Tesla’s Subzero Weather Package

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It may seem odd to you that i’m writing about the Subzero Weather Package for the Model S when its summer time in the US, but if you lived in New England you’d understand. On July 4th the family decided on a road trip to Rockport, MA which is 180 miles round trip from home. This post isn’t about the Model S’s amazing range but how the subzero package kept complaints to a minimum and saved me some money.

Package

Subzero PackageThe Subzero weather package is a $750 option at the time of purchase and I haven’t heard of any possibility of retro-fitting the option. While the Tesla site shows a car driving in the snow as the default image for the picture, the package has very little to do with driving in the snow. The alternate picture shows a better representation of what you get — heaters for things.

One thing to note is Tesla calls it “Cold Weather” in the controls but the package is called the “Subzero Weather Package.” I don’t believe the “Cold Weather” option turns up in controls for Model S’s without the Subzero package as every Model S comes standard with front seat heaters and controls always available at the bottom of the 17″ screen.

With the Subzero package you get 3 additions:

  1. Rear seat heaters
  2. Wiper blade defrosters
  3. Washer nozzle heaters

Seat Heaters

The main reason I bought the subzero package is that I live in New England and anything that can help with the winters is worth it! But seriously, my family loves seat heaters. My wife never drives without one on to help her back issues. One of the reasons I chose my old 2007 Acura MDX when I got it was it was the only car I was considering that had rear seat heaters and my daughter was all over that.

The Model S takes seat heaters to a new level.

The Model S takes seat heaters to a new level by providing 3 seat heater positions for the rear. Each one can be independently controlled  and set to off or a level 1-3 heat setting. From off, tap once to go to level 3, then tap again to go to 2 etc. One thing that would be nice is if they provided a quick “off” ability. I’m always doing extra tapping to go from 3 to off. A long press maybe?

Tesla should provided a quick “off” ability for the seat heaters.

When I first took delivery, only 1 of my 5 seat heaters worked. A reboot fixed that and they’ve been fine since. The seat heaters work amazingly well and its no wonder that Tesla recommends using them to deliver heat versus cranking up the cabin temperature as its a much more efficient method of getting warm.

Other than the quick “off” ability i’d also like to see these cold weather elements controllable from the app so I could warm my seat as well as my cabin before entering. Another annoyance is that Tesla, in their minimalist no-buttons approach, decided not to provide the rear passengers control over, well, their rear. This means as the driver I get the constant requests to raise or lower the temperature on various rear seat positions (my co-pilot hasn’t been brave enough to touch the screen yet herself). Short of adding switches in the rear of the cabin (unlikely for Tesla, and not happening with just a software update), I don’t see this one getting addressed. They may want to consider how minimal their approach is in the Model X. SUV rear seaters expect control!

The Model S doesn’t provide rear seat passengers any climate controls.

So, back to why i’m writing this in July. The outing was great and Rockport, MA is beautiful, but in traditional New England form, right after the “Lobsta” rolls, it clouded over, dropped to 65 and rained all over us. I had my handy one-person umbrella stuffed in my glove box but otherwise we were unprepared. After an hour of shopping in the rain and holding off on expensive sweatshirt purchases, the seat heaters earned their keep. All 5 were blazing on the way home as we were drying and warming up. Seat heaters are not just for the winter months and can help loosen up a stiff back, take some boredom out of a long drive, and warm you up when you’re physically or mentally cold.

Wiper Heat

Heated WipersThe other two options that come with the package are related to your windshield. One Tesla calls “Wiper blade defrosters” is a set of heating elements that are part of your lower windshield that warm up your wiper blades to stop them from freezing to the windshield. They’re also supposed to help remove ice from the wiper blades but i’ve heard mixed reviews on that front. The heating elements are separately controlled by touching the dash area in the picture above. Like the seat heaters, this is not controllable from the app and would be another useful thing to turn on long before reaching the car. Also beware that these heating elements automatically turn off after a period of time so you may need to periodically turn them back on if you still need them to do some work.

Beware that these heating elements automatically turn off after a period of time

I never noticed it until I was writing this post, but did you notice that the Model S’s frunk has no washer fluid dispensers to detract from its beauty?It turns out they’re tucked under the edge of the Frunk close to the windshield:

Heated Nozzles

This placement will make them less prone to getting a lot of ice and snow build up on top of them, but snow and ice can slide down into that area. The third option that comes with the subzero package is a heating element to keep these free of snow and ice and by all reports it does a pretty good job at that.

Summary

If you live in a cold or seasonal climate then the subzero package can be very useful and while I have yet to put this package to real use in the winter, i’m getting use out of it all year long. Unlike the Premium Lighting package, it’s more reasonably priced and actually provides a tangible benefit. Missing from the package are controls for the passengers and extras like a heated steering wheel that comes standard on many premium sedans these days. While Tesla has been a strong seller in warmer climates like California, their cars have done well in tough Norwegian winters too. About 26% of buyers purchase the subzero weather package and, despite its shortcomings, i’d recommend the subzero weather package — your friends and family will thank you.

Despite its shortcomings, i’d recommend the subzero weather package

Tesla’s 2014 annual shareholder meeting and coming features

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2014 Annual Shareholder meetingI finally found a chunk of time to sit down and watch Tesla’s 2014 annual shareholder meeting. The video was posted June 5th. While there’s interesting stuff throughout the video I wanted to just focus on the hardware and software features mentioned in the video. The features section is fairly short and starts at 13:07 into the video and runs through to 15:49 if you want to get Elon’s words directly.

Software

Elon said that you’ll be able to personalize the car a lot more from small things like naming your car and seeing that name in the Tesla portal and app to more advanced personalized learning behavior. Not a lot of detail was provided around the personalized learning, but he did mention calendar integration and providing a heads up on traffic and commute times to upcoming scheduled appointments. This sounds sort of like what you get on iOS or Android when you look at your day view and hopefully it will include other things included there like watched stocks, weather, etc.
Continual flow of updatesTraffic optimized directions,  re-routing around traffic, alerts for upcoming traffic are all also coming. The intelligence for this is from both a collaborative network of other Model S cars on the road as well as external data sources (he said 20 million other data sources). Obviously, with only 40K cars sold and only 900 in the New England area a GPS system based on low numbers like that is not going to be very effective. The Model S network data will be given preference/priority over the other data sources, but it won’t be the only source and I sincerely hope some of those other data sources include Google traffic. He compared the collaborative network between the Model S’s to Waze. That implies some interaction possibilities like speed trap reporting, road closures, etc. The traffic re-routing will be a great addition but a more interactive environment between Model S’s really opens up some interesting possibilities for the future.
One flier that Elon threw out at the very end (~1h10min mark) is that he’s confident that is less than a year you’ll be able to go from highway onramp to highway offramp without touching any controls. Their dates aren’t very believable and its not clear if he’s just talking about the possibility of doing this (Google already can do this sort of thing) or if he meant this would be available in a Tesla product. Either way it will be an exciting (and probably scary) next step in the driving experience!

