Author Archives: omo

My Model 3 1-year review

[First impressions here]

I have owned my Tesla Model 3 for just over one year. So now is as good of a time to update this on this dead blog I guess.

In the interest of time and brevity I’ll try to cut the fat.

Key details: I live in NJ and we get all 4 seasons. Last winter had a few brutally cold days (<15F or <-10C). The car is a Long Range RWD, black paint and interior, 19″ wheels, with the EAP package at the time. It’s kind of mind boggling that for the same price of my car, I can basically buy the Dual Motors version today. It’s basically the difference of the Federal incentive.

Those were, basically, what I’m lampshading regarding this car.

There weren’t any real issues at delivery. Panel gaps were on average, average. Other than maybe a couple places things were within tolerances.

Day to Day Stuff:

I love the car in terms of just normal, every-day handling. The range is no problem for normal local driving. It’s fast, and the acceleration is extremely notable at higher speeds. Like a gas car can do just as well 0-60 as electric, but if you are already going 65 on the highway, it is a cinch to get to 85 in my Model 3, where as it’s a downshift and uprev in a gas car. The time it takes to get that 20mph probably is less than the time it takes to shift and for the turbo to ramp for some cars. This aspect I love a lot, mainly because it is a practical performance characteristic, and thrilling to apply.

Engine sound used to be my audio cue to how fast I’m driving on the highway often, so in a car without an engine it means I have to learn again how to not speed. With its fast acceleration even at high speeds it was easy to get to 90, 100mph with just stomping on the accel briefly. Only the wind noise cues me in.

I also kinda love summon, and this is not even the enhanced one Musk shows off with these days. At the base level, it lets me park the car into my small garage without having to mind opening the car door inside the garage. The car can pull in and out on its own. Unfortunately the feature was kind of not reliable in version 9 of the software and earlier, but it’s pretty good now. There are also some tricks. For one you need relatively even lighting to let the camera see your garage versus outdoor lighting. Having a person behind the car while it pulls out is also good, as a marker of sorts. The car technically lets you automate the doors as well if your garage opening system is hooked up to it, but I don’t use it. I think it’s possible to hook Alexa up to it and tell it to open the door and pull out your car, but I didn’t look into this.

Having to charge at home means I never need to get “gas” unless I am on a road trip. One less thing to do, but as someone who don’t normally drive this is not a big deal. If you drive everyday this is a huge deal I imagine.

The UI took getting used to but I was over it pretty early, maybe a month in owning? There were some tips that I learned on youtube which were helpful. The most helpful one is, how to stay awake when Autopilot nags you to keep your hands on the wheel. To do that, just rotate any of the dials on the wheel, and it will go away.

I do have EAP package, so I use Autopilot on the highway more often than not. It is extremely helpful for long drives on the highway, and makes things much less tired if just not having to center the car the whole time. A month ago I was driving around all day in a Honda Fit rental in Japan and it made me miss Autopilot a lot. I can totally attest how driving while tired is actually not going to kill you in this car.

Navigate on Autopilot is neat but it isn’t very good, so I don’t use it often. Mainly two reasons: it is not great at lane changes, and it is not great at adjusting speed (it doesn’t, but it ought to). You can manually change lanes to avoid NoA from doing stupid things, but why bother with Navigate on Autopilot at that point.

Issues:

The only trouble I have encountered purely as a matter of the car was the frozen charging cable latch. I was unable to engage it once on a road trip (thus could not charge my car when it needed charging), and I was unable to disengage it once when it was parked in my (detached) garage. Both times, the temperature on average was 17F or less. This is not a deal breaker but a major issue since you can get stranded (in the first-mentioned case).

The solution is to heat up the trunk of the car, so the charging latch defrosts. It is a mechanical device that comes up from the bottom of the charging port and locks in the charging cable. There is a manual release for it, but when it’s frozen it does squat. Really it’s just a proxy for the electronic release available from the dash or your app.

I have contacted Tesla roadside assist the one time it locked up on my road trip, who told me about the workaround: turn heat up, lower back seats, let air in. Their preferred method is a hair dryer (and maybe heat gun but they don’t wanna melt anything).

I also visited the local service center (about 40 minutes away) twice. Once to address my front right wheel which was slowly leaking–that turned out to be a bent wheel due to jumping a curb (don’t ask). I was immediately given a loaner wheel that day when they sent me home with a large bill (~700) so to wait for the replacement wheel to come in. It turned out I actually did not have to pay for it. Long story–about 6 weeks after the visit, I was contacted to make a follow up appointment to do the replacement. I was also quoted a price about half as much (all by a separate dude). I’m like, well ok. So the week before the appointment another guy called and said if they can do the mobile service thing at an even later date. I said OK as it sure beats driving 40 minutes back and forth on a Saturday that I had free, at any rate. Then on the day before the appointment I got a reminder call. On the day of, I left my car in my driveway the day of, and when I got back I got a bill of zero and the work was done. It’s hard to complain about 2 months late service if I didn’t get billed for it. Plus it was not a pressing problem due to the loaner wheel that I had.

