From Toyota to Tesla back to Toyota

Almost 4 years ago, I became the proud owner of a 2013 Tesla Model S (P06092). I loved the car so much and I was so passionate about the company, that I decided to share my experience in this blog. When I bought the car, I suspected that I would have some problems.  I read a lot about the company and I knew they were focused on quality, but at the same time, it was a relatively new company, the Model S was their first mass produced car, first generation, new suppliers, new technologies: the perfect recipe for problems!

I live in Gatineau and the closest service center is in Montréal (+200km away).  I decided to pay extra for the ranger service.  That was a fantastic idea!  I had many problems with the car while it was under warranty and every time, the ranger service took good care of my Tesla.  They really exceeded my expectations during that period. Unfortunately, the number of problems I had with the car also exceeded my expectations by a strong margin. What can possibly drive such a passionate individual like me, to exchange his Model S for a Toyota Corolla 2017!?

Here is my reality check list:

Expectations Reality
Electric cars have less parts than gasoline car so they are less likely to break. Electric cars do have less parts but that does not mean the parts will be reliable.

In 3 years I had:

  • 2 drive trains replaced,
  • 2 battery packs replaced (Had to pull away 3 times with the error message: “The car is shutting down, please pull away safely”),
  • brake leaking problems (2 times),
  • suspension problems,
  • door handles stopped working,
  • heating system replaced,
  • 2 headlights replaced.
Maintenance cost is low I bought more tires for my Tesla in 3 years than other cars in 10 years.  A lot of 2012, 2013 model S owner are paying high end cost to keep it running.
I planned on keeping this car for at least 10 years, like I did with my previous cars. I exchanged it for a Corolla 2017 this year because of the number of problems with my Tesla, the lack of service center in Ottawa, the ranger service no longer available and the future maintenance cost.

I hesitated a lot before exchanging my Model S because I really enjoyed the full user experience (Good job UX Team). One option was to keep the Model S until I got the Model 3. Unfortunately, because of my reality check list I decided that it was just time to let go.

When my heating system broke down, Tesla replaced it (Good will = replace for free) even if my warranty was over. I really appreciated this, especially after knowing that the heater itself cost $3000, excluding labor. When I strongly reacted to that price, the guys at the service center replied: “What do you expect? You bought a luxury car, maintenance is more expensive”.

Back in 2013, I did not buy a luxury car, I paid for research and development for a long distance driving electric vehicle.

  1. I am not in for a luxury car, electric or not, I usually put my money elsewhere.  This was a one time deal… Let’s do this crazy thing once in my life!
  2. I am not a car guy. I would never have paid this much money for any other car.
  3. I suspect that the Model 3 will be expensive to maintain like an Audi or a BMW.
  4. The Model 3 first iteration are more likely to have issues similar to the first iteration of the Model S and Model X because:
    1. They re-designed the battery pack.
    2. They re-designed the drivetrain from scratch.
    3. Usually, version 1.0 of hardware is more likely to have problems.

I am a strong believer in the Tesla mission, but I did my share and will let others enjoy the fun and potential problems with the first iteration of the Model 3. Unless someone has the arguments to convince me otherwise, I’ll get my deposit back.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-8-05-39-pm

Now, I am a very happy owner of a Corolla 2017 with loads of security features, led lights, heated seats and heated steering wheel for a very reasonable price. I needed a reliable car after the Model S experience. Believe it or not, I was (sadly) happy to go back to the gas station every 2 weeks to fill up a gas car that just works.

Did you know that Toyota is finally getting serious about electric cars? Read this. They have a dedicated team with a target date of 2020.  I doubt they will meet this dead line if they only really started this year. If my Corolla 2017 is as reliable as my previous Corolla, I should be able to buy a reasonably priced, reliable, fully electric Toyota in 10 years from now.

A stranger knocked on our door…

This event was too unbelievable, I had to share it. This evening a stranger knocked on our door:

“Sorry to bother you, but I saw your Tesla and was wondering if you were satisfied with the vehicle”.

She was interested in reserving a Model 3. I said I was very satisfied and will definitely put down the 1000$ on March 31st to get another one.  

I warned her that 35k might not include the biggest battery pack.

Stranger: “I do not need the biggest battery, I want to use it for city driving.”

