Tesla Model Y Impressions Part II

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It’s been over three months since I jotted down my initial impressions of the Tesla Model Y and a number of things have happened since then.

Bless the Super Charger Network

We took a number of road trips down to Toronto over the summer and early autumn. We took so many road trips that we found ourselves using up all the free KMs that were given to us via the now defunct referral program

Our first impression was not very positive at all. We knew that we had to stop at least once for food, bio break, and the opportunity top up so that we didn’t enter Toronto needing to charge. I chose Kingston as the stop of choice, but that location was too busy, had too few Supercharger, and the charging stations arranged in a manner where people parked in non-designated Tesla spots can grab the cable from the other side. It was annoying to say the least and it left a very bad first impression. 

So we set off to the next major city, Belleville, and its 20 SApechargers. That was a superior experience from top to bottom. There were plenty of spaces and the amnesties were alright. It was located in the Quinte Pointe shopping mall which meant we had access to everything a typical mall has to offer during open hours. It would be ideal to start seeing charging stations at ONroute stops as well, but we’ll see if that 2022 plan bares fruit.

Supercharging Etiquette

Once you find a spot, the actual Supercharger experience was extremely pleasant. There were not additional apps to pull up, no sign-ins required, no need wonder if you even need an app in the first place: it just works.

  1. Pull-up
  2. Plug-in
  3. Wait.
  4. Get the bill afterwards.

We had a 100% success rate with charging stations. Every single one of those stations worked which is something I shouldn’t take for granted. 

Because we punched in the Supercharger as a destination in the navigation, the Model Y began prepping itself for fast charging which saves us time and preserve’s the car batteries’ health. We Supercharged for about 20 – 30 minutes each time when we only really needed 10 – 15 because we often took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat. I’ve had more East Side Mario’s this year than the last 5 years combined thanks to the proximity of that restaurant. 

On one of our trips, we learned something about “Supercharging etiquette” where we’re supposed to space our cars apart and not double up on a charging station if there were other spaces available. It wasn’t for fear of the cooties, but to allow every one to receive the full speed of the charging station. Nobody told us about this until a friendly Tesla owner told us about it.

Basically, if a charging station has numbering like 2A, 2B, and 2A is occupied, one should go to a free 3A or 3B first.

The charging time estimates were usually quite accurate, but once the charging was nearing completion, we would receive a notification on our phones warning us about idling fees. I understand why idle fees exist, but it’s a tiny bit annoying to have to get up to move the car in the middle of a meal. 

Convenient Service

Every car will have its problems, and although people will be quick to point out Tesla’s quality control issues, to me it’s not the mistakes or faults that defines my perception of a product/company; it’s how you recover from said issues. We interacted with Tesla service 4 times over the last few months and they’ve been mostly positive.

1 – TPMS and free PPF Install

I wanted to get some TPMS sensors for the winter wheels/tires. So we visited the Service Center to buy them and I mentioned that I heard Model Y deliveries in Canada started to include the mud flaps and PPF kit and was wondering if we qualified. The service tech told us that our VIN didn’t qualify, but they were going to offer it to us anyways and install it on the spot. It took less than 15 minutes and we got what we wanted and then some.

The mud flaps and PPF kits were not too expensive, but the TPMS sensors were. I took the whole visit as a a net zero. I got what I wanted and we left on a positive note.

2 – Roadside Assistance for flat tire

We made it into Toronto one long weekend, turn the corner to my fiancee’s parent’s street and then hear a noise that sounded like we scraped a curb. We took a look after we parked, but didn’t see anything wrong. Maybe we just scraped the tire?

The next morning, it was evident that what we heard was the tire being punctured. My fiancee had a CAA, but we decided to see what Tesla’s Roadside Assistance offered. We punched in our request through the app and they gave us a very reasonable quote that didn’t require towing whatsoever. We discovered the puncture at 9am or so and by 12:30pm, Tesla had dropped by with the exact tire we needed and swapped it out.

It turns out that we ran over some metal shard that sliced open the tire. An unfortunate accident that was resolved quickly without us having to pay an exorbitant amount of money. We didn’t need to deal with any towing or figuring out what tire we had to buy. The Tesla service team had all that info which meant we didn’t even need to physically interact with the mobile service tech if we didn’t want to.

