 next March. I can no longer report on the cumulative energy usage since the odometer fiasco and loss of "trip" odometer values means I don't have the megawatt-hour values any more. Currently the trip odometers, which show the elapsed mileage and energy, don't match up in any relatable way. I must remember to clear one so that at least I can get correct consumption going forward. Catching up:

January 14, 2020 at 49,024 miles I got a "replace 12-volt battery" message. Before this I didn't even realize that there is a 12-volt battery; I figured it used a dc-dc converter from the 300-volt battery. It has that converter but apparently only uses it to charge the 12-volt lead-acid gel cell. Maybe that isn't such a bad engineering decision. But what is is its charge alogrithm for this battery. It doesn't handle it to preferably give it long life. I think that every system in the car operates off of 12 volts except propulsion. Since I bought the S I had given up on doing any work on it myself, so had Tesla replace the battery. Now on a gas car of course changing a battery is a pretty easy thing for any red-blooded man to handle; but on a Tesla the battery is hidden away, with concerns about the high voltage and computer, etc. I was past the car's four-year warranty, and they claimed that my extended service plan didn't cover it -- it is "normal wear-and-tear." Because my extended plan has a $200 deductible, it isn't worth arguing over this. Tesla replaced it for a $227.40 cost. I might be living in the 1960's, but it seemed high to me. Oh, well. But on February 8, 2022 at 65,358 miles I got the same message about the 12-volt battery. This is just over two years! The first battery lasted nearly five years. I called them and was told it would be another $227, the replacement battery was past any guarrantee. This didn't sit well with me and I decided to break my "no working on the car myself" self-imposed rule. I checked the forums and found a Youtube video detailing how to change the battery myself (from a company trying to sell a lithium replacement, but it is too expensive). I ordered a battery for $81.51. The original battery was no longer available, and I think the replacement Tesla put in in 2020 was a variety with different terminals for which they had added some post connector adapters. I couldn't find an exact replacement myself, but got one that I thought had the same posts with the polarity reversed (which is addressed by installing it backwards). I was on alert, as I knew I had to power the entire car down and up, etc. Figured the worst thing that could happen is the car wouldn't drive and I'd have to get the car towed two miles to the Service Center to fix my faulty repair (assuming I didn't short out the high-voltage battery and blow myself and my garage up). I followed the video (the exact method does vary by model and model year); mostly the work is to remove the internal coverings inside the front trunk to get to everything. The video instructed to remove a connection which disables powering up the high-voltage battery; I didn't really think this was necessary, but went through the procedure to be on the safe side. Okay, so far so good -- I got to the 12-volt battery and removed it. Managed to put in the new one backwards, even though it stretches the wiring just a tad. But the post adapters didn't fit the new battery! Looked like they would, but actually not. This is a seemingly trivial problem to address, but given the difficulty just disassembling everything to get to the battery, I wanted a good connection so I wouldn't have to repair it later. Now my car is certainly not usable at this point, but luckily even in February it wasn't that cold; so I got my Yamaha out and went to Advance Auto and found no useful battery adapters; then to Home Depot with the same result. But my backup plan needed some new bolts to match up the existing post adapters to this battery, which I got there. Back home. I sawed off half of each post adapter and attached them to the battery posts upside-down. This is not what I wanted to do but what other choice did I have? I wasn't thrilled at the resulting connection and wiring arrangement, but convinced myself that even though it didn't look wonderful it was secure and safe. Put everything back together, re-attaching the high-voltage safety connector and powering up the computer. Everything worked and the warning message was gone. My thinking then was this only had to last a year or two before I planned to get a new Model S. Not so sure now (continued below).

May 27, 2022 at 67,467 miles I got a message safety features not available, may be restored on next drive. Remote service diagnostic informs that the radar unit isn't working; scheduled repair and had tires rotated while it was at the service center. Turns out that they only had to re-calibrate the radar (which is used for "traffic aware cruise control" that permits it to follow traffic) which they actually did for free. I think they had to remove the front trunk coverings to get to the radar, but if they did I did not hear any comments on my non-standard 12-volt battery replacement previously done! But they charged me $163.28 for new lug nuts! This is less than the $200 I expected to pay for the radar, but it isn't that believable that all my lug nuts went bad. I paid them, but mailed a letter which was never acknowledged. See my October 4, 2022 post below for follow-up.

