Late on Sat 25/1/20 “Just flippin’ buy the thing if you think it’s good value then” – so I pushed the button- and was rewarded with a hedgehog?!

To cut a long story short, it took 27 days from order to the collection of the car. Tesla’s communications weren’t the best, I’ve had better from Hyundai- at more than one point I seriously doubted whether I wasn’t better off keeping my previous car. For example, there were no photos of the car’s condition, Tesla seem to expect you to trust completely that it’ll be Alright on the Night. Given that the way cars are sold through Tesla is quite different to the average company, particularly for their used cars, I think they could do a better job here. We have previously bought one of our Ioniqs online, effectively directly from Hyundai and collected at a shopping centre- so that part of the process didn’t bother me. But I expected stuff to appear in my Tesla account online that just didn’t happen until I phoned them up. Whenever we had contact with Tesla staff they were completely professional and when they said they’d do something, they almost always did just that. They’re great ambassadors for the company, and I can’t say that for all employees of other companies selling EVs.

There are a few parts to the story – From Order to Collection, Collection Day (Heathrow), Breakdown and Collection at Bristol. Then the story of why I chose a used Tesla Model S in the first place.

Tesla Referral Code

If you use this code we both get 1000 miles of free Supercharging: https://ts.la/simon69302

From Order to Collection

An order agreement came through pretty much straight away, presumably this is automated.

Tuesday

Found an acknowledgement email in my spam folder. Also found a card for Dylan at the Bristol showroom – from when we test drove the Model 3 – which is where (I hope to) pick up my car. Emailed him too. Had a reply later in the day, saying what I’d expected – Bristol don’t deal with the used car side. He helpfully checked my account and told me I’d completed the necessary.

My existing insurer declined to quote for insurance! DirectLine quoted £319 for myself and my wife. That’s around £90 more than I’m paying for the Ioniq. The Tesla is group 50, the highest group, and the Ioniq is only group 16- so fair enough.

Wednesday Email from Tesla Delivery team- car will be ready in 6 days. I can expect some photos of the car and any defects, and a video. Delivery times are quite restrictive- weekdays only. Also despite giving me the option of Bristol or Heathrow, the only option is Heathrow (West Drayton) for used cars. At least there’s a train station nearby.

Friday Lots of EVs in the news this week, with the spike in TSLA stock to almost $1000, and the announcement on a consultation to bring forward the ban on petrol and diesel cars (including all forms of hybrids) by 5 years, to 2035. On the Tesla used site, the cheapest autopilot car is now £5k more than the car I reserved, and the cheapest 70D is £40k. Wonder if the two are linked?

Wednesday 12 (Day 11) I got a text advising a collection time from Bristol, in 5 days time. Bristol? They told me they don’t do collections from there any more. Then, an hour later, another text telling me that Bristol was not a collection location and I could choose from Heathrow or Birmingham! It was from a phone number that wouldn’t take replies, so I called their landline instead, selected Sales rather than Deliveries, waited just a couple of minutes and managed to speak to a human. I advised them that I couldn’t pay- as there was not yet an invoice on my account online. Tesla clearly want customers to do as much as possible online, but communications leave something to be desired. Still no photos of the car itself, either!

Later the same day I received the invoice and paid. Rang Tesla Sales but couldn’t get through. Soon they called back, I spoke to “Al” who was very helpful and advised me that since payments are managed by the Amsterdam office for reconciliation with the invoices, I was being optimistic! He promised to call back tomorrow.

Collection date is no longer showing on my account- but I’m hoping for Monday.

Thursday Do Tesla have my payment yet? Couldn’t get an answer from Sales (Heathrow) so I called Deliveries – after quite a while it was answered and no, nothing received their end. Later I called Deliveries, who told me that the car’s ETA at Heathrow was next Weds-Thurs. Probably no point turning up on Monday then!

