Comparing the Active E, Model S, and the Roadster, a deep dive from an owner (Electronaut in the case of the Active E)

Almost ALL EVs are fun to drive. You can’t say the same for all ICE (gas) cars.

However, there is obviously a pecking order and this is obviously one man’s opinion (and ONLY one man’s opinion, I’m sure that my better half will have her own opinion of all three vehicles). The models being compared are a 2008 Tesla Roadster 1.5, 2011 BMW Active E, 2013 Tesla Model S S85 (firmware as of today’s publication February 2014 v5.8.4 (1.49.57)).

However, I found one of the best analogies of the differences between driving a Model S and a Roadster through a Retweet by J-C St-Pô

So… What does that make the Active E… I would put that closer to a Tie Fighter. Needs a Star Destroyer or Death Star to get from place to place and no long range flight or warp capabilities.

Aside from the SF analogies, how do we compare three vehicles that continue to be near and dear to my heart.

Let’s look at the three vehicles in eight categories. Range, Speed, Maneuverability, Telematics, Infotainment, Integration with Work, EV Efficiency, and Cost.

Range

With just the raw range, the Model S is the hands down winner for this category as the expansion of the Supercharger Network and the speed with which one can recharge at these Supercharger stations makes it a moot point, for long distance charging. Living thirty miles from the Hawthorne Superchargers makes this a potential refill before topping off at home for the fastest recharge of the 265 miles that the Model S can go. At home I have NEMA 14-50 and 6-50 outlets that provide me with 40 Amp charging for either the Model S and the Roadster and the car can turn around quick enough to make range a non issue.

The Roadster with its 170+ miles of range is also rather easy to fill up. Living near several Tesla Stores and Service Centers that still have the 70A Roadster High Power Wall Chargers (HPWC) give me the public option to top off rather quickly. Furthermore the NEMA 14-50 and NEMA 6-50 outlets at home will let me recover faster than my 30A J1772 EVSE from Chargepoint.

So, the Active E must be the loser in the range battle, right. Well, not really, with a 240V plug at both ends of a daily commute, living in Southern California with ready access to many public J1772 stations, the Active E is a solid contender for this title for traveling within the Los Angeles Basin. I have done several 140 mile days with no real problem and even a few 300+ mile days.

Though the Model S is the clear winner, the other two vehicles do a decent showing in my garage. As I’ve said about the Active E in the early days of “ownership”. The range of the Active E is unlimited, as long as you have access to electricity AND the time to wait for it to recharge.

The Model S has 3 points, Roadster with 2 points, and the Active E with a point.

Speed

Well, how do we measure speed? Top Speed? 0-60 MPH (0-100 KPH)? Yes and Yes.

So, the Roadster is built for speed and though the P85+ will challenge the Roadster, our S85 is NOT a P85 or P85+. The Active E is quicker than MANY vehicles on the road, but not as fast as either the Roadster and S85.

So, Roadster 3 points, Model S 2 points, and Active E has a point.

Maneuverability

Maneuverability is a function of size and handling. The Model S is a great car. It’s just too big for me. It’s nimble and everything, but, so are both the other two cars. The Roadster is small, nimble, and quick. But it’s tiny and hard to see. It makes driving the Roadster harder to drive day-to-day. The Active E is just right. It’s quick. small, but easy to see and spot.

When driving in traffic, the Active E is the best one of the three. The Roadster is in the middle and the Model S is in last place.

So, Active E 3 points, Roadster 2 points, and Model S has a point.

Telematics

The Telematics of the vehicles become a more complicated calculation because the Roadster, as originally equipped had no Telematics. However, thanks to our friends at openvehicles.com and the development of OVMS, the Roadster is comparable to other modern EVs. You can read my original post on telematics to compare the Active E, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Roadster. So, how do we score the Roadster. It’s my blog and post, so I say that we rate the Roadster WITH OVMS as that’s the only way to really get the most out of this category for the car.

Telematics on the Roadster equipped with OVMS is top-notch. Once configured properly and the correct SIM card plan is purchased from AT&T, it works great, however, it costs $100 a year to keep the service going. The Active E included the Telematics for the entire two year program and the Model S has yet to determine whether Tesla will begin to charge for that.

