Things People Ask About My Tesla

Not a true depiction of what its like to drive a Tesla

You probably can’t go a week these days without hearing something (good or bad) about Tesla. Maybe its about their cars catching on fire or some of the craziness of the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, or just something about their latest vehicle, the Model 3. The company has just received a lot of attention these days, becoming a pretty well known brand amongst consumers.

Back in March 2016, I had placed my reservation for the Tesla Model 3, and after a long waiting period, I finally picked up my vehicle in May 2018. While there have been a few hiccups with the vehicle, its been overall a joy to drive. The electric driving experience is something else, and the freedom from a gas station is probably something that I underrated when I first decided to go electric. However, one thing I didn’t expect coming into owning a Tesla was the amount of questions I get about the vehicle, or more generally, the electric vehicle ownership experience. While electric cars have been technically around for quite some time now, there’s still a lot that the general public know about them, or have their skepticism about the technology. From my research before purchasing the vehicle, and through ownership itself, I hope to share my knowledge with you and answer some of the frequently asked questions I get about driving an electric car.

How do you charge your car? And how long does it take?

That is the most common question I get about my car. How do I charge it and how long does it take to charge? Well, unfortunately, that’s not a simple answer. Unlike gas stations and traditional combustion vehicles, “refueling” an electric car does take significantly longer, and actual charging times can vary depending on the charger you have, the size of the battery you have on your vehicle, and even weather and temperature could impact your charge rate. But there’s really no need to go into complete details on this, so I’m going to keep it as simple as possible.

There are really three main types of chargers: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3.

Level 1 chargers are your typical home outlet and is the slowest. For my Model 3, at 10% to full charge, this will take over 24 hours to complete. The car will literally show 24+ Hours to complete on the screen when charging this way. It adds about 5 miles an hour. So while slow, its still manageable if you don’t do a lot of daily driving.

Level 2 is a common solution for public charging stations, and something you can also have installed at home to charge your vehicle faster. These are becoming more common in parking lots and could easily charge my car from 10% to full in about 8 hours. While the actual charging rate can differ based on a few technical specifications, different Level 2 charges have provided me with anywhere from 18 to 30 miles per hour of charging, which isn’t bad. For those with longer commutes, this could easily fully charge your car overnight.

The fastest charging option out there is known as Level 3 charging. For Tesla owners, this may be known as Superchargers, or for other EV’s, may be called DC Fast Charging or CHAdeMO. For my Model 3, this would get me from 10% to full in about an hour.

Now, even at the Level 3 charging rate, fueling up an electric vehicle is significantly slower than fueling up a gas vehicle (there’s no argument between 1 hour vs 5 minutes), but one thing that we need to think about here, and something else I’m asked is “where do you charge your vehicle?”

The locations of where one charges their vehicles does make a difference on how long it actually takes to charge. Here are a few examples:

  • Home — charging at home would be the ideal solution for electric car owners. You go about your day, and when you get home, your car recharges while you sleep, waking up to a fueled up vehicle when you start your day.
  • Malls, shopping centers, and restaurants — while you shop, why not charge up. Several retail locations are starting to offer charging stations (some of which can be free), allowing customers to do their shopping while their vehicle charges. I’ve gone out to dinner several times, and in the 1 to 2 hours of eating, added enough electricity to my car to last me a few days. Some retail locations even offer Level 3 charging, which is great, but I’ve come to realize, that one hour can fly by really quickly when your shopping or just trying to grab lunch.
Public charging stations are available at several locations, such as malls and other retail locations. This one’s at Westfield Topanga in Los Angeles, CA
  • Parks and recreational centers — I’ve come across several parks which offer chargers (once again, some of which can be free). Probably not the most ideal to go to the park and sit in your car while you re-charge, which I’ve seen people do. But for me, I go to the park for an hour or two every few days for a run. And when I come across a charger, it’s great to be able to plug in and add some power to my car while I go for my workout. By the time I’m done, my car’s good to go to help me with a few of my daily commutes.
  • Work — It’s becoming more and more common for employers to start offering charging stations at office locations. For myself, we have 6 chargers at work which is great to top off your vehicle once every few days if you don’t have the convenience of charging at home.

There are other ways to charge your vehicle, but all in all, there are several charging solutions out there, most of which are conveniently located to allow you to recharge while you take care of other things on your plate.

Well, it can’t possibly go that far? How far can it go?

Electric vehicles have been around for quite some time now. The early tech around EV’s probably gave it the bad reputation of not possibly having that much range. While true back then, today’s technology has enabled electric vehicles to start competing with their gas powered counter parts, or at least provide consumers with the range they need for a daily driver vehicle.

For my Tesla Model 3, it can go about 310 miles on a full charge. (a base model coming out in 2019 has a rated 220 mile range, accompanied with a lower price tag). Other competing vehicles from are on par with this, ranging from 150 miles to almost 400 miles on a full charge, which should be sufficient for most people’s daily or even weekly commutes.