In December 2021 a rock or something off of a truck on I-95 hit my windshield and created a fairly small damage "bullethole" that was water-impervious. Took me a while to get it taken care of: had Safelite repair it May 11, 2022; they charged $75 which my Erie insurance completely covered. It was still visible, but only the central section and all of the cracks disappeared. The blemish wasn't in my direct sight line so I was satisfied. On August 4, 2022 I was racing home to beat an approaching storm (I did get home before any actual rain appeared, but it was extremely windy beforehand); maybe 100 feet from my garage something crashed down on my windshield, not penetrating it but with big cracks along with the impact location. It was a loud crazy sound! Must have been a tree branch, but I never did see it before or after. Safelite was not going to be able to repair this, so I had Tesla replace the windshield on August 17, 2022 at 69,220 miles. They charged $1267.61 but I was reimbursed all but the $100 deductible from my insurance. All well and good. But there are always details... I'll skip the discussion about Tesla promising to accept direct payment from Erie and then refusing. A month or so before this incident, a software update for my MCU1 Model S became available which would move it from their v10 to their v11 software. I have become increasingly wary with my old model to accept software updates, because one never knows what they will actually break, or at least make worse. Once an update is installed, no one on Earth apparently can undo it to an earlier version. So I have been waiting weeks after availability and scouring the forums before permitting the update to proceed. I knew of some deficiencies (nothing actually broken) with nothing new -- so while one could debate which User Interface (UI) is preferable (generally it is slightly worse each time in my opinion), I saw no reason to accept it and good reason not to. So for the windshield replacement service, I specifically entered on the phone app (which is the only way to schedule service for Teslas now) not to perform the v11 software update. I also put a sticky note on the flatscreen saying the same thing. When I came to pick up the car, of course that update had been installed. After a windshield replacement, the front camera has to be calibrated. (Even if I took the car somewhere else for the windshield replacement, I'd still have to take it to Tesla afterwards for the same calibration.) They claimed that "the Cloud" performed the update on my car without a service technician specifically initiating it, that it was part of the calibration process. I could argue that an update really wasn't necessary for that purpose, but nothing can be gained because no one on Earth can reverse the update (maybe on Mars?). My biggest complaint about the v11 UI is the removal of elapsed and remaining times on all media tracks. Also, the progress bar is seemingly 1-pixel high and in the same color as adjacent windows, making it nearly invisible. A forum participant reminded me that on the S I can have the media displayed on the dashboard (Instrument Cluster), and that is the old version which includes those times. Which is a good workaround for a stupid flatscreen change. (Sorry, 3 and Y owners!) I'm stuck with v11, but it's not horrible. Then I noticed that the ability to select sub-channels on FM stations had disappeared. In addition to noting the software update when I retrieved my car from Tesla, the dreaded "safety features not available, may be restored on next drive" message was on my dash. Similar to the one from May 27, though that time was from the radar and most likely this time it was from the front camera. I know from experience it won't resolve itself, so short version I insisted that they calibrate whatever thay have to to fix the car while I was there. Eventually they admitted that they needed to do the calibration in the shop, but they had forgotten about it because the 3's and Y's do it on their own. An hour or so after incorrect explanations they fixed it and I took the car home. More details in my forum posts. Also of note: the new windshield was not cleaned, inside or out; I don't mind the exterior needing washing, but the interior too? It is a really big windshield and isn't that easy for an old man to climb around in the front seats with a windex bottle and rag to clean it, which I did. They should automatically do this before notifying customers to pick up their cars. BTW, in the early years when Tesla I guess considered itself a luxury car company it provided Tesla loaner cars during service (though I never took one and just had one of their employees drive me home, only two miles away). Now that Tesla no longer thinks of itself as a luxury car manufacturer (but check out the price tags!), instead they provide Uber credits. The process works pretty well, though not as convenient as a loaner car.

