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Living with a Tesla Roadster

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Electrics are back
Supporting Member
I thought I'd start a thread on what it's like to live with the Roadster day-to-day, good and bad.

I wanted to share how good electric cars are to actually live with and perhaps catalog some of the shortcomings here as well to create a list of improvements too; a market survey, a ‘long-term’ test report if you will.

I’ve had my car for three months and am getting into the daily stride with it now. Here’s what I found.

Month One
Obviously this is all about performance right? Well, mostly. It’s a period of adjustment too, not only is this is an electric car it’s also a low slung sports car with a pretty well defined purpose. I like small cars so am prepared to adapt but week one did raise a few reservations. It’s noisier than I recall, the whine from the motor is ever present. The steering is heavy and getting in and out is challenging; seriously, how will this be in the depth of winter, after a long day at work… when I’m suffering from man-flu?

The performance and handling is keeping me fully occupied and diverting my attention away from the lack of amenities like automatic HVAC and power steering.

At the end of the month I’ve given enough test drives and rides to hear enough ‘this is awesome’ to realize that I need to press on. I need a while longer to get used to it… I hope I do.

Month Two
The whine from the motors is fading; it’s replacing the engine and exhaust note in my head. A big surprise is how I’ve been weaned off the V10 sound to the motor. Up until today, my favourite sound was the Lambo V10; a spine tingling howl to be found in the Guiardo and S6. I was watching an episode of Carpool featuring Dave Vince, an electric car enthusiast who’s built his own Exige based BEV, when they took a test drive, the moment I heard the motor whine I know they were in for some fun; I’ve replaced the V10 with the electric motor in my list of associations; motor is good, V10 is harsh noise.

What’s also harsh is the brutal way my Audi A6 Avant bounces and lurches about while it makes its way up the road. I’ve not driven it for a month now and was taken aback when I did. The throttle is unresponsive and almost random in application; when you press it to set off the car jerks forwards and then jerks again and again in its helpless attempts to get going; all the while there is this thrashing din from up front; what is going on? Release the pedal and, at first nothing happens, you just drift on towards the car in front…. Brakes! To be fair it’s quite though and on the highway smooth.

Winter is approaching though and the Roadsters feeble headlamps are making night driving, in the rain, with oncoming traffic very tricky. They’re rated at 65W but seem very dim and yellow, as though running at a lower voltage. The MINI-E has bi-xenon lights; a much smarter choice.

Muscle memory has kicked in, getting in and out is no longer an issue, I don’t even think about it anymore.

One muscle that is giving me trouble though is my neck; I need to calm down on the go pedal as it is really causing trouble. After a whole day stint of test rides I had trouble sleeping.

Month Three
Lighting is fixed here http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/technical-discussion/3578-xenon-hid-upgrade.html#post39252 with a DIY xenon hid upgrade, well, much better anyway as there’s no fix for being this close to the ground.

It’s below freezing this morning and the heating is brilliant, hot air before I’m at the end of the driveway is great. My feet are a little cold so I need to fine tune the air distribution though it might be a feature of them being stuck out in front rather than down below in a regular car.

Sitting outside college waiting to pick up, in the freezing rain, I have the heating on, I have 115 miles of range to get the 15 miles home, there’s no engine sound, no vibration and no nagging feeling that I’d get when in an ICE car that my idling the engine is wasteful. I’m feeling very comfortable and very pleased with my car – this is a nice place to be.

Charging? I don’t get the whole charging time issue; to quote Paul Scott, a 70,000 mile RAV4-EV veteran “It takes me a few seconds to charge the car. I plug it in and am free to get on with my life eating, sleeping, etc.” I agree, I get home, plug it in to the cable dangling from the roof of the garage and go in. As I unlock it the following morning I release the connector; I don’t usually remember the event anymore. One change I’d like to see would be a taller slide switch on the connector that doesn’t require me to press down to slide it.

At the moment I’m on regular rate electricity, as I’m now using more than 70% of my electricity at night I’m going to switch this month. My daily charge runs to around $1.00 – $1.60 and I could half that.

