Hey, CleanTechnica people! It’s finally here, the day my wife and I pick up our Tesla Model Y. We are super excited. So, I was browsing the internet this morning, looking for Tesla news to share with you, and came across some interesting things, not all of them positive.
Road Show Model Y Thumbs Down
So, here I am, 6 hours away from picking up my new chariot, when I find an article by Tim Stevens at CNET Road Show with this lead: “The Tesla Model Y seems like the complete package, but its active safety suite is so fundamentally flawed that the whole dish is completely ruined.” Digging into the story, I find the author is annoyed because the white interior is beginning to show signs of wear after only a few months and dispirited because the controls for so many important functions are buried down at the bottom of the touchscreen, which requires drivers to take their eyes off the road to find them. “A simple gauge cluster or heads-up display would solve the issue, but none are available, a curious omission on a car costing this much,” Stevens writes.
Those are niggles. What really gets Stevens’ goat is how Autopilot functions — or doesn’t function, as the case may be. Here’s what he has to say:
Our Model Y, delivered in August of 2021, was produced quite soon after Tesla took the curious decision to remove radar sensors from the Models 3 and Y. Ostensibly this was because the optical sensor-based Tesla Vision system was so good the radar sensors are unnecessary. I’m inclined to disagree.
I can’t conclusively say that it’s because of the missing radar, but I can say that our Model Y is bad at detecting obstructions ahead. Really, really bad. The big issue is false positives, a problem that has become known as “phantom braking” among Tesla owners. Basically, the car often gets confused and thinks there’s an obstacle ahead and engages the automatic emergency braking system. You get an instant, unwanted and often strong application of the brakes. This is not a problem unique to Teslas. I’ve experienced it on other cars, but very, very rarely. On our Model Y this happens constantly, at least once an hour and sometimes much more often than that. In a single hour of driving I caught five phantom braking incidents on camera, two hard enough to sound the automatic emergency braking chime.
This is a massive problem. It happens on both the highway and on secondary roads, any time the cruise control is engaged even without Autosteer. It means the car’s cruise control is patently unsafe, which means the entirety of Autopilot is unsafe. And that means the car itself is unsafe (emphasis added).
Whoa, that doesn’t sound good. Some of you may remember a time when Tesla de-emphasized forward-looking cameras and prioritized radar. Elon enthused about how radar could send a signal under the car in front to detect whether traffic ahead was slowing. It was the greatest thing since sliced bread, he implied.
Now the radar is gone, but Teslas still have a disturbing tendency to not “see” emergency vehicles stopped on the highway with enough emergency lights flashing to illuminate a runway at JFK. Just this week, a Tesla driving on a highway in the United Arab Emirates failed to see a camel in the road, with predictable results. Frankly, I am not looking forward to experiencing phantom braking in my own brand spanking new Tesla.
But the really, really big thing that sticks in Stevens’ craw is that CNET paid an extra $10,000 for Full Self Driving, a feature he does not expect will ever be enabled during the term of the company’s 24 month lease. He’s probably right, but why would you pay for something in advance when you already know you will probably never get to use it? Especially when Tesla now offers FSD as a subscription that you can cancel at any time?
Battery Fires — Again
At InsideEVs this morning, there are reports of two Tesla battery fires, one involving a white Model Y (just like mine) in Pennsylvania that apparently burst into flames while charging. The second report is about a Model 3 that lost control after hitting standing water in the road and slammed into a barrier that had been damaged in a prior accident. The impact led to an explosion and fire in the battery pack.
Of the two, the report that concerns me most is about the Model Y. I live in a condo community where I am advocating for EV chargers to be installed. I have a a wimpy 20 amp 240 volt outlet in my carport that will be used to keep my Model Y charged (and none too fast — I understand that). If my Tesla catches fire while plugged in here, the entire community will be permanently soured on EVs and EV charging stations.
I know the risk is low, but I would be lying if I said I am not a little bit worried. We all know the travails GM has been having with the Chevy Bolt and battery fires, but I haven’t heard much about Teslas having similar issues. I don’t want to have concerns about my neighbors chasing me down the road with pitchforks if my Tesla has an issue. I haven’t even picked up my car yet and already I have a disquieting sensation in the back of my mind I could do without.