Tuesday Called Deliveries. A helpful Dutchman promised to call “Peter” in the UK and get him to update me…cryptic or what? Kind of glad I didn’t sell my Ioniq too quickly now…

On the way home I took THE call- ” Hi, it’s Will from Tesla, when would you like to collect your car?” Just as well I was sitting down. Thursday it is, then.

Collection Day Thursday, 27 days after order

Took the train to West Drayton with our Lad, on the pretext that we were meeting grandparents there for a day out in London. Only when we met Will in Tesla Collections, and were choosing a coffee, did I tell him that we were actually there to collect a car for us!

I had prepped a checklist to help check over the car, we’d arrived late and Will clearly had plenty of Model 3 owners to see to, who were collecting new cars. The whole experience was very low-key, once we’d assured Will that we were familiar with the basics.

The car looked great, barely any sign of being a 4 year old model. I later realised this was partly because some of the front had been resprayed! Two keys, all the charging leads I’d expected, 4 new tyres, refurbished wheels and looked very shiny in the warehouse lighting too. We had soon logged into the app- a core part of owning a Tesla, rather than a nice-to-have with, for example, a Nissan. Everybody we had any dealings with at Tesla were very professional and real ambassadors. Communications along the way were the issue!

We left West Drayton into some heavy rain, so I left it in “Chill” mode. Not the best start, but apart from some shockingly low efficiency figures (at least compared to the Ioniq!) as the 245 tyres ploughed through almost-flooded motorways, with a cold battery, the car however managed really well.

It then ocurred to me that we had not registered for UK “road tax”. It’s zero-rated in the UK as the car is electric. After attempting to do this online, and by phone, without success, as we didn’t have the registration document yet, it turned out that Tesla had done it for us. Something of a relief- I wish they had mentioned it! Those pesky communications again.

A couple of days followed of getting familiar with the car, testing Supercharging, Fart mode and the Monty Pythonesque bits. Tesla Supercharging really is as simple as “Plug and Play”: if you’d only ever had a Tesla EV, you might not realise just how cool and useful this infrastructure is! There’s no fiddling with apps, and Tesla have already installed chargers at around 40 locations around the UK, each one has between 4 and 24 stations. The cost is 24p/kWh which is average for a rapid charger, in this car that’s around 8p per mile. They’re best used as a quick top-up as charging is much faster with a low battery than with a nearly-full one. (This was also the location of my first Nissan Leaf rapid charging session, 4 years ago when they were free…)

Just plug in, even easier than filling with petrol (and a lot less smelly!)

Breakdown

Tesla ownership Day 5 This message popped up: “Service Required Car May Not Restart” “Acceleration and top speed reduced”

Darn. The third day I actually need the car and I get this? Called Tesla who advised Roadside Assistance to get it to a Service Centre for investigation. Car is at least safe on our drive, and I still have the Ioniq to get me to work. Actually the Ioniq feels really good…

Googling this error, it seems this could be something quite major, or as little as a battery heater. I don’t expect to see the car again for a couple of weeks…

Ownership Day 9

After the car sitting outside in the car park at Tesla Service in Bristol (I can see location on the Tesla app), this morning it has been moved inside, the car is parked, charging and climate is on… I called Tesla and couldn’t get through to Bristol. A helpful lady in London said she’d message Bristol for me. Later they called, they’re waiting for the workshop for a diagnosis. I guess I knew that! Noticed on the app that the car had moved into the workshop, later the car was being driven around and went back to the workshop and was put on charge.

Ownership Day 11

I spoke to Bristol who said the car is still awaiting a diagnosis. It’s also still inside the workshop, on charge. It’s cool to be able to see the status of the car, and somewhat reassuring to see the bonnet and doors open and close. Quite a long test drive was conducted today, now the car is parked outside the workshop. No news. But naturally I’m eager to hear what’s really going on, since so far I’ve had the use of the car for only 4 days and it’s been broken down for a week!

