From Fremont to LA, SuperCharging all the way
by, 2012-10-23 at 12:43 AM (56076 Views)
So now that I’ve had two nights to sleep, I figured I’d document my first few days with the car, from factory pickup to the drive back to LA. Here we go….
As some of you may know from my previous posts, I’ve got to take a deja-vu visit to the Tesla Factory in Fremont, CA. I was told to fly up on the weekend of October 13th only to get bad news that my car had a minor rear window glass problem that delayed final delivery to the following week. I got the “it’s really ready this time” e-mail on Tuesday the 16th, so I had Tesla book me another flight to pick up the car on Friday the 19th.
Renee, EricVFX’s wife was in town on business so I invited her to come get the car with me. We stopped by the Palo Alto office first and had lunch with fellow SoCalGreenSpeed.com member and Roadster owner (and now Tesla employee) Scott. He gave us a nice “behind the scenes” tour of HQ. Got to see a bunch of happy Tesla faces and lot of activity in the product testing and manufacturing department. After the tour it was time to fetch a few more friends from the area and head to the factory for the tour and car delivery.
Since it was a Friday and not Sunday like my last factory visit, the place was brimming with employees and lots of activity. We had to dodge forklifts left and right as they were moving stuff all over. Saw almost-completed cars in the 700 range on the floor this time. After our mile long trek through the cavernous factory floor it was time to head back to the Delivery Center to actually take possession of my car. Sitting in bay two, right next to my car, was an almost identically configured S. There was another group of happy new owners getting their demonstration of the car systems. When we looked closer it was another SoCalGreenSpeed member Tim from Santa Barbara. He was there with his son who was getting his new S. It was exciting to see another familiar face with an EV grin. Lauren, my assigned delivery specialist, proceeded to take my check for the balance and then demonstrate the features of the car. When we got to the frunk she said “double click on the frunk on the key fob and see how it opens.” When I opened it I got a pleasant surprise and found a Tesla jacket along with a “goodie” basket with a bottle of champagne and various road snacks (chips, a PEZ dispenser, etc). I thought that was a thoughtful touch. Since I am a tech guy and Roadster owner we just breezed through all of the “how to use the car” stuff and she sent us on our way home. It was late on Friday afternoon so I ran into a bunch of traffic heading back to Sunnyvale where I dropped off my friends and spent the night.
The drive home:
Upon taking delivery I asked about the needed firmware upgrade to allow for SuperCharger access. Lauren assured me that the tech department would push out the update no later than 10pm on Friday night so it would be ready for my Saturday morning road trip. I checked in on the car at 10pm and there was no update message. I checked again before I went to bed around 11:30pm and still no message. I just figured they were working late and that I would wake up and find the message on the screen. I didn’t sleep much that night knowing that my new car was sitting out front waiting for my fun drive home so I went outside at 7:30am and checked again for the update screen… no dice. Since it was early on Saturday morning I figured I’d e-mail people before trying to call (I had Lauren’s cell # from the previous day). I got a response back about ½ hour later from her. She passed it on to Neil who is the Delivery Program Manager and he got Joost involved. It took a while but they finally got the firmware pushed out to my car by around 11:30am. I installed the update and then headed out from Sunnyvale at about 1:15pm for the trip home.
From Sunnyvale to Gilroy was only about 45 miles so I didn’t use much charge but figured I’d stop at all of the SuperChargers along the way. I arrived about 2pm and found the SuperChargers next to the Sony Store. Although I’m not a fan of the large "phallus" unveiled at the Hawthorne event, Tesla needs some visible branding at each of the stations. Since the car was 70% full when I arrived, it never ramped up to much more than 100 MPH charge rate. I wandered around the outlet mall for about 45 minutes before heading off to Harris Ranch. I left with about 232 of range miles on the charge screen and a bag of Sony purchases. I set the cruise control for 80MPH for most of the way figuring I didn’t really care about getting the best WH/mile since I was going to stop at all of the stations.
