1-Year Stats (2022-03-23 to 2023-03-23):
- Miles: 10,794
- kWh: 3,306
- Avg Efficiency: 306 Wh/mi
- Charging Costs: $757.82
- Avg Cost per kWh: $0.23
TL;DR, things learned:
- Don’t buy a Level-2 (240V) charger unless you drive more miles than you can recharge at Level-1 (120V).
- For DC fast charging on road trips: make frequent, short stops instead of infrequent, long stops. You’ll spend less time overall due to nonlinear charging rates, and if you take those few minutes to use the restroom, get a snack, stretch, it’ll go by much faster.
- Do more research before buying, don’t just assume a car has a feature because it seems like it should.
Time Spent Charging at home:
Average of 5kWh and 4 hours per day with Level 1 charging
, 12A @ 120V (1.44kW)
Cost: ~$0.13 per kWh or ~$0.68/day
I’ve tracked this closely to decide whether or not it would be worth it to upgrade to a Level 2 charger at home - my initial assumption is I’d have to do this, but after a year, the data shows that this is completely unnecessary given my usage. For how little I drive day-to-day, my Level 1 home charger (which came with the car at the time) is more than sufficient.
Upgrading to a Level 2 charger would cost, at minimum, $200 (with utility EVSE discount), assuming I do all the work myself, and can reuse the A/C circuit from the garage subpanel, which would be less-than-ideal. More realistically, it would probably be closer to ~$1000 for a dedicated circuit, possibly ran from the main panel. However, there’s just not sufficient benefit to justify that - I can think of one, maybe two times in the last year that I would have benefited from the L2 charger: once when we were doing a lot of driving one weekend, and once when my family was visiting and also rented a Model 3. In both of those cases, a $10-$20 DC faster charger stop would have helped with the anxiety, but neither ended up being an actual problem.
Overall average miles driven (with roadtrips): 29.54 per day
Time Spent Charging on the road:
I haven’t tracked the time here as closely, so this is more anecdotal. The vast majority of my charging on the road (due to road trips), has been on the Tesla Supercharger network, but I’ve had a handful of L2 charging at RV sites and hotels (with 14-50 or TT30 adapters), and purchased the CCS1 adapter for use at non-Supercharger DC fast charging stations, and have used those a handful of times as well.
To make a broad statement: I don’t spend a lot of time waiting around for the charging to finish.
Early on, I think I tended to charge the way one would fill-up a gas tank: run it low, then charge back up to full. The generally accepted wisdom these days is to make “frequent short stops” not “infrequent long stops”. I.e. charge 4x at 15 mins each, rather than 2x at 40 mins each (charge rate is nonlinear, so it takes longer to go 80->90% than it does to go 50->60%).
Supercharging has consumed the majority of cost, but isn’t the majority of charging, it’s just expensive.
I normally set my maximum charge to 80%, as that supposedly extends the life of the battery. Since getting the car, I’ve recorded the estimated range when charged to 80% each 1st-of-the-month. About 6 months in, it began stopping at 79% charge, though I suspect this is a display issue (it can certainly charge above 80% if I set it to do so, and I suspect if I set the max to 81%, it would stop at 80%).
The purpose of this is to try to estimate how much range (or total capacity) has been lost since getting the vehicle:
- Starting Range at 80% charge: 286mi
- Current Range at 80% charge: 268mi
- Estimated Lost Range: 18mi or 5%
Spurious reports from the internet suggest the range loss curve is steeper at the beginning of ownership, and levels out over time.
This post on Tesla Motors Club also suggests some of the loss may be due to the Battery Management System (BMS) being unable to correctly estimate range because of charge conditions - which is plausible with how I use the car: it may not be getting many opportunities to take Open Circuit Voltage (OCV) readings at various states of charge (SOCs) in order to calibrate the range estimate. Going forward in year 2 of ownership, I’m planning to not leave the car plugged in at home as much, so it’ll get to take OCV ratings at more various SOCs.
That all said: I’m not worried! I haven’t been stranded yet, or even come close, and the ~335 miles or range I’m estimated to have at 100% SOC is more than enough to get me between chargers (DCFC, L2, or even L1 if I’m patient).
Purchasing Decision Priorities
An EV (or at least, a plug-in hybrid) was on my list of things to buy for several years. Probably at least 2, possibly 3 years. During that time, I made several lists, watched lots of videos, did lots of comparisons, and narrowed my picks to 3 cars, in chronological order:
- Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Edition
- Kia EV6
- Tesla Model 3 LR
The V60 remained at the top for a long time, and if it had the Polestar 2 drivetrain, it probably would have won out (I just don’t love the looks of the Polestar 2, the V60 wagon is way cooler). But I wanted a full EV, not just a plug-in hybrid.