So yes, service can be very slow, but if your issue has to do with, say, a leaking wheel, that is high priority and you can just go to the service center, they have to send you out in driving shape. YMMV I guess.

As for damage, my car had some curb rash on one of the wheel (I am all too familiar with this as my Miata had the same proclivities, both having low profile tires) and the front bumper has some minor scratch on the bottom, just because sometimes I can’t see the curb and drive just over it.

As they say, the black interior is not the best for hiding dirt. I haven’t had much time spent wiping down the interior. The center console can look grimy. It fogs easily inside the windshield but I solved this by applying an anti-fog spray/cleaner.

Road trip:

I don’t drive regularly, but I did drive to Toronto twice, Baltimore twice, DC/NoVA once, and just normally on weekends around the area.

Autopilot definitely is great on long drives. I guess part of the difference here is my last car, a MX-5, is pretty intense even on long trips. LIke, I don’t fall asleep because it’s such a responsive car, even when driving at highway speeds it feels really exciting, just going straight (or around traffic or what have you). But I am very much not tired out by driving anymore with the Tesla.

Navigate on Autopilot is a different bag. I think it’s mostly useful on simple use cases, but it still has a lot to make up when it’s going through a ramp or interchange. For one, it does not automatically change speed well. Some ramps have also no posted speeds but the map says 5 or 15mph, which is ridiculously slow. And once you’re out of the ramp the speed autopilot is on is sometime stuck at the low speed. Likewise, when you are about to exit the highway it doesn’t really slow you down more than it has to, which can be going from 75 to 45 to 25 while you’re making a really tight corner.

The other issue is how it sometimes does not know when not to change lanes. You could let it run the course but it isn’t always making lane changes at the best time.

If normal autopilot is like “co-pilot” or as I say, driving with a new system, NoA is like babysitting an AI and you really need to work with it or work around it to drive smoothly.

Range isn’t a problem. Supercharging location is kind of a problem. Going from where I live to Toronto requires 2 stops, maybe 3 if I don’t have destination charging or I don’t stop for the full time. That’s not too bad, other than I kind of have to stop 30min each or more every time.

DC Metro area is really not bad at all. It’s just one stop and maybe zero if I have destination charging, maybe 2 if I don’t. In my prior trips I did 2 and 3 for each round trip, depending. By the way NY State needs more going up to Toronto. I have really 1 route due to the way things are laid out. But it isn’t far at any time, between you and the next Supercharger.

Range anxeity:

Range anxiety is definitely a thing, especially in winter and you have no power left, LOL. Also for long trips you have to plan your stops, at least if you want to be efficient and stop at places that are more optimal (schedule, distance, amenities).

You also get used to it. I don’t fret much at all now.

Supercharging is also not really cheap but it’s not much. Maybe half the price than gas, on a per-miles basis?

The other issue with managing range is that speed matters a ton. If you are driving fast your range will go down. I like to drive between 75-80 on road trips so I get maybe 230 miles for each full tank. Not great. It’s also one of those conceits of ICE cars–highway is more efficient than city, and it’s the opposite for electric cars. Just something to be aware of–you’re more likely to not get your full range unless you are driving close to the limit.

Another anxiety-inducing thing is the range calculation in the Tesla does not take into account elevation. Going up hill will suck way more juice than down. Real-time energy measurements will adjust to that eventually, which means the car will tell you you might not make it to your destination before needing charging, but it’s not taken into account on the navigation level.

When I go to superchargers, sometimes I want to blog about them. There is probably such a thing…

Accessories:

The Model 3 barely had any accessories when I bought it. Now it has a ChaDeMo adapter, roof rack, floor mats, and even a wireless charging pad, all from Tesla. I obviously did not buy any of them–I got 3rd party floor liners…and that’s pretty much it. Air freshener? But the floor liners are holding up and are of decent quality. I thought about a trunk mat, but I barely use the frunk (and it’s small as it is), and the trunk mat would block the underneath compartment that I actually use quite often.

I might go buy that center console liner at some point and ask my dad to put it in. Oh, I tried buying some 3rd party USB-C L-head cable but it doesn’t really fit. Not sure if I want first-party ones, because too often I pick up the phone. Usually I leave it in the cup holder.

So more as a to-do for me: I’d like that ChaDeMo charger especially when Walmarts roll out their fast charging. Maybe a tow package in the future? A better charging situation would be nice too, which I will detail below.