The Active E has had its problems with the iOS My BMW Remote App in the past and just recently took out support on iPads. (Now, the car is going back to BMW NA on the 23rd, so I can forgive them for that.)

The Model S has an API that has allowed folks to control the car better with the VisibleTesla project (as well as the github for it here) and the GlassTesla App for the Google Glass that pretty much gives the Model S owner multiple avenues to control and view the status of the vehicle.

This is a hard one for me to score as it is such a critical feature for the car and one of the Telematics feature that I often use has been the SEND TO CAR feature that Google Maps supports. The big car manufacturers have allowed end users to send a destination to their vehicle. Tesla does not currently support this, but all current BMWs with BMW Assist have access to this and therefore the Active E has this capability as well. However, the new version of Maps has this feature currently disabled, so it’s a non-issue.

Here is a picture of the Active E receiving destinations from Google Maps
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All three iOS versions of the Telematics Application overlays the vehicle location on a map. Both OVMS and Tesla’s Model S will show you the vehicle location anywhere that you have Internet access. The Active E application limits one to view the location of the vehicle when you are about a mile away from the vehicle. Once you are further, the vehicle will not be displayed on a map. This deficiency is a drag on the capability of the Active E Telematics.

The preconditioning controls and remote charge start/stop of the Active E is better than either of the iOS versions of the Tesla Controls. However, the Roadster can be configured to chargestart and the like via SMS and the Model S can be schedule charged using the VisibleTesla application. The Active E allows one to schedule a delayed charge start as well as start to precondition the car. The difference in Active E preconditioning from Tesla Model S preconditioning is the Active E one actually warms up (or cools down) the battery to ensure that it gets to an ideal temperature and then takes care of the cabin. Whereas the Model S one just takes care of the cabin. The Roadster does not allow for either preconditioning cases,since I live in mostly ideal weather part of the country, where it is rarely too cold or too hot, it’s a non issue. One of the drawbacks to the Active E is its lack of community support it for App development, so in totum, it’s a wash.

So, as configured, Roadster 3 points, Model S 2 points, Active E 1 point.

Infotainment

With the big touch screen we should just hand the Model S the top score.

Not so fast. One thing that we can count on is the fact that the Roadster does hold the bottom part of this section. How could the Active E score better than the Model S in THIS section?

1) iPod integration.

The Active E has one USB port, the Model S has two USB ports, and the Roadster has a solo iPod 15 PIN connector. The Model S port only allows for music to be played on a USB drive on it OR use the port to charge an iPod/iPhone on either USB port. The Active E port can read music from a USB Drive or support an iOS device to play from its directories. Playlists and everything. The Roadster will allow an iOS device to play, but it will not support charging a modern 15 pin device. Score one for the Active E.

2) Auxiliary port connection.

If you don’t have an iPod or music on a USB drive, can you connect any audio device via an analog connection. Both the Model S and Roadster is a no. However, the Active E includes that in its package. This means that you can even bring a cassette player in the car… Not that I ever did, but I could have.

3) Sirius Radio.

The Model S can get Sirius XM on it. However, you have to spend $2,500 to have the capability added to your build. (This is a $1,550 increase over the original price for the package). Both the Roadster and Active E have this built in and works just fine.

Am I just ignoring all the cool Internet Radio things that the Model S has? Not really, I just feel that all that cool Internet Radio gets eliminated by the practically nonfunctional AM Radio in the vehicle. I live in a major metropolitan area and like to listen to AM Radio for my Local Sports Talk and when the Lakers are playing. That station AM 710 KSPN Los Angeles does have a streaming feed that works fine for talk radio. However, because of their licensing, they do NOT broadcast the Laker game. Granted the Lakers have not been playing well this season. But it still is content that I wish to receive that I have difficulty doing so on the Model S. Additionally, we’ve been living under the threat of losing the cool Internet Radio stuff, so don’t really feel like counting on that.

So, surprisingly, the Active E takes the lead here and the Model S takes the second spot with the Roadster third.

