The Best Vehicle I Have Ever Owned
By Dr Ken Lunde, Janitor, Spirits of Christmas Past
Before I begin to write about our more than one-year experience owning a pair of identically-configured Tesla Model 3 EVs (Electric Vehicles), I’d like to state up front that neither my wife nor I had previously owned an EV, let alone a hybrid.
March 11, 2018 was the date when my wife and I decided to pay the refundable $1000 deposit for a Tesla Model 3 EV, with the original intent to order the base model that was not going to be available for quite some time. We owned two gasoline-fed—or ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)—vehicles at the time: a 2006 Infiniti FX35 AWD and a 2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD.
The Tesla Model 3 was honestly the first compelling EV for us, mainly due to its range, but also for its lower cost when compared to Tesla’s other offerings, meaning the Model S and Model X. The ever-growing Tesla Supercharger Station network was also a factor. I test-drove a Tesla Model X in mid-2017, but its price and the fact that there were no Tesla Supercharger Stations in Wyoming at the time made it a non-starter. (For reference, I drive from California to South Dakota at least twice a year to visit my parents, and the route involves going through the great state of Wyoming.)
So, we were wondering whether we would end up cancelling our order, or moving forward with buying our very first EV. Doing anything for the first time can be a bit unnerving.
A little later that year, in June while my wife and daughter were on vacation in Europe, Tesla notified us that we could configure our Model 3, but only if we chose the Long Range (Rear-Wheel or All-Wheel Drive) or Performance version. We decided to spring for a Long Range version on August 1st by paying the additional non-refundable $2500 deposit. At first, I specified the Rear-Wheel Drive version, but quickly modified the order to reflect All-Wheel Drive, which had the added benefit of making available the White interior option that I also ended up selecting. To make a long story short, we took delivery of “Baby” (named after the 2017 film Baby Driver) on September 25th at Tesla’s Fremont Delivery Hub:
Sometime in August or early September, while our daughter was still at home (she was preparing to start college), I vividly remember telling her that her mom would either really hate the Model 3, or really love it. A binary condition, of course. I should qualify that statement by noting that we never test-drove the Model 3. We did briefly talk to a couple of Model 3 owners in our neighborhood who had nothing but praise for the EV.
It turns out that we really loved it. She drove it home from the Fremont Delivery Hub, while I drove home in our now–sluggish-feeling 2006 Infiniti FX35 AWD. The next time my wife wanted to drive the Model 3, she texted me to ask how to start it. There is no ignition. Speaking of driving it, one of the best security features of the Model 3, which is no doubt true of other Tesla EVs, is “PIN to Drive” that requires a four-digit PIN to be entered before the vehicle can be taken out of “Park” mode.
I feel obliged to state that my wife was not thrilled with the fact that I chose Pearl White as the exterior color, and even less thrilled that I selected White as the interior color. Technically, it is called a “Black and White” interior, but the seats are completely white. It was a $1500 option at the time, though it is currently $1000. I can’t blame her, but then again, I like white vehicles. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The white seats are still very white. More about the color issue in the next section.
To prepare for delivery, we had a Level 2 charger installed in our garage in early September, which charges at a rate of approximately 6 kW that translates to just approximately 21 miles of range per hour of charging. The work was done by Home Networks, Electric & Solar. We received a small discount, because our neighbor across the street who ordered a Tesla Model S at the same time had the same type of charger installed in their garage. There is nothing like having a virtual gas station in one’s garage! At the time, we were paying $0.13 per kWh during off-peak hours, which means that charging its 75 kWh battery from 0 to 100 percent would cost less than $10. We currently pay $0.16 per kWh during off-peak hours, which means $12. When considering its advertised range of 322 miles, that’s a tiny fraction of what one would normally pay for gasoline.
My wife was working for a startup at the time, but worked from home two or three days per week. The Model 3 was primarily for her use, but I would drive it to work, where there was free Level 2 charging for employees, on the days she worked from home. We were therefore able to do almost all of its charging for free. Still, it was prudent for us to install a Level 2 charger.