Ownership Day 12

Bristol called, explained that the original error was an isolation (earthing) fault and they’ve tested everything, test driven the car, and there are no faults now. Assured me that they had their most experienced technician on the job, and are confident that the car is good- while understanding that it’s not exactly what they want to report, nor what I want to hear!

The Tesla app shows you where the car is located
The bonnet’s up…and the interior is showing a mysteriously hot 34C!

Collection from Bristol Service Centre

Tesla’s Service Centres aren’t your average glass car palaces, though they have pleasant waiting areas with coffee and snacks. We were pleased to see that the car had been cleaned much better than the Used team had managed, and probably just spending a weekend in a warm workshop had lifted the feel of the car. Naturally they had fully charged the car at no cost (did your last fossil car service include a free tank of petrol?!)

Day 16- Breakdown #2

Sure enough, having not isolated the isolation error, it’s returned. It was a frosty morning so I preheated the car (notice the red battery+snowflake symbol in the screenshot below). This time the error is persistent, with reduced power, acceleration and regen. braking. Driving it gave the disc brakes some exercise, as there’s no regen braking at all. There were no changes after resetting the car, power-cycling it, or leaving it over the weekend. Hopefully it’s in such a state that Tesla can isolate the issue this time!

Preheating the car
The power meter- Dashed lines indicate “unavailable”
The car has been collected by flatbed for the second time, and returned to the Service Centre.

The car was flat-bedded back to Tesla Bristol Service Centre on Monday, Day 19. I emailed Tesla virtual service address a letter explaining that I will return the car on 20th March unless fixed to my satisfaction. I’ve no intention of driving away a car where the fault can’t be traced. Included symptoms and photos of the errors. Also sent a physical copy “signed for” to West Drayton. I’m hardly a serial complainer- all but two of my cars over the years have been great. (lists the cars…this is #13…) You never know what evidence you might need. Hopefully things will only improve from here #Disappointed!

Day 20 Tuesday Spoke to Liz at Bristol SC. I explained we were considering returning the vehicle, she promised to speak to Harvey, SC manager, to “escalate my case”. Also emailed her my missive which detailed the faults and had photos of the errors.

Day 21 Wednesday I could see the car was being worked on in the evening – apparently Service Centres work two shifts if required.

We’re getting to see all the features of the Tesla app.

Day 22 Thursday (3 weeks from collection day) A diagnosis- the battery coolant heater, basically an electrical water heater, has failed. It’s a 5.6kW water heater (think about two kettles worth) that works from the battery pack, at around 350V. It’s used to warm the battery during preconditioning or in very cold weather. This does indeed make sense, since I used preheating on the days that the car faulted. The original error was an isolation fault (some current was escaping from the high voltage side to ground) so that also checks. I also got a thank-you for my error log. It’s so trivial to screenshot or photograph events with a mobile phone, and the time stamps are very handy for piecing events together. One thing the 60-odd microprocessors in a Tesla unfortunately can’t tell you is precisely what is causing an isolation fault. It’s like a circuit breaker tripping, you still need to find the faulty appliance.

The 5.6kW battery coolant heater
(image from teslamotorsclub.com)

Day 23 Friday Text from Bristol to say that they had received the new part, to be progressed today or Monday.

Day 26 Monday Heater was fitted and I had a call asking when I’d like to collect. We’re now into Covid-19 territory in the UK so I was keen to get the car back ASAP.

Day 27 Tuesday After taking my other car to be serviced I took the train to Bristol and cycled to the Service Centre. The car is driving well, no hint of any issues after ~100 miles driving so far.