The third-party stuff nowadays is plentiful and if you have any great tips please let me know. Of course a lot of things that you’d put on a luxury sedan will work well on a Tesla, just note that it is fairly low maint.

Sound System Nitpicks:

I want to talk about the sound system a bit. It is definitely very good. I would say it is audiophile level. When you’re on the road, since there is no engine noise setting the floor, you hear more of it. The dual-edge-sword of all that though, is that you also hear more road and wind noise in your music, let alone the quality of the audio source showing.

The best way to get high quality audio in the car is from streaming directly via Slack or Tunein, or by the USB drive feature. The car supports bluetooth audio over AAC, which is pretty okay but not the best. Depends on your perspective, that is already above average, or not good enough. I want LDAC or at least AptX support, which all Android phones support since version 7, but I don’t think Tesla is interested in adding these features. They just want to port more unity games, I guess.

I’ve tested highres flacs in the system and they work fine usually, maybe 9 out of 10 times. On the road, sometimes the USB connection skips due to vibration or something, and the cache is not enough. I wish there was more tweaks to this.

Another headache in USB audio mode is how the system will order your music basic on tags. It displays and order the tracks by the ID3 title field. So you have no way to play albums by track order unless you also rename the title field. This is a major problem for people like me, as it basically relegates playback to random play or single track play or a playlist. Supposedly if you use album view it does order by track order? If you google this stuff the internet is full of people who is frustrated by Tesla neglecting the lame-o media playback aspect, and it has been the same complaints for years.

[Sort of an aside, in order to set up the dash cam and sentry cam features, you have to use a USB drive (usually usb stick of sorts) and format it to FAT for the car’s system, and create a “TeslaCam” folder. This happens to clash with the car audio part, as there are only 2 USB ports and you don’t want to use up both of them for data and leave none for charging. To get around it some folks use a hub (lol a USB hub for your car), or you can partition the dash cam/sentry stick to put music on it by doing it a certain way. All of which is PITA at first but now there are some guides for. Forget about racing games, how about some DOCUMENTATION, huh?]

Charging at home:

At home, I have not installed a 14-50 NEMA. I use 120V wall. I barely drive, as said. As of this writing there’s like not even 7000 miles on it. And it works fine. Part of it is also since my garage is kind of far from the house, I will have to pay to wire it out there and all, so it’s a hefty cost (~1500).

I mention this also because 120V charging is only like 70% efficient, where as you get about 90% with the other methods. Still, since I have residential solar now, there are times when I basically can charge my car for free.

Most of my charging costs are at superchargers, which runs me somewhere between $15-18 at a time. Maybe half as much as gasoline? But it’s a lot versus charging at home, or at a free charging station that you can occasionally find.

Conclusion:

It’s a good car. It is about average at this price range in terms of build quality (taking into account the 7500 tax incentive). Performs above average at this price range (love that acceleration), and the low body roll is the kind of trade off I would take in exchange with the rougher ride (especially in terms of road noise).

The best description of buying the Model 3, in my estimate, is that you are buying an American luxury car. This is a foreign concept to someone like me, because, like, American luxury cars kinda…are not great? This is just a market phenomena–people generally do not buy American luxury cars when they do buy a luxury car. No matter how good the CTS-V may be–and it is a fine car–how does it hold up to the likes of Lexus and Mercedes Benz? And I don’t mean “on the track” or “list of specs” but in terms of cultural cache, in refinement, in residual value, and in practicality.

Turns out the Model 3 has very good residual value for a luxury sedan. It has well-below-average maintenance costs (which is an area of research I’ve done more after I bought it LOL). It has obviously above-excellent fuel economy, and probably will beat most of said cars on a track. It wins on paper and does at least as good as a push in reality.

Culturally…it’s a car that’s in the news regularly. Nothing really needs to be said, at least, because it’s been said by all the news outlets.

It’s quite practical, if you put aside the electric aspect–that can be argued as making the car more practical or less practical. It has more cargo space than a lot of other comparable cars thanks to the frunk, and it is about average in terms of creature comfort features, considering the trim I got was more or less the “standard” at the time. The “Partial Premium” interior that is available today isn’t even that different. There are interesting and useful features like autopilot and the OTA updates, which are definitely practical to me.

So the only real improvement the Model 3 needs to make is in terms of refinement. And that is not just panel gaps or whatever, but also the overall quality of ride and just some of the attention to details that is missing during Tesla’s rush to market.

Which is to say, even having the experience of sitting in a Model S and Model X for some time, Tesla has a long ways to go in that generally. Maybe it’s not a priority today because, it is not like the ride isn’t fine, it just isn’t as fine as their European competitors. And even the CTS-V. But owning and living with the Model 3 really feels like owning and living with American luxury. It just isn’t quite as fine.

