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How Driving a Tesla is Like Flying an Airplane

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by aesculus, May 8, 2016.

  1. aesculus

    aesculus Still Trying to Figure this All Out

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    I am new to Tesla's and EV's in general. I used to spend a fair amount of time flying propeller aircraft (70's and 80's), mostly in single engine planes. I have a private pilot's license (SEL) with a instrument rating but don't fly anymore. As I have been getting acquainted with my Model X I have discovered a lot of similarities to what I would do in preparing for and flying an airplane and driving a Tesla, all except the flying part of course, versus from an ICE vehicle.

    These are some of my observations. If you fly or have flown what other aspects of driving a Tesla remind you of flying?
    • With the Tesla if it's short trips where fuel capacity and range does not come into the equation (ie local places I frequent weekly) I just do a simple safety check and walk around and I go to my destination. Don't worry much about pre trip planning.
    • If the trip is longer and range and familiarity are not trivial, I put a great deal of planning into it. I plot my course and include not only charging capabilities but weather en route, alternative destinations (chargers), terrain and times en route. In some cases I even need to figure out how much weight I will be carrying. Have not had the need yet to do a balance calculation. :)
    • Using the TACC is not unlike using an autopilot with the exception of the speed control piece which is a tradeoff of the elevation capability in aircraft
    • Using the navigation system is not unlike RNAV
    • Weather radar can be acquired with the browser and one of the weather websites
    • Waze sort of takes the place of the Area Control Center without the 'permission piece'
    • The SC takes the place of the FBO
    • When you land at a new airport everyone wants to know your story and a little about your plane. I find that also true of some supercharger sites too, especially if they have not had a chance to pour over a Model X yet. I suspect Roadster owners would get the same attention radially powered aircraft would get if they could charge at superchargers.
    • Tesla's can be a bit quirky just like aircraft, so most owners I know really know their cars well and every little squeak, rattle and glitch that is common. Tesla owners can probably detect issues before Tesla could just by the way they drive and how they sound.
    • There is a affinity or social association of Tesla owners that you also find with aircraft pilots.
    • Tesla owners seem to just 'think' more about what they are doing rather than just driving a car. Obviously pilots do that too or they are not pilots for long.
     
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  2. NovemberXray

    NovemberXray Member

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    Great post, I am also an instrument rated private pilot, and I think there are many similarities between flying and driving a Tesla. I think the way you use the autopilot is very much like in aviation: you should always be scanning and paying attention, but the autopilot increases safety by reducing pilot workload. You can better monitor systems, navigation, surroundings, etc. without requiring as much mental energy to just keep the vehicle traveling in a straight line. You should hand fly the vehicle whenever something unusual occurs, or during things like takeoff and landing (around departure and destination), but while enroute just cruising, autopilot is perfect.

    The trip planning has a lot of similarities, which made me really wish for all the awesome flight planning tools that have been developed in the last few years. There's fantastic iPad apps that allow you to put in a destination and have it calculate an IFR route for you, take into account fuel, winds, weight, etc. (a bit like EV Trip planner, but a lot more elegant) and then you can also just use your finger to drag the route to change it! Overlay all kinds of things like weather, warnings, etc. Hopefully we will continue to see new nav capabilities in the car, things like real time wind info would be cool.

    I'm sure the auto-pilot will continue to get better and better, and I fully expect to have complete point to point autonomous driving capability in the next 10 years, if not sooner. I love driving, but it would also be pretty awesome if some future Tesla allowed you to configure the rear for sleeping and you could just relax in the back, watch a movie, sleep for 8 hours and wake up at a destination 1000 miles away. Or drive to the front door of your destination, and have the car go off and charge itself at the nearest supercharger, then come back and get you when you're ready to go!
     
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  3. dabbler

    dabbler Member

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    I have been a private pilot since 1980. Single and Multi-engine land no instrument rating. Long distant trip planning is very similar to planing long distant flights. When people ask me how far I can travel on a charge I tell them that range is directly related to climate (weather), terrain and driving style.

    Most people don't drive with this type of pre-planning and rarely if ever consider weather, terrain or driving style. All of these factors affect range for both EV and ICE vehicles. ICE owners don't consider these factors. If there fuel starts to run low they just go the nearest gas station.