My extended service plan ends March 2023 at the 8-year mark. My original idea was to purchase a new Model S at that time. The reasons to do so are: new and longer range battery; Sentry mode (that video records accidents, damage, and nearby threats); a new faster computer; and possibly actual, true autonomous self-drive capability. The reasons not to do so are: I lose my sunroof; I'm not sure I will like a game yoke instead of a circular steering wheel; not sure I'd like the replacement of all stalks, including the directional signal one with AI predictions of my actions and yoke buttons and/or flatscreen controls; goodbye to free supercharging; and removal of the front radar. On that last point, Tesla is going all-in on vision recognition for all functions in place of combination radar and camera sensors; I find it hard to believe that vision alone is as good as radar + vision. Tesla has no new Model S cars in its showrooms, so I have yet to actually see the new version. They tell me that they are not even planning to get them to showrooms. Additionally, the older S and X vehicles use portrait orientation flatscreens while the new ones use landscape versions to match the 3's and Y's. This is nitpicking, but I really like the version I have; it seems truly integrated into the car, and doesn't look like someone just bolted an iPad on top of the dashboard. So for now I've decided not to order a new Model S. A real shame!

I was seriously considering a Lucid Air instead. In May 2022 I visited one of their showrooms in the Tyson's Corner mall. I couldn't drive it, of course. The car looks very nice. If I had never seen a Tesla I would have been impressed. Their flatscreen display is portrait oriented and automatically extends and withdraws itself (interesting, but I'm envisioning wiring eventually breaking). The display is smaller than Tesla's. Basically I'd say that their software is five years behind Tesla. Many of their capabilities are to be available in the future, not now. That was true in 2015 when I bought the Model S. But that was seven years ago! At least initially, I would lose self-parking and autosteer. They also have no sunroof. The car is a little wider than the S and the S is wider than I'd prefer. They have a true trunk with a hole for skis through the backseats; I prefer the hatchback S, which is more versatile. Aesthetically I think the Model S is a beautiful car, more so than the Lucid. Lucid offers impressive range, but it doesn't use Tesla's superchargers, which are more plentiful than Electrify America chargers. (Though supposedly Tesla is going to open their charger network up to non-Teslas, good for those but bad for Tesla owners.) So at least for now I've nixed buying a Lucid.

Which means that I've decided to stick with my 2015 Model S in lieu of anything better. So the next thought is should I go for a computer upgrade? That will cost $2250 and I'd lose the AM radio. I wouldn't gain features like dashcam and Sentry because I don't have the hardware to support them. My browser would work again, but it is a crappy browser anyway (as Elon himself admitted). The flatscreen would just populate faster, like it did with 2015 software. No full self-drive, but that actually doesn't exist yet even though this week Musk announced that it would be available by year's end (like he promised in 2016). Other than the slow screen, the car is as fine today as it was when new (except for the slower supercharging). I guess I'll just tread water.

October 4, 2022: On September 7, returning to my car in a parking lot I noticed that the right side of my windshield was cracked. I had noticed nothing hit it while I was driving. It looked to me like it just cracked under pressure or a manufacturing defect. So I scheduled what I assumed would be a zero-cost replacement. After all, that windshield had been replaced by Tesla on August 17 -- it broke three weeks since it was installed. I scheduled service for September 14 early morning (expected to pick up that afternoon). When I dropped it off, the attendant said that a rock had hit the windshield and that I would have to pay again for replacement. There was about a millimeter-wide abrasion on the mounting edge. Now I didn't notice a pebble impacting it, but I guess it isn't impossible. I asked for another opinion and a mechanic (who I had run across before and had a generally good impression of) backed up that "impact" claim. He also muttered that maybe the bill could be reduced anyway (though he had no such authority). I didn't really have a choice so I told them to proceed and filed another insurance claim (after being reassured that it had no policy repercussion). It took three days for the car to be ready for pickup. The app is supposed to only schedule a repair visit until the parts are on-hand and the team is prepared to perform the service, and they had not even received the windshield yet. I had put into the notes to verify that there were no dashboard warnings, and to please clean the inside of the new windshield this time. I don't know that anyone who works on the car ever reads the notes, but there were no warnings this time. But the windshield had not been cleaned again. Really, I didn't feel like crawling in and cleaning it again myself. So I asked the agent to have it cleaned, and to his credit he happily did so himself while I watched. Can't complain about that, but still one would think that standard procedure would be to do so before release (and remove the tape etc. that remained from shipping). I paid the bill -- which somehow was a few hundred dollars less than in August. That seemed strange to me, but I was told that customers get charged more or less what Tesla has to pay for parts, which drastically changes rapidly. Maybe I believe that. This lower price was not from them applying a credit since it was so soon after the first replacement.

