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A Tesla Model 3 At 100,000 Miles — CleanTechnica Interview

Do you have any concerns about a Tesla EV’s reliability? If so, read on.

During the Tesla earnings conference call on October 23, 2019, Tesla CEO Elon Musk described the company’s Q3 as “obviously a very strong quarter” with “record deliveries.” Zachary Kirkhorn, chief financial officer of Tesla, Inc., added that “part of the story here is … we have launched, ramped, and stabilized Model 3.”

Yes, the Tesla Model 3 has the potential to be the company’s lynchpin to lasting success, as its lower cost of ownership allows Tesla to tap into a bigger market than ever before. Of course, part of the success of any auto model is its longevity, durability, and reliability. So, when we had a chance to examine a Model 3 at 100,000 miles with our good friend Arthur Driessen in this CleanTechnica exclusive, we did so wondering how the Model 3 stands up to the test of time.

Model 3 at 100,000 miles

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

What advantages do you feel the Tesla Model 3 has over other electric vehicles of a similar cost and range that are currently on the market?

The Supercharger Network. This is the game changer. Yes, any car can charge through any outlet with the right adapter, but having the network integrated into the navigation system to take away your worries is like nothing else out there. The car constantly monitors my battery level, as well as if I am close to a charger. If I’m starting to enter a risky situation, it says, “Hey, you might want to think about charging. Here are the closest chargers.” It’s amazing.

Autopilot. I can’t emphasize this enough. I would estimate 75,000 of my miles have been driven with Autopilot. I can’t begin to tell you the difference it makes in my daily stress level. I can pay attention to what’s going on around me more. I am less fatigued when it is engaged. I am safer when it is engaged. It takes a couple tries to get used to, as seeing a car coming at you around a curve can be a little nerve racking the first time. But, once I realized how safe it was, it changed my life.

What was the biggest lesson you learned about electric vehicles over these 100,000 miles?

I guess the biggest lesson was the one I was trying to prove — that you can explore every area of the United States in an electric vehicle. Even if you’re not in a Tesla, with the combination of level 2 chargers, RV parks with outlets, and the growing number of CHAdeMO fast chargers popping up, you really can get anywhere with a little bit of planning.

The second thing would be how cost effective they are. I’ve saved about $10,000 just in gas and oil, and that’s based off of a $0.26 kWh Supercharger price. Home charging just gets cheaper from there. Then you add in any repairs I would have had, and the numbers add up quickly. That doesn’t factor in how much money we are saving with each EV helping the environment. It’s really astounding.

What do you know now about electric vehicles that you didn’t know 100,000 miles ago?

I learned how durable and efficient they are. When I initially thought about electric cars, I thought they would be good for the streets but not powerful enough for the outdoors. Boy, was I wrong. I can take my car through streams, up steep dirt roads into the mountains, through any terrain that I have the clearance for, and not have to worry at all. This could be just a Tesla thing, but it seems to me more like an electric thing.

First, the instant torque of electric gives you control that an ICE (internal combustion engine) simply can’t because it has to switch through gears. Second, with there being hardly any parts to break, there is simply less that can go wrong.

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

What driving adjustments have you had to accommodate in order to make driving the Model 3 a matter of routine?

Well, I definitely have to think about charging. When you are in an urban area, it’s not much of an issue. There is usually a Supercharger close, but, as you get out into the forests and deserts, they become less abundant. With a little planning, there really isn’t an issue, but planning is still necessary.

One good thing I have realized about this, though, is that if there is an RV park, there is an outlet you can at least pay to use. I have the full Tesla set of adapters; that helps me not be too anxious.

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

Many people are concerned about the battery life of EVs. Has the battery in your Model 3 reduced total range as you approached 100,000 miles?

My battery just started showing range degradation. According to my Tesla Stats App (@statsteslaapp), I am currently showing a max range of 302–308. As of 92,000 miles I was still showing 310–312. I have been told that this is very good for degradation. I have no clue why it’s so good, but I have only gone above 90% a handful of times. I have only gone below 10% two handfuls of time. I have never left my car plugged in longer than it has been charging. If there is a Supercharger close enough, I don’t charge over 60%. I am immediately hitting the road, so the car never sits with a high percentage of charge in it, either.

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

What kinds of maintenance have you done over the 100,000 miles? How has this compared with previous autos that you have owned?

This is my favorite part. If I was not beating the car to death, all I would have had serviced is tires. As the car is 2 tons, it goes through tires faster than your normal car. I’m averaging 25,000 miles per set when properly rotated.

Other than tires, I drove the car through a valley stream and had to get a control arm replaced afterwards. I also was out on the Bonneville Salt Flats when the winds were high speed. They slammed my door to its limit and shattered a piece inside of the hinge.

I say both of those repairs are self-inflicted. Even so, repairing them cost about $500 total.

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

What strategies do you have now to maximize range?

My biggest strategies are a combination of using Autopilot and setting it right at the speed limit. This, of course, is all anecdotal, but — as the cameras are always running, it seems to me as if not much battery is actually used by activating the Autopilot software. As accelerating the car is the biggest use of battery, and, because I’m a human, my foot pressure varies on the pedal.

I find the constant and smooth acceleration of the computer makes a big difference. We all have those times where we daze off into our thoughts while driving, and then — suddenly — we are going 85 mph. You’ll see the biggest difference in battery usage between 60–80 mph, so I just let the computer handle it when I can. With all the braking in city traffic, you don’t need to focus on saving battery much at those low speeds. Worst case scenario, I stop using any of the climate controls, and either take off a layer or put on a coat.

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

Have you found yourself in a position as an emissary for Teslas, specifically, and EVs, in general? What is the experience like to teach others about the electric vehicle revolution?

I have. People come up to me often to ask me about my car as I’m sitting at chargers. So many of the Supercharger locations sit empty most of the time, so locals are often interested.

The biggest thing that surprised me was how little is actually known about electric vehicles. I think most of us who are in the know about EV tech or the EV stocks think the knowledge is plentiful, but I still have people asking me what type of car it is. When I say, “Tesla,” they respond, “Okay, but who makes it?” Most people don’t realize that a Model 3 starts at $40,000; they think all EVs start at $90k.

It’s been awesome talking about the car and teaching people about them. The best part is afterwards. I can tell most are seriously considering an EV purchase on their next vehicle, and the few who aren’t at least admit that they might not be into it but can think of people they know who would be.

I hope to start teaching more about EVs over these next 100,000 miles, as I’ll start being able to really talk about how they hold up. Just throwing that out into the universe…

Image provided by Arthur Dreissen, all rights reserved

What — if any — issues have you had with the Tesla Model 3 over the 100,000 miles you’ve owned it?

Issues. Hmmm. I had one issue with an update causing my navigation to reset whenever I left the car. This was just an annoyance at first, but then up in Maine, I would lose my navigation in the middle of no service land, and the navigation became essentially useless at that point. I don’t know why, but it wouldn’t even take an address. It said, “Please enter the full address,” and even if you did, it claimed it didn’t have enough info to find it.

Tesla fixed the issue over the air. I didn’t even need to download an update. They somehow implemented it automatically. The navigation still sucks when out of service, though.

If you’re interested in hearing and seeing more of Dreissen’s Model 3 at 100,00 miles, check out this YouTube channel of the journey.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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