2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Five EV Questions

June 4, 2014

2013 Tesla Model S

When you drive the 2013 Tesla Model S you'd better be ready for questions. Over the past year driving this EV, and the three years driving my 2011 Nissan Leaf SL, I've fielded hundreds of questions. They almost always come in the same order. The #1 most common question is — you guessed it — "How far will it go on a full charge?"

The #2 most common question might surprise you.

#2: "After the battery runs out, does the motor switch on?" No, I say. There's no motor. So then, that leads to the next question.

#3: "So what happens when the battery runs out? Are you just dead in the water?" I usually answer that you are not exactly "dead in the water," but you are in the same situation as you would be if you ran out of gas. Now, this triggers the next question.

#4: "How long does it take to recharge?" I have a problem with this question. It assumes you always run it down to zero and charge from an empty battery. I don't do this for the same reason people don't use up all the gas in their tank before filling up. So full recharge time is something that almost never happens. Instead, I'm charging when the battery is a quarter full to half full.

Last weekend, I still had about 65 miles of range on the Tesla but I decided to recharge anyway on my 240-volt home charger. I plugged in at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night and it was fully recharged mid-morning Sunday.

Yes, that's a long time but, to be honest, I didn't need it any sooner. So, while a fast recharge time might be important sometimes (i.e. while on the way to Las Vegas when, by the way, you can use the much faster supercharger) most of the time it is a meaningless number. Of course, people can imagine all sorts of scenarios when it might be important. But all I'm saying is that, to me, in three years of EV driving, it hasn't really been important.

To round out this list, I'll leave question #5 up to other EV drivers who might read this and feel like chiming in. If no one does, I'll post something in the comments.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 22,567 miles


  • rock2155 rock2155 Posts:

    Charge time is certainly the most common question and like you said the most difficult to answer. Most of the time my charge time is about 45min... So my answer is generally: "Worst case scenario, after 250mi of driving, about 4h at home at 80A and it costs about 5$, but generally its about 45min after 30mi commuting for about 75 cent"

  • jim_nj jim_nj Posts:

    Although I drive a Volt, question #5 that I often get is "How much does the electricity cost?" My best answer is to say that it's equivalent to $1.10/gallon in my area ($0.13/kwh). I'll sometimes mention that it my electricity bill went up by $40/month to drive 1000 miles on electricity. But I find the "$1.10/gallon" equivalent answer to be the most quickly understandable (of course rates vary with local electricity rates).

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    Phil, would you buy a Model S after all the issues with this one? My understanding is the Leaf is very reliable.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Do you have a second car in your household that makes recharge times unimportant?

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    This may just be a Model S thing, but the big question I always get after those 4 is "how fast is it?".

  • philip17 philip17 Posts:

    Throwback: I would take a hard look at the warranty before I bought a Model S. But, if I had the money, I'd put it high on my list. After driving an EV for three years, I'd find it hard to go back to an ICE. For me, I love the simplicity of the design: battery + electric motor = transportation.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    Thanks for the answer. So what ARE you buying next? Another Leaf? As you write for IL( It will always be IL to me) I suggest an i3. My buddy test drove one and loved it, and he's not an EV fan.

  • philip17 philip17 Posts:

    The i3 is on my list but I'm waiting to see what the lease price will be. Now that the prices have dropped so much I'm even thinking of the Volt. That's like buying two cars in one. Also, VW is introducing an EV Golf that looks good.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I am not an EV owner, but I would guess that once the cut-to-the-chase range-anxiety questions are out of the way, people would ask how long you have had it/how many miles are on it, and how has the ownership experience been.

  • se_riously se_riously Posts:

    For my Prius Plug In, I answer question 2 with "Yes, after the battery runs out, it drives just like any other Prius with gas." So question 3 ends up being "Do you need anything special in the house to charge it up?", to which I answer "Just a regular outlet, and it fully charges in 3-hours."

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    > @duck87 said: > Do you have a second car in your household that makes recharge times unimportant? Forget that. "Do you have a second car in your household that makes frequent trips to the dealer for battery/complete drivetrain replacement unimportant?"

  • I don't think the recharge time question is trivial at all---if say, you come back at dinnertime after a 250 mile trip, guess what? You aren't going out in that car this evening. I wonder how many people are actually using the Tesla as a second car. Any data on that? And if most people are, isn't $100K a bit much for that role?

  • eshapir eshapir Posts:

    #5 for me re: Model S is don't your electric bills go way up? Answer I usually give is, not really. The biggest factor that affects our electricity here in Miami is how long our AC runs due to the outside temp. That has a larger effect than spending an extra $10 on recharging at home.

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    As a Leaf driver, here are the most common questions I get: #1: What's the range? (Then I have to launch into a discussion about % full, and cold weather.) #2: What do you do when it runs out of juice? (Then I ask them if they've ever seen a stranded EV; the answer is that EV drivers learn to plan better). #3: How long does it take to charge? (Given my daily usage, it's about 2-3 hours on 220V.) #4: How much does it raise your electric bill? (Answer: about $20/month for 800 miles). #5: Does it have a transmission? (No, just a simple gear reduction.)

  • skw0123 skw0123 Posts:

    How about, "Does it bother you that Elon Musk is such a sphincter?"

  • rock2155 rock2155 Posts:

    > @Mr_Shiftright said: > I don't think the recharge time question is trivial at all---if say, you come back at dinnertime after a 250 mile trip, guess what? You aren't going out in that car this evening. > > I wonder how many people are actually using the Tesla as a second car. Any data on that? And if most people are, isn't $100K a bit much for that role? Actually in the last 6 months it occurred twice, long trip back home and wanted to leave for something else. I got the dual chargers and high current (80A, 19.2kW) wall connector for that purpose. I get about 60mi of range per hour of charge. If you plan a bit you can manage to get around it, on both occasion we were able to wait. The Model S is our primary car, we have three young child and we cannot fit in the other car that my wife uses for commuting, its sits only 4 without much luggage since its a mini cooper. We will replace that gas burner soon with something electric too. Once you appreciated the electric drive its no turning back, its a one way process. Once in a while I drive the ICE car because my wife keep trying to "steal" the Tesla...

  • opfreak opfreak Posts:

    2: your Tesla has a motor. It doesn't have an engine.

  • evodad evodad Posts:

    @rock, lucky usually the wife ends up with the expensive the car and the husband has the cheaper / beater-ish car @Mr_shiftright, i would guess most use the tesla as their primary commuter car and have a second ICE vehicle for which they can use for long trips or when the tesla is charging. Especially at the tesla price point i would find it very hard to believe that any couple that has a tesla does not have a second or 3rd car which is not electric.

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    These are indeed some of the most common questions I'm asked (especially 3 and 4) but the number 1 question I'm asked (and this is not unique to my Model S) is "How much does it cost?". I'm always a bit startled by it because I was taught that it was impolite to ask about money. I guess most other people were not taught the same.

  • 60 miles per hour of charge--that's a handy number to know---thanks!

  • teslafan teslafan Posts:

    No one mentioned that charger installation plus electric panel upgrade to support 80A charging at home is a couple of grand easy. And charging time becomes crucial only on long trips. 30 minutes to charge 150 miles + wait times at super chargers at odd hours can be really difficult for some families traveling with kids/older parents.

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