With thunderous prose,
I conduct this review.
I’m amped to share,
and transform your view.
The joule of my garage,
it never stays static.
Caught lightning in a bottle,
did Elon so emphatic.
In a flash you will see,
what I bring to light.
My current thoughts of Tesla,
so don’t storm off, take flight.
My poetic energy fades,
we must bolt to it.
So watt are we waiting for,
We’ve come full circuit.
Yes, that is a poem about a review about Tesla. No, I’m not ashamed of this. As you may be able to tell, I’m a big fan of Tesla! I’ve been a Tesla EVangelist for years and have answered many a question during that time. And though there are far more EV’s (especially Teslas) on the road now than there were 3 years ago when I took delivery of my Model 3, I still see a lot of the same questions, FUD and unquenched curiosity. This piece is designed to address these areas.
More specifically though, this is a review of my (2018) Model 3, which I've newly renamed "Thundermage" in honor of this review.
Common Questions & Misconceptions
In this first section, I will answer the most common questions I am asked about Tesla and EV’s in general. I’ll also address some common misconceptions. For other information, check out Tesla’s new owner FAQ!
- How do I charge it?
- How fast does it charge?
- How much does it cost to charge?
- What kind of range does it have?
- How do I get into or out of the car?
- Will I get stuck?
- EVs aren’t any more green than gas cars
How do I charge it?
Tesla provides a relatively comprehensive guide to charging on their site. In that guide, they discuss home charging, destination charging and supercharging. The bottom line is, you have a lot of options when it comes to charging. I’ll dive into these options below.
120v outlet : Yep! You can charge on a standard wall outlet, and many people go this route for their primary, every-day charging solution! Charge times are a little slower but it can get the job done, especially if you have all night to juice up. This is great when you think about it because outlets such as these are pretty ubiquitous. Anywhere where you can charge your phone, you can charge your car! At your grandma’s house? Plug it in! At an Airbnb? Plug it in! You can charge this thing anywhere.
In fact, all Teslas come with the Mobile Connector Bundle which includes the 120v outlet adapter.
Tesla Wall Connector : For home charging, Tesla’s (and my) recommended method is the Tesla Wall Connector. At $500 it’s a little pricey, but if you’ve purchased a $50,000 car that relies on being charged, I think the investment is worth it. I also recommend getting the longer cable (18’) as it gives you a little additional versatility. For help installing the unit (and I strongly recommend getting professional help), Tesla has provided a resource to find licensed electricians that can take on the project.
240v outlet : If you want a little faster charging but don’t want to fully commit to Tesla’s Wall Connector, the 240v outlet is likely the way to go. Typically seen in garages for use with a refrigerator or laundry machine, this is a good EV-agnostic way to get faster charging speeds. In other words, the 240v outlet is a good option if you don’t want to spend the extra $$ on the Wall Connector or if you plan on having a non-Tesla EV.
Destination Charger : So you won’t always be able to charge at home, so what are your options when out on the road? Well it turns out, there are a TON - and not just bumming small amounts of charge off of random 120v outlets either. Enter Destination Charging - from hotels to restaurants to resorts, destination charging is available at over 4500 sites (and counting). Destination charging is typically on par-with or close-to what you get out of a Tesla Wall Connector or standard 240 outlet. I’ve even found plenty of destination charging that is offered completely for free. What’s better than free fuel!?
For other destination charging, Tesla themselves recommend Plughsare.com
DC Fast Charger : Though I haven’t used one of these myself (thanks to Tesla’s Supercharger network being so robust), Teslas are also capable of utilizing third-party DC fast charging networks such as Electrify America and EVgo. All you’ll need is the $400 CHAdeMO Adapter - ouch!
Tesla Supercharger : Saving the best for last, there is Tesla’s incredible Supercharger network. This network represents the largest collection of fast-chargers in the world and they are designed and made available exclusively to Teslas (for now). This is the primary means for charging while on road trips. It’s fast, convenient and with 25000+ stalls world-wide, available pretty much no matter where you are. Superchargers are typically located in parking lots within shopping areas so you can grab food, use the restroom or stay somewhat entertained while you charge up.
How fast does it charge?
Charging speeds are typically separated into three categories, L1-L3. These categories are described below.
L1 : This typically means the standard 120v outlets. You can expect anywhere from 3-5 miles/hour on average. For a car that needs 300 miles range, this means a charge time of 60-100 hours to charge from zero to full. A little slow but will work in many situations where you only need to get 50 miles or so with an overnight charge.
L2 : Level 2 charging includes 240v outlets, Wall Connectors and Destination Charging. L2 will typically net you around 25-45 miles/hour. A zero-to-full charge session would thus take you anywhere from 7-12 hours. Perfect for overnight charging. I should mention though that the top-end of L2 charging (approx. 44 miles/hour) is obtained by using the Tesla Wall Connector with 48 amp output.