Integration with Work

This is a funny section for most people that are comparing vehicles, but when you drive as I do and commute as far as I do, it is important that I am able to conduct business calls, etc. while I drive. A critical first feature to this integration is Bluetooth.

All three cars can connect to a bluetooth source and play music from a bluetooth source. Both Teslas can only connect and stream to one bluetooth device, whereas the Active E can have MULTIPLE bluetooth devices connected to the car. A primary and secondary telephone as well as identify one of these sources for bluetooth audio streaming. When using Siri on an iPhone 4s, the audio will play through the vehicle. I don’t have that happening on either Tesla. Granted, I may not be doing this correctly on the Model S, in which case the Model S still fails BECAUSE of the requirement to only connect one device at a time via bluetooth, instead of having a standby device be recognized and paired. Therefore, on a long commute, when I need to make a call, there is a delay for me to get back to my entertainment when my call disconnects. Especially since I may be streaming my iPod through the same connection that I am making calls with it.

Here is the Active E set up to connect to two bluetooth devices at the same time.
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The BMW allows me to see my text messages, emails, and service messages on the screen while I drive. Additionally, I can have the vehicle read these out loud for me.

Emails on the BMW Active E
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Granted, the Model S does have that large browser on the screen, but it really isn’t safe to load Outlook Web Access while driving.

Internet access is obviously much better on the Model S, but the Active E is no slouch either. The Model S Internet is currently free, but this is under threat of changing “any time” so, the Active E can hold its own under these conditions.

Internet Apps on the Active E
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Reading the news on the Active E
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And on a last note, bluetooth audio calls are best on the Active E, not so great on the Model S, and downright poor on the Roadster, which is also how I ranked them on this section.

EV Efficiency

How do I measure EV efficiency? Vampire Drain and how well the car does sitting idly and plugged in waiting for me to drive. My driving style isn’t the most Eco Friendly in the world, but I’ve been able to sustain 4.1 Miles per kwh (or 244 Wh per mile) for a 50 mile commute on the Active E and yet to do that on either Tesla. The Model S is just too heavy and the Roadster is too fun. So, Active E on top, Roadster in the middle, and Model S at the bottom. Though it was a tough one between the Roadster and the Model S as the Roadster sounds like a racket and quite inefficient when it is charging itself and the energy losses when it is parked is greater than any vampire drain for the Model S (and I’m currently on 5.8)

Cost

This is an unfair competition as we received our gently used Roadster as part of Tesla’s Certified Pre-Owned program and with the 37,000 mile and 37 month warranty that goes with it it makes the Roadster the hands down winner in the cost department. The Active E with the unlimited mileage lease could have taken the lead, but I discounted it because it is a lease. The Model S was definitely the most expensive of the three vehicles to own and operate… Though after three years, perhaps the Roadster would be more expensive. We shall see.

Winner

If we tally up the points, the Model S is at the bottom with fourteen points and we have the Active E and Roadster tied at seventeen points each. How do I pick a winner?

That’s easy… It’s me… I get to choose which car to drive depending on what I’m doing that day (unless it’s the Roadster, in which case, I have to borrow it from the better half.)

Seriously, the three points that the Model S is deficient in can easily be fixed with a Software Update after the 5.8 that it currently has in firmware. A software patch can be sent out to that vehicle to give it better Bluetooth handling or be able to read the file system of a connected iPod to the USB port. These sort of things can easily bridge the three point gap between itself AND either the Active E or the Roadster. That’s what makes the Model S amazing.

I’ve already voted for these vehicles with my pocket book. We’ve purchased the two Teslas and committed to the Active E for the two years that we’ve been fortunate enough to lease it.

Now, if only Tesla added coat hooks to these vehicles, they would be perfect.

It suc*s not to have SOC!


Pardon my pseudo censored profanity…  But it really does suc*s not to have SOC (State of Charge).

An interesting counterpoint was published last week about the i3’s revolutionary and extremely accurate guesstimator on Insideevs.com that was well written and argues very well.  However, I still don’t buy it.

