Tesla Weekend Social 2017, a visit to Paramus, NJ

A week ago, January 21, 2017, my wife and I were on a trip to New York and planned to visit my cousin and the new addition to his family in Randolph, NJ for the day.  This is one of my cousins who had kindly housed us both heading to Maine and back from Maine during our Here, There, EVerywhere cross-country trip of 2015.   We were staying in Manhattan the night before and had some time before we were scheduled to see them on January 21st, so it was a welcome surprise when we received an invite to the first Tesla Weekend Social of 2017. We wanted to see what has changed since the first social that we attended last year.

We received the following email on the 14th of January.

TESLA
Weekend Social
Please join us for a Weekend Social New Year celebration at your nearest Tesla location.

Kick off 2017 alongside fellow owners, enthusiasts and Tesla staff. Family and friends are also welcome. Seasonal refreshments will be provided.

To attend an upcoming event near you, please RSVP below. We look forward to celebrating with you

After some challenges obtaining a confirmation (apparently there were some back-end issues that was communicated to us and eventually fixed,) we were able to get a confirmation to be added to the attendee list at the Paramus, NJ Sales, Service, Delivery Center and Supercharger location.  Since our family commitments were not until the afternoon, we decided to head over to Paramus, NJ to attend the first Tesla Social of the year and to spend a few hours with some New Jersey Tesla folks.

To provide ourselves with the most flexibility for this visit, we rented a car from Hertz.  Unfortunately, unlike our experience renting with Hertz’s On-Demand 24×7 product from a few years ago, there are no longer any electric vehicles in Hertz New York locations (nor is the 24×7 product being offered in the USA.)  So, we had to rely on driving an ICE vehicle for this trip, a Ford Focus.

We arrived at the location about 15 minutes before the scheduled 10:00 am program and secured a spot near the front of the store.  Here is a photograph of the area by the entrance of the store that we parked our rental car in.  We were originally parked right beside the HUGE ICE SUV on the right of the photograph.

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Upon exiting our rental, one of the employees requested my keys to move the vehicle to the back of the store. It’s a rental and I had some items in the car that I didn’t feel comfortable to be in a section that I can’t see the car in, so I asked if he needed to move it, that he move it somewhere closer. He decided to move it to the other side of the parking lot, away from the entrance and across the superchargers at the location.

This location was not nearly as convenient as the customer parking spot that I originally used, but I figured there must be a reason why he needed to move my rental.  However, as you can see from the first photograph, this was a strange request as our original parking spot was right beside a large ICE SUV and another ICE vehicle.

We checked in and signed into the paper sign-in sheet that the store had placed at the entrance.  Here is the walkway to the entrance and the sign in is to the left of the photo.

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Directly ahead of the entrance is your typical Tesla Service Center entrance reception desk. (This is not normally situated in a Tesla Store). Remember, Paramus is a combination Sales, Service, Deliver Center and Supercharger location.

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For the event, the store personnel provided coffee, bagels and other breakfast items along the credenza under the apparel, beside the Design Studio wall.

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I walked around the area to get my bearings and took a peek at the Delivery Center part of the store and saw an X and an S awaiting their new owners.  It seems that the New Jersey folks were not one of the stores that cover the vehicles in some sort of drop-cloth as I’ve seen in other Delivery Centers.

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Not being used to weather, we originally walked in with our winter travel coats and realized that there was no place to keep our jackets.  Rather than wear our jackets the whole time, I decided to return them to the car.  I had to look for the employee who took our rental key to get access to the rental car and place our jackets in there. Once I located that employee, who is nameless, not to protect the guilty, but because he never took the time to introduce himself to me. I found the car tucked in between several inventory Model S that they have on the lot, and not by any customer vehicles.

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The rental car was nicely surrounded by Teslas, but I did not ever notice any other customers vehicles being collected in the same manner as our rental car.

It appears that we were particularly targeted for this as when I walked by my original parking spot.  Another monstrous ICE SUV was parked there and not another Tesla or anything related to the event.  I was a little miffed at this considering the fact that all other customers were able to park in the customer section and our little rental car was summarily moved.  Either way, that’s a section of improvement for Tesla Paramus.  Either valet park all cars, or leave them be.

This particular event at Paramus seemed to be more casual than the other Tesla Social events that we have attended in the past. There did not seem to be an agenda and we spent a long time talking to the Tesla employees and fellow owners before we were brought into the lounge for the group discussion portion of the event.

Prior to being brought into the lounge for the group discussion, we spent a lot of time with two members of the staff who were very attentive and we wanted to commend them. Monica and Joey (didn’t catch last names). Monica moved to Paramus, NJ from Pasadena, CA and Joey who just started a few weeks ago.  They were very eager and helpful.  Monica has been with Tesla for a while and we discussed her move to New Jersey from California as well as my wife’s Roadster and Joey, as a new employee, was effectively being trained by us as long-time owners of Tesla.

Don’t get me wrong, I can spend HOURS talking Tesla with people, it’s just strange to invite a group of owners without seeming to have a plan for their time.