L3 : Finally, we have the top end charging, Level 3. For Teslas, this typically means Superchargers, but would also include DC Fast Chargers. To answer, “how fast does a Supercharger charge” though is a little trickier to answer. Current-gen, “V3” Superchargers can charge at speeds of up to 1000 miles/hour. Wow! But those speeds are only obtained at certain Superchargers and when the vehicle’s state-of-charge (SoC) is low. When actively charging, as the battery is closer to max capacity, charging speeds dip. Rather than give you numbers here, I can say that anecdotally, while on my road trips, I stop every 2 hours or so to stretch my legs or use the restroom and in that time I plug the car in. After 10-15 minutes, I return to the car with more than enough juice to get to the next stop. This is the recommended approach for road-tripping in a Tesla. Note: Having never used a “DC Fast Charger”, I really can’t speak to it’s charging speeds. Sorry!
How much does it cost to charge?
This depends where you charge, and the price of electricity during the time/region you are charging. But to give you an example, I pulled some numbers from my own home charging. Based on my last electric bill, I am on-average billed $.13/kWh. The Tesla Model 3’s battery pack is a 75 kWh pack (newer packs have more kWh). This means it costs $9.75, or about $10, to charge the pack from zero to full. On that 75 kWh, my car gets about 300 miles. So let’s say 10$ will get you 300 miles range.
Now let’s take a traditional ICE car, like a Toyota Corolla. With a 13.2 gallon tank and gas prices hovering around $3/gallon, it costs about $40 for a full tank. With approximately 400 miles range, we can take 75% of both the range and that cost and come up with a value of $30 to go an equivalent 300 miles in the Corolla.
What we end up with is a difference in price for home-charging the Tesla at 1/3 the price of gas as compared with the Corolla for the same amount of miles.
Now many also ask about the price of Supercharging. The cost of Supercharging is about 2x the cost of home charging, typically around $.26-$.28/kWh (compared to the $.13/kWH I was getting at home). Doubling the cost of electricity still leaves you with a final cost of 2/3 the amount of gas.
I will add that the numbers I used for home charging were based on average cost of electricity during a one month span. It is important to note that charging your car in off-peak hours will result in cheaper costs per kWh. So if you are home-charging in the dead of night, it will actually be even cheaper than calculated to juice up the car.
What kind of range does it have?
When I first took delivery of my car, it was rated at 310 miles of range.
With that said, three years into ownership and after a full charge, my car normally reports that I have about 290 miles range. This may be due in part to battery degradation, but I know from speaking with Tesla engineers that it is more likely due (in large part) to the way Tesla calculates range. Essentially, the car will determine range based off my normal efficiency, i.e. the way I typically drive. In other words, since I tend to drive somewhat, spirited, the car adjusts my range calculation to take into account the lower efficiency. Neat!
How do I get into or out of the car?
This isn’t a question I get, but it always seems to be a challenge for people when first learning how to get in and out of a Model 3.
Will I get stuck?
Range anxiety and uncertainty around how and where to charge is by far the biggest fear amongst prospective EV purchasers. And though Teslas and similar EVs have really good range (250+ miles), driving long distances is, in reality, not as simple as just getting in your car and going. There is some level of planning that should go into your drive. In a Tesla, this can be calculated for you by the onboard computer. It will plan your route and give you all the places you should stop to charge. It bases this on a number of factors including distance, elevation gain, temperature and more. What’s important to take away is that you really need to plan your route and understand where you would like to stop. When driving along major throughways, you can generally count on there being charging every 50 miles or so though. In this case, less planning may be required.
EVs aren’t any more green than gas cars.
A common argument amongst EV-haters is that EVs are no more eco-friendly than gas cars because the way the electricity that is used to charge the car is sourced is not-in-fact “green”. This is not accurate.
A Quick Study: Using the EPA’s Power Profiler I can get an idea of my carbon emissions based on the number of kWh I consume in a year in my region (SRVC). Estimating 15000 miles of driving distance with my car that has about 300 miles range, that comes to about 50 complete zero-to-full fill-ups. With a 75 kWh battery pack, this means a total of 3750 kWh of electricity used for charging in a year or 312.50 kWh/month.
At the bottom of the Power Profiler there is an Emissions Estimate function which can take a monthly kWh value and calculate an annual emissions rate based on your particular eGRID subregion (mine is SRVC - SERC Virginia/Carolina). With a usage of approx. 313 kWh/month, my annual estimated emissions is 2,928 pounds CO2.