Hardware

It should be no surprise to most that Tesla does not have model years but rolls in changes as they’re needed. Elon cited several cases of improvements made to the seats and undercarriage (Titanium). In addition he mentioned several new features that were introduced like power folding mirrors and parking sensors. The only real “hardware” upgrade he mentioned that is coming later this year is another seat option. It sounds like the current seats will remain standard and this new seat will be an upgrade option that can be retrofitted into existing Model S’s for a cost. I’d expect the new seats to be a significant upgrade, but i’m quite happy with the current ones I have and I spend about 2 hours a day in the driver seat.

Summary

There wasn’t a lot of really new news about features in this shareholder meeting but there were some good clarifications. The collaborative network part between Model S’s was the most exciting and something I hadn’t heard before — I had assumed they would just use Google traffic alone. The other items like upgraded seats and a more personalized experience are also interesting.
In terms of a delivery timeline, Elon said it was “Rolling out fairly soon” but given their poor history on date estimates it’s anyones guess what this means.

 

Model S Tire Rotations

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The Model S is a very unique car and both the car and Tesla make for different tire experiences than you might have with a standard car. The Model S is insanely quick and all this power translates to your tires. The Model S is also heavier than a normal car thanks to the amazing battery that powers it — this translates to extra force on your tires as you round corners. The Model S recharges itself as you decelerate using regenerative braking — this translates to reverse force on your tires. To counter some of these extra forces Tesla has modified the way the wheels are angled on the car (camber, tow in and other things I know little about). To improve range they’ve include low rolling resistance tires. All of these factors add up to some special tire care that you may not have perviously been exposed to.

Recommendations

First, all my experience and research has been with the standard 19″ wheels and the Michelin Primacy MXM4 all-season tires that came standard with my car. While some of this will apply to the 21″ high performance tires too, I recommend you do your own research with those. You will get much less mileage out of the 21″ tires. With the “W” rating on my standard tires, they have a manufacturer tread wear warranty to 45,000 miles. On my 2007 Acura MDX SUV I got an average of 53,000 miles on a set of tires and after some research i’ve decided i’ll be happy if I get 40,000 out of the tires on the Model S.

I’ll be happy if I get 40,000 out of the tires on the Model S.

From the owner’s manual, Tesla recommends rotating the tires every 5,000 miles (8000 km). They specifically tell you not to rotate tires on the Performance Plus models, so beware those differences. With most gas-powered cars they generally recommend rotating your tires every other oil change, or about every 10,000 miles. So the tire rotations on the Model S are much more frequent.

Tire rotations on the Model S are much more frequent.

Special Considerations

Directional TiresThe tires on the Model S are what they call directional tires – they’re designed to roll in a specific direction. This means when you rotate tires you keep them on the same side of the car and swap the front left tire for the rear left tire and then do the same on the right side. The picture to the right is Tesla’s recommended rotation pattern.

Due to the weight of the car, the nuts on the wheels are tightened more than most cars and this specification wasn’t in any of the manuals I received. After some research, whether you have the 21″ or 19″ wheels, Tesla recommends 175Nm or 129lb/ft of torque for the wheel nuts. Not all shops will measure this and be precise but with higher performance cars its important that the setting is reasonably close to the recommendation and consistent.

Lift pointsWhen the car is lifted you also need to be careful that they use the designated lift locations on the car so that they don’t damage the battery. That battery costs about $40,000 and the warranty does not cover damage due to improper lifting so you really want to make sure it’s not damaged when the car is lifted. Most shops will need to make some minor adjustments to line up their lift to properly lift the Model S at the designated locations, but properly warned this is not a big deal for them. The picture to the right (also from the owner’s manual) indicates the proper lift locations. They key point is those are on the frame and not on the battery.

The warranty does not cover damage due to improper lifting so you really want to make sure it’s not damaged when the car is lifted

Service Center

I drive a lot with about 2,600 miles added per month. That means i’ll need a tire rotation every 2 months if I follow Tesla’s recommended tire rotation schedule. When I hit 5,000 miles on my Model S I reached out to Tesla to ask them about the process. Their first response was:

You can get tire rotations done at any tire shop

I’ve had some bad experiences in the past with non-dealer shops and asked them for a recommended tire shop and got back the unhelpful corporate response:

Unfortunately, we cannot recommend third party service centers.

Frustrated, I reached out to fellow local Tesla owners via the TMC Forums and got a few local recommendations of the usual sorts like Town Fair Tire, Direct Tire, NTB, etc. None were strong recommendations (i.e. no local owner had used these themselves) and the internet reviews were a very mixed bag leaving me nervous about quality, cost and wait times.

I reached back out to Tesla and let them know I wasn’t really comfortable with a third party tire shop and they said I could bring my Model S to Watertown on a Saturday AM and wait for service with a first come, first serve sort of process. The Watertown service center is 60 miles from my house and my Saturdays are full so that wasn’t going to work for me. When I pushed on this they offered to send a Ranger to service my car. This sounded involved and possibly expensive (I didn’t ask) and i’m going to have to do this all the time so I chose to look around a bit more.

My take on all this was that the Service Center is really focussing on deliveries (the Watertown Service Center is also the only local Delivery Center) and real issues that need Tesla expertise and tire stuff is something they only do reluctantly or when they’re working on other things too, although they were not very upfront about this. I don’t blame them for focussing on more important things, but they should change their policy to allow them to recommend some trusted tire shops.

Tire stuff is something they only do reluctantly or when they’re working on other things too.

I brooded on this dilemma for a while then came up with a crazy idea. I know the service people at my local Acura dealer well — they’ve serviced my Acura for 7 years with oil changes, tire rotations, various engine/belt related matters, etc. I trusted them and they did a good job. They were always encouraging me to bring my other car makes there for service. I called up Joe at Acura and explained my situation and he scheduled me for an appointment with less than 24 hours notice — a far cry from the 3 week scheduling for service Tesla currently has in our area. Scale matters.

Tesla should change its policy to allow recommendations of trusted tire shops.

Tire Rotation

I went to the Acura dealer well armed. I printed out the tire rotation pattern, the indicated lift points, and wrote the nut torque on the sheets. Then I spoke to the service manager then the mechanic to make sure they understood it all. They were excited to see the car and learn about it and I had many Tesla moments.

The actual rotation didn’t take very long, less than an hour from the time I arrived and much of that time was them learning about the Model S (they were baffled by the inability to turn it off), adjusting their jack system to jack in the right spots and a test drive.

I monitored the car from the Tesla app during the process and watched the car zip down the street at the end of the service. I won’t say if they did anything illegal when they “tested” the tires, but I will say that the mechanic came back with a huge Tesla grin on his face and told me what an amazing car it was which was the best part of the entire process.