We waited until about 10:45 am before the program started.  However, program might be a generous word for this event.  It seems that it was meant to be very free-flow and I suspect that an agenda and some structure could have helped make the event better. The format was very open and thus had a hard time maintaining a flow.  There were many owners there.

 

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Topics ranged all over the place and it was interesting to hear information that was directly contradictory to advice that I have received in Southern California regarding tire rotations and the like from Tesla Service personnel in New Jersey. Perhaps the difference can be attributed to the difference in climate and weather between the states.  In hearing from those involved at the location, it seems that folks around New Jersey have to go through a lot more tires than I do in Southern California.  I didn’t want to be the cause of ire from other owners, so I politely kept this information to myself.

Another subject that was brought up was regarding the $0.40 per minute supercharger idle fee that was recently enacted by Tesla.  It seems that these concerns are quite universal and the discussion around this was interesting.

After the group discussion wrapped up, a few of the New Jersey owners joined us in conversation as they were intrigued by visitors from California attending their session.  It seems that there is currently not an official Tesla Owners club for the New Jersey area and I spent some time explaining how the Orange County, CA club operates versus its other brethren in other parts of the world.  Several of the New Jersey owners seemed interested in forming one for their area and I handed out club cards for them to reach out for more information.

We also discussed Roadster ownership versus Model S as well as our visit to their state from our trip cross-country and how relatively easy and enjoyable that trip had been.

In the end, it was just as advertised, it was a Tesla Social, but one without an agenda.  I felt that an opportunity was missed in that this was the first social after some drastic changes in ownership for those that take delivery of a Tesla after the removal of the included supercharging for the life of the vehicle policy was replaced with the new pay as you go system.  Additionally, it’s been a few days since the release of the Tesla Model S and Model X 100D top range versions of those vehicles and it would have been good to have been provided some sort of presentation on those.  Alas, this was not the plan for the day.

We spent some time with yet another early Model S owner discussing growing pains and we took our leave so that we can head out to visit my cousin and his family.  We said our farewell to the two Tesla staff members, Monica and Joey, who provided such good company and service and left for the day.  These two counterbalanced the unnamed employee who saw it fit to move our Ford Focus rental while leaving all other vehicles unmolested.

Civil disturbance and Tesla supercharging…

A few months ago, around Thanksgiving Holiday, there have been numerous reports of the Barstow Tesla Supercharger being vandalized and a key route between Nevada and California being taken offline. Our friends at Teslarati (and photo credits to Tony Williams) had great coverage of the event. That event shows the challenge of the current configuration of the Supercharger network and the need for those that travel the long distance supercharger routes to be aware of their options to charge.

Last weekend, January 7, 2017. I found myself running low on charge while visiting family.

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We were 40 miles from home and 39 miles of range left for the car. The family members we were visiting were close to the Tesla Supercharger at the Westfield at Culver City.  I figured to make a pit-stop over there to top up while my better half took care of family commitments.  Rather than risk driving out of charge, I figured to go ahead and top-up.  Besides, January is often a slow month at the mall.

The Culver City Supercharger has a mix of back in and head-in charging stations.  I took one of the stalls that head in as it was not paired with anyone and wanted to get as quick a charge rate as possible.

My plan was to charge to full as it was a slow day.  Besides, I had my iPad on me and took the time to catch up on things while I charged.   I figured that when the station fills up, I can move.  If someone else pulled up and needed to use a stall, I can leave at that time. The entire time I was at the center, the usage was unusually low for this location. I chalked this up to a slow January evening.  With the after holiday sales going on, I decided to head over to the recently opened Starbucks across the parking lot from the supercharger to see if they had any clearance items left.

So, I put my iPad down, stepped out, and looked behind me.

Well, it seems that the mall was unusually empty and I started to take pictures as I saw police vehicles and people mulling about.

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The news was here too, and I thought that was strange.

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There were people standing outside what looks to be a closed mall entrance.

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And there were three more police vehicles parked with no officers in them, nor were their lights flashing.

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I turned the corner to get toward the Starbucks and noticed ANOTHER police vehicle with lights flashing this time.  However, no sign of any officers directing traffic or anything.

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At this side of the mall, the entrance was definitely closed.

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I decided to speak to some of the people and received a wide range of conjecture of what was happening.  Some of their reports ranged from minor things to really serious things that I figured to head back to my car.

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On the way back, I contacted a friend of mine who advised me that the local Culver City news was reporting that there were teenagers in the parking structure about a football field away from the superchargers were causing mayhem and vandalizing parked cars.  He wasn’t sure how accurate the reports were, but that behavior seems to target people IN the parking lot and not at the mall itself.

Needless to say, that motivated me to leave. Prior to departing, however, I made the other owners at the superchargers aware of the reports that I heard and let them make their own decision to stay or to leave.

The reports were finally written and I am linking to the article published in the Culver City News.  I’m glad that these troublemakers didn’t get anywhere close to the superchargers.

This event brings me back to wonder about supercharging and the need to have backup charging sites identified.  In the case of the Culver City Supercharger, it is very close to the original Los Angeles Supercharger at the Hawthorne Design Center or the Redondo Beach Supercharger.