I was browsing the Reddit EV forum this morning and came across a report posted by epsteinkilledelvis this morning. It’s a really long, sad story that makes it clear why charging infrastructure will make or break the EV revolution. Frankly, the lesson here is if you don’t have access to the Tesla Supercharger network, traveling with an EV can be grim. You gotta really feel for this guy. Here is his (lightly edited) account:
First time poster. I had a business trip coming up in a major Western European city about 300km from where I live. My work has a small fleet of EVs and as I have been mulling over getting one for years now, i thought this might be a good time to experiment with an EV.
It did not go well. The cars [range] was about 270km so checked for charging stations on the route before I left, figuring I could eat lunch while the car charged, as has been advertised. I managed to make it to my destination after finding a charging station but it added two hours to what is normally a 3 hour drive. But that didn’t bother me too much. I had expected my journey would take longer than expected.
The real catastrophe was for the way back. I left with a full charge and when I was about 120 km from home I started driving to the nearest fast charging point — there seemed to be plenty along the highway. I pull into a service station run by a major oil company and show my card — unrecognized. I call the number. They tell me a technician is going to call me back. He calls me half an hour later and tells me he can’t help me and tells me to call the first number I called. They tell me the station isn’t working but the one on the other side of the highway is working.
I had about 50 km left on the battery. Even though the next station was only on the other side of the highway, I would have to travel 30km to get there. The man assured me that the next station would work. By now I had spent 90 minutes here, so I cut my losses and decided to cross to the other side other road. By then a young couple in an EV with even less battery than me were trying to use the same station. I tried to explain they were wasting their time but they didn’t really have any choice, they only had about 3km of [range] remaining.
Anyway, so I get to the service station on the other side and I go through the same motions as the last one. After about 1 hour on the phone and a number of other cars trying to charge here, it becomes clear that this one isn’t working either. By now the couple that had met at the previous station pull up in a tow truck. The tow truck guy is very friendly and explains that he’s been spending the whole day rescuing EV drivers and that tons of charging points have been failing and nobody seems to know which ones are working.
He says he knows one about 10km away that should be working that he will take the couple he is with now to and offers to show me the way. I get to the station in a tiny, scenic village and the other couple manage to charge their car. Success? No, because only one of the two plugs work. The tow guy offers to tow me to a nearby city which should have a few functioning charging points. Having little choice, I accept. By now I’ve been travelling for 6 hours.
I get to this city and he takes me to the train station. There are two EVs already charging in the station, so i have to wait but at least they work and I can get my belated lunch break. So i get a kebab and wait for the owners to move their cars. After about 2 hours, somebody moves his car- success? No. After calling the charging company, they tell me that those cars weren’t actually charging, even though the blue charging lights were on. This station hasn’t been operational for the last 2 days.
So I call the insurance company again. They tell me to call the charging company to find out the nearest charging point that actually works. They tell me it’s a village 50km away. I call the insurance, they tell me that it’s too far away. Eventually they send another tow guy to pick me up. He says he has a charging point in his village that should work. If it doesn’t work I can leave the car there and collect it on Monday, he will charge in a traditional plug in the meanwhile. I will have to get a taxi home.
This is now the fifth charging attempt. I get to the charging point which is just outside a church. I plug in the car and — success! It works. It is now 8pm and decide to wait until I have at least 200km [range]. I don’t want to take any chances. I haven’t mentioned the cold. It has been freezing all day — between 2 an 3 degrees. I can’t feel my feet but luckily I have a warm coat. I also learn that the heating in an EV doesn’t work when the car is stationary. Around 10pm, I feel confident enough to take off. I manage to get home without any further incidents. Worst birthday of my life.
What can you say? This is a truly awful story about a truly awful experience. After a day like that, why would anyone want to drive an EV? Joe Biden is all for having more chargers, but if the damn things don’t work, what’s the point? Stories of non-functioning chargers are legion. Even Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, took to social media earlier this year to excoriate Ionity for a horrible experience he had at the Swiss/Italy border. It doesn’t matter how much range you have if you can’t find a charger that works.
Thank heaven I’m getting a Tesla. There may be issues that I discover as the miles and months go by, but at least I know my charging experience when away from home will be seamless and convenient. There are millions of words written about the horsepower, torque, range, and acceleration of electric cars. None of them matter if there’s no juice in the battery. As long as my Tesla doesn’t stop short on I-95 on the way home leading to us getting rammed from behind by a tractor trailer, today should be a good day!
Editor’s note: Perhaps readers would like to see an update from Steve at some point to let us know how the issues above played out when it comes to his and Carolyn’s Tesla Model Y?
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