But if you think that is a good tradeoff versus the features you get in a Tesla–the OTA updates, the self-driving features, the fact that it’s the only electric car worth buying (supercharging network, range, overall value)–then this is probably the car to buy for you. Since I took ownership of the car, I got free dash cam upgrades, games, stupid easter eggs that are worth a few laughs, and bug fixes. It’s definitely worth that crushing depreciation as luxury cars does.

Now if Elon comes through with that robotaxi stuff and if indeed, as George says, Tesla will win it, well.

Pixel 3 128GB First Impressions

I’ve had the phone for 4 days, cheeky me.

The original plan was to not upgrade this year. My Pixel 2 had a failure in the camera in September (2 days before I left for Taipei and Hokkaido for family vacation). Google sent a replacement while I was away, and basically when the Pixel 3 was announced I had a 3-week old refurb Pixel 2 128GB Black. The phone has a 2-year warranty and that means I will be set even for the next Pixel.

From the keynote and marketing material, it was clear that the Pixel 3 was an incremental improvement over the 2. What’s more, all the cool software features, most of them were slated to be released on the 1 and 2 anyway. I didn’t have much of a reason to upgrade.

Then the sales hit. BOGO on Fi and Verizon? I decided to go in with my sister on Fi and reap that $800 credit. She was going to jump from a Nexus 6P, so it’s a huge jump. We ordered the day it was announced. Reselling the refurb plus the credits would basically pay for 90% of a new Pixel 3.

The downside was switching to Fi. I’m not entirely sure if I have signal inside the river crossing tunnel. I have not personally checked, it is spotty as is on Verizon, and half the time I was still clinging to the work VZW hotspot. At times it feels like I have signal in there, though… The other issue was losing my Google Voice capability. It’s forwarding to my work phone (which is VOIP software anyway). I used that number for work and I definitely can’t lose it, and I also can’t lose my personal number that I use for everything else.

The upside to Fi was it’s a lot cheaper, and it has high speed data overseas included. It’s a major savings, as I pay 4500JPY for 7gb in Japan for 30 days (including voice and text). That’s a big fat zero on my next trip, now that I’ve paid the cost to verify my JP number (which means I still have to activate it once a year).

Swappa gave me about $410 in actual cash after the sale of the Pixel 2 (didn’t even took 24 hours to sell). The fees were 15 from Swappa, 15 for shipping (and insurance), and 13 from Paypal. This is nuts. The Pixel 3 128GB is 955 or so after tax. So I’m still on the hook for 145, or 15% of the cost. Maybe I should have held out for a better deal.

Onto the phone. Oh, just to detail the activation process, I followed first the invite email from my sister to set up the porting info. Then when it’s time to load the phone, I followed the on-screen prompts. It would let stuff run in the background while the rest of the phone is being set.

Basically after I got to the home screen, there was a notification waiting for me telling me there was an issue porting. Going to the notif takes me to th Fi app, and tells me what was wrong. Seems like invalid pin? I was suppose to put in my last 4 digits of social for Verizon porting, but I just set a pin on the Verizon account anyways and used that, and it worked minutes later.

In short, the phone is a refined Pixel 2, or what Pixel 2 really should have been. You can say that the Pixel line is a bit behind the release cadence. OnePlus for example, do 2 phones a year (6T looks good!). The next gen Galaxy phone is due in a few months. iPhone news comes out in September or early October. I would say the overall package of the Pixel 3 matches what is really, a better than-iPhone X.

That is great really, except we live in a world with the iPhone XS/Max. So on paper the Pixel 3 is not leading in any category besides its still class-leading camera powers, and other things that people who live inside Google’s ecosystem would enjoy. Thankfully that describes me to a tee.

I say with no irony that this is the most iPhone-y experience I’ve had yet on Android. It’s not a knock as a copycat, but it provides finally that fit and finish matching post-iPhone 8 hardware, with a visual presentation to match. I didn’t know how much of that edge-to-edge look added to this phone. I had it side by side with the Pixel 2, and despite similar displays, the Pixel 3 knocks things out of the park just because the angle my eyes see the edges of the screen, making it “float” towards the top like an iPhone X does.

As for features, it’s similar to the Pixel 2 on Pie. The only quirk is the tall screen makes pulling down the notification shade harder than the 2, and the wider aspect makes my full screen games look slightly different.

Besides the screen, there are major improvement in the speakers–they have a lot more depth and reverb and makes it sound way more solid than the Pixel 2’s. The buttons feel much better with better flex and feedback, where as the Pixel 2’s feels like they could get stuck. The haptic engine is improved, but I normally don’t use it anyway. These 3 points are in the order of decreasing importance, if you didn’t notice.

