Researching An Electric Vehicle
So Lucy bit the bullet and bought a Tesla in December. It arrived within a month, right on schedule or a little early, on one of the coldest and snowiest days of the year! As for any vehicle, before Lucy bought it she did lots of research and took it out for a test drive. After talking with the informed Tesla staff, reading a lot about battery life of an EV and of this EV, learning about the range in different conditions, downloading the PlugShare App to locate all the charging and supercharging stations in all of Canada and the USA, comparing this vehicle to other EVs available on the market (or coming onto the market), learning about hybrids, reading online about issues Teslas have, figuring out what EVs are available on the market, sharing all this experience with another friend buying a Tesla, Sally, chatting with her partner and other friends, Lucy decided she wanted to be one of the people leading the way with going electric with her drive.
Some of the other types of Electric Vehicles on the market you might want to research include: Chevy Bolt, Mustang Mach-E Premium, Chevy Volt, BMWi3, VWe-Golf, Nissan Leaf, Hyundai KONA, Hyundai IONIC, Tesla Model X, Tesla Model S, Jaguar I-PACE, and Tesla Model Y. Lucy checked out the Hyundais and none were available to test drive or purchase, and the IONIC is just coming onto the market this year.
Lucy recognizes in Alberta that buying an EV is less of a good decision with our strong reliance on natural gas to provide our electricity, but she is hoping Alberta’s reliance on fossil fuels will wane quickly over the next 10 years. Lucy realized that she thinks constantly about the health of the planet, but is also a person who drives more than she cares to admit, struggled to reduce her use of her car, and did not want to buy another car consuming petrol, so she was highly motivated to take the leap.
Purchasing a Tesla 3
The actual purchase of a Tesla involves pushing 4 buttons online: picking the model, deciding on the color of exterior and interior, picking the wheels, and giving a $250 deposit. Even up to the time the car is made in the factory you can change your mind and cancel, as there are other people ready to take it over. Really so very simple. No price negotiation. Lucy chose the Tesla 3 AWD since the roads are very snowy in Alberta and she chose the Long Range as she did not want to risk ever not having enough electric charge. She chose the black interior and white exterior as they appealed to her and were at no extra cost. She went with the regular wheels as they are the most energy efficient (minimizes drag). The addition of 3M protection, floor mats, and other add ons is not part of the deal, and need to be purchased separately. Now 3 months after owning this car, it is selling for $7000 more than what Lucy bought it for. Teslas seem to be steadily going up in price, and resale value, in the short term at least, is very good.
At the time of buying this car there was a real shortage of computer chips on the market (still the case, and now a supply issue with other metals too) and cars use many chips, so very few EVs were available to buy, and for most you have to put your name on a waiting list. Hybrids too have long waiting lists. Tesla was one of the only EVs available. The Tesla seems to have the most years of research behind it, and years of drivers, and so it felt like a great decision from that view point. You know what you are getting. Tesla also has established superchargers across North America, so it seems the infrastructure is well developed and the Tesla app is excellent and improving all the time.
Once Lucy bought the car the next job was to get a 220 volt outlet installed into the garage. We learned that most houses can easily support 2 of these 3 things: a hot tub, air conditioner and/or an electric vehicle. We had an electrician install the 220 volt outlet for about $600 then the city then signed off on the installation. For more money there are ways to get more charge to your home.
Tesla dealerships are small in Edmonton and Calgary. When Lucy picked up her car it was covered in snow and very cold and she expected it would be nicely presented in a warm bay. Unlike the professional treatment when test driving a Teslas, the pick up was terrible, and she is not sure why. Her friend Sally had a great experience picking up her car in Calgary, ready for presentation and lots of set up, and she even received the gift of a cute model Tesla. The online/phone service with Tesla is more than excellent as they are very knowledgeable, friendly, patient, and available. Most issues the buyer has early on involve understanding or locating things on the car’s computer, so most of one’s answers come from these phone calls rather than an appointment. It is also nice to know there are fewer parts to break down on an electric vehicle.