The mechanic came back with a huge Tesla grin on his face.

The whole process of scheduling the appointment, getting the rotation done and paying was easy and I trusted the team. The total cost was $31 which is less than many places would charge.

Summary

Tesla is still a small company with not enough service centers or employees to keep up with their amazing growth. While the Model S doesn’t have a lot of normal maintenance that needs to be done, tire rotations are something you’ll have to deal with and Tesla isn’t well prepared for this maintenance volume in all areas. For me the solution was to use my old trusted dealer for this basic maintenance. Many people own more than one car and this may well be a viable option for them too. While i’m sure some tire-specific places will do a perfectly reasonable job, I wasn’t ready to trust my $100,000 car to someone I didn’t know or have strong recommendations for and when they would have to deal with the few oddities of the Model S.

I wasn’t ready to trust my $100,000 car to someone I didn’t know

I’ll be back to Acura in a couple months for my next rotation and to catch up with my friendly service manager. I don’t get to see him much any more now that I own a car that is almost maintenance-free.

p.s. Elon, you got rid of the engine, can you eliminate tires next?

Tesla Model S Coat Hooks Review

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Evannex HookUpBefore I bought my Model S I discovered that oddly Tesla had decided not to provide coat hooks in the car. While I don’t hang jackets very often, coat hooks are definitely a useful feature when you need them and I went looking for a solution. At the time there were very few options and people were using all sorts of solutions like double sided tape, felt hooks not designed for the purpose, and other odd approaches. The best option I found back then was the E-James which was 19.80€ (about $27 US) and I couldn’t figure out how to order it online since it was in a foreign language so I just gave up on the whole idea.

That was until I saw Evannex, probably the leading company focussed on Tesla aftermarket products, offer their HookUp coat hooks for a very reasonable price of $8.95 for a set of two. This looked to be a great solution and I was eager to try them out. One caveat though, the HookUp coat hooks are only available for models that have the panoramic roof option to provide the needed seam for installation.

 Initial Impression

Coat HookPackaging was simple with instructions, the two hooks and a Evannex brochure delivered in an envelope. The hooks look to be very well made and built specifically for their advertised purpose – hanging things in the Model S.

Installation

While there’s an installation page, installation is dead simple and requires no skill at all — a child could install these. No tools are required, the installation isn’t permanent and you can easily install and uninstall them when you see fit. I thought the ease of install and uninstall to be a great feature — if you don’t like the look of them when you’re not using them just store them in your glove box until you need them. 10 seconds and they can be installed again when you need them.

A child could install these

To install you sort of angle them 90% from vertical and slide them in-between the roof and the headliner and then twist and pull down slightly to lock into place. You can easily install these in 10 seconds. Before installing these I had never really looked at this headliner gap but it’s the perfect place for this hook.

You can easily install these in 10 seconds.

Below are some before and after pictures of the hook installation:

Before HookUp Installation

Before HookUp Installation

After HookUp Installation

After HookUp Installation

Functionality

Hanging JacketTo test the hooks I tried a few different types of garments both with coat hangers and without. I tried my normal sports jacket, one of my wife’s dresses, and then a really heavy leather bomber jacket.

One of the things Evannex cautions about is to not exceed 4 pounds per hook. There’s no metal or anything along that headliner ridge to provide strong support so you don’t want to pull down too hard on these coat hooks and stress the headliner. A few business jackets per hook, or a single leather bomber per hook seemed about right and was risk-free. I wasn’t going to stress the system and risk creasing/damaging my headliner.

Do not exceed 4 pounds per hook.

The hook easily handled my heavy leather jacket. Due to the weight of the jacket it doesnt hang well on coat hangers anyway so I just hooked into the loop on the jacket and it hung well. The hook can hang coat hangers, or anything that has a loop or it can hook on to. For my business jacket I tried it on the coat hanger and it hung lower and touched the seat but also hung well. Using the loop in the jacket raised it up off the seat for me. As with most cars, there’s a balance between more clearance and using coat hangers.

Rating

For scoring of the Evannex™ HookUp solution this is how i’d score it:

  • Durability – Strong ABS plastic with a decent thickness — your headliner will warp before you break these. 5/5.
  • Secure Mounting – Easy to take off and put on, but a bit loose when on without weight applied. 4/5.
  • Price – $8.95 is very reasonable especially considering other (worse) options. 5/5.

Conclusion

Frankly it’s hard to imagine them doing much better with this. The hooks are reasonably priced at $8.95 for two, they work well, are simple to install and remove and have reasonable limitations. Evidently i’m not the only one that thinks it since they’re currently sold out on the site. If you’re in need of coat hooks for your Tesla Model S i’d highly recommend ordering them when they come back into stock or filling out their contact form to let them know you’re interested.

NOTE: The HookUp coat hooks are only available for models that have the panoramic roof option.

TESLARATI provides impartial reviews and is in no way affiliated or paid by the vendor for the content that is produced.

Tesla’s Panoramic Sunroof

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Panoramic sunroofWhile I don’t often drive with them open, I’ve always been a big fan of sunroofs in cars. Sunroofs seem to open up the cabin space and make things feel less enclosed. For me getting the Panoramic sunroof option was a no-brainer when I ordered my Model S but for others the choice is not that automatic.

Design

The Panoramic sunroof is a $2,500 option on the Model S and for me represented about 2.5% of my total cost. Tesla claims it blocks 98% of ultraviolet light and 81% of  solar heat. I don’t know if those numbers are correct, but I can tell you that this is not your normal sunroof.

This is not your normal sunroof.

I love sunroofs, but my wife hates them. It’s always a discussion point when i’m buying a car. If it’s for me I get the sunroof,  if it’s for her we try not to. If she gets a car with a sunroof for some reason (“loaded” ones that have everything on them) then she pulls the shade over it and pretends it doesn’t exist. She dislikes the glare of the sun on her and the feeling of openness. I expected the usual complaints on the sunroof for the Model S and doubly so because the Model S does not include a shade for the sunroof which is unusual in my experience. Surprisingly she has never complained about the sunroof.

There is no shade for the sunroof

While the specs above about UV and light blocked sound cool, the reality is that the sunroof is so dark and so good at blocking light that it both meets my needs (more room, some outside light, openness) while meeting her needs too in not feeling too open or too glaring. This is the first car i’ve owned where we’re both happy with the sunroof.

This is the first car i’ve owned where we’re both happy with the sunroof.

Function

Sunroof ControlsI had a loaner a while back and I wrote about the active suspension feature and to me it is mostly a gimmick with some cool show-off value. The sunroof is a great feature and has cool show-off value. There’s a separate section of your Model S controls dedicated to the sunroof if you have it. From there you can open the sunroof by dragging on the roof itself in the picture or by sliding the blue control to the desired setting. As the roof opens the picture updates showing the progress. Everyone always thinks its cool to be able to drag your finger and watch the progress while the mechanics are also going.