When the EV6 was announced, I put in a pre-order for it, and was eagerly awaiting it. Unfortunately, Kia really botched the lead-up to their US rollout. The specs kept changing constantly on the website, and it wasn’t clear until much later what range, horsepower, or features would be coming to the US, so eventually I canceled my pre-order and ordered a Tesla Model 3.
But before pulling the trigger, I listed out some priorities and assigned scores to the Model 3 and the EV6, to see if that was the right choice.
Have the Priorities I defined held true? I.e. have the things that were priorities for the Tesla actually been used as much as they were estimated to?
- At the time, the Model 3 beat out the EV6 with 358 miles to 310 miles. That would mean the EV6 would hit 0% when the Model 3 would have 13-14%. This was one of my top priorities, but looking back on it, I’ve rarely, if ever, gone below 13% range remaining on the Model 3. So the EV6 range would have been sufficient for me.
- The Model 3 LR is estimated to have 346HP to the EV6’s 225HP. This wasn’t necessarily a priority, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it. Ultimately, though, this would have zero impact on my actual use.
- This was one of the top priorities for me, access to the Tesla Supercharger network, which is known to be reliable and relatively dense. I would say I haven’t used it as frequently as I thought I might, but it has been very, very nice to have on road trips. That said, I expect in the future, the value of this will go down: Tesla is opening up their Supercharger network to non-Tesla EVs, and non-Tesla DC fast charger networks are bound to improve with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. However, for the last year, it has definitely met my expectations.
Frequent Software dev, OTAs
- Probably the top differentiator for Tesla vs other brands is the frequent software development and Over-The-Air updates, and I do feel that the car/brand has lived up to that expectation. In the last year, several minor quality-of-life changes were made: the ability to reposition the indicator camera view, adding shortcuts to the bottom bar, adding 2 levels to the heated steering wheel, and adding green light change notification. But probably biggest of all was the change to automatically engage the brakes when regenerative braking isn't available. Prior to this update, if the car was a high state of charge, or in cold temperatures, you'd have limited regenerative braking, and getting off the accelerator wouldn't slow the car as much as normal, which was a super unexpected thing to encounter the one time it happened to me. Fortunately, that's now fixed, and just via an OTA software update. Whether Kia would provide similar regular OTA updates was a complete unknown for me when making the decision, and I’m still not sure to what extent they’re pushing changes on the EV6.
- I expected that the Tesla app would be more solid and quality than other brands’ apps, as it’s had a longer development history, and though I haven’t tried others, I expect that is probably true. The two complaints I do have about the app are latency issues and command status ambiguity. If the car is asleep (typically at home), it takes probably 20-30s for it to wake up before you can issue a command like turn on the climate control. Other commands like opening the frunk/trunk are instant. The second issue is related - if the car isn’t awake yet or has poor cellular connectivity and you issue a command, it’s not always clear whether that command has been sent, received, or has taken effect. Technically, if you use the app a lot you can notice the minor changes that indicate this, but there is room for improvement as well.
- As far as I know, Tesla is still one of few manufacturers that offer Sentry Mode (always-on video recording when the car is parked), however, I had expected it would perform differently than it does. It only triggers a notification to the app when the alarm is tripped, not when Sentry Mode is triggered. So for example, if a window were broken it might send a notification, but it won’t if someone tries the door handle. While that was different than my expectation, it’s probably for the best because of the second issue: false positives. I most commonly see this with rain drops when the car’s sitting outside. It’s probably some combination of rain and light causing the object recognition system to think it sees a person close by, but on a rainy night you can sometimes have 20+ triggers. If someone also keyed your car on that same night, good luck sorting through the false positives to find that. This leads me to ignoring Sentry Mode notifications that pop up on the main screen most of the time. Also, the camera quality is poor so you’re unlikely to get a good face capture or license plate out of it. That all said: since most manufacturers don’t have this feature at all, it’s better than nothing.