I want my SOC.  Why?  If the gauge is so accurate AND uses server based calculations to look at terrain, traffic, etc. to come up with a very good prediction of what your range will be.  I understand that the system is revolutionary and as an EVangelist and rEVolutionary I should champion this.  However, you know what they say about “fool-proof” systems and Mr. Murphy and his law…

As much as BMW will do its best to act like the NSA and track my every move and predict how I behave, it’s no skin off their teeth to hide the screens for those of us that still want this capability.  I have dedicated a preset on my Active E just to pull up said SOC (preset six, for those that want to know.) The initial range of the guessometer will be based on how the car was driven the previous X miles (30 or 40 if it uses the same as the Active E).  This will create a nice overlay on the general map of the area to give you the range in Comfort, Eco, and Eco Pro Plus modes.

All fine and dandy.  However, what if my wife was driving the vehicle the prior 30 or 40 miles.  It will predict the range based on HER driving style and not mine.

Additionally, I don’t necessarily drive the same way all the time.  If I know that I need to push the vehicle for range maximization AND if I know that I have to drive very conservatively, I will do so.  Additionally, if I was having fun the previous 30 or 40 miles AND was being very wasteful with my driving style, I don’t need to alarm whoever drives the vehicle after me.  I am sure that there is ample enough room in the i3 software to turn this feature back on to quelch the vocal early adopters of EV technology, such as the 700…  (I feel like the Spartans here…)

I finally got to drive and ride the BMWi i3 last week…


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I’m happy with it. To REX or not to REX that is the question. To i3 or not to i3 is another question and it all depends on what BMWi will do for ActiveE participants financially. Having provided two years of real world testing on the technology AND paying BMW for the right to do so should be worth something.

The i3 is a city car. There are those on the Teslamotorsclub.com forum on the i3 that keep harping on the range and having to refill the REX that are looking at the i3 as an either i3 or a Model S debate and I am not one of those. It will depend on what my day and drive will be like. It’s range will make it ideal for most commutes and the size makes it great to zip in and out of traffic. As much as I really enjoy the Model S, it’s a difficult vehicle for day to day commutes. Those that are used to commuting with vehicles in its size should have no problems. Unfortunately, prior to driving my Active E, I have been using a Honda Civic Hybrid and a 2000 BMW 323CiC prior to that for my daily commute. As a result, I am used to driving vehicles of a certain size. Now, it has been less than a month that I’ve been driving a Model S and I may very well adjust to its size and this will be a non-issue. However, the Model S remains to be a larger vehicle than what I have been used to.

Before making it into the event, I went to park in downtown Los Angeles and had a BMW ActiveE sighting. So, for kicks, I decided to park back-to-back with it.

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I will miss seeing these cars on the roads of Southern California. Many of the earlier ones will start to head back to BMW starting in January, unless the Electronut chooses to bridge the Active E’s service until their i3 is delivered.

So… What about the i3?

We’ll take this one…

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The interior dash is stunning

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The natural wood married with technology is reminiscent of the failed Fisker Karma. It was noted later in the Electronaut event that the wood will darken and richen with age.

Additionally, the i3 is built on a skateboard, akin to the Model S and there is a spot for ladies to put a purse between the driver and passenger.

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I tried playing with the infotainment system on the i3, but the ones provided to us did not seem to be working so well. I am sure this is an issue with these specific cars. I will have to check it out at the dealership again.

So, how does it handle?

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The course provided to us took us to the parking lot for the LA Coliseum where we took turns making figure eights with the i3. It is fun, quick, and has a nice tight turning radius. Forwards and backwards.

There is space for things in this vehicle.

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What is interesting is the cheesy covers for the charging ports…

Covered

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J1772 open, SAE Quick charge covered

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Both open

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One of the benefits that the i3 has over the Model S, rear seat cup-holders.

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However, the Model S is bigger… Just like its Frunk

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So, what is glaring? Apparently the BMW i folks decided that their gussometer is so accurate (taking traffic, changes in elevation, etc.) that they have decided to remove the SOC that has been so prominent in the Active E. I believe that this is a glaring error on their part. This algorithm is very good at predicting using past data that it does not take into account multiple driver families. As often as I am the driver of a particular vehicle, I share all our vehicles with my better half and she drives differently than I do. I use the SOC to calculate for myself whether my aggressive driving style will need to be adjusted during my commute. The guessometer does not take that into consideration. Put the SOC back in and that should fix it. Additionally, use the keys to determine which driver is using the vehicle. The Guessometer should log my driving style for MY keys and log my wife’s driving style for HER key. Just a thought.

