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Published on May 7th, 2016 | by Kyle Field


Hidden Benefits Of … Teslas — Simplification

May 7th, 2016 by  


The Simplification of Vehicle Ownership

Vehicle ownership is a piece of life that many people have come to accept as a necessary evil. Not many people enjoy getting a tune-up, having the oil changed, or filling the car up with gas … that’s just the way we’ve always done it. Until now. EVs are bringing with them a rEVolution unlike anything we’ve seen in personal transportation since the Model T was first introduced.

Conventional auto manufacturers are building EVs, but it’s obvious that it’s only because they have to, not because they see EVs as the future … with one big exception — Tesla. Tesla took the best that modern conventional cars have to offer, blended it up with all of the benefits of EVs, then kicked things up a notch with a shot of simplification. The result is an EV that raised the bar for the entire industry.

I unpacked the impressive array of innovations that Tesla brought to the EV ownership experience in an earlier article from before I bought my Model S. Having actually owned and lived with a Tesla for a few months now, including the infrequent utilization of several other EVs and gasmobiles, I’ve come to appreciate some of the more subtle but impactful aspects of the car.


Keyless Everything

Having had keyless entry and startup in both my 2010 Toyota Prius and 2014 Nissan Leaf, the fact that my wife’s 2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric requires the buttons to be pushed to unlock the car and to start it felt like a bit of a bad joke. Tesla takes even the Prius and Leaf experience up to the next level. For starters, there’s no start button (heh). Getting into the Tesla, a quick tap of the brakes wakes the car up and it’s ready to go. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Conversely, putting the car in park and closing the doors turns the vehicle off. It’s brilliant, but Tesla doesn’t stop there….

The door handles also magically detect your presence and come out to say hi when you walk up. Granted, most cars don’t have handles that retract, so it’s not as relevant, but the ability to retract and extend improves the aerodynamics of the car, which acts to extend the already massive range.

Tesla iced the keyless cake with one of my favorite features — the car locks itself when the driver walks away. So, basically, the end-to-end experience is essentially just walking up to the car, getting in, and driving. When you’re done, you just get out and leave. No unnecessary turning the car off and on … no silly locking and unlocking of the car. Simplification of a non-value-add process is a beautiful thing and is truly one of my favorite aspects of world-class design.

The reason these things stand out so much is that I recently had the “opportunity” to drive a gasmobile again (aka downgrade). I walked up to the car and it was locked (the nerve!), so I unlocked it. When I left the car, I literally left it running, with the keys in it, unlocked (not joking). [Editor’s Note: I’ve read notes from several Tesla owners that they have done the same thing when renting a gasmobile.] It serves as a great reminder of just how much I have adapted to the Tesla experience and just how far ahead they are in just about every area.

models_nav_superchargers simplification

Current Charging Stations in Navigation

While there may be opportunities in the Tesla navigation system, the way the EV charging stations are built into the navigation and are updated in realtime is amazing. For instance, if you’re driving cross country, you can just plug in the final destination (i.e., navigate to X) and the car will take you to the next Supercharger along the route.

In the photo above, you can see that the stations that are within the current range of the vehicle are in full color whereas those that are out of range are greyed out red. On top of that, there are hundreds of Tesla-specific destination chargers that show up in a darker grey that can be utilized. Tesla thought through the full use case of the car and brought simplification to what is typically a death-defying “pull out the smartphone while driving” balancing act that’s just not safe.

The way the charging network is integrated into the navigation doesn’t exist in other EVs. You may say, “hey, other EVs have chargers built into the navigation,” and while that is true, they are not built into the fabric of the navigation itself.

This is both a function of Tesla completing the end-to-end experience from the car to the nav to the chargers as well as the data connection that allows for continuous updates as the Supercharging and Destination Charging networks continue to expand. Older navigation systems came with a fixed set of maps that couldn’t update and most EVs that come with integrated chargers are the same, with a fixed list that quickly becomes outdated and irrelevant.

UP_ModS_Rims simplification traction

Traction Control

EVs pack lots of power, with the most important metric being torque — which dictates how fast cars accelerate. With EVs, all of the torque they pack is available from the get-go. We often talk about the torquey feel of EVs, the snappy response of the throttle, and the like, and this is where the rubber hits the road … which presents a challenge when it comes to traction.

The average internal combustion vehicle doesn’t have this problem because torque peaks at higher RPMs, meaning it takes a few seconds for them to spool up before full torque is available. In the real world, this means that it’s harder to spin the tires in an internal combustion vehicle. While this instant torque may turn a normal drive into a more exhilarating drive, it also makes the drive less safe as more traction = more control over the vehicle.

