by Nate "Buster" Jaros
The first thing I learned about Tesla happened almost six months before I got serious about purchasing one. This learning wasn’t just the typical how far can it go, how fast can it go, oh it has a big touch screen kind of learning. No, I’m talking about the sit down and get serious learning that needs to take place before you belly up to the showroom and plop down some cash like you might do when buying a regular car. And because we’re pilots…we have to plan this stuff!
If you really want to step into the dark (and often seedy) underworld of owning an Electric Vehicle (EV) you most certainly need to do your homework. And sure, yes you need to start to understand things like charging speeds, self presenting door handles, supercharger throttling, what CHAdeMO means and a host of other new terms and concepts, that are quite literally totally foreign.
One way to start to get a lay of the new EV land is to go online. Preferably to a great community of current Tesla and EV owners. See what they have to say. What are their likes and gripes, and start picking their brains. I recommend the fine folks at Tesla Motor Club for a solid and friendly online discussion forum, as well as Teslarati for general news and up-to-date articles.
Buying a Tesla (and I haven’t even done it yet) requires a lot of planning. It’s a whole new EV world. You’ve been swimming in the shallow end of the Big Oil and petroleum pool all your life, you’re now about to go surfing in the EV ocean. And that ocean is new, cold, and turbulent.
Typical Prep Items
Some stuff I really focused on and learned when beginning in-ernest plans for Tesla ownership was to figure out how I was going to fuel this monster. You just plug it in…right?
Well in actuality, there are a myriad of ways you can power your EV, and you need to figure out what works best for your driving styles, your home, and your wallet. Let’s look briefly at each of these.
If your driving style takes you around town mostly every day, maybe delivering kids to school, picking up groceries, a run to the local gym, etc…then be honest. You can probably suffice with a Tesla or EV that has less battery quantity and less onboard energy storage. But if you commute a significant distance every day, you will need something larger in the way of power and batteries. You might even need a way to charge your car while it rests in your office parking lot. You need to be honest with your driving style.
Based on that, you also need to look at your home. Most EVers charge their vehicles overnight at the house, at least according to the stats on the internet. Wiring up some kind of electric outlet in the garage is pretty straightforward, and Tesla even has basic schematics and fact sheets you can print out and hand to a electrician who knows nothing about EVs. Different EVs have different requirements for overnight in-garage charging, so explore that a little. Most seem to like 240V (volts) like a dryer-type outlet for faster and more efficient charging. Consult your EV’s makers for details.
Oh, you live in a condo or apartment? Good luck. You’ll have to do some serious work with your landlord to encourage him or her to think about the costs of installing EV charging on the property. It’s a definite hurdle.
Below is my 240 Volt NEMA 14-50 install.
Lastly is your wallet. I’m not talking about the price of the car, I’m focusing on just the at-home stuff that is going to be needed.
That electrical install can cost anywhere from $250 to $2000. If your house is “wired” for higher amps (higher energy draw), and your breaker box supports and has open spots for the correct circuit breakers, then you’re in business. If not, it can get pricey. Copper wire and breakers are a significant material cost. I’ve even heard about some Tesla owners having the city come out and trench out their yard to install newer high capacity, high amp power lines. Ensure your home is ready to handle the higher loads.
The good news is that a typical Tesla can save you five times as much cash (or more) when it comes to gasoline versus electricity. Especially if you charge your EV during “off peak” hours which a lot of districts offer. As a side note, a co-worker of mine spends a calculated $1 a day driving his Tesla to and from work. We each do about 85-90 miles a day. That drive currently costs me about $10-$12 a day in my ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car getting 38 MPG.
Do You Road Trip?
I believe that the profitability and sustainability of any car company that wants to mass produce an EV will be hinged upon its ability to provide quick and widespread charging options…worldwide. Tesla is, ahem… on the road… to doing just that. You’ve probably heard about its vast supercharger network which as of this writing there were over 5,000 superchargers globally, and about 400 in the USA with plans on doubling those by the end of 2018. They also have over 9,000 “destination chargers” with plans on taking that up to 15,000 as well. Destination chargers are compatible charge ports you can use at a hotel or restaurant. Some malls are even putting in various EV charging stalls with compatibility to all types of EVs.
All these chargers are great! Just as soon as you realize that it takes about 30-40 minutes to charge your Tesla battery to 80% of it’s rated capacity. That might be enough to get you to your next charge point, but it might not be either. It will be some time before you can pull into a power station and charge up your EV in the same timeframe as it takes to fill your current ICE car with fuel. THAT is a huge deal breaker for some people, especially if you’re road tripping or traveling long distances. This fact can increase the time of your journey immensely.
Most owners say that the charging wait isn’t so bad, especially if you can pair it up with restroom and food breaks that you might already be taking. I haven’t experienced it yet, but I know it’s a concern for my copilot and crew.
The good news there is that for Model S and X owners…supercharging is FREE! Forever! That’s right, top ‘em off and go! Forever! Supposedly for the now emerging Model 3 owners they will be given some sort of annual supercharging credits to use, like some kind of futuristic handouts. Model 3 owners wont have free reign of the superchargers. Time will tell how that goes for Tesla.
Of note, here in the USA, Europe, Japan and China there are rapidly expanding networks of EV charging options that are being installed by other auto makers. Nissan, Toyota, and to some extent Chevy are all beginning to lay in their charging infrastructures. Of course none of these systems are identical, all with non-standardized plugs. I’m researching adapters now, as it seems that a few will be needed if a prudent EV owner would want to take advantage of another EV charge network while on the road. Some networks are free, some cost money, and all charge at different rates it would appear. I hope to experience this more soon with my Tesla and do as many EV owners do and collect a “hit-and-run” bag of wires, adapters, and cables that should theoretically allow charging options anywhere one might travel.
courtesy Will Fealey
Final Thoughts on Planning for an EV
I have to admit, I’m excited to step into this new world. I can’t wait to avoid the fuel lines of lemmings at Costco, and not having to crawl underneath my car every 5,000 miles to unleash a hot black goo, and locate a responsible place to recycle that stuff.
We haven’t even broached the subject of environmental concerns with EVs. Maybe at a later date? I’m pretty excited that theoretically my zero emissions car will save the planet and make it greener (albeit at the cost of producing a premium sedan and at the cost of producing electricity at my house via some unseen methods that my State decided upon). Theoretically an EV that runs off of wind, hydro, or solar power is said to be extremely green.
Those environmental concerns aside however, there is a lot to consider when looking at the EV world. I do think it’s the future of personal transportation (sorry Big Oil). But the only question remains…is that future here now, and are we ready for it?
Stay tuned for my next article about ordering the Tesla!
If you are thinking of purchasing a Tesla, hit me up with questions and consider saving $1000 on your order and getting FREE unlimited supercharging for life by using my referral code. This offer is only supported by Tesla until 31 Oct 2017!