So I hear your car can drive itself. Is that true?
Tesla Enhanced Autopilot is a fancy way to say “driver assistance package”

When people see my car, Autopilot is often brought up. There’s always the concern for safety because of a few reports on accidents involving the technology, but really that’s just a rarity. In reality, its (somewhat) proven to make the driving experience safer and better. Tesla recent released their Q3 2018 Vehicle Safety Report, and they summarize the vehicle’s safety record pretty well:

  • Over the past quarter, we’ve registered one accident or crash-like event for every 3.34 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged.
  • For those driving without Autopilot, we registered one accident or crash-like event for every 1.92 million miles driven. By comparison, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent data shows that in the United States, there is an automobile crash every 492,000 miles. While NHTSA’s data includes accidents that have occurred, our records include accidents as well as near misses (what we are calling crash-like events).

source: Q3 2018 Vehicle Safety Report

Now to clarify, Autopilot is NOT a self driving feature. Instead it is a driver’s assist feature. Often times, the accidents which involve the technology can be attributed to the lack of driver attention needed to safely use the tech. It’s not perfect, but its a pretty darn good system. With that in mind, one should always pay attention when using it. Autopilot is not an excuse to text and drive, sleep behind the wheel, or do anything else that distracts you from operating the vehicle.

So if you have to still pay attention, what’s the point of having it? Well, really, for convenience. My daily commute is 20 minutes without traffic, but with traffic, that can easily be 45 minutes, or if the world hates me that day, an hour or more. In a 20 minute, free flowing drive, its nice enough to take control of the vehicle on your own. However in traffic, autopilot does help make for an easier commute.

In stop and go traffic, I often rely on one component of autopilot and that’s traffic aware cruise control. This feature can be found in many other vehicles, but Tesla includes it under the autopilot system. With this, I can let the car take care of the acceleration, deceleration , and braking of the vehicle according to the current flow of traffic while I maintain steering controls. One of the pain points of traffic is me switching between gas and brake, and if a car brakes suddenly, me needing to react fast enough to not rear end anyone. A Tesla can handle that for you quite easily.

In slow moving traffic, or even normal traffic, there’s auto steer which is a fancy term for “lane keeping assist.” The driver will still need to keep their hands on the wheel. In fact, if the car doesn’t detect any driver input on the steering wheel for 30 seconds, the car starts displaying warning signs, and if no action is taken, will eventually come to a complete stop. This feature helps prevent abuse in the system, or in the event of an actual emergency (such as a driver having a heart attack or stroke), won’t result in the car driving on and on forever.

The auto steer features are the ones that get confused with “self driving.” This is still a driver assist feature, but its pretty good. It will stay in your lane, and even change lanes for you, all with minimal driver input. In slow moving traffic, this is great as its easy to supervise the vehicle and react quickly should the vehicle get into a scenario it can’t handle, or will handle incorrectly. I personally avoid doing this in higher speed traffic for two reasons:

  • I feel like I’m able to respond quicker to any unexpected events while I’m in full control vs when I’m just supervising the vehicle
  • and secondly, the car is just really fun to drive so I want to enjoy that.

So the too long, didn’t read version of this: My car can’t drive itself, but it does a pretty good job in assisting me at times when I don’t feel like driving.

Alright, but what makes a Tesla so cool?

Two things: driving experience and software updates.

The car, being all electric, drives quite differently than a normal car. The acceleration is quick. There are fast gas cars out there, but with the electric motors, the acceleration feels more like a fast launch roller coaster.

But the really stand out feature with the car is the software updates. A Tesla is essential a computer on wheels, and like any computer, or your phone, it gets regular software updates. No need to go to a dealership because it downloads over the air and you get a notification on your phone to install them.

These software updates can range anywhere from small bug fixes and UI enhancements, to larger feature updates like Autopilot improvements and added features to the vehicle. For example, when the car was first sold to consumers, rear heated seats weren’t available, but through a software update, they became part of the car. In an upcoming release, Tesla will enable its built in cameras to behave as a dashcam, recording and saving driving footage that can be useful in the event of an accident.

Because of software updates, I feel like my car regularly feels fresh and new, something that no other car company has been able to offer me.

All in all, there’s a lot of good reason for people to ask questions about Tesla and their vehicles. It’s new technology and while they do sell cars (and other things), its not just a traditional car they have to offer. Charging, Autopilot, software updates, and more are things we haven’t seen in other vehicles and something people will just have questions about.

If you’ve got other questions about Tesla’s, there’s a lot of resources online to learn more, but feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Lastly, if you’re interested in buying a Tesla, feel free to use my referral code to get $100 in supercharging credits. For a Model 3, that can get you enough electricity for at least 1,500 miles worth of range: