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My Quest For Net Zero & Beyond With Tesla Model 3 — Part 3

It’s not only about the economics, specs, and handling. Something unexpected sneaks up on you on those long drives in the Tesla Model 3.

It’s not only about the economics, specs, and handling. Something unexpected sneaks up on you on those long drives in the Tesla Model 3.

Previously In My Quest For Net Zero

First, see: “My Quest For Net Zero & Beyond With Tesla Model 3 — Part 1.

Second, see: “My Quest For Net Zero & Beyond With Tesla Model 3 — Part 2.

Tune into my early expectations of the Model 3 after driving and owning many other electric cars here: “9 down, 1 to go — a personal tale of 7 years with electric cars.

Also check out my initial ordering and decision-making experience: “How My Tesla Model 3 Order Turned From Super Easy To Super Confusing.” (Most of the confusion was on my shoulders.)

Current Status

Quick recap to explain the graph: It has an axis of chronology and an axis of liquidity, with one key number: “0.” The price of the Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD was a big blow to my economic capacity the second I payed for the car. The quest is to get back up to zero as fast as possible, and hopefully beyond. The last flat bit is due to my recent trip to Africa.

Some readers have interpreted the phrase “quest for net zero” as including my total household energy expenditure, and thus my emissions balance. That was not my initial goal since I was only thinking about the financing, but I certainly acknowledge the importance of factoring this in. For now I can just say that when “well-to-wheel” logistics shift from “oil-rig-to-gas-tank” to “solar-panel-to-battery” and the scope of energy flow gets manageable simply because it happens right in front of you, one consequence is that you just can’t help thinking about all the other commodities in your daily life. You start thinking about how stuff is produced and transported, and hopefully this results in more intelligent choices. I know, flying to Africa certainly was not one of them … but it had other derived effects.

Part 3: Living With It

My Tesla Model 3 odometer: 7,294 km.

Wow. Yeah, that’s right. Wow. I had not anticipated what this car would do to me. And this is where it gets complicated to explain, because it’s not just that it’s a beautiful car, it’s not just that it drives like a dream, and it’s not just that it runs on sunlight and wind. How do I compare this to what I knew before? How do I compare it even to the many electric vehicles I have experienced? It’s not just the mechanics. It’s the whole old paradigm of transportation that crumbles inside you, and you try to imagine a new paradigm that this car is a part of, that just doesn’t exist yet.

Many, many articles on CleanTechnica covers this pending paradigm shift, and I thought that getting behind the wheel in this car would clear things up for me, but it didn’t. Maybe the potential changes this car embodies are so huge that it simply does not compute, for me at least. So I have no choice but to just ride along and steer clear of foolish notions about what I think I know will happen.

Electric vehicles in general and the Tesla Model 3 in particular change people, in my opinion. When I talk to friends and family who still own a car with an internal combustion engine, it has become increasingly difficult to find common ground on the subject of cars, which I find puzzling. I will often find myself talking about the wonders of driving electric and realize that nothing I say is being understood. Especially because I now talk from the point of a Tesla user interface that is so different that it is impossible to explain. “There is no Eco Mode, but there is a Chill Mode,” I say. “What?” How do you respond? “You have to try it.” I now talk less, and offer rides more.

I never owned a brand new car before, and I admit that I had the anxiety of scratching, scuffing, and smudging it, briefly. The “I would never let anyone use my car” state only lasted a couple of days. The urge to let others experience what I have difficulty explaining took over. Now, when a colleague, friend, or family member gets behind the wheel, I watch their face, and enjoy the transformation that takes place in their heads, expressed by disbelief in their face. I remember when that happened to me in a Tesla Roadster in 2011.

It is not my intention to proclaim myself an environmentalist for owning an electric vehicle. Far from it. In fact, I ought to sell most of my stuff and only ride my bike if that were the case. But I do believe in the concept of electric transportation in all sectors, and by owning an electric vehicle, hopefully I do my part in affecting the energy systems of the world to transition into something sustainable. But look, honestly, I don’t know if any of this will matter one bit, seeing how the climate is rapidly changing in front of our eyes. However, I suppose it won’t do more damage, relative to the alternative.

The funny thing about sitting there behind the wheel in this ridiculously sophisticated piece of machinery is that it makes me feel as if I think slower and deeper. On many levels. The raw mechanical aspect of this machine appeals a great deal to me. I love the fact that the principle of the rear-mounted electric motor in the Model 3 was first patented 181 years ago (W. H. Taylor’s switched reluctance electromagnetic engine in 1838), and the principle of storing electricity chemically is older than most people would even believe (Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta’s Voltaic stack in 1799). And then there is this layer of electronics that control and connect these parts and make them work in a silky smooth and incredibly efficient manner — electronics so advanced it blows my mind. Thinking slower may just mean that I just don’t get it. I mean, an internal combustion engine is a lot of parts, yes, but, you know, pistons and spark plugs? Sure, I get it! But a complementary metal oxide field effect transistor and insulated-gate bipolar transistor controlled switched magnetic flux reluctance motor? I just give up, relax, and enjoy the ride… [Editor’s note: I’m not sure if what Jesper wrote makes sense, but I’m leaving it, since I guess that’s the basic point. Who can edit this shit?]