    Similar to flying EV trip planning requires knowledge of the trip distance and potential charging outlets. I have found the EV Trip Planner to be a great tool as it allows for all range affecting factors. Once I know the distance from Super Charger to Supercharger I simply monitor the distant traveled on the TESLA/GOOGLE map and compare that to remaining miles of charge. I usually aim to have 30 to 40 miles of charge remaining when I reach my destination. Similar to arriving at your destination airport with 30 min. of fuel.

    Most drivers don't really have a good sense of "distance" from point to point or how much energy (gas, diesel or electric) is required to cover that distance. As pilots we were taught from the very first days of ground school how to calculate distance, time, fuel burn, the impact of weather and that there is never a good excuse to fly your tanks dry and dead stick into the closest airport.

    Being a pilot has made the transition to the Model S very easy. Looking forward to the days of fast and efficient BEV aircraft.
     
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  4. aesculus

    aesculus Still Trying to Figure this All Out

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    I think you summed up my thoughts exactly in one succinct sentence.
     
  5. Jdcorbitt3

    Jdcorbitt3 Member

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    I am a corporate pilot Fixed and rotor wing. Two of my clients also own Teslas. I think pilots have an affinity to Teslas. I personally know four other pilots with Teslas. Twice per year, I ferry a helicopter across the country. The range is not much more than a 90. I manage my stops very much like managing a long road trip in the Model S. I use Jetfuelx.com, Foreflight, Fltplan Go, and Garmin on an iPad much like the MFD in the Model S.

    Acceleration is very similar. They both have 100% power from 0 on, with acceleration being decreased by drag.

    An autopilot with autothrottles works much like Teslas. They just need to work on the NAV feature. With AP engaged, the pilot of an aircraft and a Tesla are still responsible to "See and avoid."

    John
     
  6. NovemberXray

    NovemberXray Member

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    Definitely agree that being a pilot makes some of the things others worry about (range, autopilot) with the Tesla, not seem like issues at all. Which make the transition much easier.

    Tesla AP with NAV will be amazing! :) I'm the founder and owner of Coradine Aviation, makers of LogTen Pro for pilots. I've been thinking about whether to tackle an iOS app for the Tesla, something a bit like ForeFlight, although it wouldn't need to be nearly as complex, but I'm not sure yet how much of a market there would be, or how long before Tesla does it themselves. It would really be ideal if you could plan a trip and then send it directly to your car's nav. Putting the Tesla trip planner from the car online, and letting you select any two points, would be a great start.
     
  7. Jdcorbitt3

    Jdcorbitt3 Member

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    I have been using Log Ten Pro for the past several years. It is, by far the best E logbook I have used. I have used over five of them over the past 15 years. I have been surprised that the apps out there don't have a planning feature as well as a SC status and trend. I would say go for it. I would like also it to keep an automatic logbook for tax purposes.

    John

    P.s. I am tickled pink the developer of an app I use almost daily is driving a Tesla.
     
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  8. wdolson

    wdolson Active Member

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    Aircraft have always been a passion. When I was a kid going to the air museum at Chino was far more fun than Disneyland. I never learned to fly because I have a seriously messed up inner ear and get violently motion sick when airborne, even on a 747 in still air unless I'm on Dramamine. With the drugs I have no issues, but without I'm a mess.

    This is an interesting thread though. When I first learned of Tesla the range limitations of BEVs did concern me, but as I learned more my self education about everything aircraft must have kicked in and I did find myself comparing a lot of the things I was reading about with piloting concepts.

    Unfortunately i think it's going to be a long time until BEV aircraft are much more than curiosities. Gasoline has about 33 KWh/gallon, jet fuel is a little more, and the current technology for Li-ion batteries is only around 1 KWh/gallon of space. It's speculated that the best density we're ever going to get from batteries barring some breakthrough in Physics (which isn't even on the horizon yet) is about 4X current energy density.

    And as pilots know, weight is a critical factor in everything aviation. Current battery technology is denser that liquid fuels, about 2-3X the weight per gallon of space (the Model S and X are so heavy in large part because of the size of the battery pack). Even if batteries could be made much lighter (which may be possible with some new chemistries on the horizon) you don't lose any weight as you travel. Aircraft range calculations take into account the plane gets lighter as the fuel burns off, but with batteries the plane stays the same weight throughout the flight.

    We can work around these limitations for surface travel, but I think it will be a long time before anyone is able to compete with liquid fuels on range and payload for aircraft with BEVs.