- I went into it expecting that build quality / quality control were going to be poor, and I would say my expectations have either been met or exceeded. The car had two minor “issues” when I picked it up: two error messages that required shop time, first a delay in picking the car up, then having to schedule a return visit to get a cable properly seated. But worst, the car had some minor scratches in places when I took delivery, and those wouldn’t be fixed with a few hours at the service center. The driver’s side door near the handle is probably the most noticeable, like someone was getting into the vehicle repeatedly while wearing a watch that scratched the paint each time. There’s also a rattle on the driver’s side B pillar that could probably be fixed with some adhesive if I wanted to disassemble it. And the car makes a grinding sound at low speed (<20mph) that I took it to the service center for and no change was made, but it doesn’t appear to be an issue so I haven’t revisited it. But I went into it expecting minor issues and minor issues is what I got, there haven’t been any major problems making me regret the purchase.
There were two things that I didn’t put on the comparison list when I was making my decision, but they were in the back of my mind:
- Also known as: Traffic Aware Cruise Control, Autopilot, and Full Self Driving. These have been a big let down, even though I went into buying the car expecting that they wouldn’t be perfect. The biggest issue is the Traffic Aware Cruise Control, which has had enough unexpected braking events to harm my confidence in it. I have narrowed down one of the cases where it happens, and now make sure to avoid using it in those situations: when approaching a hill with no visibility over it, and no lead car to follow. However, I had one instance of it occur with a vehicle merging onto the freeway but with at least one extra lane between me and them. This has only happened once, but combined with the hill issues, I’ve come to not trust TACC as much as I would normal cruise control, and I end up not using it as much as I would like to. Autopilot, or more accurately, lane-keep assist, is fine on highways except when lanes merge, and it sees one giant lane and tries to center itself, causing the car to steer back and forth unnecessarily. This has also reduced how much I use it, basically only to instances where I can be in the center lane away from merges or where there won’t be a merge for a long time. I did not purchase Full Self Driving but I have been following its development since I got the car and I’m both disappointed in where it was then and how little it’s progressed since. When I first rented some Teslas, they had FSD (not beta) and I expected it to be much better than it was. That was admittedly foolish on my part, and my opinion has definitely changed from “It’s right around the corner and will drive better and safer than I can!” to “I’m not sure that’ll even happen in my lifetime”. I hope Tesla proves me wrong (and that the hardware that came with my car can actually support whatever version they eventually get out to the public).
- I didn’t have this on my list because I assumed every EV was capable of it, only to find out after getting my car that current Teslas aren’t expected to ever be able to do it (supposedly due to hardware in the inverter?). This was a huge let down. Even just having the ability to do a single 120V @ 12A plug like the EV6 would be a big value add, and even better if I could do full home backup like the F-150 Lightning. I really wish I had done my research here before buying.
- Mostly positive. There are a lot of negatives up there, or things that I expected would be a priority for me that ultimately didn’t end up being that big of a deal. However, I don’t really regret purchasing the Model 3 LR. It serves my purposes well and it has some nice benefits that I do really appreciate:
- The Supercharger network has definitely made road trips easier than I think they would have otherwise been with a non-Tesla EV, though that may change in the future.
- Camp mode makes car camping much nicer, and we’ve taken advantage of this about once every other month (but more clustered together).
- It is pretty quiet and comfortable to be in.
- The heated steering wheel is great on cold days.
- The ability to preheat or pre-cool the car before we get in is huge. It took me a while to remember to do it, and I still forget sometimes, but it’s great. Using climate Keep mode has been really nice too.
- The big screen is super nice, I wish I could change the layout to hide the 3D visualizations because they add nothing, but the big map is awesome.
- Charging at home and not having to go to a gas station is a big unexpected quality of life improvement, especially here in Oregon where you can’t pump your own gas.
- The phone key functionality (walk up unlock, walk away lock) is very convenient.
- The auto-roll-up windows feature when walking away feels super futuristic. It’s simple, but feels higher end than it is.
- All the cameras make parking much easier than it would be otherwise.
If I could go back to a year ago and do it all again, I think the only place where I’d have pause is if a Ford F-150 Lightning were available for comparable price. Unfortunately, back then (and still to this day?), that’s not the case: the Lightning is super hard to come by and they want like $80K+ for comparable range. Granted, it has features the Model 3 doesn’t: a bed, towing capacity, V2H, and ground clearance, but I’m not sure those are worth $25k+. If I was considering home battery backup, the V2H cost savings, even with bidirectional charging infrastructure, would be worth it, but that’s not a priority at the moment.
I think the next place I’ll be looking for an EV is a Ford eTransit or equivalent, if they can provide range over the current 108 miles. We have ambitions for a van conversion, but 108 miles really isn’t enough to make that a reality on an EV platform. We both kind of feel that if we’re going to spend that much money on something, we’d like it to be an EV, it just seems like the way of the future. Hopefully in the next year or two the range will get high enough to be acceptable.