A fantastic experience.

3 – Folding Back Seat & trunk door felt panel repair

Mobile service was a game changer. Knowing that many of the service calls can be made without us having to drop the car off, we decided to get a couple of things looked at. The first item was the folding back seat which didn’t fold down when triggered and the other was a felt back panel that wasn’t glued all the way.

A Tesla technician dropped by our house and took care of the felt panel without issue, but the seat needed a spring replacement which had to be ordered and for us to drop the car off at the service center. A couple of weeks later, we dropped off the car and it was repaired without issue. 

A positive experience in the end.

4 – Windshield wiper sprayer stopped spraying

The windshield wiper sprayer stopped spraying  We thought it was out of windshield wiper fluid, but it wasn’t spraying properly after refilling it. We called the mobile technician and after waiting the entire 1:00 – 5:30 pm window, they finally showed up at 5:45pm and got it working within a handful of minutes. Unfortunately, we discovered that the strength of the spray wasn’t like we got it so we scheduled another mobile technician appointment.

Not a great experience, but thankfully we don’t need to drop the car off yet. It’s just silly that this minor issue is even happening in the first place.

Mobile service visits allow Tesla to just drop by our house or even a publicly accessible workplace parking lot to service the car. However, as convenient as it may seem, they cannot solve every issue without a visit to the service center. All  cars are still made by humans and they will all have small issues that need to be addressed by someone. I would have a very different view on the car if I had to drive my car to another city to address relatively minor issues. 

We’re now adjusting to other cars

After many months and numerous kilometers driving with one pedal, aggressive regeneration, not needing to start/stop the car, I find every other car feels weird now. I now drive the Chevy Volt 2016 in L mode which has more aggressive regen in an effort to mimic the Tesla Model Y’s feel. The Volt’s keyless entry and ignition adds a minor step to the vehicle entry and exit process, but it’s amazing to me how dated it feels now.

As expected from the price tag, the noise isolation on the Model Y is on a different level compared to the Volt. Road and wind noise at high speeds are quite noticeable in the Chevy compared to the Model Y.

Having said all that, I still miss Apple Car Play in the Model Y. It’s just a superior audio control experience. 

Improvements over time

As expected, the Tesla Model Y received a number of software improvements since we received the car. The most recent noticeable change was the updated mobile app which gave us the ability to adjust charging amperage and schedule charging remotely. They also made improvements to driver safety by activating the in cabin camera to monitor for driver inattentiveness. They also made a number of small user interface improvements and adjustments like the ability to toggle between percentage and distance easily on the battery indicator.

I didn’t even mention the Full Self Driving beta that was recently released to American owners because 1) we didn’t purchase the upgrade and 2) that FSD beta isn’t available in Canada yet. I don’t think I’ll ever buy FSD for this car at this rate. I think we’re content with just Autopilot for now

Autopilot is good

Autopilot is essentially just driving with a good adaptive cruise control and auto steering. The car does a remarkable job keeping to the center of the road and maintaining a set distance away from cars ahead. It makes long drives a much more relaxing experience in comparison. It shifted the driver’s mentality from being actively engaged to actively monitoring. It actually made the term “Autopilot” make sense to me. Pilots are not actively flying the plane when they put their planes on autopilot, but they are still keeping watch over everything. We’re still monitoring our surroundings and the conditions of the road. Getting in and out of Autopilot was very easy which is important because it can be jarring if Autopilot is not properly disengaged by using the gear selector stalk.

The journey continues…

Winter is around the corner and I’m very curious how the vehicle will handle. I’m curious how the wheels and tires we bought will fare. I’m also wondering what changes the car will receive as time and progress marches forward.

Tesla Model Y 2021 Impressions

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We now own 1.5 electric vehicles. The 0.5 being my 2016 Chevrolet Volt which is a plug-in hybrid and the 1 being the 2021 Tesla Model Y. I didn’t plan to pick up an electric vehicle so soon, but favorable factors and circumstances lined up so we replaced an aging Hyundai Tucson with the Tesla Model Y.