Wireless charging is something I can actually live without, but I splurged for a Pixel Stand. I can use one for my desk, and I still haven’t messed around it enough to give a proper review. So far it’s mainly just to fast charge, show the time and notification, and do the sunrise alarm thing. I think I am staying clear of a wireless charging pad on the Tesla Model 3, but I can see the appeal if the wiring situation is squared away (long story). Maybe in the future when they’re cheaper (the cheapest one I would buy is $50).

Not much to say otherwise. There are some integration in the Pixel 3 that makes sense which hasn’t rolled out to the Pixel 2 yet. Putting a photo scan link in the photo app makes sense, but I think this might be in Pixel 2 already. New nav for camera makes more sense than before, and it’s easier to use. I sideloaded the night mode beta and it is definitely as jaw-dropping as they say. Sample photos here and here.

In conclusion? This is the phone the Pixel 2 should have been. I don’t want to mention the XL line here because the 2 XL is a much closer presentation to the 3 XL than 2 was to 3. In a way, the Pixel 3 is actually the non-notched answer to our burning need for a modern, iPhone X-y device. LOL. Too bad the iPhone X is going to be a year old in December.

As for the rest of the competition… if you are looking at this phone and not, say, a 1+ 6T or Galaxy Note 9 or Huawei Mate 20 Pro, then nothing more needs to be said. Software superiority is something real. Integration matters. This is still the heart of the Pixel experience, where you get real-time chat and support over the web, your phone (as in not voice, but app), as well as traditional telephone service. It still has a long ways to go to catch Apple in terms of physical stores supporting users, but it’s slowly getting there. At least it needs to solve my Pixel 2 camera problem with less lead time than 48 hours!

I think I see clearly where Google is trying to catch up, and it’s a lot of stuff difficult to market. It doesn’t show up on a spec sheet. But for Americans it matters… So I think I will continue to use a Pixel phone in the future, and let Google take care of my personal info in exchange for services it provides.

Graphics and AI convergence

In PC parlance, when we talk about graphics cards we think of what Nvidia and AMD sell, these addon boards for desktops that you can put in, and these video cards accelerates the graphical rendering capabilities of games. Today, Nvidia has a lineup of real-time raytracing capable chips.

But also recent times, these GPU makers are into what’s more generally known as accelerated computing. General-purpose CPUs can do a lot of things fast, but GPUs are designed to do certain things in a massively parallel kind of way. This is why they can quickly render graphics when CPUs cannot. This is also how machine learning training and prediction can quickly be processed in a massively parallel kind of way, and slowly when using general-purpose CPUs.

Said Nvidia lineup that has raytracing also has dedicated “tensor cores” which accelerates  machine learning computing.

And what I’m saying is, the two is actually becoming the same: the workload of rendering realistic or desirable graphics quickly, and the ability of compute complex machine learning models.

This is most recently exemplary in smartphone cameras, or specifically, Google’s HDR magic that enables its Pixel phones to take great photos using fewer lenses or smaller sensors. More recently, Google announced its low-light Night Mode system which allows ordinary phone cameras (currently the APK only runs on Pixel phones) from 2 years ago to take amazing low-light photos which renders the results clearly with low enough noise and smearing to be fully visible. It is all done via machine learning prediction on a series of photographs recomposited via a HDR-like process.

In fact, HDR is kind of like machine learning, just algorithmic. Augment it with a neural network and voila.

It opens eyes, because imagine if the compute power is there to take this low-light tech into real time: make videos in which you have computational night vision? No need for a flash ever? It’s pretty nuts. You can even build in protection against drastic contrast/level changes. Such kind of augmented vision obviously have a ton of use in everyday life and in filming, but also obviously military applications.

Now, it’s software magic at work. But ultimately these breakthroughs are coupled with improvements in ML hardware as well, which means it could be possible as Nvidia and AMD continue to bring out more powerful ML and video hardware. I wonder if this still means we will have different components (either as chips or parts of SoC) to handle video rendering and AI workloads, and if things like Google’s HDR voodoo will lead us down yet another path of customized compute hardware.

My Tesla Model 3 Review Part 3

I just want to compile some thoughts and info here. I’ve gotten over 1000 miles and a couple more road trips under the belt. Some local driving, too, LOL.

Parts 1 and 2 linked.

