The first part of this two-part series involved a thorough examination of exactly what kind of business Tesla is, and how it fits into the broader market segments it serves. This second part covers the author’s personal experience with Tesla vehicles and how those vehicles compare to others on the market today and tomorrow.
by L.W. Ruff
Personal Experience With Teslas
My personal exposure to Tesla came in 2014 when one of my nephews gave me a book about Elon Musk. It was a fascinating read, and from that point I started following SpaceX. I learned everything I could about the company. For a period, I even strategized in my mind how I might leave nuclear energy and work for SpaceX.
In late 2017, a few months after I leased a Lexus LC500 in June, I began to follow Tesla. In October of 2018, I went on Tesla’s website and ordered a Model 3 Performance. I had never driven in an electric car. I made my decision only on what I had read and seen on YouTube. I basically surmised that since SpaceX and Tesla were captained by Musk, there would likely be correlations with regard to innovation. When I drove my Model 3 away from the Tesla store, it was my first electric car experience — correlations secured.
In my very young days, I was an auto mechanic. I’ve rebuilt a few engines, reworked brakes on many of my personal cars, swapped many transmissions, four times on my 1990 Mustang, and at home I’ve had a car lift for nearly 20 years.
In my career in nuclear, I’ve worked at over 20 plants in more than a dozen states. In 22 years of travel, I’ve rented a large variety of sports cars and SUVs, always judging them on performance, ease of use, and handling.
After the Model 3, looking back, 99% of everything I have ever driven is just junk. Sorry, Mustang. Sorry, Lexus. They are junk covered in moving blankets behind the Tesla.
The Model 3 vs. the Model T
The Model 3 is a battle axe. It’s a million-mile car. The car’s structure is so solid, it’s almost inconceivable that anyone would build it. It’s no wonder that it’s the safest car available. In a post-apocalypse, it would be the survivor due to how well it’s built, and how few moving parts it has compared to an internal combustion engine car. Think Mad Max. The suspension links are so ridiculously oversized and strong that it presents conventional cars as safety hazards … and now, they are. This is no exaggeration. It’s hard to recognize when the needle had moved so far. Today, it’s incomprehensible. Tomorrow, it will be: “like Duh.”
I’ve had the Model 3 for just over 5 months, and have driven it over 17,500 miles. Zero problems, zero maintenance. I rotated the tires myself at 10,000 miles. Judging from the feel of the car, I perceive that I could drive it 100,000 miles only replacing tires and wiper blades.
The car is an absolute joy to drive. When you want performance, it’s instant, perfectly compliant to demand, and astonishingly predictable. There is a surety that is hard to describe, but it’s palpable. It’s in a category of its own. Ironically, my winter time with the car, including two trips from Illinois to Denver, was riddled with some of the worst conditions that I have ever driven in. A sleet storm resulted in a 1/4” ice coating on the car. Alternating iced roads with fogs of salty mist coated the front end with a 1/2″ of grey ice. The car has seen high snow, crazy headwinds across Nebraska, temperatures down to 10° below zero, and hours traveling in torrential rains. The car, with just all-season tires, was a charm. The only lesson was, charge the car before you park it at the hotel on a very cold night. It took an hour longer to charge it in the morning.
The Model 3 Performance is a beast. A comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) car is maxed in every respect — there is no reserve capacity. In the “My Other Car” category, I have a Lexus LC 500 that I leased 16 months before purchasing the Model 3. Even today, people will slow down and gawk at the LC 500 when it’s in motion. It’s a beautiful car and well built. In my simple opinion, it represents the pinnacle of the ICE automobile. It’s as over-engineered an ICE car as will likely ever be. In the Mad Max scenario, there will be Teslas and LC500s until the Tesla rams the LC500’s nose, then it’s over for the LC500.
It’s become quite evident that Tesla pads its products with reserve capacity, a lot of reserve capacity. A few weeks ago, like many, I received an over-the-air update that added 5% more power and increased the top speed by 7 MPH. I have driven many cars over 100 MPH, but no car comes close to feeling so sure and solid during acceleration or at high speeds. The story right now is that there is Tesla, and then there are automotive dinosaurs. Tesla is not a car company; it’s an engineering innovation company that happens to be making cars. The result is cars that are superior to anything else available. For me, it took driving the car for a few weeks and getting past range anxiety for it to really sink in.
For years now there has been story after story about the next “Tesla Killer.” Other automotive companies are conventional in their operations, stodgy in corporate structure, and engineer their products as cheaply as possible. They build cars that if treated gently might make it 250,000 miles before major maintenance, the kind of maintenance where the cost of the repairs usually exceeds the residual value of the car. It’s virtually impossible to flip a stagnated corporate culture. Tesla, being an engineering innovation company, can morph to sell cars, but the car companies cannot morph into innovation. Therefore, most of them will fail. At some point, the public will awaken to Tesla and what transportation has become — fun high-performance driving and automated cartage.
The public may become fully aware of automated cars sometime around 2021 when Tesla moves into the ridesharing market currently dominated by Uber and Lyft. Only, unlike Uber and Lyft, Tesla vehicles will not have a driver; they will be automated. For the first time in history, the automobile will truly be an automobile. By 2025, Tesla’s rideshare profit will likely be greater than its automobile manufacturing profit.
Conventional automakers have approached the self-driving concept conventionally, which is entirely expected and predictable. Their approach is hard data based on past pictures of roads and distance-measuring technology to avoid collisions. Tesla is approaching it from an innovation standpoint. It uses learned concepts and a live neural network. It, like a human, will perform actions based on learned concepts of how to act per situation, as opposed to rote actions based on programmed scenarios. Only Tesla is gathering data from billions of miles driven and integrating this learning into a neural network. Only Tesla vehicles will have the computer processing technology, paired with learning software, that will make them far safer and more usable in all situations. Tesla’s lead is difficult to comprehend, and presently exponential over what is believed to be the competition.