Before I knew it, I needed to drive to South Dakota again, in early October, and used our 2006 Infiniti FX35 AWD that had over 200K miles on it. It has made this trip over two-dozen times, and has served me well. After filling up in Salt Lake City, Utah, I noticed that the air conditioner was blowing hot air. Good thing it was early October, because the air conditioner could be turned off for the duration of the trip. Fixing the air conditioner would likely cost thousands of dollars, so we decided that we would trade it in for a new vehicle.
But, which new vehicle?
Well, after the completely positive experience with our first Model 3, we decided that we already bought our last ICE vehicle, and the only compelling EV is still the Model 3. Of course, my wife put her foot down, and demanded that she configures it, especially in terms of its exterior and interior colors. So, on the evening of December 14, 2018, we went to the ordering page, and paid the non-refundable $2500 deposit for the same configuration as “Baby”—Long Range Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive, 19-inch wheels, and Enhanced Autopilot—but with a Red exterior and Black interior. The following morning, which was a Saturday, I received an invoice to pay the balance by bank transfer, and to our (pleasant) surprise received notice later that day that our second Model 3 would be delivered directly to our home in San José—less than 25 miles from the Tesla Factory where it was built—on the 18th, which was the coming Tuesday. We thought at first that delivery might not have been until early January, which would have meant that the $7500 Federal Tax Credit would have been chopped in half. We were therefore able to claim two $7500 Federal Tax Credits for 2018.
My wife’s life-long dream car was a Porsche 911. The use of was is operative in the previous sentence, because immediately after she started to enjoy her own Model 3, that particular life-long dream completely evaporated. Her Tesla Model 3 gives her everything that a Porsche 911 would have, and without consuming any gasoline whatsoever.
“Baby” Becomes “Baby Pearl”
You would be amazed at just how Tesla EVs are different from any other vehicle, and not simply because they are EVs.
Teslas are somewhat unique in that they can be named, which shows up on its display and in the mobile app. Our first Model 3 was named “Baby,” but how do we name our second one? We decided to rename “Baby” to “Baby Pearl,” after its Pearl White exterior color. Our second Model 3 was named “Baby Ruby,” after our daughter, and also in reference to its exterior color.
Prior to ordering our first Tesla Model 3, my wife and I each had a California Snoopy Plate, which were assigned to our ICE vehicles. My wife’s is sequential, whereas mine is personalized with the four letters CJKV, which is an abbreviation that holds a special place in my life. The fact that we have specialty license plates gave us incentive to mount the front one, which is actually required in California, but not something that everyone does. At least, we’re not at risk of getting a ticket for the lack of a front license plate.
In other words, we became a two-Tesla household on December 18, 2018. The location of the Level 2 charger in our garage is ideal in that it can reach the charging port of both Model 3s.
Production of our Tesla Model 3s was done at the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, and we experienced our first factory tour on January 8, 2019. We’re fortunate that we live less than 25 miles away. The actual tour lasts approximately 90 minutes, and instilled much confidence in the company, its mission, and its future direction. Much of the production line for the Model 3 was enclosed to the point that it really couldn’t be seen, but that for the Models S and X was in full view of the tour. What I found particularly interesting is how the production line alternates between the Model S and Model X, which I imagine serves to break up work that would otherwise become monotonous.
For those who are not aware, Tesla-owning households—including those with a reservation, I think—can schedule a tour of the factory in Fremont once per calendar year for a party of up to four people. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, being sure to provide your VIN or reservation number. I highly recommend it.
First Interstate Trip
Even for those who do not own an EV, the first time that one uses a new vehicle for a long-distance trip can be a bit uneasy, mainly due to range-anxiety or other factors. For EVs in particular, range-anxiety is exacerbated by the fact that there is no gasoline backup.
For the past decade or more, I would drive to South Dakota at least twice a year, which is approximately 1,400 miles each way. The first trip is typically in June or July, and the second one in late September or early October. I am completely familiar with the route and the significant elevation changes along the way.