The sunroof is a great feature and has cool show-off value.

There are 4 key positions for the sunroof but you can also open to any setting you want:

  1. Closed
  2. Vent
  3. 80% open
  4. 100% open

Generally you end up using only positions 1-3. 100% open is ok if you’re sunbathing or parked but it makes a lot more noise than the 80% position when you’re driving.

Vent, unlike other cars, doesn’t do a simply angle the roof to lift the rear edge to provide some breathing room but does something more complex with the entire roof to provide the air. The vent setting looks like it would be a lot less susceptible to rain, dust, etc. than other car vent settings.

The vent setting looks like it is a lot less susceptible to rain, dust, etc. than other car vent settings.

Sunroof scroll wheel controlIn addition to the controls on the big screen you can control the sunroof with the right scroll wheel on your steering wheel. Select the sunroof setting then press to change and and scrolling the direction you want it to move. A second press on the scroll wheel will close or open it without you needing to scroll. So usually you just double tap the scroll wheel if you’re looking for a quick vent or close the vent operation.

If you use the Tesla mobile app you can vent or close the sunroof (but not open it) from the app wherever you are. This is useful if you left it on vent or open and a rain storm is coming in. Its also useful if you’re about to leave work and you want to let some heat out before you get to the car (turn on the A/C remotely too!). Tesla must have thought it a liability to allow you to open the roof remotely from the app so you can’t do that. But if you use Visible Tesla you can open or close the sunroof to any setting you want from your computer.

You can vent or close the sunroof remotely

Sound

The wind noise when the sunroof is in the various positions is what i’d expect based on my experience with other cars. This is impressive since the panoramic sunroof, even at 80% open, is much larger than most sunroofs. The 100% open position is the oddity since its much noisier and I don’t use that setting. 80% is like a normal sunroof being open. Opening the sunroof adds noise, but that is to be expected.

 Sound is impressively quiet with the panoramic sunroof, even at 80% open.

Sunroof sound baffleWhen the roof is open (not tilted) a sound baffle pops up to help with the buffeting noise you can get with open sunroofs. This baffle is larger than you see on most cars (to account for the large open area). I have 2 complaints with this sound baffle:

  1. I’m not real fond of the look of it since it stands up so much. Part of the tradeoff for the noise reduction.
  2. It’s made of cloth/fabric and collects bugs/pollen. Look at the the close up picture and think about me not using it very often. Its very dirty and hard to clean.

It has to be large for the size of the sunroof. It has to be fabric because its large. But the combination doesn’t work well for looks or maintenance.

Another thing that i’ve noticed on my Model S is that when the sunroof is open (vent or 80%) and i’m on back roads it rattles a bit more than i’d expect. Since thats basically the only time I would open the sunroof I think thats odd. I’m assuming something just needs to be adjusted/tightened and next time I take it to Tesla for some reason i’ll have them check that out.

Future

One thing many Model S buyers are not aware of is that the sunroof actually provides some functionality thats pretty unrelated to the sunroof. While it may seem odd, you can’t put a bike rack like the Whispbar on top of the Model S without the sunroof. The reason for this is that without the sunroof the roof of the Model S is seamless both inside and out and that leaves no grooves, edges or other locations for third party products to latch on to. This is both true of the outside and the inside so any aftermarket solutions like coat hangers won’t be possible either unless you have the sunroof.

Aftermarket additions to the Model S are more limited without the sunroof.

Summary

As I said at the start, the sunroof was a no brainer for me, but if you’re on the fence, or even if you usually hate sunroofs on cars, you should take a second look at the Model S Panoramic sunroof in person. It is not your normal sunroof and can potentially provide unexpected benefits in the future. This is a feature you should not quickly dismiss when ordering your Model S and, unlike other features, there’s no chance they can retrofit this one after you take delivery.

This is a feature you should not quickly dismiss when ordering your Model S.

Tesla Over the Air Software Update

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Update NoticePerhaps only geeks appreciate this, but I was excited the other day to see a software update notification pop up on my Model S. Most software updates for products are minor fixes and tweaks but sometimes they include new and exciting functionality and Tesla is no different. In the past we looked at Tesla’s frequency of updates and their contents, but this post is about the actual update process.

Notification

By all reports i’ve read that Tesla owners can get software updates over the air through the built-in (free) 3G internet connection that is included with every Model S or over a wifi connection if they’ve tethered their Model S to a wifi point in one or more locations. There are rumors that those with wifi connections tend to get updates faster than those relying only on 3G connections but that is difficult to prove.

Regardless of the connectivity, your Model S only notifies you once it has found and downloaded a software update. The notification is the one above. Note that it doesn’t provide anything really useful like the version number that is now available, release notes for that new update in advance of installing it, etc. Unless you troll the forums there’s no way to find release notes before you install. While Tesla does post release notes to your “My Tesla” account on Tesla.com, the notes lag far behind the date when the install is available.

Software update notices provide no useful information in advance of the update.

Watching the forums may give you a hint about what is available since Tesla staggers releases. Not everyone gets notified of an available update at the same time. Before I got this notice I was watching the forums and saw people reporting availability of 5.11 so I was anticipating an update notice soon for that update.

If you dismiss the notification you can make it come back up by pressing the Tesla logo at the top center of the 17″ screen. Otherwise you can start the install or schedule it to happen later.

Scheduling

Update Clock IconOnce the car has the update and is ready to apply it, you can apply it immediately or you can schedule it for a certain time of day (not day of week or exact date). The car must be in park for the update to get applied (more on this later) and they say it can take up to 45 minutes for the update.

Since this was my first one, rather than apply as soon as I was parked for a good time, I scheduled a time 5 minutes in the future to watch the process.

Once scheduled, a new icon appears at the top of the 17″ screen that looks like a clock. This is the only time i’ve seen this icon appear. Clicking on it brings back up the scheduling options for the software update but otherwise it just reminds you that you have one scheduled.

Other than the limited scheduling options which didn’t seem very restrictive to me, the scheduling part worked as expected.

The scheduling part worked as expected.

Updating

Update Out optionWhen the update process starts it gives you a warning and an “out” to cancel if you change you mind — the car will be unusable for up to 45 minutes once it starts. After this countdown you get a small “Starting update” notification followed by an “Update in progress” notification. And thats about it for up to 45 minutes.

Most people would walk away at this point, but the engineer in me couldn’t do that so I sat in the car for the entire update. The best way to describe it is that its messy, like child birth. Your car is going to do things you didn’t know it could do. Its going to make sounds, flash lights, spin fans, gurgle and do all sorts of other scary things. (BTW did you know your glove box opening button is lit?)