Today’s Range vs. Future Range
At the time of my purchase, the estimated range on a full charge for the Model 3 Performance was 310 miles. Like any other car, you don’t want to wait until you run out of energy (fuel) before you refill. For a battery car, ideal is often to charge to 90% and deplete to 20%, which in this case gives 247 miles of range. Toss in higher speed driving, 70–75 MPH, and the practical range is about 185 miles. If you fully charge, then the practical range is about 200 miles with higher speed driving. In the worst-case scenario — high speed, extreme cold (to the point where you have the heater blasting), and high headwinds — and the range can be as low as 130 miles. Even in the worst case, the Model 3 can’t be beat as a commuter car.
For long-distance travel, the kind that typically utilizes interstate highways, Tesla’s Supercharger network has chargers spaced at a typical maximum of about 110 miles. So, while it takes longer to complete a long-distance trip, it can be done without significant concern, especially since Tesla’s software automatically plots your route on the big screen — easy.
What would doing 30,000 miles a year mean for this car 5 years from now? Will range significantly decrease as the battery wears? If the history of the Model S is any indication, >90% of battery capacity will remain.
But wait!!! Because battery technology is still advancing significantly, and because it’s Tesla we’re talking about, you can soundly bet that a battery upgrade in 5 to 7 years will double the range of the car. From the labor perspective, a swap of battery modules is far simpler than replacing an engine. After more than 100 years of advancing engine and car technology, there is no ICE car being manufactured that improves as it ages, and none that could enable its range to be doubled by putting in a more efficient engine with equal performance and/or by swapping to a gas tank that has the same physical size. Yet, with a Tesla, this will be reality.
Renting My Tesla
The Tesla Network of ride-sharing cars will be comprised of Tesla-owned cars and owners who choose to lend their cars to the network for public use. If I choose to lend my car to the network some parts of the day or week, I will make a profit, and Tesla will make a profit. Like my actually driving an electric car, I may be late to this party too.
While taking the LC500 home to put it away for the winter in October of 2018, my girlfriend was following in our Kia Niro Hybrid (POS). We stopped at a gas station near the end of our trip to fill up the Lexus. She was yakking my ears off when I spotted a kitten scrounging for food in front of the combo gas station / Burger King. Concerned, she tried to relocate the kitten out of harm’s way. We ended up keeping the critter after she broke into tears when I spoke of getting him to a shelter the next day. As it turned out, he was a polite and chill travel companion on the first trip to Denver. He’s a proud kitty — I have yet to explain Dog Mode. His name is Scrounge.
How Good is the Model 3?
The Model 3 is so good that its value proposition is a no-brainer. Given the robust build, inherent reliability of its electric motors, and continuous software upgrades that improve its performance and abilities, a Model 3 with 300,000 miles on it will still be an incredible car. There may never be such a thing as a future-proof car, but if we survive another 100 years, those who remain will still be seeing century-old Model 3’s running about.
After 6 months of driving and examining the Model 3’s build in detail, I became so convinced of the value proposition that I purchased another Model 3 Performance to replace the Kia. I know that I’ll never buy another ICE car, but how about you?
Don’t Get Caught Short in the Musical Chairs ICE Game
The Model 3 is the standard that all other manufacturers who grasp our new reality will chase, but not catch. The transition to electric will have a hard consequence. In time, the majority will not want ICE cars. When this occurs, the value of ICE cars will plummet. Given the cadence of the climate change arguments, and their winding into our political processes, it’s not a stretch to perceive that ICE cars will be socially unacceptable within a decade.
I’m not the only one who observes Elon Musk as the P.T. Barnum of our time. The legendary “Greatest Show on Earth” 3-ring circus officially ended recently. But history repeats itself. This time, Elon Musk’s spectacle of 3 rings is a participant sport made manifest thanks to the thousands of dedicated fellow visionaries and actioneers (Tesla, SpaceX, and The Boring Company employees) who are building out history, our history, in real time. Understand that every short seller slam on Musk is a slam against 50,000+ of the brightest and most dedicated missioneers ever assembled. Two new words were just created — a suitable salute.
Another One Bites the Dust
Soon, popping up all over YouTube, could be faux (or maybe even real) compilation videos of Performance Model 3’s outperforming ICE car RELICS (Really Everyone, Like, Ice Cars Suck).
About the only thing a high-performance ICE car has over the Model 3 is a soundtrack. What would it take for brilliant people to write soundtracks that move with acceleration, lateral forces, and deceleration? Maybe start with rocket sounds! These soundtracks, somewhat muted as not to be offensive and scare children or the elderly, could also be projected outside the car as an audible safety feature.
To The Short Sellers — Your Efforts are Futile
In the movie The Fifth Element, a spherical evil is moving toward earth at incredible speed. The galactic military convinces itself that bombing it with larger and larger torpedoes will kill it, but the bombs only make it stronger. Flip the story and the sphere is Tesla, rushing towards earth to save it from its pollution-generating ways. But alas, the short sellers are using every conventional weapon they can muster to destroy Tesla, but the accelerating pace of Tesla’s innovation is unprecedented. Efforts of short-sellers to hurt Tesla’s workforce are as futile as throwing snowballs at the sun.
Working in nuclear energy permits me the fun of saying that I have a nuclear-powered Tesla. Thank you to Exelon Nuclear for free charging and for encouraging your workforce to go green. 🙂 This view below best sums up the future in my mind. We have solar, wind, and the LaSalle County Station in the background.
If you’re nudged to buy or lease a Tesla as a result of this article, please use my referral code when securing the future of your driving experience: https://ts.la/lawrence85896
Best to all and our future,
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