Well I said, for city driving, you could buy a Nissan Leaf today… Here is the punch:  

Stranger: “A Nissan what? I have never heard of it”

A Nissan Leaf I said, like a leaf from a tree.

Stranger: “I have a Toyota Rav 4 and a Honda Civic, I am looking for a good reliable car”

She is probably one of the many individuals in the same situation that will reserve a Model 3!

Nissan, a well established car company. The first company that produced a mass market electric car. It is hard to believe that she did not know about the electric model!  She knew about Tesla, a company that was not even on the media map 4 years ago.

With the best product, word of mouth and social media you can go far, very far.

Once again, you nailed it. All your hard work is getting recognized by the whole planet, good job Tesla!

Close your eyes and jump!

When I saw the delivery of the Model X video, it reminded me of the first delivery of the Model S. This was the decisive point for me. Tesla built a factory with advanced robots capable of assembling the Model S in series. I was convinced that they would succeed and decided to reserve one. That was more than 3 years ago. Time really flies.

Yes, I was an early adopter and some people were surprised that I took the plunge. I am more of a conservative type but have realized over time that when a bunch of passionate people work together, they can do miracles. Software people building a car? Why not!

Buying an expensive car from a non-established, but promising company was a risky move at the time. Things could have turned really bad, but the company managed to fix every problems.  From wrong assumptions, false reports, etc. They quickly fixed every problem as they appeared.

Do I regret my purchase after all this time? Absolutely not. I still love the car and any glitches/problems were fixed quickly and in a professional matter. Now that Tesla is a well established world wide company. What is preventing you for jumping?

Jump

I used this cool picture from google, I hope the people on the picture do not mind. If you recognize yourself, please drop me a note.

Tech talk: Good Charging Habits Decrease Range!

Are your a Tesla Model S owner that experienced a range decrease greater than the average customer?  I have been charging my car between 60% and 80% on a daily basis to preserve my expensive battery pack. This resulted in decreased range estimation.

(One picture is in miles, the other in kilometres, I used to be able to range charge @ 435km and I am now down to 389km)

rangeChargeMilesrangeChargeKM

According to Jerome Guillen (Tesla VP, WW sales and service) and Tesla engineers, it is due to an inaccuracy of the range estimation algorithm:

Our engineers apologize for the inaccuracy of the existing range estimation algorithm. Right now, they are beta testing improvements intended to resolve these issues, regardless of how your car is charged. If you modify your daily charging behavior to charge at the top end of the “daily” range, you should see your fully charged range increase over time. Note, this is an estimation problem that can take weeks, if not months, to correct, depending on your driving behavior.

This might also explain my last supercharging session. I waited 2 hours and never got the “Charge completed” message. I kept on getting the “Re-calculating” message.

Following Jerome’s recommendation, I started charging at 90%.  To be continued…

On another note, how many car companies apologize? Tesla continues to amaze me. Every company faces challenges. It is how they handle and fix problems that makes this car company very different. This is one of the many reasons for their success.

Vue enthousiaste mais réaliste, d’un propriétaire de véhicule électrique Canadien au Québec

In Englishrange

Ça fait maintenant presque deux ans que je conduis un véhicule électrique (ça fera deux ans en mars 2015). J’ai décidé de donner une vue enthousiaste, mais réaliste de la vie d’un propriétaire de véhicule électrique de nos jours au Québec. Commençons par une synthèse:

  • Je ne vois aucun inconvénient à utiliser une voiture électrique pour de courtes et moyennes distances. C’est tout simplement génial et je suis 110 % satisfait.
  • Selon la chimie et la taille de votre batterie, vous risquez de perdre jusqu’à 50 km d’autonomie de conduite dans les 2 premières années.
  • Toutes les compagnies de voiture se sont entendues sur une norme de recharge lente et vous pouvez avoir un adaptateur pour tous les types de prises 110 ou 220 volts.
  • Il y a malheureusement trois «normes» pour la recharge rapide des véhicules électriques.
  • Au Québec, nous n’avons pas assez de stations de recharge (lente et rapide) pour la quantité de véhicules électriques en circulation et c’est regrettable pour les propriétaires actuels.
  • Avec un véhicule et une batterie préchauffés , vous perdez environ 30% de la plage quand il fait -25  pendant la conduite sur une longue distance à vitesse d’autoroute régulière (Tesla Model S possède un ingénieux système qui utilise la chaleur du moteur pour maintenir la batterie chaude pendant la conduite).
  • Vous ne pouvez pas recharger en utilisant une prise 110 volts lorsque la voiture est à l’extérieur à -25 .
  • Le coût d’entretien est jusqu’à présent assez faible.

