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Impressions of an Electric Car Driver

May 24, 2018

When I posted my little musical interlude a couple of months ago, it wasn’t just a random whim – I’d received my invite to configure my Tesla Model 3.  A few weeks later, I got the call to come and pick it up.  It’s the only thing I ever stood in line for to pre-order, plunking money down in a sort of ultra-Kickstarter production wait deal.  And thus far, it’s been totally worth it.

From the first moment I drove an electric car some 5 years ago, I was instantly hooked.  There are many reasons why, but the prime one was the driving experience.  Step on the accelerator* and you get instantaneous, pure, silent, smooth, continuous acceleration.  Release the accelerator, and you go into regenerative braking, that is, rather than coasting you begin to decelerate (while/by recharging the battery).  The amount of control this gives is delicious.  With a little practice, you can put the car exactly where you want it, without your foot ever leaving one pedal.  Just as you can feel the road through the steering wheel, you can equally feel the road through the accelerator.  Makes for great driving.  Plus, when you hit a stoplight, you just glide perfectly and smoothly to a (near, see below) stop using again that one pedal.  Not to mention the godsend it is in heavy stop-and-go traffic.

That all said, the Model 3 is less aggressive in its regenerative braking than the testbed vehicle I drove (and some other electric cars on the road), plus it isn’t consistent.  The system is tuned so that at higher speeds the regen isn’t as intense as it becomes at lower speeds.  I don’t know the reasoning behind this (it’s all software controlled), but it feels like I had a longer learning curve to get the feel of the Model 3 compared to the testbed I drove that 5 years ago.  Plus, the regen kicks out around 4mph, so you need to use the brakes for that last little bit of deccel.  Design decisions that for me I don’t favour.

Only minorly, though.  I keep my fingers crossed that they’ll introduce a more aggressive regen option, but after two months it’s fast becoming second nature to me.  There’s an ease of driving with the drivetrain, the car is very zippy (lovely acceleration/torque) and nimble, with a low centre of gravity afforded by the battery pack along with a well-tuned suspension.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the lack of a traditional instrument cluster and the large flatscreen that floats in front of the centre of the dash.  Actually, the early renderings and views really gave me pause (I didn’t exactly find it attractive).  The as-delivered reality of it, though, not only looks fine, but it took me only about 22 seconds to become totally used to it.  All the pertinent driving info is very easy to see with just as much of an eye flick as a traditional speedometer/etc, and a lot of the other controls are easy to activate with a single tap.  There are a few that are more involved (if you futz with the climate control often, for example), but not much worse than it was on my last car which also featured buttons rather than dials and sliders.  I’m liking the nav map more than I thought I would – the ability to see upcoming traffic is quite nice.

Charging mostly at work, “fueling” is one less chore to handle on a weekly basis.  I’ve done my first long road-trip, and it was a breeze, with quick supercharges getting me all the range I needed while I scarfed down lunch.  I’ve also had no issues fitting my long kung fu weaponry in the car, and the dual-level trunk (yep!) lets me put the usual stuff I cart around well out of the way so that the trunk is always empty and ready to accept all manner of gear.

In terms of the everyday driving experience, this car has been totally sweet.  I still get giddy when driving it.  That giddiness gets even broader when I think of all the other benefits I alluded to five years ago regarding maintenance (or the lack of), hazardous fluids (or the lack of), emissions (or the lack of), repair costs (or the lack of), and so on.  And with over the air updates, I can wake up one morning with new features and even upgraded performance.  This is a fabulous machine that looks great, feels great, drives great, and provides for a sweeter owner’s experience.

Totally worth the wait.  I had my last car for 18 years, and I’m ready to drive this one for as long as I can as well, zoom zooming off into the sunset.

 

* Can’t call it a gas pedal anymore…

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