My choice of Tesla

As I’ve deliberated elsewhere, the Tesla Model 3 is not exactly the $35k car we were promised. I’d be happy with a base model, RWD long-range Model 3. But that model doesn’t exist. There have been reports that this version might be built in China however. A base model, rear-wheel drive car known as the “SR+” comes in a bit above £40k in the UK, a LOT more than $35k, but with quite a high spec and with the smaller battery. “Teslike” https://teslike.com/range/ gives a realistic range for the smaller battery Model 3 of 237 miles. To get AWD you need to spend a lot more (£50k) as there’s no option for AWD with the smaller battery. I guess both motors would give the smaller battery a hard time anyway. I have a dislike of RWD cars, we get icy roads frequently and snow occasionally- maybe in the snow a RWD Model 3 could work with decent rubber on. My other reservations for a Model 3 are the UK’s premium car tax liability, payable even on EVs! (Putting the price more like £40800 + £1600 tax, £42400 total for the Model 3 SR+ with no options) – and lack of a hatchback. I like to throw a bike in the back of my car now and again; also trips for wood and hardware are a weekly necessity for me. I guess our ideal car may be a Model Y – but they will be a long while coming to the UK.

In the March 2020 budget it was announced that the £3500 subsidy for EVs in the UK would be extended and reduced to £3000, and also that the premium car tax would no longer apply to EVs. The net effect on a Model 3 (or top end Leaf) is to reduce the price by just over £1000. Of course, some newspapers reported this as a bad thing with EVs increasing in price by £500!

The pesky premium car tax- since repealed for EVs!

So, what about used cars? *Warning- data*

First off, there are no used Model 3’s coming through Tesla in the UK as yet (Jan 2020). Our lad has become something of a guru when it comes to Tesla specs and such, he can reel off the efficiency and range of most Teslas- which is great for his mental maths and the energy side of his physics syllabus.

The Model S market is confusing, with many hardware versions, and particularly for early cars, far too many combinations of equipment to cope with easily. Pretty much nothing can be retro-fitted, either. A car either has the bells and whistles or it doesn’t. This video is helpful on the autopilot versions-

…but there’s even more to concern yourself with that isn’t mentioned above, like useable battery capacity. EV manufacturers could help themselves by only declaring the battery capacity you can use! Assumptions can be misleading- for example the cheaper, 85kWh Model S’s don’t give much of a range increase over the slightly later 70kWh cars. The reasons for this are that the batteries aren’t actually 85 or 70kWh, they are 77.5 (8.8% less than advertised) and 68.8 (just 1.7% less) respectively, a nominal capacity when new. Also a AWD car (“dual motor” in Elonspeak) has a realistic range ~10% greater than the RWD cars, which is the reverse of what ICE cars tend to achieve. This video features the man himself describing the virtuous cycle of dual motors. (The smaller front motor is used more when driven gently, and the result is less energy used per mile). So the 85 (RWD) range is 244 miles and the 70D (4WD) 229 miles. For perspective, the 2019 Model S’ are listed as 257 and 336 miles, for standard and long range (Tesla no longer quotes battery capacity figures). For 2020 on, the only the largest battery is available- the Model S is truly the premium Tesla car. In terms of battery degradation, the pluginamerica survey gives ~5% range loss in the first 30k miles and 1% per 10k thereafter.

These quoted ranges are to be expected when driven between 65 and 70mph, which around here means empty motorways (a rare thing). So except in very cold weather I’d anticipate them being pessimistic in my use. These cars are now listed at £32k to £38k at dealers, and the Tesla used site.

I narrowed the field down to a Model S with autopilot, dual motors (4WD), low mileage, 19″ wheels and ideally the new nosecone, at under £35k. Then a 2015 blue 70D with 36k miles came up at £34200.

In mid- 2015 this car was actually the entry level, 328hp model, 5.4 seconds to 60mph. It cost over £60k with autopilot, let alone any of the myriad other options available back then (such as paints, sunroof, interiors, dual AC chargers…). The government EV grant bought that down by £4500, and was described by Autocar as “mildly unhinged”, who gave it 4 and a half stars out of 5. Since then there has been many updates to the software- so many comments in old reviews may well be out of date.

https://sites.google.com/site/teslamotorsclubwiki/home/model-s/options-by-year

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