I meant to write these impressions after a few weeks of ownership, but time just slipped away and now I find myself with a more complete and well rounded take on the Tesla Model Y

All Electric Vehicles Are Viable in Canada

With its EPA estimated 525 KM of range, commuting around town is not a problem. In fact, that hasn’t been a problem for quite some time now; I can go shopping and commute to work and avoid the gas half of my Volt most of the time already. The next big hurdle for the EV to overcome was the road trip. I wasn’t comfortable with the state of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in 2015, but we’ve come a long way since then. Tesla’s SuperCharger is the most expansive charging network in Canada which means I can easily make my way across Canada if I wanted to. (I’m never going to do it, but the option is there. On top of Tesla’s own network, other charging networks like Electrify Canada are coming online along with the myriad of others in cities all across the nation. 

Level 2 charging is fine

We ended up having to upgrade the charger from the Evocharge 30 amp charger that I used with my Chevy Volt to a Chargepoint Home Flex that can shove in up to 50 amp worth of power into the car. (Well apparently it’s actually 40 amp because equipment don’t draw up to the rated limit) It’s fine. It works fine, the included adapter and the $113 extra that we bought to keep in the car works fine. 

Adapter? Yes. We bought an extra J1772 to Tesla adapter to keep in the car as a backup, because I need this North American standard connector for my Chevy Volt and I bought the Apple of electric vehicles which developed their own standard charging connector. 

The Tesla connector has its benefits including the ability to automatically recognize my car any SuperCharging station and charge my account without having to futz around with apps or payment methods. I’m sure it’s super convenient for the times when I go on the road, but it’s a bit of a nuisance that I need an adapter to charge my two electric vehicles.

What about Canadian winters?

The Volt leverages its gas engine to maintain ideal battery conditions, but even with that, the battery range does take a hit. We obviously haven’t tested it yet at the time of posting, but Tesla Model Y’s battery range will be reduced by the cold temperatures. How much depends if we preconditioned the car or not. The Model Y has a heat pump which is supposed to help with heating efficiency and while we weren’t able to test it for ourselves, others have vouched for its efficiency gains

Features Available When Ready

Our Model Y also came with a heated steering wheel which was not included with the car’s initial deliveries in 2020. There were also a number of minor changes like the matte center console. This kind of seemingly random and unannounced releases gives a whole sub-industry of blogs and YouTube channels the fodder to create speculation and scouting content for when features arrive. People are putting up content for new deliveries showing off everything from pending system software updates to a matte center console. Since Tesla doesn’t update their website or announce upcoming changes until their entire production pipeline can guarantee these features, people are posting Vehicle Identification Number ranges in an effort to help signal to others when it’s “safe” to place orders. 

We wanted the heated steering wheel, so we purposely waited a month or so before putting in our order for the Model Y. The feature wasn’t included on the Tesla site at the time of ordering, but it appeared by the time we received our car. 

Tesla doesn’t officially do model years, but they effectively exist and it would just be a easier for everyone if they just came out and made it official and just announce what they plan to include ahead of time. 

No Hassle Shopping

We purchased our Tesla online. We submitted our license, auto information, and organized the financials without setting foot at the Tesla center. There were no upsells or haggling nonsense to deal with. The price was transparent and it was easily the most pleasant car purchasing experience. The only signing we had to do was the post-delivery confirmation of condition on delivery day. The dealership system is outdated and needs to evolve.

Delivery Day

Tesla has a reputation for build quality issues and its probably deserved — especially for their earlier models and earlier production runs. You could argue that they rushed cars out in order to meet financial targets or due to inexperience with manufacturing, but we didn’t see any of those issues and vast majority of people won’t encounter the issues early adopters of the Model Y saw. The folks at our delivery meeting gave us plenty of time to pore over the car to check for defects and issues. We came away satisfied with zero issues to report. A couple of months later that’s still the case.

While it is possible to drive off the lot without fine tuning the car to your specific needs (we did that for the test drive that we did AFTER we ordered one), taking the time to familiarize and set the car up to your preferences goes a long way. 

Goodbye coasting!