So far so good. This visit I had brought a copy of my June 3rd letter about the $163.28 lug nut charge -- I had received no response to it. This guy had a good attitude and eventually gave me a $200 Mastercard credit for it. I hadn't asked for that much but was appreciative. He accomplished this by applying that credit to this second windshield replacement bill. I did grumble a bit about having to pay anything for the second windshield but tried not to be offensive about it. A few hours later he phones me at home and tells me that he looked into the history and he was having Tesla pick up the entire fee for this windshield. I thanked him profusely. However, I predicted to myself that that second change of the day would end up nullifying the $200 credit which had been for the lug nuts, not the windshield. I didn't say anything about that as I didn't want to appear ungrateful and just waited to see what would post to my bank. A few days later I saw that my prediction was unfortunately correct: there was a $200 credit followed by a second one $200 less than the charge itself. Now this actually cost me $100 because insurance would reimburse less the $100 deductible. This was a delicate situation which I knew had to be handled in person. So I stopped in the following week, hoping to catch employee #2 who was sympathetic and had given me the credits. I knew I had no hope of any resolution with employee #1 who just went by the book with no attempt to satisfy Tesla customers. Well, my #2 man wasn't there, but employee #3 was (along with #1 who was the one who insisted I had to pay who I wasn't going to address about it now). I asked #3 if #2 was around but he was out sick. I was just going to leave and try another time but #3 did want to try to help me. I told him it was a relatively complicated situation, but he patiently listened and agreed to credit me back that $200. Now I don't understand their systems, but apparently they have to tie any credits to particular invoices and he couldn't apply it to my most recent invoice which was now zero. It took him a while to figure out how to circumvent the system, applying it to the invoice for the first windshield in August. He ended up crediting me back the entire amount and then rebilling it for $200 less. Which I was fine with. He said he had to do that because the system was taking sales tax into the equation. A few days later I saw from my bank that actually I ended up with effectively a $212 credit because of the Maryland 6% tax rate. So I ended up a winner. I should be happy with all this (and I am) but can't shake the feeling that it really shouldn't be necessary to have gone through all of this to start with.

I had mentioned in my August 30, 2022 post about the unwanted 2022.8.10.1 software update. I knew that there was a new 2022.8.10.5 pending (which I had not permitted). This should be a minor update and I hadn't seen anything terrible posted about it, so for the second windshield I didn't even instruct them not to install it -- also, they didn't follow those instructions the first time so I didn't think it was worth the aggravation to try to stop it this time. Of course the update was done. No fixes to the problems I had reported about the media player. But I noticed a new problem: the car was not performing its "Trip Planner" function. Now this truly isn't that important to me, but it is actually pretty important in general. It is the action that the car takes when routing trips that automatically send you to appropriate superchargers to be able to make it to the destination. Now it just ignores that feature and notes "Charging will be necessary for trip." I called that in, so I'll just have to wait and see if they fix it. I think they will because this is the feature that prevents the car from stopping on the highway with a depleted battery. I'm assuming this bug is only for MCU1 vehicles. While on the phone I was told that they did still have my complaints on file about the reduced media player capabilities. We shall see about that.

I just noticed on 2022.8.10.5 that the media player no longer displays the album name on the flatscreen (it still does on the Instrument Cluster if selected). I think this was removed in the 2022.8.10.1 update, but can't verify that now.

Check back for updates!