(map screenshot from Teslarati.com)

LAX area superchargers

Granted, we could have plugged in at 120V at the house that we were visiting, but that is cumbersome and events like what happened last week are rare.  I’m just glad that the event was really a “non” event for us, but it could just as easily have been a challenge and one really needs to be more aware of options in charging.  A good part of this blame really is my own, but I assumed that I would have sufficient charge.  The other thing I suppose I should have done more is to take my head off the iPad when I am sitting in my car and charging.  When I have company when I am charging, I spend my time conversing with my traveling companions, but when I am charging at a location by myself, then it’s not a guarantee that I won’t get engrossed in what I am doing.  So, a word of caution, and just something else to learn from.

My experiences at the Faraday Future FF91 Unveil

A few weeks ago, I got an invite from Faraday Future to join them for the unveiling of the FF91.  The event was going to be at Las Vegas on January 3rd and I excitedly accepted the invitation.

Though much of the content that I have written on this site are Tesla or BMW focused (historically), I have always been a fan of electric vehicle technology and felt that anything to progress the cause further is well worth supporting.

Because, we’re based in Southern California, and Las Vegas is only a few hundred miles away, we took the opportunity to drive to the event. As with other events, we were presented with the choice between self and valet parking. Having waited for extended periods for the valet at Tesla events, I figured to take the self parking option.

I guess there was going to be some media at the event.

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And our car had a nice background to it in the self parking lot that Faraday Future provided for us.

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The thing with the self parking option, is it was on the BACK SIDE of the pavilion that Faraday was using for its reveal.

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And we had to walk down between two pavilions in the dark to get to the entrance.

While walking toward the entrance, we spotted what looked like the FF car before the reveal, I tried to sneak a picture of it, alas my flash went off and ruined the shot.

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The next set of doors that we were able to peak into had some of the AV folks, but no car.

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After a very long walk in the cold, Las Vegas evening, we were rewarded with the entrance to the tent.

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The self parking lot was a little bit of a walk from the front and as a result, it took us at least 15 minutes to get to the party.

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It was the first time to see the skateboard for the Variable Platform Architecture (VPA) that Faraday told us about last year.

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Though, I must admit, it does not look very VARIABLE in the configuration at the party.

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The skateboard looks like a solid piece that isn’t really going to be the modular design pitched last year. Furthermore, this skateboard looks handbuilt.

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It was nice to see the adequate seating provided at the event and the holding reception area was well attended.

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We queued up for the entrance to ensure that we got good seats. And Faraday’s first invites were for the members of the broadcast and video media to get themselves set up to get their feeds in.

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When the doors opened, depending on the color of the wristband issued to guests, seating areas were provided.

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We got silver seating, so we ended up in Section 3.

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However, the three roped off sections in front of us were made available to us to move to just before the start of the event, so we were able to occupy the second row from the front of this section.

The first of many speakers started.

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I have one hand taking pictures and the other on Twitter… And Chelsea decides to scoop FF with this tweet at the beginning of the presentation.

I found out later that evening that she apparently saw the car getting staged around the corner from the entrance of the event, just where she was dropped off by her ride, and decided to take a quick snap.

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The drama and staging was long and grandiose. And I hope that next time they show the car MUCH sooner.

Four speakers long, and I think my favorite demonstration was the self-parking one.

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But that’s because I’m all about range and not necessarily speed.

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I don’t really enjoy the whole “new species” thing when talking about cars. Perhaps it’s watching the Terminator too much and being exposed to the whole Skynet thing.

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Driverless valet’s other great invention, saving valet parking charges and tips.

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This demonstration was the first official view of the car.

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Here’s a video of the car using Driverless Valet:

I liked the fact that in this demonstration the car backed into the spot. Because, if you look at how I parked in the beginning of this article, I tend to do the same thing.

However, I snicker at the snark from EW Niedermeyer on twitter.

The next part of the presentation was cool in that we finally get to see the car up front. However, the view was too short for any value to be derived from these timed drag races in front of an audience.

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I do love the range though.

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I forgot to take a picture of the first car, but here’s the Ferrari.

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The Model X.

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and finally the FF91.

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Rather than provide stills…

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I did shoot a couple of videos…

The first is the initial launch.

The second is the return from that launch

and the third is the launch by the FF/Dragon Racing Formula E Driver

And then they talked design.

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And they pulled their special guest, YT Jia, what happened next was covered in the news, and all I can say is that it was painful to watch while in the audience and even more painful to hear the excuses.

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Faraday’s primary investor, YT Jia, spoke to the crowd and was undeterred by the failure of the car to perform its self parking task. And kudos for him to continue his speech after that uncomfortable episode.

Eventually, the car did drive itself to the middle of the stage and the media were provided close up access to the car. Not an invitation to sit in it or anything, but definitely a chance to see it closer.

I didn’t have a media pass. However, I do have friends in the media, and one of them lent me his pass so that I could take closer shots of the vehicle.

Here’s a picture of the throng of media covering the event and had access to see the vehicle up close.

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On the way to the car, spotted some of the principal Faraday Future speakers being interviewed.

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Finally, close up pictures of the FF91.