This year’s first trip to South Dakota took place at the end of June. When using my 2006 Infiniti FX35 AWD, my stops were typically Winnemucca (NV), Tooele (UT), Rawlins (WY), and Casper (WY) where I would stay the night. I could drive upwards of 400 miles on a single tank of gasoline. My final destination in South Dakota was only 200 miles from Casper.
I decided that I needed to experience interstate driving using my Tesla Model 3, and proceeded to plan a trip. The only route deviation involved avoiding Casper (WY), because there is not a Tesla Supercharger Station there yet, though one is planned. My charging stops were Rocklin (CA), Truckee (CA), Lovelock (NV), Winnemucca (NV), Elko (NV), West Wendover (NV), Tooele (UT), Evanston (WY), Rock Springs (WY), Rawlins (WY), Wheatland (WY), and Lusk (WY). I used what is referred to as the “splash and dash” technique, which involves charging just enough to get to the next charging stop, plus some buffer, especially if there are significant elevation changes along the route. Most of my charging stops were therefore on the order of 15 to 20 minutes, which is comparable to filling an ICE vehicle with gasoline. My wife pointed out that she appreciates the fact that I need to stop more frequently when driving the Tesla. I have to agree. Stopping more frequently is far less stressful, especially when driving 1000+ miles in a single day.
What did I learn during my first interstate trip? Plenty. First, driving a Tesla Model 3 across the country is completely possible. Once outside of California, where the Tesla density is probably the highest in the nation, the Tesla Supercharger Stations are not very crowded. Second, it is best to know the route and where each Tesla Supercharger Station is located along it. Third, and related to the second point, it is best to plug into the navigation the next Tesla Supercharger Station while charging. This has the advantage of the Tesla knowing when to expect to charge so that it can precondition the battery shortly before arrival. Fourth, if there are Tesla Supercharger Stations within proximity, such as Tooele (UT) and Salt Lake City (UT) that are less than 20 miles apart, the in-vehicle display can be used to determine how many of their stalls are currently in use, which makes it easier to decide which station to use (the less-crowded one). Fifth, carry a bottle of windshield cleaner and a cleaning rag in the trunk, because very few Tesla Supercharger Stations provide a way to clean your windshield, and very few are situated near gas stations that typically provide this amenity. This is particularly important during Summer months when bugs quickly accumulate on the windshield. Among the Tesla Supercharger Stations that I used, only the one in Wheatland (WY) provided this helpful amenity. The pocket that is on the left side of the trunk is ideal for storing the windshield cleaner and rag. Sixth, if a Tesla Supercharger Station is hosted at a hotel, and if you supercharge during the hours when they serve breakfast, you are welcome to partake.
My second interstate trip, which was a repeat of my first one, took place during the latter half of September, and was a completely pleasant experience, in part thanks to all of the things that I learned during my first trip earlier in the year.
For the most part, for both interstate trips thus far, I took full advantage of the Navigate on Autopilot feature that included the ability to automatically pass slower vehicles (this is referred to as Speed Based Lane Changes). It was very impressive to observe this vehicle practically driving itself.
I am very much looking forward to future interstate trips.
Updates/Upgrades—Free & Otherwise
After owning a pair of Tesla Model 3s for over a year, I came to realize that one of the best parts about the overall Tesla ownership experience is the frequent—and free—over-the-air software updates that address issues, add new features, or provide enhancements in terms of efficiency or performance. The mobile app is also updated on a regular basis to keep up with the new features. Tesla is very unique in this way. Very few vehicles can be improved after one takes delivery, especially without visiting a dealership or service center.