I think one of the more controversial decisions they made was to remove the ability to coast. Tesla cars will always aggressively apply regenerative braking as soon as the drive lets go of the accelerator. This combined with the automatic brake and “Hold” setting allows for one pedal driving, but it’s not how the vast majority of cars operate. My Volt doesn’t do that by default; it applies a light regen when I release the pedal and it feels like the car is gradually slowing down like in a Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car. I can then gradually apply additional brakes if required. While Tesla’s aggressive regen may save on brakes, it does require a bit more effort to come to a gentle stop. 

The driver needs to gently lift off the accelerator to achieve a smoother stop. I found nailing that transition before the brake automatically grabs hold on the “Hold” setting a bit tricksy to nail so I switched to “Creep” mode which continues to apply a bit acceleration after you lift off brake or gas like an ICE car. I found it easier to finely apply brakes then it was to finely negotiate the accelerator.

My fiancee stayed with the default “Hold” driving mode and has gotten better at slowing the car down to a gentle stop, but there are still herky-jerky moments. I recently tried to switch back to the default, but I’m still not a fan of it. It might be tempting to switch to the “Roll” mode which basically allows the car to “roll” when the brake or accelerators aren’t pressed, but it just means that you’ll have to gently press the accelerator forward all the time when you make fine movements like in Hold mode and that’s not for me. 

An Interface That Wasn’t Made For Driving

Can you drive the Tesla Model Y and operate its many functions while keeping your eyes on the road? 

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, but it either takes practice or you becoming familiar with voice commands.

Tesla replacing physical buttons for the touchscreen was made to cut costs and I find it difficult to consider any other reason as valid. It’s not safer. An elegant single unit physical control has existed for years. This wouldn’t have taken more space at all, but Tesla decided not to implement it and the only fathomable reason for this decision is that they wanted to keep costs low. They may try to reason that it’s a stylistic minimalism approach, but nobody who’s actually serious about the safety of their products would make the wiper speed selection a touchscreen target. You could use voice or become proficient at touching the screen with a quick glance, but those two options require learning curves. On the plus side, you can use this as a reason to rebuff requests to borrow your car.

The volume and media controls are easily accessible via the wheel, but the climate controls are all on the touchscreen. I’ve gotten used to the touchscreen, but I’m still quite critical of its design and the interface’s behavior. I would be more lenient towards the screen if it looked like it was made driving first. The size of the touch targets and how screens and panes don’t get out of the way when you actually want to drive the car is very peculiar. When I shift the car into reverse, I expect the cameras to turn on and supersede everything else on the screen, but it doesn’t. I’ll have to close the media or navigation screens first. If I’m playing Fallout Shelter while waiting for some one and I suddenly have to move, I cannot shift the car into Drive without closing the app first. Why didn’t they just forcibly close the app when I shift to Drive?

Smooth-ish Ride

The absence of a speedometer directly in front of me was a non issue. The eye is naturally drawn to lit objects and I naturally glanced over to find the speed. Keeping an eye the speedometer is a good idea, because this car just sails and you can’t just rely on engine or wind noise to tell you how fast you’re currently going. There’s a built-in audible chime that’s there to alert you if you exceed the speed limit, but that quickly gets annoying. 

We feel very stable and in control when driving at all kinds of speeds, but we feel the bumps on the road. It’s not wildly out of control or anything of the sort, but it doesn’t absorb bumps as nicely as I would have hoped. Perhaps it’s all exacerbated by the fact that we’re surrounded by construction and road maintenance though. 

Decent entertainer

At first glance, the Tesla Model Y is very good at entertaining people. The Caroake, the built-in YouTube, Spotify, Twitch, Cuphead, Fallout Shelter, big screen, great sound system, and dumb gags are all there to ensure people can distract themselves without the need for a phone. I can even connect a controller to play Cuphead! (I haven’t tried it yet though)

Many of the entertaining features built into the car work as advertised when you have Premium Connectivity and other paid services such as Spotify Premium. If I gave myself to the Spotify and Tesla Premium Connectivity life, I would have very few complaints. However, I don’t live that life; I own an iPhone and I would gladly give up all those entertainment options for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. 

I can easily receive and reply to WhatsApp and text messages with Siri. I can resume my podcasts and use regular Spotify from my iPhone. I can ask Siri for other useless info as well. For me, Tesla’s setup is a step above the 2011 Hyundai Tucson that its replacing and doesn’t integrate anywhere as neatly as my iPhone and my 2016 Chevy Volt.

