So, a week ago I got interviewed for a New York Times article…

It was an unexpected honor to find myself featured in an article in last week’s New York Times.  When I was being interviewed for the article, I did not expect to be featured, but felt the need to represent my opinions as both an owner, EV advocate, and investor in Tesla. There is a fear among some early Tesla fans that the media will give us the “Broder” treatment.  I won’t be re-hashing the controversy here, but I feel that it would be foolish to approach this without considering this years old controversy.

I’m glad to confirm that the New York Times coverage was fair and all quotes attributed to me are accurate.  However, I did spend a lot more time with the writer and the nuances of my conversation with him, didn’t show.

I’ve excerpted the portion where Neal Boudette covered my comments:

Among the skeptics are some of Tesla’s biggest fans.

Take Dennis Pascual, a tech industry consultant in Long Beach, Calif., and owner of two Teslas — a Model S sedan and a two-seat Roadster, the first car Tesla put on the road. He is such a fan, in fact, that he has put down deposits to buy two Model 3 compacts once Tesla starts making the car later this year.

He also owns some Tesla stock, but is not about to buy more.

“It’s a little pricey for me to jump back in,” he said, speaking by phone from his Model S. “Right now, I think we’re in a hold.”

Moreover, he worries about Tesla’s ability to carry out the bold expansion plans it has for this year and next. Tesla’s high-profile chief executive, Elon Musk, has said the company expects to begin production this summer on its first mass-market offering, the Model 3, ramping up to 5,000 cars a month by the end of the year and driving output to several hundred thousand cars over the course of 2018.

“They really need to deliver, and that has me concerned,” Mr. Pascual said, who has worked at start-up companies and has years of experience in the technology business. “I’m bullish long term, but yes, I’m worried. I’m always worried about companies executing.”

Part of where the nuances didn’t show is my discussion with him that indicated my willingness to trade options on Tesla at the current levels, and that though this is different from additional ownership in the stock, still shows my bullishness.  So, the quotes make me look less bullish, but that’s also a function of the impressive rise in recent months.

The last quote attributed to me about being worried about companies executing is verbatim.  It’s also how I tend to balance ANY company that I invest or work for.  At the end of the day, it’s always the execution that I worry about.  Whether it’s Tesla or any other company that I am rooting for.  Missing expectations have a nasty way of biting folks in the … rear end..

It’s not everyday that I find myself in a prestigious newspaper like the New York Times, so I did what anyone would do and we went around town to buy several copies of the actual hard-copy of the paper.

IMG_20170418_112732 In preparation for the article, I spent a couple of hours taking pictures with Andrew Cullen and I am sure that he had a lot of great shots with my smile on it.  The best shot from Andrew was in the original link to the online version of the article that featured me in the Model S looking out.  This was what accompanied the first round of the article when it went online on April 11, 2017. IMG_1449.JPG

I had a smile and looked happy in that one.

However, later photos replaced that for the print and online versions on April 12, 2017.  Andrew did a great job taking photos and I have to thank him for being patient with me.  In keeping with the tone of the article, the photo editors of the paper picked some shots that made it look like I was worried.  I was far from worried, I did have the sun in my eyes for these next shots that were selected for the article, so let’s just chalk that up to great editing.

IMG_20170418_112743 Those that know me well, know that this particular pose and introspection is not how I usually am.  So, it’s rather humorous for people to see me with such a “serious” look. Andrew Cullen for the New York Times (April 12, 2017) IMG_20170418_112820

Either way, I was pleasantly surprised to make it onto the New York Times.  My mother is a huge fan of theirs and I’m sure it thrilled her to no end and a week after its publication, I thoroughly enjoyed the attention it has gathered with family and friends.

My favorite story came from my de-facto aunt and uncle (some of my mom’s closest friends) in New York City who reached out to my mother to convey their surprise at having my picture in the paper during their breakfast ritual.  Paraphrasing my uncle to my aunt, “you would never guess who made it to the front page of the New York Times…”  Beats the heck out of being on the wall in the Post Office. 😜

Five Years of EV Ownership

February 23 is a special day for me. It’s the day that we took delivery of our first EV in 2012. This means that five years ago, today, I joined the rEVolution and picked up my BMW Active E from Long Beach BMW.

IMG_2626

I didn’t even have Level 2 charging installed in the garage on that day and had to plug in the car on 110V.

IMG_2630

IMG_1020

In fact, it wasn’t until several weeks have passed until I got our Level 2 charger installed under a grant that covered the charger, but not the installation. It’s a 30A J1772 charger from Chargepoint (CT-500) that is still going strong today (I use this for the Model S predominantly). It’s lost it’s networked feature as the modem in the device is no longer supported.

IMG_1047

IMG_1044

What this also means is that February 23 is also a bittersweet day for me as well… As that same Active E was taken from me quite unceremoniously on this same day in 2014.