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While I was checking out the car, I noticed a familiar sight. Alex Roy, Canonball Driver extraordinaire and editor for The Drive.

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It was around this location of the car that we heard some strange pumping noises. Alex Roy went live on Periscope or FB to try to gather some conversation on what this noise could be. Some of the more skeptical journalists around me thought that it sounded like a diesel. Being married to a Tesla Roadster owner, and as an EV advocate, I proposed that it sounded more like a battery cooling system. It was loud enough to hear in person, but difficult to record, so I gave up trying to record the sound. There was a lot of ambient noise and I decided it wasn’t worth trying to record that.

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I think the noise from the vehicle must have been coming from one of these vents.

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We left the vehicle and proceeded to go to the reception area to see if we can catch up with a few EV friends.

On the way to the reception area, we caught up with a contact at FF and I was able to get a ballpark for prices for the FF91. I was told that $150k to start with lower pricing to be close to $90k after the initial $150k price points. It’s a number that looks realistic with volume, so I hope that they use that VPA platform to build something smaller and less expensive.

    So, what about the car?

I’m intrigued with the interior and infotainment system that they are touting. It would have been good to let us sit in and experience that, if it was truly available. Perhaps at the next reveal.

I like the really long range, but as I’ve often discussed with others, I sometimes have to make stops before I need to charge for “bio” reasons.
During the presentation they bragged about the 200 KW charging system that sounds like a PROPRIETARY charging system. Considering that CCS is already discussing 350 kW and Elon’s latest tweets take aim at beating that 350 kW charging, by the time FF91 is released, 200 kW would have been surpassed. Additionally, who has a charging network built to handle that speed? Perhaps the recent announcement of 400 kW charging stations from Chargepoint would partner with Faraday Future and handle the charging for this. However, that network will need to be built and available after delivery. As it is currently, networks are either the proprietary Tesla Supercharger or some electric corridors that are using CHAdeMO and CCS at a maximum of 50 kW if not 25 kW in some parts.

I really think that FF should have demonstrated the VPA with multiple vehicles rather than just one. If you’re going to tout your ability to have multiple sizes quickly, execute on that.

As for the FF91 itself, the car they showed had four seats. It’s a HUGE car and I would expect there to be at least five, if not seven seats. I thought that the car was going to be a crossover, and thus a competitor to the Model X, not another Model S competitor. At the prices that they are charging for the vehicle, I’d like to see more. The Model X is out, but it’s the only one of its class. By going after the Model S, others have already targeted that vehicle. I think that it was a missed opportunity from FF. By configuring the vehicle with only four seats, it seems that the target market for FF isn’t the United States, but China. It looks like the sort of car that one is chauffeured around in, and not one that an owner drives his or herself in.

I had hoped that there would have been an opportunity to ride in several of the vehicles that were shown at the reveal. Tesla does that at their vehicle reveals, whether the Model 3, the dual motor reveal, and so forth. And I had half-expected FF to do that. Apparently, others got to get a ride in the vehicle several days later.

Either way, it was a good trip. I’m always glad to see future EV choices. The aesthetics were to “space age” for us and we’re probably going to wait for their next vehicle to see if we can be tempted.

A little “life hack”… Amazon Echo Dot in our Tesla Model S

So, like many people, we received an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas.

I actually ordered one for us when we decided to GIVE an Echo Dot to my Father-In-Law for his Christmas gift.  I wanted to get familiar with the technology before taking on the role of “Alexa Tech Support” for him.  We also decided to get an Echo Dot for my techie sister, but I didn’t need to train myself to be her “Alexa Tech Support.”

As a result, we now own multiple Amazon Echo Dots. [As I was writing this post, I realized that Amazon has an affiliate program, so many of the links to Amazon on this post is signed up under that program.]

For those unfamiliar with the Echo Dot, it’s basically a stripped down Amazon Echo integrated high fidelity speaker and voice “assistant” that Amazon created to help stream music and is configurable with many add-on “skills.”  It’s basically Siri for your home.  However, rather than wake her with the phrase Siri, you call her by her name “Alexa”, (or configure the trigger word to be Amazon or Echo).  (On a side note, Google saw what Amazon has done and created the Google Home as a response to Amazon’s Echo.  However, the Echo Dot is the less expensive alternative, using a basic speaker as opposed to the high end speakers in the original Echo and the Google Home.)  The Echo Dot’s price point without the integrated speakers make it a less expensive way to get into the genre.  In lieu of high fidelity speakers, the Echo Dot can be connected via a 3.5mm plug or Bluetooth.

To get the full audio entertainment possibilities for Echo and its eco-system, it is best to have a full Prime membership and the new add-ons that Amazon now sell (Amazon Music which unlocks a whole world of music, in addition to what is already included with Prime Music) I have yet to take that plunge and am currently working with just Prime Music.  The base system comes with basic TuneIn included and I find that I Heart Radio can be easily accessed with a free account, the other supported music providers are Pandora and Spotify, neither of which work on Alexa without a premium account, so I don’t use those.  Now, with the original Echo, the sound quality is superior and the little speakers on the Echo Dot will do for the indiscriminate listener, however, if you wish to use better speakers, that’s entirely possible by just attaching them to the 3.5mm or pairing via Bluetooth.

