The evolution of clean cars – an interview with a new Tesla Model 3 owner

Guest Blog | May 7, 2018 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles

SACE Board President, John Noel, recently bought the new Tesla Model 3. I had a chance to chat with him recently about his new purchase and discuss his thoughts on the vehicle. In case you’ve missed the headlines, the Model 3 is Tesla’s latest vehicle release and has been touted as the Tesla for everyone, and it’s the most “affordable” Tesla currently available (it starts at a base price of $35,000 before incentives, has 60-kWh and 75-kWh battery options, with an EPA-rated 215-mile range and 330 miles respectively).

John is “all in” on electric transportation. He owned the very first hybrid vehicle in the South, a Honda Insight, he purchased from California decades ago. He drove the Insight until the all-electric Nissan LEAF was released. He later also purchased a Plug-in Toyota Prius Prime to help with longer range trips that were difficult in his first generation 70-80 mile range LEAF. He is now the proud owner of a Tesla Model 3. John believes that all-electric cars are simply easier and better for the planet. “It took people 10 years to understand what [hybrid] technology was,” he said about when he first got the car, but all-electric technology is different, simpler.

SACE Board President, John Noel, stands with his Tesla Model 3

Having now owned many different electric cars, I asked John about his favorite thing about driving electric, especially the Model 3. Not surprisingly, the answer isn’t straightforward – there are simply too many benefits he has experienced since owning the car. For one, it runs on electricity – the car does not pollute, it’s quiet and he feels safe. Tesla, as an automaker, is the only U.S. manufacturer in the Consumer Reports Top 10 list. A full review of the Model 3 by the rating agency has yet to be completed. What we do know is that the car comes standard with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

Another factor that John loves about the car is that Tesla, an American car manufacturer, is looking at the long-range future of the automobile. In building the Tesla Model 3, and their whole portfolio of electric vehicles (EVs), they are working to offer the best technology to transport someone from one place to another. Tesla is committed not just to make money, but to put clean technology in the hands of middle America. John believes that this car offers consumers a car that is affordable with high-level technology, “The quality of the technology that you are buying is incredible for the price.”

Tesla built the Model 3s with the longer-range battery first, so you can choose, as he did, to add extra battery range – a 75-kWh battery and other “bells and whistles”. Many of the other options include Autopilot software, premium package, winter package and/or all-wheel-drive. With many of these additions it does move the car into the more expensive category – between $50,000-60,000.

However, John believes that the range, more than 300 miles on a single charge, at that price point, “is the magic of the car” compared to others on the market today. “What makes it a real car for me is being able to drive from the center of Atlanta to Nashville.” He recently took the trip and returned to Nashville with 20% range left. “I didn’t have any range anxiety because the car can tell me where I am in the trip and how much range I would have when I returned home.” John drove the speed limit the whole way, which also helped to manage his range.

Another aspect of the Model 3 that John appreciates is that the automobile is not only efficient, but there is virtually no maintenance. As he notes, “If you go into a service department of a normal dealership, you have a lot of service related to oil, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be repaired or replaced, but with an electric car, they check your tires, brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid. That’s it. It could not be more convenient!” It also costs significantly less to maintain. According to recent studies, driving an electric vehicle costs 1/3 of what it costs to drive an internal combustion engine.

As we highlighted in previous blog posts, major manufacturers are gradually transitioning to electric. Going electric means less hassle for manufacturers in terms of recalls and service problems – a huge expense. As Ford recently announced, they are investing $11 billion to bring 40 electrified vehicle models to market by 2022. Daimler will produce electric versions of ALL of its cars by 2022. Volvo will be phasing out its gas-only cars by 2018 and Volkswagen will fully electrify its line up by 2030. GM will have at least 20 new EVs by 2023 and Nissan is committing more than $11.7 billion to bring twelve new electric vehicles by 2022.

Another unique factor that John notes is the regenerative braking. Through this process, the system recaptures the energy from braking into the battery rather than it being wasted. Turning that kinetic energy into more usable energy increases the range of the vehicle. Read more about how it works here. The autonomous technology in the Model 3 is also well worth the price, according to John, “When you realize that most auto accidents are human error and that a computerized system can significantly help reduce the impacts, it makes a lot of sense.”

Another topic that John and I discussed is charging time. There is reasonable concern that it could take too long to recharge on trips and thus increases travel time, but with the higher mileage range of this car, you can take a long trip and just fuel up at home, and charge at cheaper, off-peak rates at night. This supports all of his local driving. By doing that, “it really only takes about 10 seconds to recharge (plugging and charging while you do other things around the house) compared to the time it takes to fill up a gas tank.”

John currently only charges at home, so he hasn’t experienced Tesla’s superchargers yet. He has a level 2 charger at his home and vacation home, which have met all of his needs. He also ensures he maximizes the benefits of the car by using renewable energy when he can. For his home which is shaded by trees, he buys green power blocks from his utility company.

Another benefit is its filtration system. Although the Model 3 does not have the Bio Defense Filtration Mode air filtration system that other Teslas have, John reports that it works better than anything he’s ever had. When he was recently behind a large truck that had really nasty clouds of exhaust smoke, “a ribbon of pollution,” as he called it, he could not detect any of it inside the car. News is still unclear whether or not the system will be added as an option for the Model 3 in the future – stay tuned.

There have been challenges. One of the biggest challenges for him in driving the car is that all of the controls are on a single “computer” screen on the dashboard. John is left handed, which makes it a little difficult to operate,  but he’s “learning to adapt.” John is excited about the Model 3 and all the new EV additions and what’s ahead, “An EV has been looked upon as novelty, but it is no longer a novelty with this car. Driving this automobile saves gas, saves maintenance and saves the planet (And you have fun the whole way.)”

So, look for John on the road, he’s the one who touting “NoMoGas.”

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