The best way to describe it is that its messy, like child birth

There are a lot of components in a Model S. According to TeslaTap, there are 432 lights, 50 motors/solenoids, 52 processors and a host of other complex machinery in the Model S. Each one needs software of some sort to control it and then a test program to go with that for making sure things are running fine. While i’m sure the iPhone update is an impressive engineering feat, I doubt it holds a candle to the Model S’s.

While i’m sure the iPhone update is an impressive engineering feat, I doubt it holds a candle to the Model S’s

The whole experience was kind of disturbing and i’m not sure i’d sit through another. At one point in the process the dash said this:

Bricked?I’m thinking “Uh oh, I bricked my $100K car!” Rather than hopping on the phone with Tesla, I waited it out. 45 minutes had not passed. It would be ok. Those Tesla folks are brilliant, it will be fine.

It was. After 22 minutes of more frightening behavior including lost temperature readings, mismatched clocks on dash vs 17″ display, the sound of bakes tightening like clenched cheeks, and other exciting things it told me the update was successful.

Result

Phew I lived through the update (no surprise really since Tesla has done at least a couple dozen software updates to an ever-increasing fleet of Model S’s). I had previously been on version 5.9 (1.51.94) and I was expecting to see version 5.11. So I was disappointed to see the same 5.9 release notes and a version 5.9 (1.51.109). Same minor release as before, just a few builds later. In my previous post I had assumed that Tesla did not do in-version updates (i.e. an update from 5.9 to a later 5.9) over the air, but I was wrong.

Without any hints in the release notes and without finding anyone else in the forums that had the same version and build as me I have no idea what Tesla did to my car. With all the openness around patents you’d think they could be a little more forthcoming with the changes they’re making to your car. I can’t say that i’ve noticed anything different since the update but I assume something was fixed or improved (or they just wanted to prove me wrong with the whole in-family update comment!)

I have no idea what Tesla did to my car

The elusive version 5.11 had not arrived and more than a week has passed without it appearing. I’d be happy to skip 5.11 anyway if I could head right to the infamous 6.0 update that Elon has been promising for quite a while. I make sure my Model S is on wifi every night and day just so ensure I don’t miss my chance at that most precious of things — an over the air software update for my car!

The most precious of things — an over the air software update for my car!

Measuring EV charging efficiency

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kWh usedOne of the things that many electric vehicle owners don’t know is that the energy the cars report they use isn’t the same as what they draw from their power source. For many EVs, about 10-12% of drawn electricity is lost during the conversion process from AC to DC charge. This means that beautiful screen and counter you may have on your EV dash showing kWh’s used cannot be converted directly into dollars spent for transportation just using your power company’s rate per kWh.

The energy that EVs report they use is less than what you’re paying for.

Problems calculating actual energy costs

For the Tesla Model S, there are several counters and charts available. The “Since Last Charge” section is a great automatic counter that counts distance, energy used and average energy per mile since the last time you unplugged. With judicious use of the trip meters you can measure energy used over specific time periods, but it’s difficult to match those periods up to your power company’s billing cycle.

“Since Last Charge” section is a great automatic counter

It is also difficult to look at energy bills from before you started driving an EV to those after driving the EV to find the difference and calculate the added costs of driving an EV. This requires good records keeping, consistent use of electric for everything but the EV over the compared period, as well as other factors like weather. With a great deal of uncertainty you can calculate the rough amount of added cost from driving the EV on a monthly basis, look at the miles driven during that month and do the math. For example, year over year I used an extra 641 kWh in May of 2014 versus May of 2013. The main difference was taking delivery of my Model S in April so I drove an EV for all of May. I’ve driven an average of 2,350 miles per month (30 day average) since I took delivery so that gets me to 272 Wh/mile. My Tesla is telling me i’m using more than 272 Wh/mile and it’s no surprise that this rough way of calculating is off.

If you use reported energy used for that “Since last charge” report above you’d think I consumed 10.6kWh and at an electric cost of $0.1670/kWh that it cost me $1.77 to drive those 35 miles. But this doesn’t account for any power conversion losses. Your actual costs for driving those miles are higher and it will vary by type of EV and how you’re charging your EV. A standard 110V wall plug in the US is reported to be much less efficient than a NEMA 14-50 connector.

Your actual costs for driving those miles are higher and it will vary by type of EV and how you’re charging your EV

Charging calculators like the one on Tesla’s site can take into account some of these factors. For example for 35 miles of range added it reports that you need 11.6kWh of energy. From the picture above I only used 10.6 kWh to drive 35 miles. This implies that the Tesla calculation includes an assumption of 91% efficiency on the charge but there are other factors that affect this kind of calculation like how fast/aggressively I was driving. Unfortunately Tesla does not disclose their assumptions for their calculators.

It’s not simple to calculate how much actual energy you’re using to charge your EV.

The Solution

EKM Meter installedThe solution for this is to put a kWh meter on the outlet where you charge your EV. There are many types of meters out there from basic kWh counters to advanced meters that can broadcast actual use over a wifi network, plot graphs, etc. After some research I selected a meter from EKM Metering. My electrician did some independent research and came up with the same one so I felt pretty good about my choice. To monitor my NEMA 14-50 outlet (the one Tesla recommends for most people who charge at home), I bought the Basic 100A kWh meter and an enclosure for it. Delivered, the parts were $142.

Installing the meter requires messing with 240V/50A circuits and re-cabling your outlet since power has to flow through the meter to the outlet. While I may have been able to do this myself, I chose to have an electrician do it. I’m glad I did. It took him 3 hours to do it and I was keeping an eye on things throughout. Part of the time sink was the improperly sized enclosure EKM Metering provides — there’s just not enough room in there to route thick electric cables easily. After some blood, sweat and modifications to the enclosure (not really expected when you pay $40 for a piece of plastic), he got it done. He charged me a rate of $50/hour which is reasonable in New England for a licensed electrician.

My total cost to buy and have a meter installed was $292.

The meter is the white box on the right above my NEMA 14-50 outlet.

Results

EKM ReadingOnce installed you have a kWh meter that just counts kWh used. There’s all sorts of fancy electrical math around how it does the counting but important part is its really accurate and doesn’t impact the results much as it does the measurement. This counter is like an odometer. It counts up forever. There’s no reset, no “trip counter” equivalent. Its just a counter that counts up when power is being drawn. You know power is being drawn by the flashing red light on the meter – 1 flash = 1.25Wh used.

With this meter you can measure actual energy used over any time period but you have to record some things. I’ve only had the meter a few days but here are the the measurements and results so far:

kWh Results

 

The items in orange are calculations. So i’m seeing about 85% charging efficiency on my Model S which is quite a bit less than the 91% Tesla seems to be using in their online calculator. I think the young EV industry could use more education and disclosures in this area.