Much like its interface as a whole, I find the Tesla to be an excellent entertainer while stationary courtesy to its built-in games and video streaming apps. While driving,  the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes it less than ideal. It also doesn’t have an AM receiver which is not the end of the world, but it’s very much one of those things you would like when the world is actually ending. 

Storage space for days

This Model Y has a surprising amount of storage space. I’m not referring to the Frunk which is neat, but a little inconvenient to get at compared to the trunk. The trunk itself is spacious, but there’s even more beside the wheel wells and underneath the bed of the back. The center console itself is just storage space for all sorts of things. I think I prefer the clear floor of the d, but this arrangement filled with storage and space for two wireless phone chargers is no slouch either.

Thus far? It’s a flawed gem of a car

The service and test drive co-ordinator introduced introduced Tesla like this: 

“Welcome to Tesla. We’re not a car company. We’re an energy company that happens to make cars.”

That explains quite a bit about the Model Y and what I perceive as unusual quirks that don’t align with my expectations from a car made for driving. It takes a bit of time to acclimatize myself to the way Tesla does things, but the car does end up being very good overall. The complaints about lack of Apple CarPlay or silly UI behaviour fades into the background when the instant torque response kicks in and I’m driving around without a drop of gasoline or engine rumble to speak of. 

Next, I just need to take it on a road trip and have my first SuperCharging experience.

More to come.

Checkpoint: Tesla Model 3 Edition

I felt a brief moment of regret after laying eyes on the Tesla Model 3. For approximately 5 seconds, I thought the car that Elon Musk unveiled late Thursday night was the ideal fit and that perhaps I should have waited for his latest product. But then I gathered my senses and went back to playing The Division.

I didn’t make a reservation. I’ve prodded people in hopes that they would but realistically, the Tesla Model 3 isn’t what I was hoping for.

The specification are sound:

  • 215 miles on a single charge
  • Starts at $35 000 USD before government incentives
  • 0 – 60 MPH in 6 seconds
  • Seats 5

It sounds all well in good but what they’ve shown so far makes me question who this is for. I think it’s for the Tesla fan that can’t afford a Model S or Model X; it’s not for the everyday person just yet and all the interior design decisions point to that fact.

But let’s talk about the exterior first. Outside of the weird grill-less front, I really like the look of the Model 3’s exterior. That single piece of glass for the windshield, roof and rear window is a source of envy. It makes me wonder why we haven’t seen car manufacturers try this kind of design though. Is it cost thing? A potential safety issue? I have no idea but I’d like to see this idea take off.

There are plenty of exterior shots of the car on Tesla’s website but the interior is absent. They’re not hiding it — they showed it off during that reveal — but it’s probably not final and they didn’t want many people studying it too closely.

The giant touch screen is an eye catching centre piece. However, once I was done being wowed and thought about what it would be like to live with that as the only means of input. I thought I would be fine with the first generation Volt’s capacitive touch controls but as soon as I got into one and had look at where I was tapping, I realized that not everything should be touch based. Basic functions like volume and climate control are fine as knobs. Just look at the Nest which pushed for simplicity and brought back the classic knob based thermostat.

According to Elon, not every detail in the Model 3 is set in stone and it’s all subject to change before actual manufacturing begins. One area, I would like for them to address is the lack of speedometer. There’s a widget on the top left that will display the speed but I don’t want to glance to the right, I would like to see it in front of me. I don’t need it in a traditional dashboard set up; I will be happy if they projected on the windshield.

Other decisions that made me question the appeal of the car for the masses is the trunk opening. My brother and I thought it was going to be a hatchback but that single piece of glass setup meant it’s the exact opposite of a hatchback with one of the dinkiest of trunk entrances I’ve ever seen.

There still may be too many concessions for people to go full electric but efforts like the Model 3 are very promising. I look forward to seeing the car on the road.

I finished Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. I didn’t like it very much and I’ll elaborate why later this week. I also finished the main content in The Division but I’m not done with it yet. I’m curious what the upcoming Incurision (or “raid”) is like and there are still a handful of enemies to thwart in the Dark Zone.