OK, so now let’s use the carbonfootprint.com calculator to determine the annual CO2 emissions for the Toyota Corolla. Using the calculator, I plug in 15k miles, the 2020 Toyota Corolla CVT 2WD (which according to this calculator has an efficiency score of 165.363) and I end up with an annual emissions value of 3.99 metric tons or about 8,000 pounds CO2.
So the Corolla produces about 2.66x more carbon emissions than the Tesla. Not good!
As I’ve said, I love my Tesla, and there are so many reasons why. I’ve tried to compile these reasons here.
Charging at home : Never having to go to a gas station is really one of my favorite perks of the car. You get to laugh smugly as you drive past the sad folk putting stinky dinosaur juice into their cars. Plus, you’ll always have a “full tank”, or as much juice as you need (as long as you remember to plug it in) thanks to the ability to charge at home.
Electricity is cheaper than gas : Mile for mile, electricity is on average much cheaper than gas. Oh, and there are many places where you can charge completely for free - try getting free gas anywhere! Features like scheduled departure and scheduled charging can help get the most cost-efficient home charging as well.
It’s fast : My car (Model 3 Dual Motor) goes 0-60 in about 4 seconds. Even after three years, I still find that punch to be pretty exhilarating. That speed isn’t just for fun though, being able to quickly position yourself is a highly practical feature, especially when merging on highways.
Very bright headlights : I don’t like driving at night. The headlights on my car makes it a lot more bearable.
The glass roof is cool : The glass roof not only looks great but gives the inside of the car a very open feeling. I also love to watch planes as they fly overhead or look at the towering trees/buildings when I am in a wooded or city area. (All of course while I’m not driving).
Frunk space : Where a gas car normally has an engine, a Tesla has a storage area known as the “Frunk”! Who wouldn’t appreciate having a little additional storage space?
Handles wind well : What I mean here is that even in heavy cross-winds, this car feels incredibly stable. The weight of the car, low center of gravity and the (short) height of the car are primary contributors.
The display : The 15” screen is not only hyper-versatile, it also looks really really cool. Navigation is huge, gaming and other entertainment looks great, it’s just a really nice experience. The screen takes the place of the traditional instrument cluster. What this means is that your speed gauge is on the screen which is to the right of you rather than directly behind the wheel. Some people fear that this will inhibit them from being able to see their speed as easily. I find that it is just as easy if not easier to see it in large print on the huge screen.
Purchase experience : No contest here. Buying a car with a few clicks online is infinitely better than going into a dealership. You can even use Apple Pay!
Eco-friendly : As discussed in the section above, this car will produce less carbon emissions than a traditional ICE car. What’s not to like about that? Especially considering the insane heat wave the US has been experiencing.
Range is superb : At 300+ miles, my car has more than enough range for any trip I have thrown at it. Sure, it’s not as much raw range as some equivalent gas cars, but I never drive 300+ miles in one sitting, so getting to stop and charge up is always a nice respite from sitting in the car.
The Supercharger network is great : Superchargers are everywhere! They are typically found in shopping centers so you have access to food and more while charging. Supercharging is cheaper than gas and in my experience (driving on the East Coast), I have never had to wait for a spot.
Low maintenance : Tesla’s guidance on maintenance is very simple. From this guide, there really isn’t that much that goes into taking care of the car! In the three years I’ve owned the car, I’ve only taken it into the dealership once (a few days after taking delivery to fix a few small aesthetic things). What’s even better is that when you do have an issue with the car, it’s highly likely that Tesla will be able to send a Mobile Service vehicle to you which can resolve your maintenance issue without you ever having to leave your house. Awesome!
Regenerative braking : Arguably the biggest difference in driving an EV versus driving a traditional ICE car is the regenerative braking. Once you’re used to it though, I think it offers a superior and far less exhausting driving experience. Essentially, regen-braking allows you to never really have to take your foot completely off the accelerator and put it on your brake. Over the course of a long drive, your feet and legs are less tired without the constant moving and placing.
Very safe & secure vehicle : All Teslas are extremely safe cars. NHTSA consistently scores Teslas at 5-stars across the board in their crash-safety tests. Tesla scores so well for a few reasons. First, Teslas are very hard to roll - their low center-of-gravity thanks to the very heavy battery pack in the floor of the car helps contribute to this. Second, with no gas motor, there is less risk of fire/explosion in the event of a crash, plus, the lack of the motor in the front allows the front to be a crumple zone. Finally, Teslas come with a lot of cool, advanced security features standard. Things like the Dashcam, cabin camera, security alarm, pin to drive, sentry mode, intrusion sensors, auto lane adjust, obstacle aware braking, etc…
Onboard Dashcam : Though i’ve just mentioned the Dashcam, it’s worth mentioning again. Having a built in Dashcam which captures not only the view out of the front of the car but also the sides is really cool and very useful in the event of an accident. What’s better, you can view Dashcam footage right inside the car on the huge screen. Amazing!