Se rendre au travail avec ce genre de véhicule, procure une vraie détente, car aucune pollution par le  bruit ni aucune vibration. Vous ne quittez jamais la maison avec un “réservoir” vide. Vous pouvez réchauffer ou refroidir votre auto avant votre départ avec votre appareil favori pourvu qu’il soit connecté à Internet. Je peux certainement dire que je suis 110% satisfait. Je serais très triste de revenir à un véhicule à essence. Je n’ai trouvé aucun inconvénient à posséder une voiture électrique pour conduire en ville ou en banlieue.

Parlons maintenant de conduite sur de longues distances.

Long_Drive

2.5 années déjà, après la livraison de la première Model S,  Tesla est encore la seule compagnie de voiture au monde qui offre plus de 400 km d’autonomie. Je me serais attendu que les autres compagnies emboitent le pas rapidement, mais il faut du temps pour construire et raffiné un tout nouveau produit.

Pour moi, une autonomie de 435 km dans une voiture électrique était absolument inestimable, mais ça n’a pas duré très longtemps. La première année, ma batterie c’est «stabilisé» et à la fin de l’année, j’avais perdu environ 30 km d’autonomie. Récemment, j’ai perdu un autre 17 km. J’ai appris une chose sur les batteries en échangeant avec d’autres clients de Tesla et beaucoup de lecture sur des tribunes en ligne: la dégradation de la batterie varie beaucoup d’une batterie à l’autre; même si, vous prenez vraiment soin de la batterie et que vous suiviez les recommandations de Tesla à la lettre.

Plus ou moins 50 km d’autonomie ne peut pas être un gros problème pour certains, mais ça fait une énorme différence pour moi. Je ne peux plus conduire de Sherbrooke à Gatineau sur une seule charge. C’était en fait l’une des principales raisons qui m’a fait décider d’acheter cette voiture. Le problème avec les batteries est que vous pourriez être chanceux et obtenir de très bonne chimie de batterie ou être moins chanceux et tomber sur un moins bon lot. Sur les batteries de 85 kWh, Tesla donne une garantie kilométrage illimitée de 8 ans, mais la perte d’autonomie n’est pas couverte.

Avant d’acheter un véhicule tout électrique pour faire des longues distances faites vos devoirs. Assurez-vous de pouvoir compléter vos voyages réguliers avec une perte d’autonomie de 10% à 20%, ou bien vous pourriez être déçus comme moi. Vérifiez les stations de recharges rapides disponibles et assurez-vous que vous en aurez au moins une sur votre chemin. Pour moi, hélas, pas de “super-chargeurs” de prévu sur mon chemin dans un avenir rapproché. Un “super-chargeur” sera bientôt est maintenant en fonction à Montréal. Pour mon voyage à Sherbrooke, ce n’est pas idéal, car je veux utiliser la nouvelle autoroute 30 qui contourne Montréal et le surtout le trafic!

toSherbrooke

Cela m’amène à parler du réseau actuel des stations de recharge dans ma province. Pour une recharge lente, nous avons une norme convenue, supportée par toutes les compagnies, c’est le SAE J1772. C”est idéal lors de l’arrêt dans un hôtel pour la nuit pour obtenir une charge complète.

j1772

  • SAE J1772:
  • 6 to 20 kilowatts: 28 to 80 km / heure de recharge
  • Supporté par toutes les compagnies

Le chargeur qui vous donne 80 kilomètres par heure de charge est une bonne façon de rallonger un voyage pendant le dîner ou le souper. Cela me permet de compléter le trajet de Gatineau à Québec avec un petit arrêt à Montréal pour recharger notre voiture et remplir notre estomac. Seulement Suncountryhighway, une compagnie privée, offre cette rapidité de recharge et ils couvrent l’ensemble du pays, beau travail! Le réseau circuit électrique au Québec est limité à 28-32 km / heure de charge, qui est seulement bon pour une recharge durant la nuit. Étrangement, ils n’offrent pas de stations de recharges dans les hôtels. Ils sont disponibles dans les restaurants et les centres commerciaux.