To make a complete package like the Model 3 that is so advanced seem so simple must have been very difficult. It could only be done by combining the incredible insight of the work of the pioneers with incrediblely hard work of today’s best engineers, with a clear sense of the limits of physics, under uncompromising and visionary leadership. Many manufacturers do this to great length, and legacy automakers can apparently still do better bodywork, but in my book, Tesla has gone that extra mile, risked that extra buck, and come so close to what is physically possible that it takes the price. And Tesla’s strides in improvements over iterations (Roadster to Model S to Model X to Model 3 to Model Y) is so vast it makes cars from manufacturers with 100 years of practice look outdated at launch. Mind you, those cars are not bad, they’re just, you know, old.

All this technology surrounding me when I drive my Model 3 does not disclose to me how many decades of innovation has made it possible. I almost get the sense of being served by a sentient being. It’s genuinely surprising. If this is possible now, what’s the limit? What happens when the technology gets so advanced that it seems to disappear in front of our eyes? The upcoming version 10 of this car’s operating system is just another step in that direction. I’m afraid it will get bloody boring. One thing is for sure — I’m keeping my old Volvo for reminiscence purposes!

What if Elon Musk is right when he says: “In the future, the probability of the steering wheel being taken away is 100%. Consumers will demand it. Consumers will demand in the future that people are not allowed to drive these two-ton death machines.” It would be like having your horse removed from your carriage…

When I look at the dashboard of my Model 3, I forget what used to be on a typical car dashboard. When I see the dashboard in other cars, electric or otherwise, I wonder what all those buttons are for. There must be something those cars can do that mine can’t. But no, it turns out that the Model 3 is the most advanced and most capable car, without the buttons. It’s frankly bizarre, and confusing. Do I love this car? You bet! Is it the best car ever? I don’t know! It’s the best I ever drove, but it’s still just a car. I guess…

Why anyone would bet against Tesla for, well, doing everything it’s doing, is beyond me, and as Jack Rickard says: “It looks like the oil companies and automakers have no possibility of losing this one. In reality, they have no way to win it. One man has them totally surrounded, outnumbered, and outgunned. Elon Musk.” However, it seems like one of the legacy automakers has realized that the danger of total disaster is imminent and is now scrambling to catch up at all costs: Volkswagen. (See: The Electric Vehicle Revolution Is About To Get Messy.)

Let’s Hit The Road

Well, this is getting nowhere, so let’s end this rant with something fun and down to earth. A couple of years ago, I persuaded my wife to visit family 350 km (217 miles) away from our home, which with old clunking internal combustion tech should not be a challenge. In this case, however, I wanted to try it in the Nissan e-NV200. Let’s me put it this way: the wife wasn’t too happy about that. But we did it anyway. Only once.

So, this year, I thought it would be fun to do the exact same trip in our Model 3, which has the longest possible range configuration (biggest battery, rear wheel drive). This time the wife did not complain, and she was the first to need a break after more than 3 hours on the road.

On this screenshot from Tesla’s trip planner I have added the 6 times I had to charge on public 50 kW chargers on the first trip (Nissan e-NV200 24 kWh), and the 1 time the wife had to use the restroom on the second trip (Tesla Model 3 LR RWD 75 kWh), a trip in which we passed 3 Supercharger stations which we did not need to use.

As many road trip videos and articles will tell you, this kind of trip is what a Tesla does very well. Other than the ease, fun, and silence of driving any electric car compared to any internal combustion alternative, Tesla’s strategy of vehicle range combined with home charging and the proprietary Supercharger network is superior to any other system I have tried, electric or not. It just works, and doesn’t stink.

No Bad Things To Say About Tesla?

Of course there is. I have yet to be refunded a $500 overpayment for the car, months ago. A piece of plastic on the left front door just broke off the other day. Unbalanced front wheels took a week’s wait to get fixed. The interior B-pillar roof cladding has come loose, which I’m still waiting to get fixed. A friend of mine is in a very complicated purchase situation with more than 20 emails, 10 phone calls, and 5 store visits due to errors in price, delivery dates, and configuration, which makes my own somewhat confusing order experience feel bleak in comparison. Is this normal? I don’t know! Tesla is not a normal business, is it?

A Few Hard Facts

Finally, I few hard facts about my first few thousand miles in this futuristic piece of appliance:

  • Energy consumption: 130–170 Wh/km (209–274 Wh/mile). That’s small back roads versus motorways.
  • Actual average range at 100% charge: 518 km (322 miles)
  • Amount spent on electricity Supercharging: $0 (thanks, referrers!)
  • Amount spent on electricity at home: about $0 (I only charge when my solar panels provide excess power, and when I’m not at home I get paid a bit for it, so it evens out, at least until winter…)
  • Amount spent on everything else: about $50 (yes, the wheel caps are off and a non-original Tesla hub-cap kit helps show off those cool rims, and a road noise reduction door sealing kit has reduced high-pitch tire noise a tad)

All photos and graphics by the author.

Feel free to use my referral code (or anybody else’s) when you buy a Tesla to get some free Supercharger miles: jesper18367

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Written By

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of and a long-term investor in Tesla, Ørsted, and Vestas.


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