With Prime Music, coupled with my own library of albums, I am able to stream music randomly by genre or artist by default.  Such as when I ask “Alexa, play Sting” when she responds by “Shuffling songs by Sting” or a specific album, “Alexa, play The Police, Ghost in the Machine” and she responds “Ghost In the Machine, Remastered, by the Police” or my favorite, “Alexa, play New Wave music” and she says “Here is a Station for New Wave music, New Wave.”.  I believe that the Amazon Music that I currently don’t subscribe to just expands the universe of albums available.  I like to listen to music in complete albums.  I’m “old school” like that.  I believe that it’s the way that the artists intended for us to experience their work, so it’s great to just listen to albums that I purchased from Amazon directly or the ones provided on Prime Music.

As I started playing around with the Echo Dot, I was amazed at all the little things she can do using voice control.  The audio entertainment options are pretty good, but I found that I like having Alexa with me as my voice assistant in my office.  I can keep writing and just have her read Wikipedia articles, tell me the weather, tell me a joke, give me my Daily Briefing, give me the latest scores for my favorite sports teams, start or stop my lawn sprinklers, etc.

In the meantime, my techie sister received her own Alexa, and we were chatting about “her” to my sister and we briefly talked about the possibility of integrating Alexa into the car.  Considering that Alexa’s Bluetooth capabilities, we thought to give it a try. (Apparently, we were not the only ones thinking about this, here’s a thread on TMC on the same exact thing.)

So, yesterday, I tried driving around with Alexa as my co-pilot.

So, what did I bring with me.

1) Amazon Echo Dot (or “Alexa” as we now call her in our family.)

2) A wi-fi hotspot device

A) A Novotel Mifi Hotspot that I have that uses 3G

B) Enable my mobile’s hotspot function for 4G/LTE.

3) Re-use an existing Micro-USB charging cable in the car.

That was it.  Granted the Amazon Echo Dot that I set up in the car was previously configured at home, so we’re skipping that setup, we’re just moving the device from the office to the car.  (One of the nice things that Amazon has done is when adding an additional Echo device to the home, it already inherits the Skills learned on the account.)

Step 1

Since we’re starting out with an already configured Echo Dot, we have to get it ready to reconfigure. So, after we plug it into the car, we press the Action Button for Five seconds until the Orange Ring comes back on and go back to setting it up for the new Wi-Fi.

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Step 2

This setup assumes that you’ve already configured the Echo Dot at home, so I already had the Alexa App downloaded to my iPad.

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We connect to the Echo Dot via Wi-Fi so that we can use the Alexa App to configure its Wi-Fi to

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After connecting to the Echo Dot, it will ask you for a few things on the setup screen, the important thing to get everything running is the setup for WiFi, find the mobile hotspot and enter the password OR if it’s hidden, enter the information.

Step 3

For the next step, I’m assuming that you want to use the Echo Dot as a Sound Source for your Model S.  I initially started this process on the Alexa App.  I went to Settings, selected the Echo Dot that we brought with us and started the Bluetooth Pairing there…

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…then decided mid-way to just use the Model S Bluetooth option…

and selected the only Amazon BT that was broadcasting in the parking lot…

and voila… it worked…

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Pay attention to the grayed out Phone and highlighted Media section…  This means that to switch to this input, you lose Phone access. (one of my early complaints about the Model S is the fact that the car only connects to ONE Bluetooth device at a time, my old Active E can connect to several and designate one BT as primary for phone calls…  But I digress.)

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Step 4

Next comes placement of the device in the car…  At first, I placed my Echo Dot in the cup holder.

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But as ANY Tesla owner can tell you, Tesla cup holder locations are a premium in their vehicles (the Roadster has ONE). So, I ended up relocating Alex down on the base of my car, right beside my Mifi box.

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We’re now all set to use Alexa for streaming music while we drove. This worked fine, but I make a lot of calls when I’m out and about and this was not a “safe” way to use it, so I disconnected Alexa from the BT and used her independently of the Model S speakers.

One thing to bear in mind is in EITHER configuration, I had to tell Alexa to go to Volume 8 (maximum) so that I can hear her and the streaming on the Model S Bluetooth can be equivalent to content on the Model S infotainment system.

So, how was it?

Here are a couple of quick 30 second demo videos that I shot.  The first one shows Alexa playing the music through the car speakers… One thing that we lose is the display of the music that is playing, it’s no problem, but we have to ask Alexa for the song title, etc if we want to know what is playing.  Convenient at home, but on the road, I like the Model S Infotainment display information.

In this second video, we have Alexa as a co-pilot/companion on the drive.   So, she has her own speaker, she’s a little faint, but I use the car’s infotainment for the music and Alexa can tell me things that I don’t have to look away from the drive.  Things like what the current score is for the Laker game or tell me a joke.  One thing that I tried, but didn’t shoot on video was to see if Alexa can independently tell me what music is playing nearby (a la Shazam)…  She doesn’t understand that skill.  So, I guess I’ll have to see if Shazam will build that skill for Alexa.