Control with your phone : Being able to control the car with my phone is great. I hate carrying keys and now I don’t have to! I can control climate, charging, trunk/frunk, windows, and even request service all from my Tesla app.
Make’s fart noises : There’s a built-in whoopie cushion. Hilarious.
Gaming : Tesla Arcade includes a number of games including Polytopia, Cat Quest, Fallout Shelter, Stardew Valley, CupHead, BeachBuggy Racing 2, backgammon, solitaire, chess and a bunch of Atari-classics including 2048, Asteroids, Centipede, Super Breakout, Lunar Lander, Missile Command, Millipede, Tempest and Gravitar. Phew! These games are playable via the touch screen, the steering wheel and even via a classic game controller such as an Xbox or Playstation controller. So fun!
Entertainment : As long as you have Premium Connectivity, you can enjoy a number of other entertainment options in the car. Netflix, Twitch, Hulu and Youtube are some of the available options at this time. This isn’t a feature I use much, but when I do need it, it makes sitting in the car really great.
OTA updates : A lot of the software-enabled features I have mentioned in this section are things that the car did not originally ship with. Rather, they are features that have been added to the car, all for free. This includes everything from Dashcam to Sentry Mode to Tesla Arcade to the entertainment features. My car has even had improved acceleration pushed to it via software based optimizations. Truly incredible.
Though I love my car, it isn’t perfect. There are a number of things I wish we’re different or that are just bad. I’ve listed these below.
AC unit is a little weak : I find that the onboard Tesla AC unit is a bit weak. It doesn’t ever seem to get as cold or as hot as I’d like it to and it doesn’t seem to cool or heat very quickly. Compared to my old Toyota Corolla, it definitely falls short. You don’t really want to lose to a Toyota Corolla.
Not a hatchback : My biggest gripe with this car after 3 years is the trunk. It’s actually quite roomy but really, I wish it was a hatchback. The Model Y has this feature and it’s much better.
EV tax credit has expired : The $7500 federal tax credit for EVs has run out for Tesla. At the time I bought my car, I actually got the full amount. But for those looking to purchase a Tesla these days, you won’t get any help from the federal government. With that said, there are other state/local incentives to consider.
Charging on 120v is slow : Though charging on 120v is really cool and a very useful feature, it doesn’t change the fact that it is very slow. If you only have an over-night to charge or need to charge up quickly, you’re going to be disappointed relying on 120v.
Self-park does not come standard : The self-parking feature is bundled with the exorbitantly expensive FSD package. I think this is ridiculous. Self-parking has been a feature of far less advanced cars for a long time. I really wish this came standard or was bundled with some other sort of much cheaper premium upgrade.
Horn is difficult to trigger : Maybe i’m just too gentle with my car, but I always find when I try to honk I’m either not pressing the right spot, or I am not smashing the wheel hard enough. I wish there was just a button.
Engaging windshield wipers is not ideal : A couple issues with the windshield wipers. First, the rain-sensing auto-wipers do not work very well. I find that they either don’t wipe fast enough, fail to wipe at all or wipe when it’s not really needed. Tesla is apparently attacking this problem with… a neural net solution? Second, engaging the wipers is a little clunky and non-ideal. You can click the button at the tip of the left wheel stalk to invoke a single wipe, at which point the modal for the wiper speed is brought up on-screen. From there, you must look down and press the speed you’d like the wipers to be at. This isn’t great since typically when you are needing the wipers, especially at a higher speed, it is raining and not the best time to take your eyes of the road.
Turning radius isn’t great : Compared to my old Toyota Corolla, I find that the Model 3 has a really bad turning radius.
Tires wear quickly : You’ll find that spirited driving is a common occurrence with a Tesla. This tends to wear the tires down quicker. This means more $$ for new tires.
People will try to race you : It could be that I’m just hyper-sensitive to people accelerating off the line, but I always get the sense that people want to race me. The good news is, I always win =).
Premium connectivity costs extra : If you want live traffic, video/music streaming or internet browsing capability, you’ll need to subscribe to Tesla’s Premium Connectivity at $9.99/month. This isn’t ideal, but i rarely use any of those features outside of live traffic.
Other, Neutral Stuff
Beyond the good and the bad, there are the things that just, are. I list these “neutral” items below.
- Warranty : Tesla has what I consider to be a pretty good warranty. The warranty is described as follows… Basic Vehicle - 4 years or 50,000 mi, whichever comes first + Battery & Drive Unit - 8 years or 120,000 mi, whichever comes first.
Alright! That’s the end of the “Revue”. I thank you for reading and I’d love to hear your feedback. Are you planning on ordering a Tesla? If so, please use my referral code! Agree or disagree with any of the points I made? Let me know about it!