1995 Infiniti G20t
Infiniti G20t
Infiniti G20t
Infiniti G20t Infiniti G20t
Infiniti G20t Infiniti G20t

In fall 1995, it was time to retire the Tercel, especially if I didn't want to put another clutch in it. So I bought my first new car. I must say that this was a perfect car for me. I prefer four doors vs. two doors (those doors are always too long). But this car is small (174.8 inches long, 66.7 inches wide) yet large enough to actually seat four people reasonably comfortably. I liked the sun/moonroof, too. There is an opening in the rear wall that lets one put long items (like 8 foot fluorescent lamp tubes) through the trunk into the passenger compartment when the rear seats are folded down. It has front wheel drive, and the touring option provided a limited slip differential. I could always manage in the snow and ice. I intentionally got a four cylinder engine for fuel economy (over its lifetime I got 28.3 mpg), because with the stick shift (the Tercel had converted me into a fan) there was plenty of power. I never put any ham radio equipment in it, but did modify the broadcast radio somewhat. I hated to see it go, but after 19 years I was losing confidence in it and wanted to move toward the future. I sold it to the couple above for their son three days after getting my Model S.


1981 Toyota Tercel
Toyota Tercel

In 1984, my boss at Telesaver (Dick) said I shouldn't be driving an old Nova, so he transferred his company car to me (I think he just wanted an excuse to have the company buy him a newer vehicle). So I got dropped off at his house and drove it home. That was quite a ride, as I had never driven a stickshift before and stalled it more than once. Actually, one day in 1972(?) I had conjured a friend to let me learn to drive his manual Mustang(?) -- but that was only for an hour or so.

I liked the car, especially the fact that by folding the rear seats down and the hatchback access it could easily carry a lot of stuff! I put ham radio equipment in it and three antennas on the roof. In 1986 when I left the company before it completely folded I was out of a job and didn't want to be carless, too -- so I had the business partially reimburse me for back pay owed (they had no actual money left) by transferring the title to me personally. In 1995 it was on its last legs, so I traded it in to Infiniti when I bought the G20. At that time the clutch was totally shot, but I could (barely) manage to drive it with extreme handling. Funny thing was, the serviceman at Infiniti seemed to have trouble even moving it around in the parking lot!


1972 Chevy Nova
1972 Chevy Nova 1972 Chevy Nova

In 1974 my grandfather couldn't continue driving, so I bought this Nova from him. (He only wanted me to take over the payments, but I paid him what it was worth -- or maybe a little less.) This was a relief, as the Ford needed constant oil and transmission fluid, like a dog marking its territory on whatever roads it traveled. It had no power and had trouble going over 60 mph. (Back then, the speed limit on I-95 and I-70 was 70mph.) The Chevy had a small V-8 (307) with plenty of get-up-and-go. So I looked forward to being able to drive at the posted speed limit. Unfortunately, right when I got the Nova a federal law went into effect limiting all roads to 55mph! I put ham radio gear in it. For some reason, I was reluctant to see it go -- so when I got the Tercel I kept it (unregistered) as the second car in the garage for some time. My little brother liked to chastise me about the 5-foot pipe I extended its tailpipe with out the garage so I could warm it up periodically. I eventually sold it to a high school kid.


1965 Ford Custom

In 1972 I needed a car to commute to school. Luckily for me -- and unluckily for him -- my big brother had to go into the Navy (the draft could only be put off for so long). So he sold me his very excellent Ford! At least with this car when you opened the hood, you could recognize the insides. Which was often necessary, to re-fill lost fluids, shove a screwdriver into the carburetor to open the choke when it flooded, etc. I don't seem to have any pictures, but it, my first car, was dark blue.


1967 Bee Incident

(This isn't a story about one of my cars.) In 1967 my grandfather had a stay in the hospital, and he didn't want to leave his car unattended. So we parked it in our driveway. I should mention that he was very particular about his cars -- every two years he bought a new Chevrolet. To our amazement and consternation, shortly after we parked it the sky darkened with a swarm of honeybees. Apparently the queen decided that the car would make a great home for her hive. So they all congregated on the left rear underside. We called a beekeeper who was all too happy to retrieve the entire nest and transport them to his bee farm. They slowly moved into his box as you can see from these pics. No harm to the car and ostensibly the bees were happier on a real farm.

Bees Bees Bees
Bees Bees Bees
Bees Bees Bees