Even in smaller EVs like the Chevy Spark, pounding the accelerator to the metal can result in a loss of traction, especially around corners. In my case, driving my wife’s Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive often results in me screeching the tires because of a huge differentiator in my Model S — traction control. Tesla has implemented traction control such that it is nearly impossible to get the tires to screech (even around corners).

With traction control on, I’ve successfully screeched the tires a few times, but only around corners and that’s from really pushing it. The proof of how important and successful the traction control is becomes immediately evident when it’s manually turned off. With no controls in place, I can go from a complete stop to burning rubber around a corner. I can bust out donuts for days (I did this in the name of science … or journalism … or something) until the tires fall off (haven’t tried it, but it seems like the natural conclusion of such an activity).


Not having to think about how fast you step on the pedal is one less thing to worry about and, for me, I can use all the simplification I can get my hands on in life. The car intelligently maximizes the driving experience while also providing the option to override the default behavior if you just wanna to get crazy.

Images by Kyle Field | EV Obsession | CleanTechnica

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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link: http://ts.la/kyle623

  • omar

    One hiden benefit of all EVs over ICEs and hard to pick up is reliability when the car is old. this is very important for low income peoples who buy 3rd hand used cars especially in third world. old ICE car suffer from resats problems because of ignition and choked fuel pump and pipes and then high motor temp and oil evaporation wil an EV will suffer only of range losses and restart no longer issue. i am owner of 10 years Toyota Carina and already change motor twice.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Yes, EVs are likely to have a huge impact on the least developed places. Low rate of repairs. No need to search for parts. No need to import fuel, just stick up some solar panels or a wind turbine.

      We may see more remote places stocking up used batteries from worn out/wrecked EVs and using them to store electricity from PV during the day and then charging cars at night.

  • Dragon

    Cool article. Sadly, my Model S doesn’t have many of the features you so enjoy (keyless entry, built-in navigation). I believe all new models have navigation but keyless entry is still optional (I think). In some ways I’m glad to not have keyless entry because I strongly suspect my car would not lock from walking into our house and into the office. From the car to the office, I never move far enough from the car for it to decide I’ve left its vicinity and my original keyfobs would drain their battery in a couple weeks by constantly talking to the car – this was later fixed by new keyfobs with new firmware. Of course, if it _did_ work, it would be great, since I’ve occasionally forgotten to lock it.

    Another odd thing: My dad couldn’t UNlock the car. I showed him how to double press the roof of the key and verified that it worked, but somehow he kept single pressing it or not double pressing fast enough or pressing the wrong spot or I don’t know what. At one point he was jamming down on it really hard which made me nervous. I’ve never had a problem, but somehow it was a big issue with him. So I guess sometimes trying to simplify controls makes things worse for some people…

    Oh, another cool bit about traction control: It helps in snow. If my 2004 Prius lost traction on one of the two front wheels (the only wheels with power), the wheel without traction would spin forever and the other wheel with traction would not move. If one of Model S’s two rear wheels (the only wheels with power) loses traction, traction control applies the brake automatically to the wheel without traction so that power is sent to the one wheel with traction, which may get you un-stuck. On Model S with all wheel drive, this method works even better.

    Interesting note about how fast the charger network is growing:
    I planned a trip to Reno around Dec and thought I’d have to find a L2 Chargepoint charger somewhere in the city and leave the car there for however many hours to get enough charge for our trip home. But since then, Tesla added both a supercharger to the city and a destination charger at the hotel we’re staying at. Also, the trip wouldn’t have been possible at all (without a long detour that added hours) if not for a new supercharger in Mammoth Lakes that opened I think in January or February. Pretty cool.

  • Doug

    Love it! I would totally trade my WRX for a Tesla.

  • Steve Grinwis

    Just throwing this out there… you guys are basically commenting on how a $130k (CDN) car has luxury features. If the Model3 ends up implementing all this stuff, it might get interesting.

    You get a high end Mercedes, and you’ll get all of these features and more. If fact, a bunch of those features are offered on high end compacts, like a Mazda3, like auto-unlock, push button start, head-up display, etc.

    If they want real simplification, they have to stop requiring near yearly repairs for their cars. I’d hate to own a Model S out of warranty.

