Philosophical Range Anxiety - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Philosophical Range Anxiety

June 19, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

Last Thursday when it was my turn to pick a car for the weekend the Tesla Model S was available. It was the moment I'd been waiting for. I genuinely like this car. I like its speed, styling, the progress it represents and the fact that I can feel genuinely patriotic when I drive it. It's good like that.

But I went home in the Mazda CX-5.

I live 52 miles from the office. Assuming the Tesla was fully charged when I started I'd have at best about 150 miles of range for the weekend. That's pushing it for me. I typically drive 50-60 miles on Saturday and the same on Sunday. Assuming I didn't charge the car at home, that driving behavior would leave me, in theory, 30-50 miles of range when I got back to the office.

But based on Scott's weekend experience, that's far too close for comfort.

Charging at home happens at a rate of about three miles per hour. But that also means I'm committed to leaving the car at home to guarantee sufficient range. It means I can't be spontaneous. It means I have to do some (admittedly basic) math to know if I'm safe to go anywhere. Most importantly, it means I can't yet have the freedom in the world's best electric car that I would have in even the most rudimentary gasoline-powered car.

And I'm just not willing to deal it. Not yet, anyway.

Electric cars, or more specifically, their current limitations, cause me to analyze carefully what it is that drove me to my passion for them. I fell in love with cars because of the freedom they grant. Thinking about it now I realize all that cars have given me: giddiness over getting my driver's license, my first powerslide, my first real passion for doing anything, .my first drive with a female other than my mother.

And it was all predicated on freedom. On the fact that cars let me go where I wanted, when I wanted, at virtually whatever speed I wanted. Electric cars, even this groundbreaking Tesla, still can't do that. At least not in my current situation. And, frankly, it makes me a sad.

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor


  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    Josh is probably the first editor to admit what we've all been thinking with the editors ;) That being said, is it too difficult for you to plug the car in before you hit the hay each night? Unless you don't sleep, you'd have something like 100 miles of cushion to get back to work on Monday, and since you guys have an easier time using your iPhones than plugging in cables into outdoor receptacles, I'm sure you can use the app to make it slightly easier to keep track. Also: There is no "freedom" in LA traffic.

  • ckeith1 ckeith1 Posts:

    Since a Tesla owner would have a way to charge at home that is better than a standard 15amp 110volt outlet. Edmunds should buy a kit with a bunch of adapters and a long 50amp extension cord to allow the editors that live in houses to take home a kit to simulate a minimum home charger off their dryer plug. To see what 6 hr of overnight charging would do to their Philosophical Range Anxiety.

  • jyudman jyudman Posts:

    This scenario is atypical of most ownership experience. If you owned a Model S, you'd have the proper charging facility at home and would awake every morning with plenty of range for most trips. And if you are in LA and you want a longer weekend get away, there are charging options to extend beyond the normal overnight charge. You made an assumption that you'd have a "full tank" which was a bad assumption. I get that it takes a bit more thought and that, in your scenario, there was a bit of a lack of convenience. It's important to note, for a fair assessment, that your scenario where you share vehicles with multiple editors, is not a typical ownership experience.

  • Please please note in blog posts like this how no actual owner is going to charge using 110 at 3 miles per hour. The minimum charging circuit with one on board charger at 40amps would provide nearly 30 miles per hour. Twin chargers plus a HWPC would provide 60 per hour. Either are enough for a "full tank" every morning. Otherwise this is just FUD.

  • Great entry, as that is EXACTLY how I would feel if I had access to an electric vehicle, but I had never tried to put it into words. The hampered freedom is the biggest stumbling block I have about getting into one of these cars, other than the $100k price of course.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    What Josh has said here is almost exactly what I said around a month ago - this car is getting passed over by editors and staffers who just don't want to deal with it, and that's why it just reached 5k miles, when the Mazda CX-5 that was purchased a week later than the Tesla has just under 10k miles on it. I think he is being upfront about it, frankly. Also, @ckeith1: buying a minimum $200, 35 lb. cord that may or may not reach from the dryer outlet to where I park my car (it would not reach in my case, I know that) that will have to be run through a doorway or window and prevent staffers from being able to lock up the house at night is probably not going to simulate any semblance of convenience. @jyudman: you make some good points - I would add that since 90% of the U.S. population has no recourse to charging options that extend beyond the normal overnight charge (read: Supercharger network), Edmunds' location itself does not reflect a typical ownership experience.