Time does heal old wounds and I don’t pout when I say Active E anymore.

IMG_0158

Then again, we did add the Roadster and Model S to our garage as we wait for our Model 3 and whatEVer else will take our EV future.

It helps that I can borrow the Roadster when my wife feels generous in letting me use it.

These next two pictures are from when we first picked the Roadster up…

IMG_2672

IMG_5008

and how it looks a week ago.

IMG_20170216_173505

Here’s the Model S when we picked it up at the Tesla Factory

Untitled

at its first Level 2 charge on our delivery weekend first roadtrip (in Sonoma for this shot).

Untitled

And this recent shot when I was using the CHAdeMO charger near the Fountain Valley Supercharger from almost two weeks ago.

IMG_0901

And a little nostalgia for those few months that we had more EVs than drivers in 2013-2014.

IMG_5395

IMG_5396

IMG_5397

That was all three cars scheduled to charge at various times throughout the night on their own chargers.

Unfortunately, didn’t have a better shot of all three cars… Here’s a classic shot of the Model S and Roadster on the Model S first day home.

Untitled

In fact, for the past five years since we picked up the Active E  With all three cars (and various loaners and the few EV rentals we’ve done), we’ve added approximately 204,000 electric miles vs. 24,000 gasoline miles (both our own use, and when we lend our lone ICE car to visitors, as well as our use of ICE rental cars).   What’s funny is how much fanfare I had when I first hit 100,000 electric miles, and 200,000 went by and I didn’t even pay attention to it.

I’ve documented the challenges that we’ve had with all three cars and they’ve all pretty much “behaved.” In fact our Model S just replaced its first 12V battery earlier this week. We’ve actually just replaced all four tires on the Model S a few weeks prior (still around 69,000 miles on the Model S).

IMG_0903

To be fair, we did replace ONE of the four tires about 30,000 miles or so ago for a tire failure from driving over a road hazard. But the wear was pretty even, and we replaced all four tires when the tread was around 4/32 for two of the tires, and kept the other two (at 5/32) as “back-up”. The tires are “special order” and I would hate to have a failure and not have a pair ready to swap out (at the same tread.)

I guess what’s really special with driving EV is how “normal” it is for us now.  In the beginning everything felt like it was going to be a challenge.  How we managed to get 54,321 miles in the Active E in the two years that we had it depended a lot on available Level 2 charging.  The infrastructure was there and we planned our trips so that we can recover miles when we got to our destinations.  With the Roadster, we didn’t need to plan as much.  We often had enough range to get back home.  Now with the Model S, it’s even more interesting.  We went Here, There, and EVerywhere as well as the Long Way Round to the Gigafactory Party.  But the fact of the matter is, we picked up the Model S at the Fremont Factory.  Went to Sonoma for wine and then back down to Southern California in November 2013, without much planning.  That’s what EV ownership should be like.  Pick up and go.

Are we there yet?  To me, I’m there.  But to the rest of the world, perhaps we’re getting there.  It’s been a great 5 years and 200,000 miles of EV driving, and I’m looking for more and more EV adventures.  Stay with us and see where electricity will take us.

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.

IMG_20170121_094155

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.

IMG_20170121_094202

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.

IMG_20170121_094152

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

IMG_20170121_094159

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.

IMG_20170121_094404
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.

IMG_20170121_094613

IMG_20170121_094611

IMG_20170121_094603

IMG_20170121_094606

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.

 

IMG_20170121_104735

IMG_20170121_104934

IMG_20170121_104738

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.

IMG_20170107_165306

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.

IMG_20170107_181907

IMG_20170107_182024

IMG_20170107_182050

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

IMG_20170107_182102

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

IMG_20170107_182138

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

IMG_20170107_182159

IMG_20170107_182213

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.

IMG_20170107_182221

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

IMG_20170107_182243

IMG_20170107_182249

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.

IMG_20170107_182431

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.

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.

IMG_20161229_161056

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.

IMG_20161229_161135

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

IMG_20161229_161159

IMG_20161229_161233

IMG_20161229_161402

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…

IMG_20161230_115222

…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…

IMG_20161229_161632

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.)

IMG_20161229_161637

Step 4

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

IMG_20161229_161747

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.

IMG_20161229_161943

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.

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.

IMG_20161108_131738

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.

Tesla Service Model S 2016-11-8-1

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)

Tesla Service Model S 2016-11-8-2

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

IMG_5283

Today

IMG_20161108_132822

Three Years Ago

IMG_5287

Today

IMG_20161108_132848

Three Years Ago

Untitled

Today

IMG_20161108_133010

Three Years Ago

Untitled

Today

IMG_20161108_133133

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.

Drivetrain failure on a P85D loaner and a temporary solution

So, we brought my better half’s Roadster in for its annual service .  Since we scheduled our service a while back, we were able to request and receive a loaner. Our first loaner was a regular P85 and it was a nice ride.  However, while the Roadster was in for service, the guys at the service center found an issue when the car was headed back to us after completion of the service.