Features of the Tesla
The Tesla is basically a huge battery and a computer linked to your phone. If you are in the car, it is automatically on. You can turn the car on from your phone a few minutes before you leave and it will notify you it is ready and at the temperature you set. It has a heated steering wheel as a bonus. It unlocks when you are close with your phone. When you walk away from your car (don’t forget your phone) it automatically locks in about 15 seconds. There are two wireless charging surfaces for phones. The screen will show your speed in either km or miles by tapping the number. This speed limit is displayed right beside your actual speed, and Lucy feels this helps her avoid speeding. As the car drives so smoothly and has no engine noise or vibration to indicate you are going faster, it can be easy to speed unexpectedly. On the screen it displays the cars on all sides of you on the road, so you have an additional way to check for cars for lane change. The car has great sensors all around it. One thing quite different about a Tesla is that you do not need to use the brake, as the motors slow the car down to a stop when you take your foot off the accelerator, so basically you can drive with one pedal, although you need to use the brake at times when stopping really quickly, just to be sure. Learning to use the computer is quite easy although we did struggle a few times to figure out the wipers, and are still learning about the radio. Lucy had to look up where the flashers were located and still struggles to find the glove box release. It is fun though, and of course becomes very natural after a month or two. The all weather tires that come with this AWD make snowy roads manageable, and Lucy has not slipped once this winter. Everyone has trouble figuring out how to use the door handles both inside and outside of the car, so it is best if a demonstration is given to anyone who has not been in a Tesla. The navigation system is fantastic, and the voice controls are excellent. The navigation system will tell you where you need to get a supercharge, if needed, as well as available stalls and how much charge you will have when you get there. We have never experienced chargers that are not working, as we had been warned about. Lucy did hear from a friend that the chargers at the Lake Louise ski resort are not reliable, but she is not sure if this is still the case. To back into your garage, (as needed for charging since the port is inside the rear driver side light) and to charge at a Tesla supercharger, one needs to get good at backing it into tight spaces. It’s a slow learning process.
On the Road with the Tesla to the USA
In February we took our Tesla all the way from Edmonton to Nogales Arizona, at the Mexican border, including a visit to Palm Springs in California. This was about an 8500 kilometre month-long trip. Before we left we made sure the outdoor temperatures were not extreme and that the roads were clear in Alberta and Montana. We had never charged at a supercharger so we went to Southgate Mall to charge up at the Tesla Supercharger as well as to use the slower Flo chargers there for which we had downloaded the app and bought an adaptor. We had to synch a credit card with the supercharger. We had to preload some money for the Flo charger. It was all very easy using the apps. We mostly just use the Tesla app. Lucy did realize she was using her phone to open and lock the car, so when she put her phone on airplane mode for the USA trip, she could not get in the car so she had to use the card or her partner’s phone. It is interesting how reliant on a phone we are now. In the USA several hotels and Bed and Breakfasts provided free charging. That saved us money and was very convenient. We were glad to be told some other hotels are planning to install EV chargers. We chose a few hotels based on the fact they had a charger, or were next to chargers, especially since one hotel was quite remote. For sure one needs to plan ahead more with a Tesla/EV, and really that is not a bad thing. To be in synch with the USA charging, rates at superchargers in Canada increased this March 2022. They average roughly about $.35/kWh. In Canada you are billed by the minute based on different tiers. If 50% of stalls are in use the 80% charge capacity goes into effect and you are notified to come back to your car and move it or pay a $1.00 penalty.
The electricity rates across Canada vary in our homes, with Alberta and Quebec being $.06/kWh and BC being $.09/kWh and Ontario being about $.08/kWh. For all of us the fees and delivery cost of the electricity actually increases costs a lot; in Alberta it triples the actual cost of the electricity to $.17/kWh in our house, and again these rates even vary from house to house.
As with most vehicles, the range or efficiency reported for the Tesla is not quite what you really get, except on that one perfect spring or fall day of 18 degree weather when you drive 45 km an hour with no stops, elevation, wind, or weight in the car!!
Looking up some articles about charging, the superchargers offer a 4 tier pricing system, so it is cheaper and faster to charge at the start of your charge, and becomes both more expensive as well as slower to charge at the end of your charge. Knowing this, it is cheaper to stop and charge more frequently than try to top up to 90 or 100% charge. It is much more costly to charge above 80% and not recommended unless essential. It looks like the costs vary across the country significantly. Below is a display of the Red Deer supercharger rates. On Facebook one Tesla owner in Orangeville noted a same charge in February that was about $9.00 went up to $16.00 in March.