Here’s a great panoramic of the i3s in a row.

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Hopefully the East Coast Electronaut contingent can get the point across to our BMW i folks.

Aside from the i3 Test Drive fun, it was great to have caught up with the Electronauts and Mini E Pioneers at the event.

After almost two years of being in this program, it is always a pleasant time to hang with these folks. Especially since I don’t spend time with them on Facebook. The top three West Coast mileage leaders were all in the photo and we were missing Mariel Knoll for the top four. Also in the picture is Active E mileage leader Tom Moloughney.

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EV Thanks on Thanksgiving 2013… 50,000 all electric miles!


So, my favorite EV News site at transportevolved.com asked what do you have to be EV Thankful for… (Interestingly they’re based in the UK, but with a LARGE audience of the American EV Community)

After over 21 months of EV driving and meticulous postings of my electric mileage, it’s finally happened. Sometime in the past few weeks I’ve passed 50,000 all electric miles of driving!

I would have been more precise, however. Sharing EVs with my wife, I can’t tell which are her driving miles versus my driving miles. I do know that I drive 95-98% of the time, so I can claim most of the miles.

So… What does that mean… Well, I’ve calculated a cost of approximately $0.008 per mile since I’ve moved to Solar power on my roof. Well, let’s assume that with the addition of the Tesla Roadster and Model S to the fleet, my costs have gone up to $0.012 per mile. I’m using this figure because both the Roadster and Model S exhibits more Vampire Drain (defined as the energy consumed by the EV while idle) than the Active E has in its approximately 48,000 miles of service. So, using this figure, let’s say that we’ve spent approximately $600 during these 50,000 miles. Well, I’ve used paid EV Charging Networks as well. Not too often, but enough to approximate an additonal $50, let’s double this figure to be really conservative. So, we’re talking $700 for the 50,000 miles. Now, if we had driven all those miles in our least expensive ICE (Internal Combustion Engine (gasoline engine)) car was at $0.15 per mile. These same miles would have been $7,500 in energy costs.

So, I guess after 50,000 miles, I have at least $6,800 to be thankful for.

What else do I have to be EV Thankful for… Frankly, living in Southern California has given me the ability to choose amongst the widest selection of Electric and Plug-in Hybrid vehicles on the market. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to drive this gallery of electric vehicles.

Ranging from failures like the Coda (which I reviewed early on the blog’s existence) and Fisker Karma.

Coda
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Fisker Karma
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To California Compliance limited production run EVs such as the Honda Fit EV and Fiat 500e.

Honda Fit EV
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Fiat 500E
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Is the Spark EV a compliance car or production?

Chevy Spark EV
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To hand converted beauties like the ZElectricbug.

ZElectric Bug #1
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To full production EVs, like the Mitsubishi iMiEV, Ford Focus EV, Nissan Leaf, Smart 3rd Gen ED, and my latest temptation the BMW i3. Not pictured are the Chevy Volt, 2nd Gen Toyota RAV4 EV, and the Plug-in Prius.

Mitsubishi iMiEV
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Ford Focus EV
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Nissan Leaf
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Smart 3rd Gen ED
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BMW i3
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And of course, our EV fleet… The Tesla Roadster, Tesla Model S, and the one that got me hooked on EVs our BMW Active E.

Our Tesla Roadster
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Our Model S
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Our BMW ActiveE
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So… EVeryone in the EV world. From rEVolutionaries and those that are curious (join us, the water is fine)

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is a public service announcement! – Electronaut Event alert…


I’ve been piling on the Tesla Model S coverage, so it’s understandable that I need to do something to balance this out. Last month’s Electronaut newsletter had a save the date for the Los Angeles Convention Center event for Active E drivers to attend and have a chance to test drive the new BMW i3…

I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a while now and was wondering why I haven’t heard anything from BMW.