One particular software update piqued my interest. The Version 2019.12.1 update that was released in April of 2019 introduced support for non-English UIs (User Interfaces), and among the choices were five East Asian options. The Japanese, Korean, and Simplified Chinese UIs looked okay, but the two Traditional Chinese UIs—for Taiwan (aka ROC) and Hong Kong SAR—have an issue whereby the correct “characters” are used, but they’re being rendered using “glyphs” that are appropriate for PRC (aka Mainland China or Simplified Chinese) conventions, not for Taiwan and Hong Kong SAR, which have their own regional conventions. I reported this issue to Tesla in early May, and suggested the open source Source Han Sans typeface or its clone, Noto Sans CJK, as a solution, at least for Chinese. I architected, built, and maintained (up until September of this year) both Pan-CJK typeface families, so I was in a unique position to recommend its use. The Japanese UI font is Hiragino Sans (ヒラギノ角ゴシック). I haven’t checked the East Asian UI for several months, so there is a chance that one of the major updates already addressed the Traditional Chinese issue. Then again, Tesla seems to have a strong focus on the PRC market, with a factory there and all, so addressing UI issues that affect Taiwan and Hong Kong SAR is likely to be of lower priority.
I did end up purchasing two upgrades for both of our Tesla Model 3s. First, I purchased the Full Self-Driving Capability upgrade almost exactly a year ago, which also means that the FSD computer upgrade, which involves new hardware, is provided at no additional charge. We are expecting the new FSD computer to be installed in our Model 3s sometime early next year. Second, I purchased the Acceleration Boost upgrade earlier this month, which shaves a half-second off of their already low 0 to 60 MPH times, but also provides increased acceleration at higher speeds, which is arguably more important for day-to-day driving.
Three For the Win!
Replacing ICE vehicles is a good thing. Our oldest son and his wife were driving a 2012 Honda Civic LX that needed to be replaced earlier this year, and they ended up ordering a Tesla Model 3 as its replacement. Its exterior color is Blue with a Black interior. I guess that if we consider our immediate family, we have become a three-Tesla household.
Red, White, and Blue! 🇺🇸
Proudly Built in Fremont, California, USA!
Like it or not, my better half and I don’t agree about everything, but we completely agree that the Tesla Model 3 is the best vehicle we have ever owned, and owning a pair of them is a very good indicator that we really like it. In retrospect, we are very glad that we sprung for the Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive versions. The instant torque and crazy acceleration never gets old, and makes driving our last remaining ICE vehicle, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 AWD, a truly dreadful experience.
What’s more, we never imagined that our favorite vehicle would be made in the USA, let alone in California, and in a factory that is less than 25 miles from our home.
Red, White, and Blue therefore has two meanings in our household. 🇺🇸
If you read this article, I hope that it was able to provide some useful insights from an owner of the Tesla Model 3 who has used it for long-distance interstate driving.
In closing, if you have never driven a Tesla, particularly a Model 3 that is very nimble, I encourage you to do so. It’s very exhilarating.
About the Author
Dr Ken Lunde worked at Adobe for over twenty-eight years — from 1991-07-01 to 2019-10-18 — specializing in CJKV Type Development, meaning that he architected and developed fonts for East Asian typefaces, along with the standards and specifications on which they are based. He architected and developed the Adobe-branded “Source Han” (Source Han Sans, Source Han Serif, and Source Han Mono) and Google-branded “Noto CJK” (Noto Sans CJK and Noto Serif CJK) open source Pan-CJK typeface families that were released in 2014, 2017, and 2019, is the author of CJKV Information Processing Second Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2009), and published over 300 articles on Adobe’s now-static CJK Type Blog. Ken earned BA (1987), MA (1988), and PhD (1994) degrees in linguistics from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, served as Adobe’s representative to the Unicode Consortium since 2006, was Adobe’s primary representative from 2015 until 2019, serves as Unicode’s IVD (Ideographic Variation Database) Registrar, attends UTC and IRG meetings, participates in the Unicode Editorial Committee, became an individual Unicode Life Member in 2018, received the 2018 Unicode Bulldog Award, was a Unicode Technical Director from 2018 to 2020, became a Vice-Chair of the Emoji Subcommittee in 2019, published UTN #43 (Unihan Database Property “kStrange”) in 2020, and became the Chair of the CJK & Unihan Group in 2021. He and his wife, Hitomi, are proud owners of a His & Hers pair of acceleration-boosted 2018 LR AWD Tesla Model 3 EVs.