Issues

1) The way I had it set-up, Alexa would turn-off and restart everytime I leave and get back in the car. This creates a delay.

2) On 3G and on LTE I got hiccups on the streaming and answers.  So, I chalk that up to network providers.  As this didn’t matter whether I was on Bluetooth or on Alexa’s own speakers.

3) Not an integration issue, but a syntax one.  Alexa currently is pretty picky with syntax, so if you don’t phrase it the same way that Alexa expects, she doesn’t do what you want.

Fixes

1) Get a battery for Alexa. (luckily here’s an Amazon search for Amazon Echo batteries).

A) I haven’t selected one yet, but I’m leaning on getting this one –
Evo – an intelligent Battery Base for 2nd Generation Echo Dot. (“Alexa” unlimited) (EVO Black)

2) The LTE connection that I had was better than the 3G one, but I wanted to try it out and having multiple providers is useful to see the effect.  In the end, a 3G network will suffice.  However, it is important to get a better network connection.  Also, it will be important to know that Alexa, like the car’s streaming infotainment does require that a network connection be available.  Something that may or may not be available on longer drives.

3) Skills, skills, skills.  And further enhancement of the product.

Future

In the end, it was novel to have Alexa with me on my drive and errands yesterday, but there’s still a way to go before she becomes a fixture on our long EV trips (like our Here, There, and EVerywhere or Long Way Round trips.)  Let’s hope that more skills are developed for Alexa that will tie in with the Model S better.   I find myself tempted to buy some Electric Motor Werks chargers because they HAVE an Alexa Skill built for the Juicebox… Maybe some other time…

Besides, if Tesla ever removes Slacker from the Model S, an Echo Dot with Alexa paired might be a good alternative…

Are you in the market for a Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X? Please think of using my referral code. I need one more for luggage and you save $1000 USD or £750 GBP (or whatever currency equivalent is in your country.) Referral purchases are what powered our Gigafactory Party invite and our jacket and overnight bag.

A few things about those Tesla Referral Links…

Some of you may be getting tired of all the Tesla Referral codes being published by Tesla Owners for $1000 USD / £750 GBP (or whatever it is in your currency) off the purchase of a new Model S or Model X. (In case you’re not, here’s our referral code – http://ts.la/dennis5317)

Well, it’s because Tesla has a referral program for owners to get their friends and acquaintances into a Tesla Model S or Model X.  The original iteration of the program had provided cash rewards (service credits and the like) for each referral that purchases a Model S or Model X.  That was cool, but felt kinda “funny” and it was actually a disincentive for me to participate when the reward program was for cash.  Here is a link to the current program.

Subsequent programs provided a prize pool for each referral and the one that has been the most successful for me had been the referral program that led us to an invite to the gigafactory party and our main 2016 Roadtrip that took us the Long Way Round to the Gigafactory.

Aside from the party, we got a few other items…

What did we get here?

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Whatever it is, it comes in the nice Tesla bag.

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It’s the Tesla Moab Leather Weekender.

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The bag is supposed to be for a weekend, but it was pretty full for the overnight trip we took to try it out.

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And here it is in the trunk of our Model S.

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So, we took the weekender bag on a trip and caught a nice sunset at the Barstow supercharger.

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A week after the trip, we got something else in the mail from Tesla.

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It was the personalized Tesla Owners jacket.  They even put our last name on the jacket.

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The back has a nice standard logo on it.  So, beware when wearing this jacket at a company event, folks might think that you’re an employee.

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Your author now ready for a Southern California winter…

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Or as others call it… Summer.

Now, this current program that runs until January 15 is actually pretty cool.  After seven referrals, Tesla will provide the referrer with a Signature Red Powerwall 2 that is signed by Elon, JB Straubel, and Franz von Holzhausen.  That’s my goal and need a LOT of help before then.

So, if you’re looking to order a Tesla Model S or Model X before the end of the year, you get $1000 USD or £750 GBP off (or equivalent currency) AND be eligible for free supercharging for the life of your vehicle. Our Referral code – http://ts.la/dennis5317.

Traveling without your EV? Here’s how we do it, most recent stop, Perth, Australia

We love to travel.

Even before our many roadtrips in the Model S, we used to fly all over the place. However, the past few years, we’ve done more driving than flying.

When we went on airplane trips, we always made note of EVs and EV infrastructure wherever we went.

From visiting the BMWi Park Lane store in London when the BMWi brand was still in the concept stage.

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To spotting Nissan Leaf at Hong Kong airport.

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To EV charging stations throughout Malta.

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One of the things that I tried to do during the past few years was to catch up and have dinner or lunch or whatever with someone that I’ve gotten to know in the International EV community. First it was one-on-one meetups with specific people when I visit a country.  And then, last year I figured that it would be more fun to get together with groups of fellow rEVolutionaries on my International trips.

Last year, while visiting England for Rugby World cup 2015, I figured to send a message out to meet up with the EV community in the UK.  I’m pretty active on the Speak EV forum, even volunteering as a moderator.