  • exnevadan_ exnevadan_ Posts:

    I agree that this test is probably not representative. anyone with the wherewithal to buy a $100k car will probably be able to swing for the extras and the cost of an electrician to rewire their garage or home if need be. will this technology trickle down to the masses and still require the extra outlay and inconvenience? if so, EV's stand little chance in my estimation.

  • Very good points made here. While I enjoyed the blog post and the basic premise behind it I do have to agree that all owners would have better charging options at home. I'd think if making a commitment to a car like this they would also commit to having easy access charging also installed in their garage. --- I'd also think that very few people would have this be their only car so if the urge hit them to drive a long way on a Saturday they'd just take their other car.

  • So how far did you actually drive over the weekend?

  • spdracerut_ spdracerut_ Posts:

    So your range anxiety is based on the assumption you would not be charging at home. But isn't that kind of silly? Even if you only used the wall charger at 3 miles per hour and only charged from midnight (say you went out for nice dinner and a drink), and left the house at 7am (for a mtn bike ride), and didn't get back home until midnight again, only to leave at 7am again... and not have access to charging again until midnight... (sorry for the huge runon sentence), you'd still have 7 hours of charging Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights giving you about 60 miles more range leaving a buffer of between 40-60 miles extra after your work commute. Personally, unless I'm doing a pretty big day trip somewhere, my car is parked at home much longer than 7 hours a day on the weekends.

  • First off - I'm not a Tesla owner, or a hybrid owner for that matter. However, I thought it would be interesting if the cars in your story were transposed. For example, "I was going to take the Mazda but I saw the gas tank was only 1/2 full. Since I live 52 miles from the office, drive 100-120 miles on the weekend, and then have to get back to the office, I decided I couldn't take it because it would run out of gas and I might not want to stop at a station to top it off." That scenario sounds silly but analogous to yours. From what you said, charging from 10PM to 8AM on Friday and Saturday, e.g., 20 hrs total, would have added 60 miles of charge...and you might have even plugged in earlier one or both of those nights. Bottom line is we're all used to adding gas (energy) to our fuel tanks but need to realize and accept the same is true for electric vehicles. Imagine if you didn't want to charge your cell phone!

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @billinflorida: I'm not really sure how that's a relevant comparison. Stopping at a station takes 10 minutes or so to fill up a gas tank at one of millions of gas stations across the country; whereas it takes significantly longer to charge up the car and

  • robs8 robs8 Posts:

    So basically you did not test it and have no proof but you're sure it wouldn't work for you? It's staggering and a bit embarrassing that this passes for journalism at Edmunds.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    I'm sorry, Josh, but all I got from your piece was "I am a raving control freak and NOTHING will stop me doing what I want, when I want." If you had plans for the weekend that the range and charge issues with this vehicle would have ruined, that would have been fine. If you had taken it home and then come back and told us that you had to turn down a great trip/opportunity then that would also have been informative. This read like "waah, I don't like it".

  • tdiggity tdiggity Posts:

    At least edit this article to include the obvious fact that most people would install level-2 service at their home. All the electric vehicle manufacturers clearly show the benefits of level-2 chargers at home.

  • shepski shepski Posts:

    It makes you a sad WHAT?