Maintenant, qu’en est-il des longs trajets? Il nous faut des chargeurs rapides, mais malheureusement, beaucoup de «normes» existent. Vous rappelez-vous des normes suivantes?

betablu-ray

Pour la recharge des véhicules électriques, nous avons en fait trois normes: CHAdeMo, SAE Combo et SuperCharger.

CHAdeMO

  • CHAdeMo
  • 50 kilowatts: jusqu’à 136 km /30 minutes
  • Utilisé par Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kia, supporté par Tesla avec un adapteur spéciale (Bientôt disponible).

combo

  • SAE Combo
  • 50 to 90 kilowatts: jusqu’à 200 km / 30 minutes
  • Utilisé par GM, Ford Motor, VW & BMW

tesla

  • Super Charger
  • 90 to 120 kilowatts: jusqu’à 270 km /30 minutes
  • Utilisé par Tesla

Du côté québécois, le réseau circuit électrique a décidé de soutenir CHAdeMO & SAE Combo, mais pas le Supercharger. Les propriétaires de Tesla  au Québec devront se fier à Tesla Motors et sur leur prochain adaptateur CHAdeMO pour une charge rapide. En 2014, Tesla a ouvert tous ses brevets, mais il pourrait être trop tard pour que sa technologie devienne la norme. Il a un beau design, il est plus rapide. Les cassettes bêta étaient de meilleure qualité que les VHS mais c’est VHS qui a gagné la bataille. La différence est que Sony n’a pas ouvert sa technologie à l’époque.

Lorsque vous êtes un des premiers à utiliser une nouvelle technologie, vous ne vous en faites pas avec ces petits problèmes. Je sais que les choses vont que s’améliorer avec le temps. Ne pas avoir assez de stations de recharge pour le nombre de voitures électriques est un problème temporaire. Sur PlugShare, il y a de nouvelles inscriptions de stations de recharges tous les jours! Regardez la carte si vous n’êtes pas convaincu. Cette image représente seulement une partie des stations disponibles. http://www.plugshare.com/ (Chargeur lent en vert et rapide en orange.)

plugsharemap

De plus en plus de gens achètent des voitures électriques et la révolution ne s’arrêtera pas. L’autonomie augmentera (il y a une mise à jour à venir pour le premier modèle de Tesla: Le Roaster avec une autonomie de presque 640 km) et de nombreux chargeurs rapides sont en cours d’installations sur une base régulière.

Aurais-je dépensé autant d’argent sur une voiture électrique avec l’expérience que j’ai maintenant? Mettant de côté la perte d’autonomie de ma batterie, oui je le ferais. Une chose est sûre, les conditions ne sont pas présentement prêtes pour monsieur tout le monde pour les longues distances. Dans quelques années, je suis convaincu que nous aurons des voitures électriques à un prix raisonnable et un réseau de recharge décent.

Enthusiastic but realistic view of an electric car owner’s life in Québec, Canada.

En françaisrange

After driving an electric car for almost 2 years (it will be 2 years in march 2015) I decided to give an enthusiastic, but realistic view of the life of an electric car owner these days in Canada, Québec. Let’s proceed with an executive summary in a few bullet points:

  • There are no disadvantages to using an electric car for short to medium driving distances. It is just great and I am 110% satisfied, it is pure joy.
  • Depending on your battery chemistry and battery size, you might lose up to 50 km of driving range in the first 2 years.
  • All car companies support a globally agreed standard for slow charging vehicles and you can have an adaptor for any 110 or 220 volt outlet type.
  • There are 3 “standards” for DC fast charging electric cars and that is less than ideal.
  • In Quebec, we do not have enough (slow and fast) charging stations for the amount of electric cars in circulation and that is unfortunate.
  • With a warmed up vehicle & battery pack, you lose about 30% of range when it is -25℃ while driving for a long distance at regular highway speed (Tesla Model S has an ingenious system that uses the heat of the motor to keep the battery pack warm while driving).
  • You can’t charge on 110 volt when the car is outside at -25℃.
  • The maintenance cost so far is pretty low.

