Tesla Drive to Believe challenge 2017

Due to several reasons, I have not written a blog about the Tesla Drive to Believe challenge of January 2017. Better late than never! And yes, that is my mother in the picture above. She is sitting in the frunk (front trunk), which is also ideal for placing take-out food as to not get the smell in the car.

It all started with me signing up my mother for the Tesla Drive to Believe challenge. The idea was that you had to explain why you deserve to drive a Tesla for a week and if you are lucky enough, you win. Before we heard we had won, we had two interviews over Skype with the team that came up with the whole concept of Drive to Believe. We did not only win 11 days in a Tesla (we had the choice between 7 or 11 days, so obviously we chose the latter), but we were only one of four (out of 40.000+ registrations in Europe) to have a filmcrew to make a commercial video. You can find the video on Tesla’s website: Tesla Drive to Believe – Nederland.

First day, 10 January 2017

Tuesday 10 January 2017 was T-day and the start of the adventure. An early start, because the team of people in charge of the program arrived at around 7:00. In the team, there were two people from Tesla (they brought the car), a director, a cameraman, an assistent, two people from the company that came up with the concept and another assistent. Very nice people!

First, we acted in a breakfast scene, then my mother was interviewed and finally (after about 6 hours of filming and interviewing) she could see the car for the first time. The Tesla we had for 11 days, was a Model S 90D in multi-coat red with a tan/beige interior. I think it is a very nice combination for this car.

During the interviews and a lunch break, the driver of the Tesla we would have for 11 days, was picked up by a colleague in a Tesla Model X.

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Three Tesla’s on our driveway!

Our Tesla was not a performance model (4,4 seconds to 100 km/h is still very quick!), but the Model X was a P90D with Insane mode. The guy from Tesla was more than happy to let me feel insane mode and it is really impressive. This is a 2.500 kg SUV that sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3,6 seconds!

After my short but thrilling ride in the insane Model X, the crew wanted to film different reactions from my mother when seeing the car. Everything was filmed, several times to get everything right, for example: when first seeing the car, her reaction when she came close to the car and the door handles popped out, and her expression when finally getting in the car. Once in the car, someone from Tesla explained to her how the car worked and helped her with all the different settings for her driver profile.

Around 16:00, my mother was finally allowed to drive the car. We drove around in the area and it was very cool, because we had two red Tesla’s and a big van with a cameraman hanging out the door (very close to the surface of the road!) to film everything. We also had some sprints when driving side-by-side. Other drivers seem to understand that we were filming, so they kept their distance. After driving around for close to an hour, we went back home. The next day, the cameracrew drove around all day to film the car while driving around in the area. Wednesday 12 January was the first day we had the Tesla completely to ourselves.

Our experience and adventures with the Tesla Model S 90D

I will discuss the most interesting situations we experienced during our time with the Tesla. One of which is the heavy snow on Thursday 12 Januari 2017. We could not drive faster than 50 km/h (30 mph), because the roadmarkings were not visible.

Related to the cold weather during our Drive to Believe experience is the pre-conditioning of the car. The pre-heating is very quick and easy to do with the Tesla mobile app. The two pictures below show just how quick the Tesla can pre-condition the interior of the car. In 5 minutes from 2,7 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit) to 20,5 degrees Celsius (69 degrees Fahrenheit).

Autopilot

I made a short video of Autopilot 1.0 with two examples of what it can do among other things. There are many more video’s of Autopilot 1.0 and 2 on the internet. Autopilot 2 has more camera’s, improved ultrasonic sensors, and a more powerful processing unit. Autopilot is very useful to support the driver when driving on main roads with clear markings. The driver stays responsible, but autopilot really makes driving long stretches of road less tiring. When you keep you hands on the wheel, you feel what the car is doing and you can instantly intervene when the car makes a mistake. I am really impressed with Autopilot. It works really well on roads with clear markings and even on roads with less clear lane markings it often did really well. It is also great with the adaptive cruise control and it makes you lazy when you get in a car which does not have these options. What is also really great about the implementation of Autopilot, is that on the instrument cluster it is shown what the car sees. So you, as the driver, can understand what the car does and does not see. It is also indicated when the cruise control or Autopilot are on and you are warned with a chime and a visual change on the instrument cluster if the car decides to deactivate Autopilot. On the picture below, you can see the cruise control activated indication (left blue circle “max 55”) and the Autopilot active indication (white steering wheel in blue circle). This interface really helps to understand decisions the Autopilot makes.