Driving range is settling around 180 miles for suburban commuting and 150 (+ reserve) miles for my longest runs; into NYC, on the highway in the winter with lights and heating on.

For now, that’s it; the electric car has become the norm for me, so much so that I’ve a MINI E on the way to replace the Honda Insight; I don’t see any downside in day to day driving. I’ll use the A6 sparingly, not because it’s environmentally unsound but because I’ve no desire anymore. I can’t express more emphatically how much sense electrics make.
Great report MPT, please keep us posted.

I'm glad you made the switch to Xenon; I have no idea why Tesla doesn't even do this given the added benefits and simply because it's a high-priced car.

Although I have very little understanding of how Xenon works from a electrical usage perspective I remember seeing somewhere that they actually use less energy than their halogen counterparts. Have you noticed any energy savings since upgrading to the new system?

I guess it's a matter of personal preference but I'm surprised that you're winter driving your Roadster. Asides from winter tires do you even bother to rust proof the undercarriage (yes, aluminum and covered) and exposed suspension components? Assuming this will be your daily driver what about NY blizzards, any concerns at this point?
Albern: these HID bulbs use around 35W, so about half of the 60W used by the standard bulbs; in the grand scheme of things that should give me about a quarter of a mile extra range, there's loads of info at Headlamp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

NJ's ok weather wise; it does get cold but, my view is that I'm not paying that much money for a car that I can't use so, for now, we'll see. I've not (never) changed the tires, they still seem to be holding the corners up, that's all I need. We'll see, I doubt I'll be using it if it's really deep snow though, that low, flat belly could be like a snowboard!

D. There are some returns and a few demo units still available. I was at the MINI-E meet here in NJ when the guy running the program mentioned it. I'd check with the UK team; maybe they have some?
I’ve had my Roadster since August, but have haven’t put too many miles on it since my daily commute is about 5 miles.

Things I would change (I’m sure many of these have been mentioned somewhere else)
  • Floor mats keep sliding forward. They need to install hooks or something to keep them from getting balled up in the front of the foot wells. Part of my getting-in-the-car ritual is pulling the mats back into position after they slide forward when I get in.
  • The cutouts under the doors are dirt collectors. I’m always amazed at how much junk collects inside the door sill. They would be better off without the cutout and a better fitting door. At some point, I want to put my roadster up on a lift and see if I can create some kind of gasket to keep out most of the debris.
  • Headlights are functional, but anemic.
  • Standard audio system lacks depth. Difficult to get a rich sound from it.
  • I think the Park/Drive/Reverse/Neutral buttons might function better as a dial since only one of them can be selected at a time. This isn’t a big deal, but I think it would look cleaner.

Other than that, however, I wouldn’t touch a thing.

I’m used to falling into sports cars, so getting in and out of the car was never an issue, but I am looking forward to warmer weather where a topless car is easier on the back and knees.

I’ve gotten very used to not going to the gas station. Every time I get in my car, it’s “tank” is full and the little screen in the center console tells me I spent almost nothing to top it off overnight.

The car handles well and makes for a very good daily driver. Most of my driving is at speeds under 45mph, and the quietness of the car is very relaxing. I only notice the engine whine while accelerating and compared to my GT, even at max power, the Roadster is virtually silent.

I really like the regen braking – it’s almost become a game for me to see if I can modulate the accelerator pedal so I don’t have to touch the brakes. I feel like I’ve planned poorly if I use the brake pedal for anything other than keeping the car still at a traffic light.

I also planned to drive my car through most of the winter, but now that Pennsylvania has gotten an early snow, we have salt and cinders on our roads. The salt does miserable things to metal and it’s painful to listen to the cinders ping against the outside of the car as they’re thrown up by the soft tires. Unfortunately, I think my roadster will be sitting out most of the winter in my garage.
Rain Rain Rain

Today I crested the brow of a hill to find myself hitting curb to curb water at 35mph. A straight line so aquaplaning was not too great a problem but I hit the water and sent a plume up either side higher than a SUV.