    • dogphlap dogphlap

      While I have no special insight into how the Model 3 will end up it seems to me it will have all the traction control of the previous models. Why would it not when it is just a matter of software implementing algorithms already established to work beautifully on the previous models. For a large production run the cost per vehicle of doing that would be trivial while keeping clowns like me safe will help suppress the inevitable hit pieces inspired and or funded by the hurting parties i.e. other vehicle manufacturers, their dealers and the producers of petroleum based fuels.
      While under manual control it is very possible to enter a corner in a Model S or X at a speed beyond the capability of the car to negotiate, still the traction control removes a large class of accident causing behaviours from the hoons repertoire. Every fatal accident that occurs in a Model 3 will be seized upon by the afore mentioned hurting parties in the same way they seized upon the few (when compared to ICE vehicles, insignificantly few) Model S fires in the early life of that vehicle (none of which were fatal).

      • Steve Grinwis

        Virtually every car for sale now has traction and stability control.

        I specifically didn’t address that particular claim, because it’s so common, that to think the Model S has something special there is downright laughable.

        • Dragon

          My 2004 Prius had “Traction Control” but not to the same level as Model S. See my previous comment about wheels slipping in the snow on the prius but not the S. Maybe all new cars have S-style traction control now? I’d have to research.

    • Dragon

      I don’t think even the highest end Mercedes would integrate superchargers into their built in navigation. 😉

      Model S isn’t push button start – it’s push brake, then shift. Other cars tend to use push brake, press start, then shift. Tesla’s design doesn’t cost any more (should cost less). It’s just a good idea and is in all versions of the car since the beginning. It will probably be copied.

      EDIT: Actually, it’s not as easy to copy Tesla’s lack of Start button as I thought. I was thinking about the Start button on my Prius and realized it also serves as a way of turning the car AC-On (accessories on) if you press it without holding the brake. Tesla implements an AC-On equivalent when you unlock it (systems boot if they were set to hibernate), screens light up when you open front doors and climate control turns on if it was on when you left the vehicle, and more stuff turns on (ie auto lights and wipers) when it detects weight in the driver’s seat. Basically it takes care of a number of things just by entering the car that historically have required pressing a button or flipping a switch. Of course part of the reason it’s able to do those things is that it has a big battery. You wouldn’t want all those things automatically turning on and running off the starter battery in an ICE car. Which reminds me – Model S also charges the starter battery when needed and turns everything off (including LED cabin lights) when not needed. Stupid things like leaving the map light on in the Prius could kill the starter battery and left us requiring a jump start or missing an appointment while we charged the starter battery.

      Auto headlights and auto wipers are other base model S feature which will likely make it to Model 3. I expect navigation will as well (most car makers charge ridiculously to add navigation, but that may finally be changing).

      You are correct that the more things are automated/motorized, the more things can go wrong and require more frequent repairs. Unfortunately I think that’s the nature of physics/reality. It is a good argument for keeping some of these things out of Model 3, especially motorized things.

      • Steve Grinwis

        Auto headlights and wipers are available in most high-end compact models. Hardly interesting.

        • Dragon

          Erm… First you said “If the Model3 ends up implementing all this stuff, it might get interesting.” So I listed some things from Model S I expect to be included in base Model 3. And you reply “Hardly interesting.”

          Does not compute.

  • darth

    Leaf nav system updates it’s charger list regularly. Also the car remembers any new charger you use automatically. They could learn a lot from tesla still.

    • Cool. Didn’t know the latter!

    • Dragon

      I seem to remember reading LEAF uses plugshare.com as their source of charger info behind the scenes. Not sure if Tesla does the same (think they might) but they do show certain non-Tesla chargers in grey, including anywhere you’ve stopped to charge (even a wall outlet). I don’t think they show as many chargers as loading plugshare.com, however.

  • AaronD12

    One of the things I really appreciated about my Mitsubishi i-MiEV was its incredibly simple dash. A digital speedometer, an analog (!) power/charge meter, a 16-segment battery charge meter, and a single user-defined meter (which I usually kept as the outside temperature). That’s it.

    The fewer distractions I can have, the better. When I get my Model 3, I hope I can turn off everything on its display but the speed and a battery percentage. Okay, radio stuff too. That’s all I want and need.

    My i-MiEV did, however, have a standard “ignition” switch. “Starting” an EV made me giggle a bit. It also had a standard shifter (albeit oriented for right-hand drivers!). The Fiat 500E has it right by using buttons to shift. Even Tesla’s shift lever seems a bit… retro. My LEAF’s “shifter” is weird for the sake of being weird. It could have been simplified with a 500e-style button set.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Push button shifting is retro.

      Had push buttons on my 1957 Plymouth Fury.