A lot of people’s reaction to the Model 3 is based on what they are used to. We are all used to ICE cars, but those run the gamut. I came from a Mazda MX-5, but if all you drove were plush luxury cars or Toyota Camrys or pickup trucks, those people will have different first impressions and reactions. So take that as a major consideration when you read reviews online. On Youtube, a lot of the vbloggers also live in Socal, which reflects a drastically different experience than the US Northeast. Plus, things have changed a lot for the Model 3 even between Q1 2018 and Q3 2018, just in terms of firmware updates, supercharger availability (and other chargers), and the amount of accessories out there. At first, I watch/read a lot of car magazine type reviews, and those tend to consistently praise the Model 3, so I knew that was a trustworthy baseline. In my month+ with the car, I heartily concur with those car/driving-based reviews. The Model 3 is a fun vehicle, and I even came from a MX-5 daily driver! It’s not as emotional, but at the same time it is definitely more American than Audi/BMW/MB, and overall “quality” but not “luxuriously quality.” It’s got a lot of quality components, that were put together fine, but it just isn’t quite on the same level of a top level European or Japanese car maker in terms of the construction. But it isn’t a negative or a minus, just different.

On the cost of ownership side, I can say that it is definitely anywhere between 20% to 75% less expensive to fuel up the vehicle compared to a similar ICE car. If you compare it with a similar BMW 3 series you will be putting in premium 92+ octane fuel at like, 25mpg at best, depending on your driving situation. I think the Model 3 beat it by a ton, but given the cost of the car itself that is not much more than a drop in the bucket. If you drive 15000 a year that’s about $400-600 in electricity cost, which is not even close to gas. Of course, if you live in non-USA where gas is probably twice the price, you’ll save over two thousand USD a year if not more, so it makes a lot of sense in Asia and Europe..

What you really save for us Americans is maintenance. You don’t need to change any oils or any oil filters. The only fluids relevant here are brake fluid, coolant, and wiper fluid. The last you’re on your own, but the other two are done only by Tesla maint team annually during the checkup. I think you get at least 2 for free… Model 3 maintenance is an unanswered question at this point.

The brake pad can wear out, so that might be the only other thing you’re “using” with the Model 3 other than the wheels/tires. The wheels are the usual deal.

One note I want to add is charging at home in general, it can be tricky. Installing a 14-50 plug is overall the best way to charge–could be other types of level 2 charging. The reason is you get good efficiency without possibly damaging the battery. Although some reports out there suggest supercharging doesn’t really matter, which might be the case in the end. However, what I am doing now is using a household 110v plug, which has lower efficiency and will cost probably 10% or 20% more in power overhead.

Vampire discharge is an issue, especially if you park in the sun during summer, the AC may run, the fan may run. Even if you don’t,  you might lose a few miles a day. It isn’t anything to worry about if you are on a road trip, but if you don’t live with a garage that you can plug your car in, that might be an issue. Overall it is basically a non-issue for me.

Living with the 110v plug does mean you have to plug in basically all the time, but since I don’t drive every day, this is more than doable. I might put in a 14-50 plug in my garage in the future, but it’s not necessary. You can definitely get by with 110v if you can keep the car plugged in when not in use, and drive less than maybe 40-50 miles per day on average. I get up to 5 miles per hour while charging, so assuming I can charge 12 hours a day, that’s 60 miles. You can do the math.

One more note before I move on, the right way to calculate cost of charging is:

  1. supercharging costs–when you supercharge a Model 3, just plug it in. Tesla then bills you later via your account assuming a credit card is hooked up to it. It will also show up online and in the battery menu in the Model 3 console.
  2. cost of electricity: you can prorate any carriage costs that you paid. Note that some youtuber in San Diego pays 22 cent per kwh, that’s nuts. I pay like 12c, FWIW.
  3. cost of charging: The amount of electricity gained by charging the car is not the same as the amount of electricity used to charge the car, since charging is not 100% efficient. If you use level 2 chargers it’s like 90%. if you use 110v plugs, it’s 70-80%.
  4. amount of power consumed per mile/unit time: Also, the power used by the car includes not just for moving the wheels, but all of the car’s systems. It might make more sense to do a month of charging, and a month of driving, and just clash the numbers together, instead of measuring it on a per-trip or per-mile basis.

So you tally up that total and you’ll have your charging costs, and you can divide that into miles driven to get a per-mile price. Like I said, it’s kind of a drop in the bucket, but it does add up. Maybe I’m just biased because I drive so little.

The Model 3 ownership experience, as I said before, is also about the lack of good info for a revolutionary car. There is quite a bit of a learning curve for people who has never owned an Tesla or electric car. It is not comfortable for many new owners, I imagine. The owner’s manual is important and covers all the key elements, but it doesn’t address the ownership experience well. The youtube videos you are suppose to watch online is also just the minimum.

Tesla’s Model 3 first-party accessory game is kind of eh. The third party game has been better, but with spiking delivery rates, comes spiked demands. I got the bare minimum for my car, and some cleaning equipment, but there are more I could use. For example, I could use a good trunk mat set that lets you protect both the top and bottom layers, and let you access the lower layer.

Lastly, here are some Youtube videos about the Model 3 that probably are helpful for new people. I found these to be worth watching.