  • Duck87 - It's absolutely relevant. It takes almost no time to plug in a charge cord to a wall socket at home. Again, think about cell phones, iPads, etc. You don't have to stop for even 1 minute much less 10. Note: The story wasn't about taking a cross-country trip. It was about going home for the weekend and back to work on Monday. Long trips take planning regardless of vehicle. For EV's, you might choose hotels, restaurants, malls, etc with chargers. A cross-country trips is usually about the journey, not the destination. Otherwise, take a plane.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @billinflorida: Not sure about you, but I would never equate the amount of time it takes to charge the Tesla (at Supercharger stations, maybe about 40 minutes, at home, a couple of hours) with how long it takes to refill a gas tank (at worst, 10 minutes a

  • nicereview nicereview Posts:

    What you've just written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever seen. At no point in your rambling, incoherent review were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on the internet is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  • evjuice evjuice Posts:

    This type of philosophy would say the author does not have a DVR or cell phone either. While a DVR would allow him the freedom of watching his favorite TV shows, it would require plugging it in and programming to enjoy it's benefits. A cellphone would allow him the freedom of not having to be at home to receive phone calls from friends and family. Unfortunately it would require plugging in and getting a new number so he could enjoy it's benefits.. An EV that fully charges overnight is a useful EV. If the author actually owned an EV he would not nightly plug into a 110V 12 A circuit that just gives a trickle charge. He would install a dryer plug or Tesla's High Powered Charger and have a full 265 mile range every morning to enjoy all day benefits. I doubt the author's philosophy has him filling his tank with 1/2 gallon of gasoline per visit. That would be just sad.

  • dsm363 dsm363 Posts:

    Josh: I don't think you are being realistic here. If this was a car you actually had bought and just not trying out for the weekend (and assuming you have a garage or a parking space where you can plug in) then you would have installed the recommended 240V 50A circuit (NEMA 14-50 outlet) that Tesla recommends. This allows you to add close to 30 miles of range in an hour (instead of 3 on the 110V outlet you did). As you found out, the 110V outlet for someone with a big commute really isn't practical. I don't know why you'd base things off of Scott's experience as he didn't even plug in the entire weekend. Also something a normal owner wouldn't do unless there was no option. I'm not sure why this makes you sad. It is an amazing car and if you do the basics, it is basically a no compromises car. You install the charging level for your needs and with a 50 mile commute a 110V outlet isn't the right thing to have.

  • tokyorush tokyorush Posts:

    what a strange comment. I get it for you, but if you actually owned one of these cars, you would wake up EVERY morning with 250+ miles of range - more than you do in your ICE car most of the time. I get this decision if you are stuck with the 110 V at home, but is this really a consideration for an owner or even for a decent review? To date, the only limitation I feel with my car is that I won't take it on my trips from CT to Chicago with my family yet because of range. That's ok, I wouldn't take a Miata either, since it only seats 2 and is uncomfortable for any trip longer than, say 100 miles.

  • Readers might want to check out Slate's take (sorry, the rhyme was too tempting) on the Model S and range anxiety: Sorry if the link doesn't work. If not, cut & paste should be fine.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    What a joke - the article's headline is, "Forget what you read in the New York Times: The Tesla Model S is a fantastic car for a road trip." Then the guy tells us what it was like going on a 160-mile trip, spread out over a whole weekend. And he says the key to his trip's success was that he didn't try to push the car's range limitations. You can't make this stuff up.

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    What? The guy set out for the weekend and got to do everything he wanted without any "range anxiety". Exactly the OPPOSITE of what this Edmund's post says. I think it's pretty relevant. What about it didn't meet your lofty standards, fordson1? Though, I would agree the headline is stretching it a bit.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    He got to do everything he wanted to do because he didn't want to do much. Yes, the headline is stretching things a bit - or a lot. I emailed the author of the piece to this effect and he pretty much agreed with me on both counts. WTF? So the secret remedy for range anxiety is to revise our road-trip expectations downward?

  • ariusj ariusj Posts:

    Given the trend in car design, one can reasonably expect additional electric or plug-in cars to join the Edmunds Long Term fleet. Since a blog like this is intended to simulate realistic long term ownership of a car, perhaps Edmunds will consider getting a NEMA 14-50 outlet installed in every reviewer's garage ($300 avg installed price)? Josh's excuse is reasonable but unacceptable for a car reviewer. Charging a car brings with it a new experience and possible nuances, issues that will definitely be interesting to the readers. Please consider this, Edmunds.

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