Speak EV is a great forum for EV enthusiasts because it is not focused on a specific brand of Electric Vehicle.  Many of the really popular ones are.  But Speak EV is different and that’s what I like about it.  The owner/operator for Speak EV is British and many members are from the UK, the presence outside of the UK is mainly Europeans, though there are quite a few of us from this side of the Pond. I started a thread last year to invite folks for this get together that I called the TransAtlantic EV Social and Drinks.

Here’s a panorama that was taken by Tim Ostler at the event.

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From left to right:   @Sussex Trug , @MikeProcter and Hilary Procter, @Dennis and Carolyn Pascual, @dpeilow , @RickMGoldie

And then one which we asked someone to take our picture (to include Tim)

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It was funny because it was an EV Meetup without the EVs. We all had a great time and I truly enjoy comparing EV experiences with folks in different countries.

So, last month, we decided to take a trip to Perth, Australia. A distance of 9,528 miles from Los Angeles via Sydney, Australia. Now, I started off by reaching out to a few guys on Twitter who happen to be involved with the AEVA West Coast branch (Australian Electric Vehicle Association) I also figured to reach out to the Tesla Owners Club of Australia and via a post on Teslamotorsclub.com. We haven’t been to Perth since 2005 and it was a chance to spend time and visit my godsiblings and the new baby that joined their family.

So, on Thursday, October 20, 2016, we had a meetup at the Odyssea Restaurant at City Beach.

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From left to right:   Antony Day, Christopher Cook, Matt (@MDK on TMC) [partially blocked], Chris Jones, Joseph Law, My better half, Me, and my godbrother Aaron.

Here’s a better picture from Twitter… (Matt’s not blocked on this one.)

My godbrother chose the restaurant for the food and service, but also for the large parking lot so that we can take these sort of shots.

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Not an EV, but a cool vanity plate.

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Matt with his cool “plate”

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He was the first EV to cross the Null Arbor part of Australia. Basically, the Outback for thousands of kilometers on his Perth to Brisbane and back trip from earlier in the year. For those of us in the US, that’s like crossing the Us from San Diego to Baltimore and back. Where the only supercharging available would be the original one in California. Luckily, Australia has a lot of three phase power and Matt has an older Model S that can still make use of the 22kW available on dual charging.

Besides, it’s always fun when we visit different places and spot interesting road crossing signs.  Our first trip to Australia in 2003, we had my godparents drive us all over WA to look for a Kangaroo crossing sign and tried to capture a Kookaburra sitting on a gum tree.  We’ve been to visit Oz many times since, so I didn’t go out of my way to spot any of these things…  However, whilst out and about the city, we did spot some interesting signs.

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Spotted the ultra aggressive Black Swans that the river in Perth was named after.

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Funny enough, our first trip here over a dozen years ago, we were chased by a Black Swan, so my better half took this shot using the zoom lens on her camera.

Also get to see a magpie… And now I understand why the Collingwood Magpies have them as a mascot. This particular bird was also unperturbed by our presence at the park when we were hanging out and enjoying time with our godsister’s new baby.

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On the Friday of our visit there, we went to catch a basketball game at the Perth Arena.

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We parked in the parking garage across from the arena.  I was impressed that the parking garage had several charging outlets as well as a dedicated EV charging bay.

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The one EV charging bay was respected by the ICE drivers and the first-come-first-serve spots that had plugs still had a spot available for another plug-in vehicle to use.

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Since these are first-come-first-serve and not dedicated to EV charging, it was perfectly fine for ICE cars to be using these spots.

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And many ICE vehicles did take these spots, but at least respected the dedicated EV spot.

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This means that as EVs proliferate in their city, they can start claiming those outlets for EVs easily.

The basketball game itself was quite fun and the Perth Wildcats won that game.

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It was impressive to see the winning record and staying power of the Perth basketball team in its league.

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It was also quite entertaining seeing the different things that fans do at these games vs. the NBA.

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Those crazy huge head signs would not be allowed in the NBA by the competition committee.

Unfortunately, the Super Rugby and AFL were out of season, but I did get a chance to see their various organizations represented.

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The Perth Spirit, which is the division below the Western Force Super Rugby team actually had its players getting ready for their trip to the Grand Finals (which they won as an away game over the weekend of our trip to Perth.)  Perhaps we brought them luck.

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We also passed by Domain Stadium (which I remember as the Subiaco Oval) (where both the West Coast Eagles and Freemantle Dockers have been playing for years, but apparently both abandoning soon.)

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Later that weekend, we took time to speak with some of the same AEVA crew as they did their EV advocacy at the Perth Spring Eco-Fest in Perth’s Central Business District (CBD), or “downtown” as we would call it in LA.

It wasn’t all EVs, got to see a really tiny Joey.

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Which made me a little guilty that I had the kangaroo at lunch the other day with the AEVA.

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I finally got to sit behind the wheel of a RWD Model S…

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And one that has the same color as our Model S at that.

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Got to see all the different charging plugs that the guys in Australia use for their Model S. Especially in Perth, where there is no supercharging network.

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The charging port is on the same side of the car as the US Model S, which means the driver has to walk around to get to it.

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EV conversions still have a big presence in the Australian EV scene as is evidenced by this Mazda Miata.

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We took a photo with the fellow rEVolutionaries at the Spring Eco-Fest.