Since I’ve been on the road this past weekend, I haven’t had time to look over my Spam filters… And… Lo and Behold. The invitation was sent last night.

Luckily I caught it on time and was able to secure a reservation to the event.

So…

Watch this space.

In the meantime, check out the i3 coverage on Electronaut #1, Tom Moloughney’s i3 site or the first drive report from my favorite EV site – transportevolved.com.

National Plug in Day 2013… Over 200+ EVs in Long Beach

Been on a trip for a few weeks and finally had the time to do my homage to National Plug in Day… Apparently, this is the third year of the event, so I’ve attended three of these events over the past three years… However, I did TWO events last year, so not really the same, is it.

In 2012, I went to two events in two different locations in the same day. The El Segundo one and the Cypress one. This year, I had a flight to catch to Dubai later in the evening, so I could only attend one event.

So, I picked the one in Long Beach.

They did a really cool thing at this event and had a space in the front of the event to highlight one of each vehicle that came by for the event.

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

It was definitely much bigger than either event last year.

The event was well attended and well organized. Adopt-A-Charger was opening a new sponsored charger at the California State University Chancellor’s office in Long Beach. They were demonstrating the Tesla Roadster that was listed on eBay as a donation to Plug In America. It’s a pretty sweet little red Roadster.

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

National Plug-in Day 2013 - Long Beach 2013-09-28

There was also a Nissan Nismo Racing Leaf in attendance. Didn’t get to drive it, but got some cool pictures of it.

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There were speakers, including Plug In America’s Paul Scott (also known as the guy who was given his money back when he publicized what he would spend to speak to President Obama).

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and EV Advocate Chelsea Sexton

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and others (this year, I got to meet the “other” Lowenthal that represents me in Long Beach, Bonnie Lowenthal whose ex-husband, Alan Lowenthal, was at last year’s event in Cypress.)

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It’s reassuring to have representatives of my district both in State and Federal level be “EV” friendly. Here’s to hoping that more will represent us in other parts of the country.

The challenge with being in such an EV friendly location is that it skews ones perception of the “challenges” of EV adoption. I suppose, “act locally and think globally” is an appropriate slogan here. However, let’s contrast this once again to the EV situation in the Middle East. It would be foolish to think that we would convince folks in the Middle East to abandon oil. However, there is no reason for the middle of the United States to be as devoid of EVs as the Middle East. However, it is important to note that the challenge will become similar to the Middle East situation as the United States becomes one of the larger net producers of oil and gas with the discoveries of oil reserves throughout the Bakken, Barnett, Eagle Ford, Marcellus Shales and others.

Oh, and for the full flickr set… Click Here

Five Days with a Tesla Model S P85+ compared with an Active E

Our Roadster is ready for pick up… So, we’ll be getting it back later today.

So, I don’t know if it’s normal or not, but I was hoping that Tesla would send an update to the P85+ loaner from firmware 4.5 to the latest, but it did not get it during its five days with us.

Aside from the lack of a hook for a jacket or dry cleaning…

So, a few more nits and revisit a nit and positive… Let’s start with combining these two from the three day post:

“4) This might be because it’s a loaner, but I can’t sync my contacts nor recent calls on the car. It is ALWAYS refreshing. I just disabled it. As a result, I have to dial by number or launch the call from my phone. Once again, the car IS a loaner.”

So, these two might be related… But inconsistent. The lack of sync might be a “privacy issue” and ensures that folks with loaners don’t leave their contacts on the car…

However:

“3) Automatically remembers places that one has charged (and what level charger to set up for.)”

This is not consistent because my home (and presumably other homes) are cached in the car.

Lastly, I am unimpressed with how well the guesstimator for the Model S functions. I like to drive in rated range rather than ideal range. This is just too much car to drive at 55 mph.

As a result I compare my rated range with my actual consumption. I find that the Tesla is still too optimistic with my expected range. Now, the effect is minimal considering how big the battery is, however, the Active E is more precise. For example after a few days back from service and consistent duty, the Active E will predict a certain range and when I consume the mileage, the range left over is consistent. Whereas the Model S would be lower than the consumed miles.

I would expect Tesla to have better prediction algorithms than BMW, but it does not seem that way.