10 questions for a Tesla Model S owner

Is the Tesla Model S the coolest car on earth? We ask the owner

Tesla Model S cuts a striking figure in any driveway; note the solar panel on the roof of the house

Note from editor: Gus is a former software engineer who used to work for a Redmond-based tech company (no prize for guessing). You could say he’s a regular car guy (though he’s more into riding bicycles these days), having owned a string of fast rides that occasionally saw action in local auto-crosses. He currently resides in the outskirts of Seattle with his wife. They make frequent road trips to San Francisco (distance of 1,300km) to see their son and across the border to Vancouver (230km away) for good food and scenery. Late last year, they decided to buy a Tesla Model S (85kWh, rear wheel drive version) and continue to make the same trips from Seattle thanks to the Model S’s highly usable range and the Tesla Supercharger network which has close to 2,500 rapid chargers across the country.

1) What on earth made you buy an electric vehicle?

I have been thinking about electric cars for a long time, mostly out of curiosity and an interesting alternative to burning gas or diesel. I never really took it too seriously until I saw my first Tesla. It was a roadster, looked like a Lotus, and it was gorgeous. A few months later I had a chance to drive one that belonged to a friend and it was totally awesome. I had driven plenty of nice cars, but nothing compared to this. At that point I knew, not only was an EV in my future, it was the future. I vowed that my next car would be electric.


So why EV? I would say because it’s cleaner, kinder to the environment, and doesn’t rely on pumping carbon out of the ground that had taken millions of years to get there. But the simple answer is that electric cars are better cars. Kind of like fuel injection, power-steering, and anti-lock brakes; all technologies that became mainstream in my lifetime; the same thing is happening now with cars going electric. Electric cars offer a better driving experience compared to gas-powered cars.  Quicker, quieter, cleaner.

2) Did anything hold you back before you made the decision?            

Not really, though it was by far the most expensive car that my wife and I have ever purchased, it was not so much a question of “if” just “when”.  When we first made up our minds to buy the Tesla, we were living in a house with too small of a garage. As soon as we sold that house and moved, we made a visit to a Tesla showroom.

3) Do you ever require charging out of your own garage when not travelling interstate? (Model S 85 has a range of 425km)

No. The range of the Tesla easily covers a day’s worth of local driving, even days when we choose to make multiple trips across town or into neighboring communities. It is just a matter of plugging in at night, kind of like a cell phone. About the only time we have charged away from home has been when parking was scarce and the only spot available was an EV spot. I think of this as a bonus.

Teslas juicing up at Supercharger stations; if only Malaysian drivers can learn how to park within the painted lines…
On a sunny day, home solar panel capable of harvesting up to 145km worth of energy

4) Describe the feeling of not having to go pump gas ever again

We still have an Audi that we drive minimally whenever we need to use a second car and I have to get gas for it about once a month. I hate going to the gas station and put it off as long as possible. When I see that the miles left on the tank is less than 50, I start getting range anxiety. Never happens with the Tesla.

Charging the Tesla at home is as easy as plugging in a cell phone. When we come home at night, we plug it in, and before we leave in the morning we unplug it. Takes seconds. We also have solar panels installed on the roof of our new home. On a sunny day at Seattle, the solar energy harvested is enough to power 90 miles (or 145km) of travel in the Tesla.

5) Would you buy another electric car to replace the other remaining gas-powered cars at home?

Absolutely.  We are Model X reservation holders. Can’t wait to get rid of the remaining dino-burner.

The next Tesla to be launched is the Model X crossover; first deliveries expected in early 2016

6) You used to own a string of enthusiast cars such as the Mazda RX-7, Audi S4, Mini Cooper S. Do you miss them, does the Model S fill your need for speed, or have you just grown old?

DSC02832_editedYou list all these fast cars I have owned and ask if I’m just getting old. The Model S is the quickest car of the bunch! For driving in traffic, as opposed to the track, the Model S out does them and just about any other car around. Instant power. No fuss, nearly silent, it just does it. When stopped at a traffic light next to a fast BMW or Mercedes, or just about anything, I can make them disappear in my mirror with almost no effort. I might be getting old, but this is by far the most fun car I have owned.

7) What do you like most about the Model S?

That is a tough one.  So let’s think about what is new with the Model S that sets it apart.

The giant 17-inch touch screen is gorgeous. Not only is it fantastic for DSC02837_editedthings like navigation or to view the rear camera, but it means all the various settings and controls can be organized in a logical way that is relatively easy to find and set. Even the owner’s manual is on the big screen.

This is a huge improvement over other modern cars that can have an absurd number of buttons scattered all over the place. I recently rented a car and the steering wheel alone had more than 20 buttons, and the center console was even worse.  It was ridiculous. Not only does the big screen rid the car of buttons, but it allows new features to be added and old features improved with software updates.  In many ways the Tesla ownership experience is more like that of a smart phone or tablet, than of a car.

In the Model S, you get a “frunk” instead of an engine

But what obviously makes the Tesla really great are the all the aspects that result from the car being electric, and it is not just because of the amazing driving experience. The batteries are in the floor so the car has a very low center of gravity and it corners, accelerates, and brakes with very minimal body movement, but without the harsh ride you might expect.

The motor is small, compared to an combustion engine, so not only is the trunk huge, but the car also has a very large front trunk (we call it a “frunk”). And since you are not driving around with a huge hunk of iron between yourself and the front bumper, it has a much larger crumple zone for increased safety.  Speaking of safety, storing all the driving energy in a battery is much safer than keeping it in a tank filled with a highly volatile and toxic fluid right behind the backseat.

8) What do you dislike most about the Model S?DSC02840_edited_edited

That’s also a tough question.  There is nothing major but I do have some minor gripes. For example, the giant screen is beautiful but sometimes responds slower than what you would expect from a USD$100,000 tablet. The fit and finish is good but still not quite what you would like from this class of car. I’m generally not a big fan of cup holders but the Tesla ones are both small and very low-tech. Seats could be more comfortable but I still find them okay for long drives. Interior storage is a bit minimal and one ends up using the floor in the center between the seats and things like sunglasses end up moving around while driving.

9) An EV makes very little noise, have you managed to hit any pedestrian yet?

Not yet. Pedestrians do pay more attention to what is a very sporty-looking sedan.

10) Sum up the Tesla in a few words?

Cars like the Tesla are the future.  After driving a Tesla you realize that this is what a car should be. The power pedal response is immediate. There is no lag, almost no noise, just all go.  It is like the power coming out of the battery is serving one purpose only, make the car go. Similarly, when you release the power pedal, the seamless transition to power generation is natural and intuitive and makes it possible to do 90% of driving with one pedal alone. When slowing down or going downhill, it’s like pumping gas back into the tank.rear_tesla

Mechanically the car is simple. It has a small fraction of the moving parts compared to an ICE vehicle. And it is so much cleaner than a regular car.  There is no oil stain on the floor, no oil-mixed grime all over the engine compartment. In fact, no engine compartment.

Tesla Model S 85DSC02839_edited
Power 362bhp
Torque 600Nm
0-100km/h 5.5 seconds
Top speed 225km/h
Range 425km
Battery capacity 85kWh