    Anyway, I do find this interesting, even though I'm not a pilot.
     
  9. bmah

    bmah Obscure Member

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    Not a pilot (maybe someday...), but a long-time aviation enthusiast with several pilot friends (private through military and ATP). It dawned upon me after I got my Model S that it's kind of like owning a plane, but with two (for me anyway) distinct advantages:

    1. Lower barrier to entry with respect to spousal approval. On the off-chance my wife might read this, I won't elaborate. :)

    2. If I owned a plane I might get to fly it a couple times a week. I get to drive my Tesla every single day.

    Now if it could only lift off the ground (um, in a controlled manner I mean)...

    Bruce.
     
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  10. FlatSix911

    FlatSix911 918 Hybrid

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    I agree ... well said.
     
  11. aesculus

    aesculus Still Trying to Figure this All Out

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    Another technique that was discussed over at Tesla Motors was driving the car in constant power mode versus constant speed mode. Now we just need an TACC that can be set to constant power. So your car would slow down on hills and then basically have no regen on the other side. You could expect 45 or 50 mile uphill and 85 to 100 downhill. :)

    But even without going to those extremes you can still do a little of this. Just don't try to keep up with the traffic on the uphill side and then move over and do as fast as you are comfortable with on the downhill side, minimizing regen braking as much as possible since you loose power in the exchange.
     
  12. ggr

    ggr Roadster R80 537, SigS P85 29

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    Personally, I would find that antisocial behavior; I get annoyed enough by the people who speed up to 75 on the downhill, overtake me, then slow to 65 on the uphill. It also reduces your average speed (if you assume equal distances for the climb and descent). I don't think you'd save much over just setting the cruise control for the lower average speed in the first place.
     
  13. Nikxice

    Nikxice Member

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    Comparisons between flying an aircraft and driving a Tesla are fun to ponder. I've often heard the comment, 'Your a pilot so that explains why you like driving a Tesla'. It always comes out in a positive way, but from a few people I've sensed an uneasiness towards BEVs, as though, 'Whoa, so obviously you like taking risks, aren't you worried about getting stuck somewhere?'. This perception will change with time and acquired knowledge. For new customers, EV ownership and driving should be a simple, uncomplicated process. The transition from ICE to EV shouldn't feel like an aircraft type rating, but more akin to quick, efficient differences training. Yikes, then I think about some of the ongoing 'helpful' threads here on TMC. Take the various opinions on the daily recommended SOC for optimizing battery life. Is it 50%, 80%, or 90%? Depends on who you ask. Reminds me of the stick and rudder debate concerning airspeed and power. (Okay, I'm in the Wolfgang Langewiesche camp, pitch controls airspeed, power is altitude!)
     
  14. aesculus

    aesculus Still Trying to Figure this All Out

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    I knew you (or someone) were going to go there as soon as you started describing SOC!;)

    Should we talk about the role of the elevator now too in that context?:)
     
  15. aesculus

    aesculus Still Trying to Figure this All Out

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    I came up with another one from a comment someone made about supercharger availability. They found themselves pulling into a supercharger lot that was closed because it was being repaved. Turns out they had enough energy to make it to their next stop but it could have been ugly. It also appears that non Tesla chargers are often in a poor state of service

    So I guess we have to add a bit of pre flight planning for the status of chargers to the list of similarities. Maybe we need a plan to drive to the charging point, the alternate and then still have 45 miles left in reserve. Less if it's VFR.;)
     
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  16. RossRAllen

    RossRAllen Member

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    As a former aircraft and now Model X pilot, I can completely relate to these comments. Every flight and drive is an adventure of sorts. Great thread!

    I enjoy the busy instrument panel and controls, but I realize that they may be overwhelming to some people. The Tesla experience is not a turn the key (no key!) and drive kind of experience. Even if it were, I'd still love my X.
     
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  17. Drucifer

    Drucifer Active Member

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    What a great post. I was thinking about my car having a 6 pack of instruments in front (OK, modern glass cockpit) and Nav/Com in the "center stack" on a trip last week.

    I went to a Tesla "Lunch & Learn" and I believe about 6 of the 8 Tesla owners there had flown to solo or beyond. That is a really high cross-correlation between aviation and Tesla ownership. BTW, I have commercial/instrument ratings in fixed and rotary wing.


     

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