I didn't:
Suck any water into my air intake smashing my big-end bearings
Shatter my catalytic converter
Bring on warning lights
Get wet myself
Get Electrocuted

Actually, after the incident I checked around the PEM and as much of the motor that I can see; nothing, it was just lightly dusty from summer. All good.

I'm sure this is no surprise for the TM techs but more evidence that electrics have their un-seen advantages.
Water: Earlier this week I was finally brave enough to take my car through a touchless car wash. The powerful side water jets were able to get some water past the seal at the top of the windows. Not too much, about the same amount of water that ends up on the door sill when you get in the car when it's raining.

The result was better than I had feared. Acceptable.
Water: Earlier this week I was finally brave enough to take my car through a touchless car wash.

Be careful of the underbody wash. Also, I remember a post somewhere about invalidating the TM warranty if you do bring it to an automatic car wash. Need to investigate that further. :eek:

PS-Waiting to hear more how you like those xenon headlights. You are tempting me MPT & you know I like customization.
Rocks in the Windshiled

:mad: When my 1st Tesla got a rock in the front windshield while driving on the freeway, it was more bothersome than upsetting. Now in my 2nd Tesla, another rock on another freeway into another windshield! Ugh! I guess it has to do with the low flung roadster? Anyone else?

Luckily, each time they were smaller than a quarter so they were easily repaired without needing to replace the windshield. :eek:
My son and I hit a dear the other night. We were going slowly when it jumped in front of us and I was almost able to stop, but we still hit it. At first I thought we got off with no damage, but on careful inspection it looks like the driver door is slightly out of alignment and there are some scratchs on the windshield (dear hit under the front driver headlight and then against the windshield)

Will call the insurance agent on Monday. :frown:
:mad: When my 1st Tesla got a rock in the front windshield while driving on the freeway, it was more bothersome than upsetting. Now in my 2nd Tesla, another rock on another freeway into another windshield! Ugh! I guess it has to do with the low flung roadster? Anyone else?

Yes, I think so. I haven't had a serious chip yet (had two tiny pebbles hit), but I now pay attention to where the trucks are and where there might be loose gravel on the road.
Month Four, December; You don’t need a dealer on every corner and don’t wear flares

Happy New Year! Disaster struck this month; I broke my car...

One evening, I jumped in the car as usual; I’ve become very blasé about getting in and out these days, I follow the Zak Edson technique; in with the right, bum down and a follow through with the left but today disaster struck; as my left leg came in the trouser leg covered the indicator (turn signal) stalk (switch) and in a single deft drop of the leg, so the stalk was snapped.

It made no sound but instead simply sagged, lifeless at an awkward unnatural angle. I grasped onto the hope that it had simply ‘popped’ out but a quick investigation revealed the truth; it’d snapped clean off with only the rubber boot and cruise wiring keeping it in place.

It was at that point that I began to worry, not about getting home, no, how much this was going to cost; $200, $300 + labour, Oh no.

I navigated home pushing my finger into the jagged remains of the severed stalk to affect a left or right signal and resolved myself to having to glue it.

A close investigation revealed a rough break with lots of surface area so out with the superglue; did a great job until I tried the headlight main beam; “snap”.

Plan B; get a replacement. This is not the first time I’ve used this control; it’s a stock GM part from the 1930’s, well, 80’s anyway, I had exactly the same stick on my ’88 Vauxhall Carlton (Cadillac Cetera) so reasoned a cheap Internet parts store would carry them.

I removed the cowl around the steering column to find the stalk simply un-clips; easy. I began the search using the part numbers listed on the switch. I checked GM part supplies, Lotus Garage and even put in a call to TM as a backup. The GM parts Internet stores were tricky and unclear; mostly they carried the version without the cruise switches, and, as expected the price was between $85 and $200 but before I went very far the phone rang; “Hi, it’s Matt from Tesla, sorry it took a moment to get back to you, we have the part in stock, it’s $43 and I can send it out today.” – Forty-three… In stock… today, Friday!