I got to Harris Ranch at about 4:30pm with about 50% charge and 100 projected miles left. There is only one SuperCharger spot next to the bathrooms at the Shell station. One thing that Tesla really needs to do is put bump stops or visual guides to line up the car in the spot. The SuperCharger cable is VERY short and you must be perfectly aligned to make it fit. Since I was at 50% charge this time the car began to charge at the max 300MPH rate. I stayed a bit longer than necessary since I got caught in a bunch of “Tesla time” talking to about 15 people that walked over from the gas pumps to look at the car. I wish I had grabbed some S brochures from the factory before I left. I filled up to about 75% SOC after about 50 minutes, unplugged and headed back on the road.
As a side note, the SuperCharger main box is right next to the charge cable at Harris Ranch. You can look inside the vent grates on the box and see the unit is liquid cooled with a large heat exchanger. The cooling fan on the unit ramps up in proportion to the charge rate of the car. I know this is geeky but as a tech guy I like this stuff. Although it might be some electrical ordinance, there is a very clearly labeled master off switch on the Eaton power box that any passer-by could flip to stop your car from charging. I guess this won’t be too big of a deal once the phone app is available.
I set the cruise again for 80 as I made the 100+ mile haul along the very boring and very straight section from Harris Ranch to Tejon Ranch. I did have to test the speed limiter once on that stretch (the previous statement is false if you are a law enforcement officer reading this post). By this time it was getting dark and every bug in the world seemed to aim straight for my windshield. The light sensor in the car is a bit too aggressive and turns the screens to night mode well before it gets dark enough to see them. I’m sure Tesla can adjust the sensitivity. Since my windshield was now covered in bugs, I figured I needed to stop by a gas station to clean it before pulling into the SuperCharger. It was strange pulling up to a pump to clean the windows, but I did it anyway. I did have a strange issue where the door handle extended but the door wouldn’t open when I tried to get back in the car at the gas station after cleaning the windshield. I had to lock and unlock the car with the key fob before it would let me back in (Tesla confirmed this is a known issue being addressed in a new firmware release).
I pulled into the SuperCharger spot about around 7pm with about 25% charge and showing about 40 estimated miles left. Once again it took two tries to line up the car correctly with the cable. There are two active charging spots and the rest are just blanks for now. The station is missing some of the nice “window dressing” of the one shown at the Hawthorne premiere. There are no LED lights above the stalls just some run-of-the-mill home depot florescent lights.
The cool push button sliding cover on the pillar charge cable has been replaced with a manual door (I’m sure far more reliable). And once again there is very little branding except for the word “Tesla” written sideways on the charge posts. All of the SuperCharger equipment at Tejon Ranch is hidden behind a nice rock wall on the left (no phallus here either). Interesting note that at Harris Ranch and Gilroy there is a sign attached to the back of the charger that says call 877-79-TESLA for support but at Tejon Ranch is has the added time restrictions of 10am-10pm. What happens if you have a problem outside of those hours? Since there was a Yogurtland next door I figured I’d get a snack before heading out on my last leg home. I charged for about 45 minutes again and left with about 75% charge.
It was disconcerting to watch the projected range drop dramatically as I climbed up the Grapevine. Since I’ve driven my Roadster up to Lake Arrowhead before, I knew that this would happen and then you will get wildly large range numbers when you come down the hill. The S did the same thing. At the top of the hill it said I had 80 projected miles left, by the time I got to the bottom in Valencia it projected over 250 miles left. Since my mother lives in Canyon Country and it wasn’t that far out of the way I decided to stop by before heading home. I arrived to her place at about 8:45 and let her test drive the car. I then got back on the road and got home at about 10pm.
Overall I could have only stopped once at Harris Ranch to charge if I drove more conservatively. If you want to average 80 then you probably need to stop at two of the three stations. I’m sure if someone does the math it is probably more efficient time-wise and charge-wise to drive slower and charge less, but it’s far more fun to drive fast, charge more often and have “Tesla time” with curious admirers. It was fun to pave the way as the first “real” customer to try out the SuperChargers from the Fremont factory back to Los Angeles. Although I usually choose to take a Southwest plane when heading to the Bay Area, it was so much fun driving the S I might have to drive more often. DrComputer signing out.