Electric Vehicle Range and Efficiency
Many things affect the efficiency of the Tesla: weight in the car, outdoor temperature, use of heaters, AC, and radio, wind, elevation change, and speed…and we are sure we missed a few. In Alberta with the very cold sub-freezing temperatures we have in winter, the battery has much less charge. Of course we do not do many long road trips in the cold but one has to plan more, even for ski trips. It is unclear how many of these factors are considered when the Tesla tells you how much charge you will have remaining once you arrive at your destination. We found that we sometimes had 5-15 percent less charge on arrival than was initially predicted in the route planner and one could see the charge remaining keep going down as one drove along. On occasion it also goes up. Since Lucy knew she wanted to use the car for longer trips, she chose the long range battery reported to be able to go 540 km at peak, but we will wait for summer to see what the reality is for distance. So far in winter with a full car and wind and some elevation it was able to go 350-370 km distance, the “real-world range”. The Long Range Tesla costs significantly more money, about $18000 more. Since battery life declines over time, getting the maximum battery life seemed to be important to Lucy. Many provinces give rebates of about $5000 for an EV if it is $45000 or less. This is generally the price range for the short range battery EVs.
Lucy just read an article that shows buying the other much cheaper Short Range Tesla 3 RWD has relatively good range, maybe only 40 km less in cold weather. In warm weather we were told the RWD gets 100 km less range than the Long Range Tesla. Check out “Insideevs.com Tesla Model 3 Winter RWD Vs. Long Range Vs. Performance”. It says “Having covered 270 km in freezing cold conditions the Model 3 RWD had used 85% of its 60-kWh battery, which would result in a real-world range of 318km from 100% to 0%. Th Model 3 Long Range used 75% of its 75-kWh battery giving it a 360 km real-world range, while the Model 3 Performance used 77% of its 82-kWh for a real-world range of 350 km.” So if you live in a place not needing AWD you likely may do fine with the one of the other models.
Charging the EV
The Tesla is programmed to charge in the night at home and is fully charged to the recommended 80% by morning. It will end charging as you need it if you schedule a regular morning departure time. All of this is something you can monitor on your phone remotely. They recommend you keep the charge between 20% and 80%. Lucy has to say, the greatest thing so far is not having to go out and gas up the car, and having a charger in the garage is so easy. The only drawback is we do not get any car wash discounts from gassing up!! We only charged a few times to 100% while on our road trip, when needed. The charger locks into place when in use. Superchargers are close to restaurants, malls, grocery stores, fast food, and bathrooms so they are always convenient but not necessarily where you might have chosen otherwise. On our trips we love to treat ourselves at Starbucks, but not as much now if there is not one close to a supercharger. Generally it is good to stop and stretch your legs anyway while the car charges for usually 25 minutes but can be 5 minutes to 50 minutes (for 100% charge) depending on your need. As mentioned earlier, the PlugShare app shows all chargers and superchargers in the world. We find many Tesla owners stay in their vehicle while charging as the car stays warm while charging, so you can read a book, use your phone or play a game (like backgammon) on the car computer screen.
Based on Lucy’s experience, this chart above is a bit of an underestimation by about 5-10 minutes.
We only had one place where we could not confidently drive between superchargers on our winter road trip to the USA, as they were quite far apart. That was between Fort MacLeod Alberta and Great Falls Montana. We have already reported this to Tesla and hope another supercharger can be added. En route down we did stop for a slow charge in Milk River near the border, and that was like watching paint dry. On the way back we did not, and it was a little tense, arriving with only 6 % charge even though at the start of that leg of the trip we were told we would have 20% on arrival. If you lose all charge you need a tow. The further south one drives in the USA the more Teslas there are and the more stations. We saw a stop with 24 chargers. In California we had to wait at two stops as there was a short line up for the chargers. In Canada there are superchargers every 250 km from the east coast to the west coast along the TransCanada highway. There are also many other chargers and they are working to fill in other needed stations. We think there needs to be one between Jasper and Kamloops, and heard there is one going in. There needs to be one by the border of the USA in southern Alberta. Fernie just got one.