    • Dragon

      Finding the Model S shift lever without looking is super easy, and pulling it down (forward) or up (reverse) or pushing in the button at the end (park) is also way easier than finding the correct button to do those three tasks.

      If the car had buttons, you might be able to train yourself to hit the correct button without looking eventually, but you might also make a mistake from time to time and go the wrong way, which could result in a crash. With a lever it’s pretty impossible to go the wrong way with it by accident. Might happen with people who have never used a shift lever at all, but the same would happen with people who have never used buttons at all.

      Also, at least in Model S, there are no display features you can turn on/off except for the two “apps” on the right and left. Apps can be set to things like trip mileage, energy use, music playing, etc, or off. But everything else is always there and can’t be turned off: Speed, temp, clock, car graphic (shows doors or charger port open), battery charge, autopilot info, energy use or regen brake rate, etc. I doubt this will change much in Model 3 though maybe. There are theories this info will be projected on the windshield and maybe what is projected will be highly customizable.

  • Guy Hall

    Another simplication is the elimination of traditional features such as cup holders, door pockets, seatback pocket, hand hold grips for entry, etc. Not necessarily a good move forward. Luckily the X, and maybe the new S, improve on it.

    • Good point. These have been big gripes of Tesla owners (lack of cupholders and door pockets seem to be the 2 biggest complaints), but they were apparently due to Elon’s desire for simplicity and a clean design.

      • dogphlap dogphlap

        My girl friend always complains about the Model S lack of a grab handle (she has one for her front seat passengers in her Hyundai Getz so not so expensive to implement surely even in an aluminium bodied car like the Tesla Model S).

    • Dragon

      I kind of like that there is no center or rear console if only because you can put in your own that have features that are perfect for you personally. I picked




      I don’t miss the side door pockets because I got rid of all my physical maps except for some national parks, which I put in a box in the Frunk. I guess I’d rather have those in pockets, though they do make things look more cluttered… I’d put them in the glove box but they made it way too small (do wish it were larger).

      We do sort of miss the grab handles.

  • Guy Hall

    Another dimension of simplification is the dashboard with an absence of buttons and knobs. Not only is it a visual simplication, but it simplifies the product update process by eliminating retooling contraints of other makes such that owners get the famous OTA enhancements to their vehicle.

    The whole OTA update process enables Tesla to release Beta level products, accelerating their speed to market and enabling innovation. Some may argue this is a step backwards.

    • Dragon

      The one place I wish this wasn’t true is headlights. They automatically go on/off due to light levels outside, but I was driving through fog where it wasn’t quite dark enough to turn on the lights (sometimes they’d go on, then turn off in clearer areas). A guy flashed me to turn on my lights so I had to fumble through the on-screen menus to switch from auto to on, which isn’t very safe. Then I parked and had to do the same thing again on the way home (it reverts to auto lights when parked).

      Normally I love auto lights but that’s one case where I don’t.

      I’m also ambivalent about auto windshield wipers. They often work great, but sometimes they mysteriously stop detecting water until it gets harder to see than I would like. Unfortunately the only manual setting is super fast. Wish there were a manual slow setting for when they’re misbehaving.

  • Freddy D

    A coworker pointed out to just think of the inadvertent burning rubber as an “EV pedestrian warning sound”. 😀

    • now you’re trolling 🙂 😉

      • Freddy D

        🙂 I don’t know if it’s sad or funny that there have definitely been occasions when it’s been true!

        • Dragon

          Yeah, silent EV has been a problem for me a few times recently. Twice stalking behind people walking down the middle of the lane in a parking structure for about a minute before they noticed me, and once someone standing next to their car and about ready to walk backwards out in front of me as I passed. I have to go slow and watch to make sure things like that don’t happen.

          My wife wants to add a Jetsons sound effect to the car as a warning.

  • wattleberry

    One thing left a lasting impression-you spelt ‘grey’ the original wey. Another continuing one is, because Elon isn’t precious with his info he is throwing down the gauntlet to everyone and daring them to fully participate in the adventure. There is up to now little sign of a pick up(sorry).

    • haha, the spell checker said it was wrong too, which surprised me.

    • Dragon

      From http://grammarist.com/spelling/gray-grey/

      “Gray and grey are different spellings of the same word, and both are used throughout the English-speaking world. But gray is more common in American English, while grey is more common in all the other main varieties of English.”

  • Another **superb** write-up. I think this is the best write-up I’ve ever seen on the topic, and I’ve read several great ones.

    Thanks again, man.

    And I can’t believe you shared it here… 😀


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