Driving to work with your electric car is the best part: no noise, no vibration. You never leave with an empty “tank”. You can heat or cool down your car before you leave to work with your favorite internet connected device. I can definitely say that I am 110% satisfied. I would be very sad to go back to a gas car.  I was not able to find any disadvantages of owning an electric car for city or suburb driving.

Let’s talk about long distance driving.Long_Drive After 2.5 years of delivering the first Model S, Tesla is still the only car company in the world that offers over 400 km of range. I would have expected the other companies to follow but it takes time to build and finetune any new product.

For me, driving 435 km in an electric car was absolutely priceless but it did not last long. The first year, my battery pack “stabilised” and by the end of the year, I had lost about 30 km of range. Recently, I lost a another 17km. I learned the hard way by discussing with other Tesla customers and reading forums: Battery pack degradation varies a lot from one battery pack to another. Even if, you really take care of the battery pack and follow Tesla recommendations to the letter the result will be the same.

Plus or minus 50 km of range may not be a big deal for some but it made a huge difference for me. I can’t drive to Sherbrooke from Gatineau on a single charge anymore. This was actually one of the main reasons I bought this car in the first place.  The problem with batteries is that you might be lucky and get very good battery chemistry or be less lucky and have a less good batch.  On 85kwh battery packs, Tesla gives an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty but range loss is not covered.

Before you buy a long range electric-only vehicle, ensure your long drive will still be covered by a 10% to 20% range loss or else you might be very disappointed like me. Check the available fast charging stations and make sure you have at least one on your regular long trip drives. For me alas, no super chargers on my travel path and none planned in the near future. One super charger is coming downtown is now opened in Montréal soon but that will not help me because I want to avoid Montréal traffic.

toSherbrooke

That brings me to talk about the current charging station network in my province. For slow charging, we have an agreed standard, the SAE J1772. This is ideal when stopping at a Hotel for the night to get a full charge.

j1772

  • SAE J1772:
  • 6 to 20 kilowatts: 28 to 80 km / hour of charge
  • Supported by: All car companies

The charger that gives you 80km per hour of charge is a good way to extend a drive during lunch or dinner. This allows me to get from Gatineau/Ottawa to Quebec city with a small stop in Montréal to recharge our car and fill our stomach. Only SunCountry, a privately own company offers that power and they cover the whole country, good job! The Circuit électric network in Quebec is limited to 28 to 32 km/ hour of charge, which is only good for overnight charging but strange enough, they do not offer it in hotels.  They are available at restaurants and malls.

Now, what about longer drives? Here comes fast chargers to the rescue but sadly, many “standards” exist.  Remember the following?

blu-ray beta

For rapid electric vehicle charging we actually have 3 standards:

CHAdeMO

  • CHAdeMo
  • 50 kilowatts: up to 136 km /30 minutes
  • Used by Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kia, supported by Tesla with additional adaptor

combo

  • SAE Combo 
  • 50 to 90 kilowatts: Up to 200 km / 30 minutes
  • Used by GM, Ford Motor, VW & BMW

tesla

  • Super Charger
  • 90 to 120 kilowatts: Up to 270 km /30 minutes
  • Used by Tesla

On the Quebec side, the Circuit électric network decided to support CHAdeMO & SAE Combo but not the SuperCharger. Tesla owners in Quebec will have to rely on Tesla Motors and on the upcoming CHAdeMO adaptor for fast charging. In 2014, Tesla opened all its patents, but it might be too late for its technology to become the standard. It has a nicer design, it is faster, but beta lost the battle even if it was better than VHS. The difference is that Sony did not open its technology at the time.

When you are an early adopter, you accept these small issues and know that things will only get better with time.  Not having enough charging stations for the number of electric cars is a temporary problem. On PlugShare, there are new charging stations registered daily! Look at the map if you are not convinced. That is not even showing them all. http://www.plugshare.com/ (Slow charging in green and fast charger in orange.)

plugsharemap

More and more people are buying electric cars and the revolution will not stop. Range will increase (There is a an upcoming upgrade package for the Tesla Roaster with an almost 400 mile range) and many rapid chargers are being installed on a regular basis.

Would I spend so much money on an electric car with the experience I have now? Putting aside my worst then average battery range loss, Yes I would. One thing for sure, the conditions are not ready for the mass at the moment for long distance drives. In a few more years, I am positive that we will have reasonably priced electric cars and a decent charging network.