Tesla Model 3 Wins Rave Review From Early Adopter.
No Worries About Quality Compared With Germans.
Austin, Texas Academic Ecstatic About The Car.
Charging, At Home Or On The Road, Easy In U.S.
Tesla Dual Motor Model 3 Early Experience.
By Dr David Tuttle
“Overall, we are very happy with the Model 3 so far. It is extremely enjoyable to drive, fast, sure-footed, luxuriously quiet & smooth, safe, now has the build quality on par with the German premium brands, and for our driving needs is more convenient to refuel than a conventional vehicle.”
Austin, Texas – I picked up my dark blue Dual Motor AWD Model 3 in mid-September during an unusual stretch of rainy days here in Austin, Texas.
For the past 7.5 years and 75,000 miles my Chevrolet Volt had provided a great electric driving experience. Still smooth, quiet, reliable and fun to drive to the day it was traded off. The Model 3 takes electric drive two notches up in terms of performance and fun-to-drive handling compared to a competent but FWD (front wheel drive) Chevy Volt PHEV.
I had never owned an AWD (all wheel drive) vehicle before. The Dual Motor Model 3’s poor weather handling and acceleration on slick roads was amazing. The attraction of a BMW iX, Audi Quattro, or Mercedes 4-Matic is now more understandable even if AWD is more of an advantage in our area for improved in acceleration, regenerative braking, and handling, than dealing with snow or regular rain slicked streets.
When an automotive benchmarking expert in Detroit procured an early production Model 3 and noted its flaws in fit and finish I found myself assessing the gaps and fit and finish of every Model 3 seen in person. None had the fit and finish problems of the early car. My car has a fit and finish on par with the two BMW 3-series that I’ve owned. It appears that Tesla is now over the early production fit and finish problems.
Easy and intuitive
The controls are easy to learn and intuitive. Additional video tutorials on the features are found on online or on the smartphone app. The owner’s manual can be displayed on the large 15” center screen or is available online. Other owners are uploading YouTube videos that make it easy to learn more of the more special functions or controls.
Charging the car overnight at home like your mobile phone is particularly easy. Included with every Tesla is a Mobile Charge cord that can plug into either the ubiquitous 120V U.S. wall outlet or a 240V clothes dryer-like outlet for more rapid charging. While many discussions seem to revolve around the battery size and total time it takes to fill the battery from empty, the vast majority of days the charging time is simply dependent upon the number of miles driven the day before. A general rule of thumb is about 3.5 miles/kWh consumption so if one’s commute is 35-miles, the car only needs 10kWh of charge overnight. This can be accomplished comfortably overnight even with a 120V outlet (about the same as a coffee maker) let alone a 230V/240V supply that can charge the car in a few hours.
I know people who have charged their PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) for over 7 years with the free 120V charge cord that came with their vehicle. The huge long-range batteries of 2nd generation battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Tesla not only address long distance travel requirements but also have so much spare range that drivers with comparable driving needs to mine see no range anxiety in a daily commute since we have home charging capabilities. If a slow charge doesn’t fully fill the battery over the week it may catch up during the weekend. I feel the same range confidence that I had with my PHEV that had a gasoline engine range extender. When the battery is fully topped up, the range of the long-range Model 3 is on par with the city commuting range of my BMW 3 or my wife’s Lexus.
It is interesting to note that with home charging, every day can start off with over 300 miles of range whereas the conventional gasoline vehicle only has that range on the day of the refill from the refueling station. Every other day, the range of the conventional vehicle is less than of the home-charged Model 3. Home charging is a huge convenience.
We plan on driving our Model 3 on some longer trips over the next 6 months and do not have a great concern about recharging along the way. Tesla presently has the best DC-Fast Charging network of any electric vehicle with its “Supercharging” stations strategically placed along interstate highways and at key destinations. These SuperCharging stations can charge at a rate about 100 times the speed of a U.S. 120V outlet (about 20-30 minutes for an 80% battery fill). A fellow owner in Austin recently took a 2,300-mile trip to Wisconsin in his new Model 3 without issue. An increasing number of hotels are offering overnight “Destination Charging” so we do not feel constrained in our travel by charging infrastructure. On the contrary, the vast majority of days, we start with the equivalent of a full tank of gasoline.
Our Model 3 was equipped with Autopilot since I was the team manager of our 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge Autonomous Vehicle team at the University and I wanted to experiment with today’s commercially available technology. Drivers should understand that Autopilot is an ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) that is most useful for taking some of the drudgery out of rush hour stop and go traffic or assisting in long distance highway trips. While Tesla claims their system is not intended to provide fully autonomous control a better name might have probably been “Co-pilot”. Autopilot has a reasonable “nag mode” that reminds the driver to keep a hand on the wheel. If the reminders are ignored, the car turns off Autopilot until the vehicle is stopped and restarted.
Overall, we are very happy with the Model 3 so far. It is extremely enjoyable to drive, fast, sure-footed, luxuriously quiet & smooth, safe, now has the build quality on par with the German premium brands, and for our driving needs is more convenient to refuel than a conventional vehicle.
Dr. David Tuttle is a lifelong automotive enthusiast and Formula-1 fan, a former microprocessor and computer designer and high-tech executive, and a Research Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.