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Instrument cluster showing Autopilot interface

Acceleration

One of the many exciting features of Tesla’s is that they are quick. Our Tesla was, at the time, the fastest non-performance model and sprinted to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 4,4 seconds. It is really addicting to push the accelerator pedal to the floor every time you get near a traffic light. It not only delivers at lower speeds, but also at higher speeds it is very quick. However, I noticed that after a few times of accelerating very quickly you get used to it to some degree. Where the Tesla really excels is not just quick acceleration, but also quiet and relaxed driving. The silent cabine, the smooth drive, and Autopilot make this a perfect car for road trips. Now, you might aks, but what about range and charging the battery? Well, let me tell you about charging the car and then about the real world range in the winter.

Charging at Supercharger Zwolle

After one of our trips in the area of Zwolle, we needed to charge at the Supercharger to make it back home. Arriving at the Supercharger, there was only one spot left. Normally, this results in a low charge speed, but luckily for us this was not the case. Apparently, the other cars were there already for some time and did not need a lot of power. During the time we recharged the car, we had some bitterballen and a drink. In the table below, I gave details about this charge session. From others’ experience, I think this charge session was representative for what you can expect when you charge at a Supercharger.

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Details of supercharging Tesla Model S 90D

Range added is based on 225 Wh/km (362 Wh/mi) because that is the actual efficiency we achieved with normal driving in the winter. There was a lot of snow and slush on the roads and we could not warm up the battery before driving because of the limited power of our charger at home. This resulted in a relatively high energy consumption of 225 Wh/km (362 Wh/mi). For the calculation, I used a usable battery capacity of 78 kWh (which I could use without any issue during my roundtrip to Groningen). Therefore, 1% in charge (780 Wh) equals 3,46 km (2,15 mi). As you can see, it is not as fast as filling your tank with gasoline or diesel. However, you rarely have to visit a Supercharger because you always leave home with a fully charged battery. Also, the car helps you by indicating how much you have to charge to make it to your destination. It includes the driving speed, weather and wind and is therefore very accurate and easily achievable.

Range during winter time

Over the course of about a week that we had the car for ourselves, we drove about 1.700 km (2.700 miles) with an average speed of 66 km/h (41 mph) and an efficiency of 225 Wh/km (362 Wh/mi). Most of the time we drove on the highway at 110-130 km/h (68-81 mph). At this speed, in the winter, we could drive around 350 km on a single charge.

One of the crazy things I did during our time with the Tesla, was to test how far we could drive on a single charge. I fully charged the battery at the Supercharger in Zevenaar and drove to Groningen and back. A roundtrip of about 360 km at highway speeds. I drove to Groningen at 110-115 km/h on Autopilot. Driving back, the car warned me that I would arrive with less than 5% State-of-Charge. Knowing that this warning is conservative, I kept driving at 110-115 km/h to Zwolle. Before getting to Zwolle, I had driven at a speed of 110-115 km/h (68-71 mph) with an average efficiency of around 215 Wh/km (346 Wh/mi) with the AC set on 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit). I think this is a great result for the time of the year. It was 1 degree Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) outside during this trip.

At Zwolle there is a Supercharger, but I really wanted to make it back to Zevenaar, so I decided to slow down a bit. It was the first time for me trying to empty the battery and I did not want to take unnecessary risks. I decided to decrease my speed to around 100 km/h and after a while the expected State-of-Charge (SoC) at arrival was 7%. This showed me that it is very easy to make sure you arrive with a certain State-of-Charge at your arrival. Just change your speed accordingly and you will be fine. I had to make a detour via the beautiful The Hoge Veluwen National Park due to a traffic jam (thank you Tesla navigation!). This slowed me down further and helped me arrive at Zevenaar still with 7% SoC. A slower average speed is not necessarily more efficient when you have to accelerate and brake more often. Now I had to drive around to empty the battery as much as I dared to do. After driving for about 15 minutes, I still had 4% and decided to stop.

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Result of driving from Zevenaar to Groningen on a single charge

I used 96% of the battery or 77,9 kWh. I drove a total of 385,6 km (239,6 miles) at an average speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) due to the detour and driving around in Zevenaar to empty the battery. My efficiency for the total trip was 202 Wh/km (325 Wh/mi). As you can see, the power meter on the left side of the instrument cluster showed a yellow dotted line to indicate a low SoC and limited power. In this case, with only 4% left, the car was still able to deliver more than 200 kW (272 hp) of power.

Friday 20 Jan, giving back the Tesla Model S 90D

All great things eventually come to an end. Our adventure with the Tesla is no different. Friday 20 January 2017 was the final day of our adventure. In the morning we drove to a nearby town to get a big cake. Early in the afternoon, the same people from the first day came for the exit interview. After the exit interview, we had to say goodbye to the Tesla.

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Bye Tesla!
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