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Old 03-02-2013, 02:03 PM   #18
Join Date: Oct 2003
Carmudgeonly Ride: A very fast golf cart
Location: The Valley of the Sun
Posts: 11,369
OK... So I'm in full peseveration mode regarding the Tesla. I've priced up different specs, done research on range, and looked at ongoing operating cost. Now I just need to find a way to get a test drive -- but I either need to make a trip to CA (or another state where Tesla doesn't have a dealer licensing issue), or find an owner willing to give a quick ride (which is possible -- some of the local owners have public offers posted on the TMC forum).

Even without a test drive, I'm considering putting down a deposit relatively soon. The spec I'm leaning towards has a roughly 4 month lead time, so that would mean delivery in late summer if I put a deposit down sometime in March.

So, here's my perseveration thoughts as of now. My financial model shows that either the small (40kWh) or medium (60kWh) batteries would result in savings vs what I've paid for cars over the last 5 years -- between $150 and $350 per month. The large 80kWh battery would result in about the same as I pay today -- so technically all 3 are viable (the Performance 85kWh is out though...). I'm leaning towards the medium battery.

Range thoughts:
There are a few things to keep in mind. The range Tesla advertises is based on driving 55 MPH on a flat road -- basically an "ideal" range. The EPA 5 cycle test come in about 89-90% of the ideal range. On top of that, Tesla offers 2 charging modes -- "Normal" and "Range". Normal charge helps maintain life of the battery, but only charges to 90%. Range mode will charge to 100% (or just shy...). Real world range seems to be impacted by speed, elevation changes, temperature (cold...) and even headwinds -- so the EPA ratings are not always achievable. To avoid range anxiety, my thought is to consider 66% of the EPA range as the "real world" range -- basically it leaves enough in reserve to make sure there is enough range in reserve to find a charger.

40kWh range is 160 miles "ideal". The EPA rating for this one is not out yet (the small battery goes into production this month) -- but it will likely come in around 145 miles. Regular charge mode (ie 90%) is 131 miles, and 66% would mean a real-world range of ~86-96 miles (remember -- that would allow for a bit of reserve). Based on this -- I think the 40kWh is out since it would only give enough range for commuting (~60 miles round trip) and in-town driving. Even then, I could see needing to use public chargers around town on occasion. It would not have enough range for even a short in-state weekend trip.

60kWh range is 230 miles "ideal". The EPA rating is 208 miles, so regular charge mode would be 187 miles. The real-world range would be 123-137 miles -- so would allow for commuting and in-town driving without needing to worry about finding a public charger that often. In-state weekend trips would be feasible. One of the local owners did a road trip to Las Vegas with a 60kWh, although it did take charging stops in Kingman. Supercharging is optional on this model -- which could make trips to LA feasible once the Superchargers go live (since this battery could get a full charge in just about an hour).

The 85kWh range is 300 miles "ideal", EPA 265. Regular charge mode is 239, and real-world range is 158-175. I think this model only makes sense if I routinely drove over 150 miles -- but I don't.

Since I'm leaning towards the 60kWh battery, I did some range circles on a map just to get a feel how far this represents from my house (I realize roads are not straight...). The attached pic has 4 circles -- going outside in:
- Red: The EPA max range of 208 miles
- Green: 90% of the EPA (i.e. a "normal" charge) range
- Yellow: 66% of the EPA range -- so allows for faster driving and reserve
- Green (solid): 59% of the EPA range -- this would be 2/3 of the "normal" charge and would be the normal commute-style range.

Charging options:
A regular 120V home outlet is basically insufficient (although it works for long-term parking to keep the battery topped off and allow the car to maintain the battery temp). Maybe 3 miles of range per hour of charging.

Home charging Option 1: Add a 240V 50 Amp "NEMA 14-50" outlet in our garage and charge with the mobile cable that comes with the car. This would cost <$500 and add about 31 miles of range per hour of charging. 2 hours charging per day for my normal commute and a full charge easily done overnight.

Home charging Option 2: Get a Tesla High Power Wall Connector installed. Gives a dedicated connector at home, so wouldn't have to use the mobile cable when at home. Tesla offers an optional 2nd charger on the car -- and this would use that. With 1 charger on the car, charging is the same speed as option 1. With 2 chargers, it will charge twice as fast. But this costs $1200 plus installation (easily $750+), although a tax credit is avail for up to $1k. The extra charger in the car is a $1500 option.

Public Level 2 chargers: Tesla includes an adaptor for the standard J1772 plug used on most public charging stations in the US. Same charge speed as Option 1. There are a few networks avail, and hundreds of these are now avail in AZ (although clustered in Phoenix/Tucson -- none in Flagstaff for example). Blink network seems to be the most common, and they have 3 chargers at my office parking garage).

Tesla Supercharger: High-power fast DC charging stations being set up by Tesla. Requires equipment on the car -- standard on 85, optional ($2k) on the 60, and not avail on the 40. Can charge the 85kWh battery in roughly an hour (although real-world reports are seeing about 50-70% of that). Unfortunately, none of these in AZ yet (there are only 7 sites so far -- 5 in CA and the 2 now infamous East Coast ones).

CHAdeMO charging: This is a Japanese standard fast DC charging station, and supported by the Leaf and Mitsubishi i. Doesn't charge as fast as a Supercharger, but can deliver 65kW per hour, and there are already 11 of these installed in the Phoenix area. BUT -- Tesla does not offer an adapter yet. They are apparently working on one for when they introduce the Model S to Japan -- but no word yet on if it will be offered for sale in the US, or cost. If they do, it likely would require the Supercharger hardware on the car. Would add a lot of flexibility.

RV parks also commonly have the NEMA 14-50 outlet -- so it seems many Model S owners have used them during road trips, especially between cities where there is a dearth of public charging stations.

Other Findings
Just a few random findings as I've done my research.
  • Since Tesla is not a licensed dealer in AZ, this would be an out-of-state purchase. Tesla won't charge AZ sales tax and provides temporary CA plates.
  • That means paying AZ tax (state portion only) at the DMV when registering (which goes down from 6.6% to 5.6% June 1); city use tax (1.45%) bill likely sent in the mail a few weeks later
  • AZ has a significantly reduced vehicle license tax for full electric vehicles (basically a personal property tax on cars). <$30 per year for the Model S, vs over $500 per year for a comparably priced gas car (to start -- it goes down each year, but the Boxster is still about $300 per year)
  • Its eligible for AZ's Alternative Fuel plate -- which allows access to the HOV lanes with only one driver.
  • Charging at home would cost <$50 per month, vs the ~$200 I spend now on gas.

Anyway... I need to get a test drive. But I think I'm going to put an order in...
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