Tesla 3 Long Range Operational Costs
Trying to calculate how much money Lucy is paying to operate her Tesla compared to her previous Infiniti is challenging. Comparing gas/litre to cost of a kWh/km at home or at superchargers, actual distance obtained by the Tesla per kWh, rather than projections, knowing how far you travel on average each month or year is all a stretch for one’s brain and requires assumptions for vehicle efficiencies. Of course, as gas prices are steeply climbing right now, Lucy is sure she is clearly saving even more money than expected, but this month the EV charging rate went up too. Let’s see if we can make some sense of this. One article Lucy read is that the owner did not notice much of an increase in their electric bill from charging their EV. Of course monthly electric costs are so variable it would be hard to know until looking over a period of time and right now everyone is experiencing higher electric costs this winter. The Tesla app says Lucy has already saved $355 while using Superchargers.
The Numbers and Costs (Lucy’s Math)
Gas Vehicle Tesla 3 Long Range
Gas prices about $1.60/litre. Elec $.058/kWh+fees=~$.17/kWh ($.35/kWh at supercharger)
Gas Vehicle – 9L/100km Elec15kWh/100km
Gas Trip is $.145/km. EV price $.053/km
GAS600km/month=$87/month. EV 600km/month=$15.30. ($31.50/month at supercharger)
*GAS 1000km/month=$145/month EV 1000km/month=$25.50/month ($53/month at supercharger)
GAS 1500km/month=$215/month EV1500km/month=$37/month. ($80/month at supercharger)
*Based on this information Lucy has the potential to save about $120 a month from charging her EV at home, and even more if she adds in travel. That should help offset the cost of the car!
Well Lucy hopes you learned something about being an EV owner. With each passing day she is enjoying the Tesla more. It is very smooth and quiet, easy to talk in the car while driving and easy to sneak up on birds along the country roads. It is no fuss for charging at home and is much cheaper. It has an excellent navigation system. Lucy likes that she can warm it before getting in just with one button on her phone and she loves the heated steering wheel. She is not going to mention the incredible power and acceleration, as that is not why she bought it, but many people ask her about that. She loves the screen showing if vehicles are in the blind spot. The radio is much different and she is still learning about that. You can use your Spotify in the car if you have it. You can set it to keep a set temperature for the dog or for “camping”, as the back seat lays flat for sleeping. One day Lucy plans to sleep in the car for a night…that will be an adventure!
Seats are very comfortable, and Lucy was not sore anytime during the long road trip. On cruise control there is a software glitch that causes phantom braking, suddenly slowing down the car. We think it is worse at high speeds. Tesla is working on a correction for this. This is a negative aspect in the vehicle, but after a while you don’t get bothered by it, you just try to figure out why. In future, if you want this car to be self driving you only have to give Tesla $10,000 and it will happen as the capability is in the car but current regulations don’t allow it. Updates are always sent so the car is always current, making it like new. So Lucy is really happy with this purchase. It was expensive but she does hope to use it a long time. Who knows what the future of EV batteries will be, and they very well may improve a lot. At the same time, on the news there was talk of supply chain issues now with metals needed for the batteries in EVs, so going electric is likely going to be more difficult in the near term than we had hoped and may continue to become more costly rather than less costly. Let’s hope not. Hope you will consider an EV and that this blog post offers some helpful information to save Readers some research time. By 2035 EVs will be the only option in Canada. Let’s hope there will be many more EV choices readily available on the market in the very near future.
Lucy asked her friend Sally, who bought the same car, how she feels about her Tesla. Sally loves that there is “dog mode” so she can leave her dog in the car and the temperature stays as set. Sally loves that you can pre-warm the car in the garage in a matter of minutes, and get a notice when it is ready, and loves all the heat features like heated seats and steering wheel. Sally loves the feel of the drive, and the acceleration which makes lane changing easy but she finds it easy to speed in this car. She is thrilled that the value of the car has gone up already, and is happy she has gotten into the market since it looks like the timing may have been good. Sally passed along this article link from interestingengineering.com – https://bit.ly/3wmQmOM – that shows that companies are developing ways to charge the EV much faster, which possibly may be available by 2024, and hopefully will create some price competition so that public charging may become cheaper. Sally also dislikes the “phantom breaking” when on cruise control.
Lucy hopes that you will send along any questions you might have about the Tesla 3.
To close, here are a few of the new birds seen on the USA adventure where the Tesla found all the chargers needed to bring us to the very small town of Patagonia near the Arizona border with Mexico and then home again.