Undocumented features ahoy: This relatively no-nonsense review of the car is pretty good covering some details and features I didn’t know after even owning the car for a month.

Road trip experience video below is basically the same as my own experience. Especially that part where parking at the supercharger require you back up all the way, since I made the same mistake. The tiny butt and the fact that the rear wheels are almost at the edge of the car takes a bit of getting used to while parking. I also experienced the same wiper issue this guy did.

I’m linking the below video for the center console wrap. That is sick. I personally use a different floor liner but these looks worse than mine, although I’m sure it works just fine. The waterless car wash is an eye opener for me. But this video is a shameless shill, at least it’s educational for a car care noob like myself.

I guess if there are updates to the ownership experience, I might write more on this. But that’s probably it for now.

My Tesla Model 3 Review Part 2

[Part 1 here]

After picking up the car from the service center, I didn’t really get to drive it much. I originally expected 1+ months of waiting, from ordering till delivery, but I got it in 2 weeks. August is a bad month for me as I have cons and other trips. The Model 3 can’t fly so it doesn’t work going to Japan…

I managed to squeeze in a road trip with it, however, so here’s a very different perspective than the part 1 post, which was written before the road trip. The odometer had 129 miles before I went on the trip, and after the trip it’s almost 500 miles, so here goes.

The main points I want to talk about are the more well-known aspects of the Tesla cars: charging an electric car, the autopilot features, and just the overall experience after spending more than a half-dozen hours in the car in the span of 28 hours. It turns out, this car (judged as a car) is actually really good. The car reviewers and the youtubers out there are largely right. I don’t think it’s a car for everyone, but it’s a good deal and I don’t think I will regret buying it.

First of all, while the car displays its “fuel” or battery levels in both % and miles remaining, both are not really that exact. It’s fairly accurate, but not super exact, I should say. I definitely realized the mile thing, while close enough to real miles to count on, depends a lot on how fuel-efficient your driving style is. You can definitely squeeze that aerodynamics and get more from your tank of electricity than my driving style, which is largely keeping it around 75 mph up and down I95.

I did touch 90mph in a short burst, and the car feels more or less the same as it does at 80mph. It’s really stable, not only because there isn’t a roaring engine, but the Model 3 motor doesn’t even whine. It’s just road noise and wind noise. The latter isn’t even really notable.

As far as charging the car goes, I left the house without bringing my cord. Which I think is the intended mode of use? LOL. I had maybe 290 miles left when I left the house, and one-shotted my friend’s house with about 12% left, or 40 miles of range. The next day, I drove to a nearby supercharger (it’s in Northern Virginia so there are quite a few destination chargers and a few superchargers in 40 miles range). My friend didn’t get the difference between the destination charger at the Tesla dealership at a nearby mall versus the supercharger, so I had to look it up and explain. Anyways, the closest supercharger was about 11 miles away and I had a nice lunch while charging. After an hour I was at about 85%, and I took another 20 minutes to go to 95%. That gave me enough juice to one-shot back, plus a detour.

As a M3 owner I should have to pay for my supercharging, but to actually use it, it is just plug-and-go. There was nothing to fiddle with. Supposedly the bill comes later on your Tesla account, but I didn’t see it when I looked for it later in the same day. So yeah, it feels like supercharging is not as convenient as going to the pump, but it does make me feel like getting Extended Range model on the M3 was a good choice. If I didn’t, I would have had to stop over once on the way down and once again on the way back.

I come to realize that, at least in sports mode, the M3 steering is very sensitive. Maybe this is why some people say the ride is rough. Compared to the Miata, this is actually pretty similar. It manages to tell you a lot about the road and about the car itself. Without an engine, though, there’s not a lot the car will tell you about itself. So that leaves the road. And maybe it is a little more chatty than some likes. Not for me though. To me this is a hallmark of a fun-to-drive vehicle. You have to feel the road in some way. Some say this might be partly due to how pressurized the tires are (and the tire pressures are displayed in PSI numbers in one of the on-screen views, which is very neat). It’s at like, 50 PSI, which is kind of high.

I don’t know, however, if a very responsive steering is a good play for Tesla, given its autonomous driving system. And it’s a hard thing to talk about. First of all, I get this from all kinds of people, but there is a lot of misunderstanding about Enhanced Autopilot in the form that other manufacturers have similar features already in their cars. This is partly true, but mostly false. First of all, if we break autopilot down into the features working together: adaptive cruise control, autosteer, auto lane change, I don’t think there is anyone except GM Supercruise. [Nissan comes kind of close…] The Germans and Japanese cars have similar but differing features. For one, a lot of them have lane detection but it’s to make sure you don’t drift out of lane. They don’t steer for you: if you let go the wheel, it will ping pong between the lane markings. It would also complain if you let go the wheel in a curve. It’s a very subtle distinction that a lot of car guys don’t get, but the point of Autopilot is that it’s driving, and you’re just awake enough to make sure it doesn’t screw up. A lot of the alternatives people say it’s the same are the reverse: you’re suppose to be driving and the automated features make sure you don’t screw up.

