Six months with Lightning by the numbers

IMG 6550
RC and me getting ready to drive to Montreal in August 2016

Welcome to 2017. It’s now winter here in Massachusetts, and we’ve already had snow and ice. We’re about to return to London for our first training gig of the new year. Yes, I know that we should be aiming for someplace warmer, but I don’t get to choose where business takes me. And frankly, London is delightful to visit any time of year.

I thought New Year’s Day would be a good time to summarize the first six months of life with Lightning, our Tesla S90D. Being a big data guy, I thought I’d do my summary in numbers, so here are my metrics from the final 6 months of 2016:

  • Miles: 5,089: Because of my roughly 50 percent travel schedule, I haven’t been home to drive Lightning as much as I’d hoped. When I am home, I drive it just like I would any other new car. Yes, I leave it in the garage when it’s yukky outside, but that’s just because I don’t want to wash it later.
  • Average energy efficiency: 117 MPGe: For those 5,089 miles, we’ve consumed 289 watts/mile on average. That’s the equivalent of getting 117 miles per gallon if we’d been consuming gasoline, according to the EPA. Given that this car weighs more than 2 tons, that’s pretty amazing fuel efficiency.
  • Supercharger stops: 17: We’ve made 4 trips of 250 miles or more in Lightning since we took delivery: 3 to Orono, ME with David, and one to Montreal, QC with Robert. We’ve been very conservative about keeping at least 20% charge in the battery at all times, so that’s had us stopping more often than absolutely necessary with the 90 kWh battery pack, but the result has been a stress-free driving experience. Superchargers make long distance travel fun and comparable to the travel time spent in a internal combustion car.
  • Service calls: 0: Lightning hasn’t been back to the Tesla service center since we took delivery in June, with the exception of a quick visit to have a leather manufacturing defect repaired. There’s no oil in the car, so we had no need for 1,000 or 5,000 mile oil changes. This car already has had less service than the Mercedes E320 4Matic that it replaced. Lightning’s first return to the service center is currently scheduled for June 2017.
  • Effect on electric bill: negligible: While a full battery “fill-up” should cost about $10 at our electric rates, our electric bills have actually gone down since we started charging our Tesla. One reason we haven’t seen any change is that we normally use scheduled charging to charge the Tesla during the day, when our solar panels are active, effectively giving us free charging. The second reason is not one related to Lightning: this fall has been unusually sunny, resulting in greater solar power generation. Regardless, because our power company doesn’t offer net metering of our solar power, making use of our solar power to power our transportation actually is more cost effective than selling the power back to the grid.

I think the most interesting part of owning Lightning so far is that we use it in the opposite way most people think of using an electric car. When we are driving around town, we alternate between Lightning and my wife’s Acura MDX. But for long distance travel, I vastly prefer taking the Tesla to the Acura. The Tesla is cheaper to drive (free Superchargers versus premium gasoline fill-ups) and the autopilot makes it less tiring to drive for hours on end. Add in the fact that the Tesla is more likely to save our lives in an accident and the choice becomes pretty much a no-brainer.

I’ll update the blog further when I’m back from London and get some time driving Lightning in the inevitable New England snow. Winter isn’t coming; it’s here.

An uneventful 2 Tesla months because I didn’t drive

Odometer: 4716 miles

I’ve been traveling almost continuously for the last two months, so I haven’t been home to drive Lightning. Carolyn and I did do another 500 mile round-trip to UMaine to visit David in September for Parent’s Weekend, and that was completely uneventful, mostly because the new Bangor Supercharger is now online. Driving to UMaine is now about the same as in a gasoline car because I can Supercharge at my destination as well as along the way.

However, now that I’m back from Mumbai, I’m home for a couple weeks before engaging my final business trip of the year. But now that I’m back and taking some vacation days, I’ve had the opportunity to take Lightning out for errands around town and to enjoy that new Tesla experience all over again.

So here are my thoughts from a few days worth of driving about town.

  • Driving Lightning remains just as fun as it was before. Driving around in silence is blissful, and the crazy acceleration never gets old.
  • Range anxiety is now old news. Driving around in silence is blissful, and the crazy acceleration never gets old.
  • Version 8.0 of the autopilot software was initially squirrelly but has settled down. The new radar-based version 8.0 autopilot seemed to be about the same as the old 7.1 version on highways. However, I drove a couple trips when the new software was released, and it seemed to have a scary predilection for steering toward oncoming traffic on two-lane roads (to be fair, autopilot isn’t recommended for use on two-lane roads, so no harm no foul). However, Tesla has accumulated more auto-pilot radar signatures for those roads, and 8.0 now seems as stable as the old camera-based system.
  • Power consumption is going up as the temperature goes down.Since getting Lightning in June, my power consumption has averaged 286 watts per mile. The last couple of days I’ve been driving around with the temperature in the 30s, and my average power consumption has now more like 295 watts per mile, I assume because heating the car takes more power than cooling it. It will be interesting to see what that number approaches as we get to temps in the teens and single digits.
  • EZPass use is still a mystery.Our EZPass mounted on the windshield works perfectly here in Massachusetts and in Maine. In New Hampshire tollbooths, though, it fails to register. I’ve resigned myself to it just being flakey.

I’m home for a couple weeks, so I hope to collect a few more Tesla experiences to share. Elon has promised that we’ll see version 8.1 of the autopilot software in December, so I’ll certainly write that up when it arrives.