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From Left to Right: Mitch Bisby, Bruce Armstrong, Robin (or is it Robyn) Dean (Mrs. Blue Heaven on TMC), Me, Better Half, Matt (MDK on TMC), Rob Dean (Mr. Blue Heaven on TMC), and Joseph Law.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to be properly introduced or speak with Mitch and Bruce, but had a great time chatting with the others.

It’s interesting to note that many of these rEVolutionaries in Australia had decided to switch to EVs without any of the incentives available to those of us in other parts of the world. Their cost per kWh is also very expensive and they have a government that does not seem to be too friendly for the EV movement. The reason that Tesla has focused its Tesla Energy sales to Australia and Germany has to do with their ability to compete against the utilities in Australia. Solar and battery storage is “on par” with the cost of energy from the grid.

That being said, hats off to these rEVolutionaries in Australia that have decided to take the plunge without the help that many of us get from our government.

On our last day at Perth we went to King’s Park to take a great picture of the city from its vantage point.

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And on our last night, we enjoyed a night market before we headed off to fly back home.

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All sorts of cuisine and even American food.

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We enjoyed our visit and meeting with the local rEVolutionaries and discuss their challenges and triumphs as well as bring some of Australia’s, especially Western Australia (the “other WA State”) best home with us is another highlight.

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So, the next time you travel without your EV, you can always see if you can make it a visit with other rEVolutionaries. There are plenty of friendly EV folks out there.

Model S Third Year Anniversary – November 8, 2016

I am drafting this post around 3pm Pacific/6pm Eastern on November 8, 2016 as the pundits and media discuss the initial returns of the current Presidential Election Cycle.  Everywhere else in the country folks are talking about Election Night 2016.  As I write this, we didn’t know who has won the race. The polls in California are not even closed.  It’s been a very challenging election season and I thought that it would be good to step away from all that and focus on something I really like to do.

…and that’s write about EVs and my experiences on this blog.

It so happens that November 8 is a significant day in our family.  It’s the day that we flew up to Fremont to pick up our Model S from the factory and started our ownership of the Model S.  This is one of the big benefits of Tesla, they’re an American company with a factory that actually builds its cars in California.

I did a bunch of “near real-time” posts on the blog that probably would have been best served by Twitter three years ago.  But if you’re interested in following that, just click above and follow the subsequent posts.

I decided to publish this post on November 10 to separate my car’s three year anniversary from Election Day and post-Election Day coverage and to emphasize that US produced electrons from the Sun has done its part to save me money and to ensure that we don’t create more veterans of wars for oil.  Energy independence means less need to go and fight wars, but I digress.

On November 7, 2016, we brought the Model S in for its annual service.  It was originally scheduled for the previous month, but the Roadster has been in for an extended period, so we tried to time it when the Roadster was going to be ready.  We brought the car in with slightly above 66,500 miles and picked up the car and brought it home with 66,569 miles on the odometer.

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So, what do they do for the three year service?  Well, apparently they match it against the mileage of the car.  Our car got service as if it was a five year old car at 62,500 mile service.

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We had prepaid our first four years of Model S service and were charged accordingly.

Ironically, when we were exiting the freeway to drive to the service center, the TPMS warning light went yellow and rather than stop and check it out ourselves, I figured to go ahead and drive to the service center directly and just report the notice to Tesla.  I’m glad to report that even though the tire had a nail in it, and Tesla’s previous policies were to replace the tire, the service center are now patching tires under certain conditions (in a nutshell as long as the sidewall is not compromised.)  We are still on our original set of four tires.  We even added a fifth one (that is usually in the frunk) and that one is at 8/32.  We’ll need to replace those four tires soon (Tesla recommends replacement at 3/32)

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The other thing that we reported to Tesla (and had reported it earlier in the year as well) is the continuing and increasing level of milling noise coming from the motor. Our previous request to repair this noise resulted in Tesla notifying us that the noise was within parameters. The last time this occurred was around 25,000 miles and it resulted in the motor being replaced. The noise is a constant whir that occurs between 20-35 mph (32-56 kph) and gradually lessens (though still existent) as the car approaches 55 mph (88 kph) and then is imperceptible to my ears.  The error was not as bad as the drivetrain failure on the loaner P85D but is quite irritating and I don’t know if it’s a symptom prior to a bigger failure.

This time around, apparently the noise has gotten to the point that Tesla Engineering has approved the replacement and we are waiting for the replacement part to arrive to re-schedule the repair.  Since we just got the car back today, there has not been an estimate on when the service center expects to receive the replacement motor.

In all, the car spent less than 24 hours at the service center and we were able to pick it up “good as new.”

So, how does our three year old car look?  Let’s compare to previous pictures at pickup at the factory.

Three Years Ago

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Today

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Three Years Ago

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Today

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Three Years Ago

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Today

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Three Years Ago

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Today

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So, our car still looks pretty close to how it looked when we picked it up three years ago. Not bad. In fact, if Tesla had not modified the fascia of 2016 Model S, I would dare say that our car would still look brand new.

With the service that we receive from Tesla, we can hopefully say the same for the car many years to come.