2017 Tesla Model 3: Monthly Update for May 2018
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
May was a light month for our 2017 Tesla Model 3 sedan. Our drivers only managed to add 752 miles to its odometer. We charged it just five times.
Part of the reason why that is: Our Model 3 spent four days in the shop getting the issues detailed in last month's update looked at. On three other occasions, it sat idle because no one chose to sign it out — over a three-day weekend, in one case. What's up with that? These added up to 10 days with absolutely zero driving miles.
Of those who did drive it, most were commuters. One staffer who drove it over Memorial Day — a person who was in the last-to-pick slot this month and saved it from another idle weekend — didn't stray too far from home. He did manage to add some 200 miles during his Memorial Day trip to the next county, though.
What Kind of 'Fuel Economy' Did It Get?
Our Tesla may not have accumulated many miles this month, but its average consumption came in at 29.5 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles — a tidy figure that makes May its most economical month so far. That figure is still a ways off from the Model 3's EPA rating of 27 kWh/100 miles, but it nevertheless improved the car's lifetime average consumption. May started off at 31.7 kWh/100 miles, but by month's end that average had dropped to 31.4 kWh/100 miles. Not a huge improvement, but we only had 752 miles to work with.
There were other bright sparks in the data, too. The car's Average Energy reading — the figure the car itself reports to indicate the consumption rate between charge events — hit a new low this month. Our previous best stint was 200.8 watt-hours per mile, but early in the month someone brought that down to 195 Wh/mi. That new record only lasted a couple of days before I turned in an even thriftier performance of just 177 Wh/mi over a coincidentally similar distance of 177.1 miles.
By all rights that should have produced a new lowest consumption record after the recharge data was analyzed, but that chance was lost because the charge prior to my stint had been less than a full fill. In cases like that, we have no choice but to add the two charges together and analyze them as a pair, which was unfortunate because the guy before me had been a bit of a leadfoot.
Current odometer: 6,009 miles
Average lifetime recharge electricity consumption: 31.4 kWh/100 miles (107.4 mpge)
EPA consumption rating: 27 kWh/100 combined (126 mpge)
Best single fill, this month: 28.5 kWh/100 (118.2 mpge)
Best single fill, lifetime: 25.6 kWh/100 (131.5 mpge)
Best onboard consumption meter reading: 177 Wh/mi
Average meter reading: 248.3 Wh/mi
Worst reading (aka the leadfoot award): 323 Wh/mi
Maintenance and Upkeep
Our car was in the shop over a four-day stretch as they analyzed Travis' issues with odd warnings such as "Vehicle systems are powering up" and "Regenerative braking limited" and, my personal favorite, "Cannot maintain vehicle power. Car may stop driving or shut down."
That last one apparently led to a lot of back and forth between the service center and headquarters, so they may have been diagnosing an unfamiliar issue and testing new solutions. In the end, they uploaded a new set of firmware and gave the car back to us. We haven't seen these messages since.
I was driving the car about a week later, and another firmware update occurred when I had the car parked at the airport. This one came with an explanation in the "release notes" that described changes to the media player, the relocation of the in-car owner's manual within the menu structure, and the addition of an auto high-beam headlight feature. Cool.
But that wasn't it. Yet another firmware update known as Version 2018.18.13 was sent to our car on Friday, May 25, this time with no explanation of its purpose in the release notes. But Elon Musk himself tweeted the next day that the Friday release had been the brake software change the automaker had promised in the wake of the car's poor showing in Consumer Reports testing.
CR had seen stops in the 150-foot range, but our own 60-0 mph panic-stop testing had produced a stop of 133 feet. Our result is clearly less alarming than CR's, but it's still not very confidence-inspiring. We plan to retest in early June to see if we see any benefit.
None of this cost us any money, of course.
"It's a shame this car is so intensely infuriating in so many ways because the driving dynamics are excellent. This car's steering and handling are in another galaxy compared to the other two long-term EVs in our fleet (Bolt and Leaf). Of course, our Model 3 (like everyone else's so far) is also in another galaxy, pricewise, too. Will the $36,000 version ever materialize?" — Jason Kavanagh, senior road test engineer
"The Model 3 is a great car to take on a road trip. There's plenty of cargo space in the trunk and frunk. It handles well. Thanks to the instant torque, you can dart through gaps in traffic with ease. And with one-pedal driving (thanks to regenerative braking) as well as adaptive cruise and Autopilot, the Model 3 makes heavy traffic tolerable and relaxing." — Rich Kuras, content strategist
"The tall rear deck hampers rearward visibility. Sure, there's a backup camera for reversing (a truly terrific one ... when it works), but in traffic the cars aft of the Model 3 are much more obscured in the rearview mirror than in most other cars. And this is coming from a tall guy who enjoys a better vantage point than do." — Jason Kavanagh
"Paperwork snafus have prevented us from obtaining our HOV lane access stickers, so I found myself wading in amongst the regular traffic the past couple days. Two 88-mile round trips to work in L.A. slow-and-go traffic really does keep the speed down. But it wasn't total stop-and-go, so I was able to maintain a fairly steady pace that usually settled around 35 mph (and never dropped below 10 mph or exceeded 55 mph as the mass of cars ebbed and flowed). This is where EVs really shine, especially if you rely on regenerative braking, look far ahead and hang back a couple extra lengths to smooth out your speed transitions. My reward: an average of 177 Wh/mile and enough remaining juice to easily execute a third round trip. But I was flying out on a business trip. Maybe next time." — Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing
"The glass roof is pretty nice to have, but in California I think that feature makes it really hard to hit the expected range, at least in warmer weather. I went to Ojai and temps were moderate for SoCal (low 80s, sunny) and you can just feel the radiant heat through the glass. As a result, you got to continuously crank the air, which is going to affect the overall range.
"Leaving it outside a hotel in the sun all day, I also saw a bit of battery drain.
"Coming back from a hike, I could see from the Tesla app that the interior temp was 108. I turned on the air to cool the cabin. It's an amazing feature to have but, again, you start chipping away at the range. From a 265-mile charge, it looked like I lost around 10-12 miles of range with air, battery drain and an extra passenger." — Rich Kuras
"One good thing about the Tesla Model 3? If you drop your phone while seated, there really is no place for it to go other than the footwell floor. The space under the seat is pretty tight, tight enough to thwart any errant phone from slipping in. I misplaced my phone and thought it slipped out of my purse while I was riding in the Model 3 on the way to work. Unfortunately, as soon as we got to work, Tesla arrived to pick it up and whisked it away to the dealership to fix some issues.
"We notified the dealership and asked them to search for my Google Pixel while we called it (but the ringer was off). Meanwhile, I drove down there, 20 minutes from Edmunds HQ, convinced that I'd do a more thorough search than anyone. But when I was hunting around the car, I saw that, if it wasn't on either side of the seat, then chances were it wasn't there at all. The space under the passenger seat is so narrow that I could barely wedge my hand in there. After I swept the area with a flashlight and didn't see anything in the small patch of underseat carpet, I gave up the search. I'm not going to say where I ended up finding my phone but, yeah, it wasn't in the Model 3." — Caroline Pardilla, senior copy editor