Roadster parts and service is a little bit more of a challenge to Tesla than Model S service.  The issue with the car is still ongoing and the fault has been isolated.  In the meantime, the loaner will be with us a little longer than expected.  Having never experienced Autopilot as a driver, I requested a swap out of loaners to an AP enabled one, should the service center be able to accommodate.  A while after the request, and about a week after we’ve been driving a standard classic Model S P85, we got word from the service center that an AP enabled Model S was available for a swap, so I hurried down to the Service Center to swap out the P85 loaner for a P85D loaner.

IMG_20160927_150103

IMG_20160927_143622

IMG_20160927_150111

Not a Ludicrous P90D, but still insane.

IMG_20160927_150744

So, aside from auto pilot, we also got Insane.  I’ve been through a few Insane launches previously, so I didn’t really care to try that again.  One of the things that struck me with this Model S is the upgraded TPMS system that these newer Model S has.  Older Model S TPMS did not indicate the status of each individual tire pressure.  The Roadster does, but early Model S did not.

IMG_20160930_123949

The car had firmware 7.1.

IMG_20160930_124003

One of the best tests for Autopilot is in stop and go traffic and you can see this loaner handling that fine.

IMG_20161005_112454

Speeding up when the traffic ahead starts to move faster.

IMG_20161005_112445

We took it out for the weekend.  Both the Tesla Owners Club of Orange County (meetup, TMC, or Twitter) and Los Angeles (website or Twitter) decided to go Apple Picking in Yucaipa.  We figured it would be a great way to try out the autonomous features and get some experience with Auto Pilot since none of our current Tesla cars have it.  We met at the Rancho Cucamonga Supercharger and left for the Apple Farm from there.

IMG_3442

IMG_3445

IMG_3446

IMG_3447

IMG_3449

The caravan was fun, but we were in the back, and the group ahead of us got there a lot sooner than we did.

Here we are at the Apple Farm with the group.

IMG_3450

It was a great long trip to Rancho Cucamonga and Yucaipa.  The car performed admirably and I still was not as comfortable as others with the Auto Pilot.  It worked great, but I’m just too much of a control freak.  The car seems to sit closer to the right side of the lane than I do.  Either way, there’s a lot of coverage on AP and now that 8.0 is released and AP 2.0 is getting produced, I’m not adding anything to further the pro or con case for AutoPilot 1.0.

However, I can give some hints on what can be done should you encounter some trouble.  This is not an all-inclusive list, just a story of what happened to us and how we temporarily resolved it.

A few days after our club trip for Apple Picking.  Something distressing happened.  The drivetrain failed.   We were doing some errands locally.  I was making a left and had the PRND status on the driver dashboard go red, that was strange, so, I put the car on park, and the PRND status went to P.  I then switched back to D and it engaged.  Figured that this was a weird event, we decided to head home and swap cars.

Five minutes later, we were at a stop and the PRND status went red again.  Once again, I didn’t get a picture of the failure because of traffic.  Unfortunately for us, we were in Pacific Coast Highway at a stoplight.  Now this is a very busy road, and we were a little stressed at the speeds that people behind us were traveling before the stop.  We called Tesla Roadside Service to see what was going on.  Their solution was to send a tow truck to pick us up.  However, we were stalled in the middle of the street.  So, we called our service center and were advised to reset the car.  Now, it was too dangerous to get out of the car to do this.  Turning the car off would have turned off our hazard lights.

The service center had a novel and ingenious way of restarting the car to see if the car can fix itself.  While parked.  Brace yourself so that you can raise yourself off the seat.  Open and close the door quickly.  What this does is reset the vehicle.  The car went off and then turned back on.  Guess what.  It worked.  The drive train was able to be re-engaged.  We were a few minutes from home and were happy to get home unscathed.

Called Tesla back to redirect the tow to our home.

IMG_20161010_161505

As with any Tesla, the car needs to be towed by a flat bed.

IMG_20161010_162026

IMG_20161010_161505

IMG_20161010_162026

IMG_20161010_162030

It was an afternoon in Southern California, during Rush Hour…  So, we spoke with the service center and they were able to get us a replacement loaner.  No auto pilot, but a nice Silver P85.  Here is the P85D getting towed.

IMG_20161010_172148

IMG_20161010_172150

This loaner has the built in center console and I used to want one.  Now, I’m sure I prefer to have the open space.

IMG_20161010_174827

Bottom line is, the car is great, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where the drive train won’t engage.  Try a few things.

1) Put it in Park. (and then switch it back to gear.  This worked ONCE and wouldn’t again.)

2) Step out of the car and step back in. (or make it think that you do by lifting your bum off the seat, then open and then close the door.)  Car will go “off”. Then start the car as normal.

Hope that helps.