I’m seeing about 85% charging efficiency on my Model S

I’ll be doing longer term measurements with the meter. Accuracy over short durations like this can have a lot of variation. I also want to look at things like power draw differences at night over long periods with allowing the car to go to sleep or not. It will also be interesting to see if these numbers improve or degrade over time with use, software updates and the like.

Conclusion

The kWh meter is a nice addition to a charging setup and gives you a true picture of your energy usage for driving your EV. For many it is an added and unnecessary cost: at $0.167/kWh and 325 Wh/mile the meter plus installation is the equivalent of 5,380 miles of EV driving.

Simply add about 15% to reported energy used by your EV and you’ll be closer to the actual energy used and will have a better picture of your true costs per EV mile driven. Drive clean and drive smart!

Simply add about 15% to reported energy used by your EV and you’ll be close.

The Model S is no Slacker

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SlackerOk, this isn’t a post about Model S performance. This is about internet radio in the Model S. In a previous post I slammed Tesla on the almost-there functionality of their USB music player so you might be expecting me to go off on a rant on their implementation of Slacker Internet Radio in the Model S, but you’d be wrong. Tesla got Slacker Internet Radio right in the Model S.

Tesla got Slacker Internet Radio right in the Model S.

Slacker

Slacker RadioBefore taking delivery of my Model S I had only heard about Slacker radio as a feature included with the Model S and even then I didn’t do any reading or research on it — I just figured it would either be useful or not, no big deal. I had low expectations. At the time I sort of thought it was going to be a bit like Pandora which I had used on and off in the past.

I had low expectations.

I do a lot of driving. To get through that I listen to a lot of audio books via Audible when i’m alone in the car cranking the miles out. But when I have company I listen to music and subject my company to my mostly-country music taste (no comments please). In the past I always listened to music from a DVD full of MP3s that I had purchased and loaded onto the DVD. As I said in the USB post, the plan was to do the same thing but use USB instead but that didn’t pan out and left me looking for options.

Only after I tried and failed with the USB approach did I really try Slacker other than my first day “does it work” check. It wasn’t going to have my playlist, my favorites, why would I want it?

Slacker is one of two internet radio options included on every Tesla Model S. I’ll cover the other one, Tunein, at some other time. Slacker is music delivered over the internet via the 3G connection included/standard in every Model S. To call it radio is a bit degrading to me since when I think radio, I think commercials. There has never been a commercial on Slacker when i’ve listened to it with the way its configured on the Model S. Like Pandora, Slacker also includes commercials for free accounts, but the Slacker account your Model S comes connected to is commercial-free.

There are no commercials on Slacker on the Model S

On their site they have the two paid versions available. This Tesla-provided account seems to be somewhere in the middle in terms of features:

Full disclosure: this is my hack of a feature chart based on what I saw

Full disclosure: this is my hack of a feature chart based on what I saw

It will be great if someday they also added the lyrics and custom playlists options since they have that capability in Slacker.

Slacker offers a number of playlists you can choose from that are specific to genres, popularity etc. I find the selection to be quite rich. With Slacker you can listen to unlimited ad-free music of your preference any time you want. But what if a song comes on you don’t like?

Controls

Hells Bells RadioOnce you’ve got music playing you’ve got most of the basic options. Pause/Play and Skip to next song. Missing is Stop — an indefinite pause is a stop and Tesla rethinks everything for the better. Also missing is re-play this song and/or go back to last song. You may be able to get to a previous song with music search (more on that later) but otherwise once played its gone.

Two extra options are a “I like this song” button and a “I hate this song” button. This provides your preferences to the Slacker app and in theory it uses this information to either play more songs like the one you liked or play no more songs like it, and definitely not that specific song ever again. While the skeptic in me suspects that the buttons do nothing real, it does preserve the settings. A song you hated last week will not come back on. And ones you like come on and are still flagged as liked. Whether its using that information for more intelligent things is unknown.

You can favorite “stations” which are either ones you’ve picked from a list or ones you’ve “created” with a search, but you can’t favorite individual songs. Overall the controls are really decent.

Search

Hells Bells SearchWith Slacker you can sort of play songs/artists on demand. The way you do that is you hold the “push to talk” button on the right of your steering wheel down and say something like “Play Hells Bells” (threw you off with the non-country song didn’t I?) and up comes a search box with results. From there you can edit the search or pick one of the options. Results are grouped into Songs and Artists. Note that there’s no way to bring up the search box without the “push to talk” approach. Your passengers cannot search for music without your help.

Your passengers cannot search for music.

Next you pick a song, “Hells Bells” by AC/DC (you following me now?), and sometimes that song will play. What happens is Slacker makes a new “station” based on that song preference and starts playing your new “Hells Bells Radio” station. That song you picked will eventually come up. But it is not always the first one played.

The reason for this has something to do with the music industry, licensing and all sorts of arcane things I don’t want/need to understand. The effect is sometimes a poor user experience. You don’t expect this and Elon is on record saying that you can play any song any time you like which isn’t the actual truth. You can play most any song, and you can play that song pretty close to when you want but you can definitely not play any song at any time. While not meeting the overstated ability of the play-on-demand its a pretty cool feature and is close enough to be useful and some times fun/hilarious with the results.

You can definitely not play any song at any time despite Tesla’s claims otherwise.

Account

Slacker SettingsYour Model S gets the music over the internet via the 3G connection. It needs a normal user account and password to connect to Slacker. Those are pre-configured by Tesla upon delivery (usually within 4 hours after you’ve taken delivery). The account name is sort of random garbage and Tesla generally does not provide you the password — the account is intended to only be used in the Model S. You can use your own account, but unless its a Premium account and you take advantage of that, its not worth your time. You may consider using your own premium account if you want to make your own playlists on your computer for example.

There are some reports of owners getting Tesla to disclose the Slacker account password and then using that account online too but thats the exception rather than the rule and my casual attempts to get it where politely rebuffed :)

Special Feature & Quirk

One really cool feature of Slacker in the Model S is that you can pause and resume the music at any time. Even better is it does this on its own when you exit the car. That means you can be listening to a favorite song, get out and do some shopping, get back in and it resumes. You’d expect this from a DVD or USB player, but this resume ability is unusual and cool on internet radio.

This resume ability is unusual and cool on internet radio

One quirk of the feature and Slacker in general is that sometimes it resumes the song and then after a bit just gives up and moves on to another song. Or even if there was no entry/exit event sometimes it will just skip to a new song. People have speculated that this may be due to some legal licensing limits, or perhaps even bugs in the Tesla or Slacker systems or software. Either way its annoying on the rare events it does happen. It seems to mostly happen after resuming a song.

I suspected it was due to some limited buffer size (perhaps 30 seconds worth) but i’ve disproven that theory. My current working theory is if you exit the car before it’s buffered the entire song and then come back it can only play what it buffered and there’s no way for it to fetch the rest after an interruption. If thats the case (“song not fully buffered and being resumed”) they should skip to the next song immediately rather than playing the rest of what they have when they should know it’s incomplete.