Saturday morning the switch arrived and was installed in moments. I’m surprised and very pleased; TM had the right part, in stock and had it shipped to me next day… Saturday.

The moral of the story is simple; you don’t need a dealer on every corner and, don’t wear flared jeans.

Also this month I installed my Carbon Fibre hardtop http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/tesla-roadster/2377-alternative-carbon-fiber-hardtops.html#post39937 so we’ll see how that goes, I also performed another minor modification to solve my cold feet problem…

It seems that the Roadster only has one outlet for warm air to the feet; it’s in the passenger foot well and has two nozzles; one sends air to the passenger foot well and one to the passenger foot well in the general direction of the driver. Net result; passenger toasty, driver shivers. A quick piece of tape over the passenger only nozzle netted an instant gain, toasty feet all around, nice.

Lastly, Some Christmas cheer from my Audi dealer; “It’s time to bring in your Audi for its regular 5,000 mile service.” – Oh how we laughed; they’re such kidders.
It seems that the Roadster only has one outlet for warm air to the feet; it’s in the passenger foot well and has two nozzles; one sends air to the passenger foot well and one to the passenger foot well in the general direction of the driver. Net result; passenger toasty, driver shivers.

Perhaps the Lotus designers had it 'optimized' for the UK market where the driver would be on the other side? I wonder if the RHD versions move the nozzles to the other side or leave them where they are?
I'm really glad you mentioned this about the foot heater nozzles. I've found I can be totally warm in the car but my feet are cold. This is partly because I insist upon wearing sandals in the winter, partly because the insulation is pretty minimal down there, and I bet mostly because of what you describe.

I'm going out there with my duct tape and my headlamp to adjust this tomorrow!
Month Five – January – Sciatica

This is a short month of Tesla ownership, only two out of the usual four weeks.

My car developed what can only be described as Sciatica (Sciatica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) the compression of one of the main nerves in the body resulting in pain; in my case one of the main cables in the base of the battery got pinched (crushed, not nicked by some scally), the result; new battery.

I’m not the first to suffer this on the site; my instance started a few weeks back when, after unlocking the car, the doors didn’t work, a few more tries and they kicked into life. The VDS in the Tesla does cry wolf a bit so did get a little bit ignored by me when it said ‘Low power system service required’ but I guess that this is what it foretold when eventually, a couple of weeks later I got in, switched on and nothing. It said ‘Low power system failure’ and lit up the ‘FAULT’ dashboard light. It was no go.

Raphael from Tesla came out and took a look; apparently it occurs when a rivet close to the wiring rubs through, resolved in later builds no doubt. He returned for the car on Sunday and boxed it up for a trip up to Boston, the nearest service center until New York Service opens. Why do so many people pass by and gawk as the car goes into the box yet a few days later upon its return… no one!

The returned car sports a battery replacement, new firmware, fancy new floor mats and new door sills; nice.

It is of course great to have it back; a week driving an ICE car with only 67bhp has reset my expectations and I’m rediscovering it all again. I think I’ll plan to drive the hybrid at least once every month or so to keep me grounded.
It is of course great to have it back; a week driving an ICE car with only 67bhp has reset my expectations and I’m rediscovering it all again. I think I’ll plan to drive the hybrid at least once every month or so to keep me grounded.

I just got new tires on my car. At the same times I had the adjustable suspension dialed back into factory settings. It was at the firmest setting.

It is like driving a brand new Tesla Roadster again. It is a different car with new tires and set on softer suspension.

Once my rear tires with the high performance Sport wore out (6,000 miles), I had them replaced with the normal Tesla tires. Much better ride and less tire noise. I left the front tires at the Seattle Tesla store for someone else to use if they need them.
I picked up a set of the same tires for my last car, a MINI; first thing I noticed; incredibly loud. My Roadster is a 2.0 'Classic' so doesn't have the adjustable suspension. It is quite soft, I wouldn't mind a bit firmer actually.

Might fit adjustables one day... after I've updated the firmware to turn it into a Sport motor first :biggrin: