Top Questions New Tesla Owners Ask
Updated: Jul 30, 2022
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Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Jon Shevelew, founding member of the Tesla Owners Club of Pennsylvania (TOCPA), about one of our favorite topics: Teslas. (link to https://www.tocpa.club/)
A main mission of TOCPA is educating Tesla owners. Last year alone, hundreds of Tesla owners attended the club’s virtual classes. Jon and his team have also fielded hundreds, if not thousands, of questions from Tesla owners.
At Immaculate Paint Protection, we direct Tesla owners to the club because we experienced first-hand all the great information and activities they provide. We feel that Tesla owners who are not literally in the club are missing out on the complete Tesla experience.
Here are the top questions new Tesla owners ask—and Jon’s answers.
Bill: How far can I drive my Tesla on a charge?
Jon: When you buy a Tesla, you go through a paradigm shift in the way you think about travel. You can no longer just stop anywhere, fill up your tank, and keep going. Travel in a Tesla takes a bit of planning.
That said, today’s Teslas are light years ahead of the first Tesla I bought in 2014. Back then, if you found as supercharger, you did the dance of joy because they were so few and far between.
These days, it’s rare to drive anywhere in the United States and be more than 120 miles from a supercharger.
To understand range, you first have to understand the levels of charging:
· Level 1: This is when you plug your Tesla into a 110-outlet, such as at your house. This charges your battery using alternating current (AC), and it requires an inverter to convert it to direct current (DC). To charge my model Y from practically dead takes about 20 hours.
· Level 2: For this type of charge, you use a 240-volt line, similar to what powers an electric drier. This is also AC and requires the conversion step. I can charge my Tesla using this type of line in 6 to 7 hours.
· Supercharging: This is a DC fast charge, so it doesn’t need to be converted, saving that step—and time. The power goes directly into the battery.
The Tesla Supercharger network, which is made up of more than 35,000 chargers globally, is built and owned by Tesla. Until around 2018, it was free to charge Teslas at these superchargers. Today there’s a cost, but it’s probably a quarter the price of gas. For example, at a Tesla supercharger in Pennsylvania, I pay around 30 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with around 13 cents I pay at home.
It’s easy to find Tesla Superchargers because there’s an app for that: the Tesla app. When you type a destination into your Tesla, the vehicle automatically routes you via superchargers so you can arrive at your destination. It even tells you how long you’ll be stopped and adjusts your destination time accordingly. If a supercharger is busy, your Tesla will automatically re-route you to the next one. I can charge my Tesla from 12 to 80 percent in about 20 minutes at a Tesla Supercharger. I can drive around 280 miles on that charge.
But usually you don’t run the battery dry like that. I generally drive 30 to 50 miles a day, and it takes only around 20 minutes to recharge my Tesla at night.
To calculate how far you can drive on a charge in a Tesla is similar to how you’d calculate it for a gas-powered vehicle. The textbook answer is to simply multiply the watt hours per mile (wh/mi) by the watt hour capacity of your battery.
In the real world, it’s a little more complicated than that, of course. That’s why your Tesla will make instant adjustments based upon the type of driving you’re doing. For example, if you’re driving on the highway, you’ll use more power than if you’re driving at the most efficient speed of around 40 miles per hour. That sweet spot for Teslas is similar to gas-powered cars.
Another factor is the weight of your vehicle. Carrying more weight in people and stuff means more power is needed. However, that affects Teslas less than gas-powered vehicles because the additional weight of the battery makes for a heavier vehicle overall, making the people/stuff weight less of a percentage of the total. My model Y Tesla weighs around 4,400 pounds, while a same-size gas vehicle would weigh around 3,200 pounds.
Road conditions also affect power usage. Bad weather, such as rain or snow on the road, increase rolling resistance, which is the amount of friction your tires create on the road. Driving through water offers more resistance than dry pavement. Wind resistance also can increase power needs, such as if you are driving into a headwind.
Not to worry, to adjust for this Teslas have a new feature. They check the local weather forecast and alert you that you’re driving into the wind or on messy roads, and they adjust your power needs and ETA accordingly.
Bill: How do Tesla owners know they have the latest and greatest updates?
Jon: Whenever Tesla updates their technology, everyone gets the update automatically via Over the Air software updates. It doesn’t matter if you bought your Tesla in 2022 or 2012. They broadcast the update through the internet, and then your Tesla downloads it and asks when you want to install it. You can’t use your car during software update installations, but they typically take less than an hour to install. I schedule mine for 2 in the morning. Of course there are some hardware limitations that cannot be upgraded through software on older vehicles. It’s not unusual for new Tesla owners to wait 4 to 8 weeks before they begin getting software updates.
Bill: How can I get support for my new Tesla technology?
Jon: Tesla believes in designing intuitive user interfaces, and as with any technology, it sometime help to have advanced users—i.e. the Tesla club—show you the ropes. Tesla owners are very passionate people who love helping and sharing their experiences.
That’s why Ken Levin, Barry Robertson, and I founded our Tesla Owners Club in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania. Tesla took notice and asked us to be the only club in the entire state of Pennsylvania, with direct communication with them. It was the first organization of its kind in Pennsylvania.
To decentralize, we organized into seven chapters, each planning and running their own events. Each chapter has a director, who is on our club board, which meets every other month.
In addition to our website, to communicate information to our members, we launched a Facebook group. Our group has grown dramatically in a short time. Each chapter has its own Facebook page, and the sState organization also maintains a Facebook page.
About a year ago, we started an owner hotline. It’s free to our members. (And membership starts at just $9.99 a year.) It’s manned 24/7, 365 days a year. Club members can call anytime, day or night, and ask questions.
All of the questions are interesting, and some are funny. One owner called because he managed to lock his key card in his Tesla. I thought that was impossible. Fortunately, we were able to help him get into his Tesla and back on the road again.
For more information about TOCPA—and to join—visit them at https://www.tocpa.club.
For paint protection film and ceramic coating packages, pricing, and more visit us at https://www.immaculatepaintprotection.com/tesla.
About the author: Bill Fetter’s passion for cars started at an early age, as he loved anything with wheels. Through his childhood, Bill observed his dad’s work as a mechanical engineer turned marketing manager and proud lifelong employee of General Motors. During high school, Bill honed his passion for cars by hand-washing and detailing his neighbors’ vehicles. Knowing he wanted to be in the automotive industry, Bill earned a degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. He’s worked as an engineer in the automotive manufacturing, medical device, steel industry, and pharmaceutical manufacturing fields.