Summary

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Slacker and its my go-to music player in the Model S. The album art is great, the controls are good and the sound quality is fine for me (even on the “medium” setting). While I was disappointed with the USB music player, the Model S Slacker Internet Radio functionality is impressive.

The Model S Slacker Internet Radio functionality is impressive.

Charging etiquette

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Low State of ChargeToday I found myself low on charge while I was out and about. A late night car wash Monday night due to an overloaded weekend messed up my normal routine and I didn’t plug in for my nightly charge. Normally I can probably go about 2 days on a charge, but yesterday was unusually heavy mileage and I faced more of the same today.

Charge attempts

In the AM I swung buy the Tesla store to see if I could grab a charge before lunch but the two HPWC’s were occupied with test drive cars (fully charged) and wouldn’t be moving for at least 2 hours when the store opened. The Natick store updated their outlets to NEMA 14-50′s but I didn’t bring my cable (yes, thats 2 mistakes so far, strike 3 is coming).

I was out of luck, so I went to work and then ran my errands. I learned that I need to have some backup plans if I may need a charge during the day — if I had brought my cable I would have been able to charge up before the lunch errands.

I learned that I need to have some backup plans if I may need a charge during the day.

The Model S helpfully shows your rated range front and center and the nice green battery full bar changes to an appropriately sickly yellow as your range drops. I found myself with 51 miles of rated range after some lunch errands and a 50 mile commute home ahead of me at the end of the day. I swung by the charging locations at the Tesla store again and was lucky enough that a test drive event had just ended and the Tesla employee helpfully moved the car so I could plug in. Given the person getting out of the driver side I don’t think there was much of a sale going on, but never judge a book by its cover.

Etiquette

SuperChargerQRTesla has a publicly stated policy that “there is no charge to use a Supercharger” (of course, you have to be equipped to use one), but their stores and service centers allow free charging as a courtesy. I needed enough charge to get home. It was an unusually warm day for Massachusetts so the A/C was going to be on and I was going to use more power than normal.

Stores and service centers allow free charging as a courtesy — be thankful!

I figured I wanted 100 miles of rated range to be comfortable. Overkill I know, but, hey, i’m not even 2 months into this whole EV thing yet and I still have range anxiety. I needed to get to work and really didn’t want to come back and move it again until my day was done but I also didn’t want someone else who needed a charge to be blocked by me. I had a few options:

  1. Disrupt my afternoon and come back when I had my “threshold” charge.
  2. Use the new and cool SuperChargerQR App to print and leave a QR code for someone to notify me.
  3. Leave an old fashioned note with some more lower tech forms of reaching me.

I didn’t want to leave mid-day again as my errands had already killed too much time. That left me with QR or a standard note. The QR approach is cool but it requires you to download an app, print your QR code, and then it requires someone who wants to notify you to download the app and scan the QR code. Not everyone knows what a QR code is, how to work it or even has a smart phone. Sound crazy? You didn’t see that test driver getting out of the Model S! Anyway if the QR thing let me add additional (lower tech) to its QR printout i’d consider that but it doesn’t yet (I suggested it to the author) so I went lower tech:

Charging Note

It’s nice and big and I leave it on the dash in front of the steering wheel. Obviously thats not my actual phone number in this post, but one thing i’d recommend is using something like Google Voice.  With a Google Voice number it rings my desk and my cell phone at the same time and has all sorts of spam protection on phone calls. You have require people to provide information before it will ring you, etc.

You may want to use something better than a cell phone number.

You just may not want all the loonies out there seeing your nice $100K car and having your cell phone number. Google voice number? Go for it.

And, because i’m that guy, I had planned for this event so I just so happened to have this sign in my glovebox. Do you have yours ready? What’s your plan for friendly charging?

Retrieval

90% ChargeI felt like I was being a good citizen while taking advantage of the benefit of being a loved Tesla owner. Nobody called me to move the car but I assume they would have if they had needed it. Plus I may have gotten a few more twitter or WordPress followers in the process, whats not to like about that?

I worked late enough that I came back to the car with a full 90% charge, 240 miles of rated range. 189 miles of rated range added in just under 4 hours. Thats the magic of Tesla and thats without a SuperCharger!

As I unplugged the HPWC I noticed that the test drive car had its charge port open, seemingly inviting me to plug it in when I was done charging. I tried plugging it in, it wouldn’t go in – it was locked. I pressed the button on the HPWC connector a few times, no clicks and it wouldn’t go in. As a noob, I figured you can’t do that without the FOB, so I hung up the cord and drove home.

Learning

At home later I did some testing. It seems that if the car has gone into sleep mode (about 30 minutes after you stop bugging it with apps and the like) it takes many attempts of pressing the button on the charge cable to get the car to wake up and allow you to insert the charger cable into the open port but it will do so even without the key nearby. If I had been a little more persistent I could have left that test drive car charging but I didn’t know enough to do that. Sorry Tesla!

Try repeatedly to unlock and insert a charging cable as the car takes time to wake up if the charge port is already open

Summary

I’ve never felt the need for a HPWC at home, but today was one of a few days where I wish I had a second mobile connector (charge cable). It’s a $650 expense and i’m still feeling poor post-purchase, so perhaps in a while. A second mobile connector is moving up on my priority list as I don’t want to keep unplugging and packing the one I use at home regularly plus i’ve heard its bad for the NEMA 14-50 connector to have many plug/unplug cycles (i.e. daily).

I learned to have more options when i’m going to be short on charge (mobile connector i’m looking at you!) and I learned to try a bit more persistently when a fellow owner (or Tesla!) is waiting on a charge with an inviting open port.

I also learned how to work the “Unplugged?” query/email notification in the VisibleTesla App, but thats a story for a different time.

Browser Wars

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Browser - TeslaratiThere have been a couple of web browser wars in the 90′s and later. While various web browsers have risen and fallen, there was only one winner of all these wars — the user. Thanks to the wars, web browsers evolved rapidly and have a ton of functionality that many of us have come to taken for granted. Unfortunately, the web browser built into the Tesla Model S doesn’t meet our new expectations.

The web browser built into the Tesla Model S doesn’t meet expectations.

Features

It does seem a bit picky to be complaining about a web browser built into a car on a 17″ screen with included 3G internet access. There isn’t another car in the world that has this. Of course this functionality came with the car and I paid almost $100K for the car so I did also pay for this web browser.

There isn’t another car in the world that has this.

Also, like my mother always told me: “If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it right.” The Web Browser in the Model S is mostly an afterthought and it shows. Rather than define a set of requirements, goals, expectations and then design a solution to meet those needs it seems they just made use of a few basic building blocks (linux, a free browser and 3G connectivity) to drop something in for some “wow” factor and because they could. The browser is best seen as a placeholder for better things to come someday (maybe).