This is really the core thing and I don’t blame them for not understanding it as it is very unintuitive. Truth is it’s hard to advertise autopilot features when society is probably not fully ready for it, or welcomes it. However, there is value in such a system and unless you know how it works and the different versions of it on the market, you don’t know if it’s worth the money or understand how it fits in a car/automobile ecosystem. And I didn’t until I drove the M3 for a few hundred miles…

Basically, it’s the distinction between “driver’s assistant” system and “self-driving.” The former is normal driving with bells and whistles (basically every other system except Tesla’s, GM’s and maybe Nissan’s). The latter is driving in a new way and learning how to drive all over again.

So the thing about Autopilot is that, at first when I was using it, I felt awkward. It was partly a trust issue. It was partly an instinct issue. I wasn’t sure I could trust leaving steering to the machine and I wasn’t super sure if I can trust adaptive cruise control to do its thing. Driving is muscle memory of hand-eye reflexes. I got over that on this road trip after seeing how Autopilot works in a variety of conditions, and in some difficult environment (night time driving in heavy rain). But make no mistakes, Autopilot drives the car in a certain way. You have to get used to it, and learn how it works, in order to make the right decisions (when it is likely unreliable; when to best disengage autopilot; when to enable auto lane changes to smoothly pass a slow car; etc). It’s literally learning how to use this system, learning how to drive this particular way.

After the psychology, the next barrier was trying to de-program myself. I had to be hands-on-the-wheel for Autopilot, but it was hard to do this while not trying to drive the car, LOL. Unlike GM Supercruise, you had to keep your hands on the wheel. It will nag you every 90 seconds when you don’t, which is fine if you wanted to stretch or get a drink or something. But it’s not what you’re going to do most of the time. What I did was, eventually I learned to “pretend driving” in order to coexist with its detection system. And in essence, that is the whole point. You don’t have to do anything except hold the wheel and look at the road. Well the latter is even optional LOL, since there’s no face tracking in the Tesla.

And using Autopilot like that was a learning curve that I had to get over with. It’s not trivial, in that ultimately I am still the guy who has to get a benefit out of the system. I shouldn’t be a servant of the autopilot AI, babysitting the car-computer to make sure it doesn’t screw up, even if that was what I had to do. It’s pretty weird, but I guess I can get used to it, and thousands of other Tesla owners?

How was it being the safety driver instead of the primary driver? I can say it’s definitely less tiring on a longer road trip. The Tesla Model 3’s “vegan leather” seat generally did not get very warm after sitting on for hours on end, so that’s a plus, but it still gets a tad warm. With Autopilot you can take plenty of time to stretch, to shift your butt on the seat, pull up your pants, whatever, without any worries. That helps a lot, LOL. However, it is still kind of “work” supervising Autopilot, and its strict wheel-holding requirement meant my arms can’t be slack while driving it, unless I want to just wiggle the wheel every time it nags. That felt like too much work–I just want to zone out driving, freeing my consciousness from low-level driving tasks and think about other stuff without interruption.

And this is another reason why maybe the Model 3 isn’t for everyone…Well, this is more a self-driving isn’t for everything thing. All consumer self-driving system require this sort of babysitting in the present and in the near future. Even GM Supercruise requires you to look at the road, which is much less tiresome but probably just as annoying.

I think once I get more practice with Autopilot I will become happier about the car. There was definitely an initial wow period when you realize this car really could drive itself. The fact that it can’t some of the times, is no big deal. It’s more like even when it could, you are required to play this role as Autopilot’s spotter, that is problematic. But I think even with practice that could be a better experience than what I had to go through.

The real question is, why let the computer drive this car when the human probably enjoy being the driver more than being the spotter for the computer? That is not fun. Which is just to say, if the Model 3 was less fun to drive, it might make Autopilot more compelling. As is, driving the car is a good break from being bored as the spotter behind the wheel, trying to pay attention to the computer not screwing up and killing both of us.

Okay, it is still not the pure joy of driving that was the Mazda MX-5, but the Model 3 is pretty good, all in all, and still can be entertaining as a car, in more than one way. It might be the little things (like knowing it can play hi-res flac in the USB port, or that the charger cover opens and closes automatically, and that the car is full of undocumented features AKA Easter Eggs). It might be the way it accelerates and corners. It might be that you get to relearn how to drive. Thankfully this car gives you some options between all those things.

Next…