The browser is best seen as a placeholder for better things to come someday

Browser - CalculatorWith the built-in browser you can browse to most web sites including the Teslarati site. You can browse both in the half-screen mode or in the full screen mode. In full screen mode its a huge screen. Regardless of the size, content looks great.

While reading you can touch the screen to click on links, buttons, etc. You can do the usual things like drag your finger to scroll left and right and pinch or reverse-pinch to zoom in or out on the content.

You can also click on any text input field and keyboard pops up like it does on any smartphone or tablet and you can enter information. The keyboard that pops up occupies the bottom 1/3 of the screen regardless of which size browser panel is open.

There is a single flat list of favorites which is not sorted — it is organized by the order you entered the items. You can delete individual items from the favorites list (but not all or a batch). A list ordered by the order you entered them with no ability to re-organize is just silly and is an example of the quicks you find deep within some of the Tesla apps.

For sites that need your location (weather, plugshare, etc) it can provide that with your permission. It also has some basic support for cookies (more on that later).

You (or better, your passenger) can do all this while parked or moving. Due to the angle of the 17″ screen its a bit awkward for your passenger to use it for extended periods. My daughter manages to check her homework sometimes on the drive in in the morning but its slow and hard to hit links while you’re moving.

You can do all this while parked or moving.

It really is amazing that Tesla has given us a web browser for free on the internet all the time that I can use in my car. But I also have that on my phone and the one of my phone is about 10x better even if the phone’s screen is 100x smaller.

Limitations and Issues

The browser has a number of limitations. It does not support some of the most common audio, video and document file types. This includes not being able to play YouTube videos while you’re waiting for a pick up, but also it means navigating a PDF attachment while on the go is difficult at best.

The browser also scores pretty low on web compatibility tests and extremely poorly on speed tests. While the recent 5.9 release is almost twice as fast as the prior 4.3 release that was tested, your iPhone 5 or current Android phone is about 3x faster on the same network.

Your iPhone 5 or current Android phone is about 3x faster

One of the questions I had before I took delivery of the Model S is if I could access my Google apps accounts with the browser to check email and do other things while waiting for people. I never found the answer in the forums, so here you go:

The short answer is that you can use Google Apps from the Model S Browser

The longer answer is that its probably not worth your time. If you’re following good security practices you have a crazy and long password on your account plus you have two-factor authentication enabled. That means logging in for the first time on Google Apps is painful. No problem you say, Google can remember me for 30 days, I can deal with that. Well, for some reason, on the Model S, Google only remembers your login for 12 hours even if you ask it to remember you everywhere you get a choice.

Google only remembers your login for 12 hours

It’s not reasonable to log in to Google every 12 hours, but lets assume you do. Once in you’ll find that in the “Desktop browser mode” (Google won’t let you force their apps into a mobile mode) the links/icons in Gmail etc are very hard to hit with a finger (and i’m not a big person). This means you may accidentally delete email, archive it, etc. And thats while you’re parked. Don’t even try it while you’re moving. Another item gets you when doing things that are time based like email and calendar — the browser always thinks its in the Pacific timezone. Perhaps that’s different overseas, but in the US the browser time is always off which does odd things to various sites.

Yet another odd behavior in Google Apps and perhaps others (I did much of my testing in Google Apps) is with text entry. When you’re typing text with the keyboard there’s no auto-capitalization. Also once you hit shift it behaves like a caps lock so everything after you hit that will be in caps. Nothing else you use these days does that. Also, many of us are used to the shortcut “space space” to add a “.” and a space. That would be nice to see. Another odd thing is if you’re typing an email to someone and you press “Enter” the keyboard disappears. You have to tap on the text field again to get the keyboard to come back up so you can keep entering text. Try typing a long email with that behavior.

Also there’s no copy/paste (think about that), you can’t drag to move the caret and a bunch of other usability things that people have gotten right on mobile browsers over the last 5 years.

In short, the browser looks great but is really basic.

Wish list

Other people have come up with their own wish list items but these are the things I think are missing to make it really usable:

  • Speed, speed, and speed.
  • Cookies that are really persistent and work with Google apps.
  • Timezone that can be set or is always correct in the browser.
  • Proper caps behavior when entering text (double tap for caps lock, tap once for single letter, auto caps after punctuation etc).
  • Proper keyboard behavior after “Enter” when doing things like typing emails.
  • Double tap to zoom in on content
  • Double space for “. “
  • Copy/Paste
  • Tap and drag to move caret
  • Tabbed browsing
  • A way to sync my favorites with my desktop (any one of the majors – Safari/Chrome/Firefox)
  • A way to sort or organize the favorites
  • Consistent scrolling behavior (Google Apps)

Note that there’s a lot of stuff i’m not asking for. Apps or extensions like Chrome/Safari. Video from YouTube. I understand this isn’t a full blown desktop and with an included 3G connection there are going to be some limitations. I just think the bar is too low right now.

A few helpful sites

Browser - ForcastIn my exploration I found a few sites that were useful that I wanted to share. There are a billion sites out there so this is just a really short list I collected while testing the browser initially:

  • teslarati.com - Great Tesla news site (full disclosure: I do guest blogging for them)
  • qtes.la - A web site designed for the Tesla browser with news, stock, weather information.
  • forcast.io - Weather. Qtes.la uses an API to do a piece of this but this is the full deal with zoom in by time of day etc.
  • tesla.plugshare.com - Tesla specific plugshare page
  • teslamotorsclub.com/forum.php - TMC forums for a long wait
  • teslatap.com/guest - Guest/valet instructions to leave on the screen
  • calc.hiddentao.com - Calculator that works great in half or full screen browser mode. If you can’t hit the buttons in full screen mode you need a breathalyzer test!

If you have killer ones that work great with the Model S browser feel free to drop us the link in the comments. Please keep it to things that are helpful in the Model S (i.e. a link to the Smithsonian is nice but not relevant/helpful vs. a calculator you can pull up to do some quick kWh math).

Summary

While i’m sure various bright engineers at Tesla can hack away at yet another web browsing interface and engine, there are probably better uses for their time. I think Tesla needs to leverage an existing modern browser that brings all the above functionality and more (apps anyone?) that is maintained by an active community. Given the close ties between Google and Tesla including Google’s investment and Tesla’s use of Google Maps already, it would make sense if Chrome replaced the browser that is there today and Chrome is one of the best browsers on the planet.

It would make sense if Chrome replaced the browser that is there today.

I’m sure, like Google Maps, there are licensing terms to work out and I have some hopes that when they improve maps in the upcoming 6.0 release they’ll also improve this browser, but right now those are just hopes.

If Tesla is serious about providing a Web Browser interface for the Model S then they need to move past the free/open source browser that they have installed today and install a modern browser so their users do not feel like losers in the browser wars.

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