Tag Archives: Tesla Model 3

Tesla Service Is On Another Level and Continues to Improve

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The Model 3 is going to level up Tesla’s game in many ways, with the first and foremost being the lower price point. Bringing a Tesla to market that is on par with the average sales price of a new car in the US changes everything and truly opens up the brand to the mass market for the first time in its existence.

Ushering in hundreds of thousands of customers per year allows for a scale previously unseen for electric vehicles and comes with a suite of new challenges for the brand. One of the big challenges is related to service. Customers just learning about Tesla and perhaps just learning about electric vehicles will have their eyes opened to many benefits of EVs, and one that will surely be communicated to them at some point is the lack of service requirements of EVs. That said, there will still be service requirements for many Tesla drivers, and its service process is a key piece of the new customer education process.

Tesla launched a new video today that highlights the key differentiators with Tesla’s service compared to the service drivers are used to receiving. The video spotlights Tesla’s over-the-air software updates that are pushed down to Tesla’s vehicles remotely — enabling new functionality, fixing bugs, improving vehicle performance, and all while eliminating the need for customers to come into a service center for these updates.

The over-the-air (OTA) functionality also highlights the connected nature of Tesla’s vehicles, which unlocks perhaps the biggest feature — Tesla remotely monitors its vehicles, resulting in 90% of issues being identified remotely, proactively. I experienced this firsthand with my Model S when Tesla asked me if they could fix a switch in my vehicle’s battery pack without it ever causing an issue. To replace the switch, Tesla sent a driver out with a loaner Tesla, picked up my Tesla, and repaired the issue that same day. In total, it took all of 20 minutes of my time from the initial phone call to the swapping of vehicles (2 times). The ability to remotely identify, triage, and proactively repair vehicles is something I have never experienced and it was amazing.

Stacked on top of proactive monitoring is Tesla’s ranger service. Tesla Rangers are a team of remote technicians who come out to your location – home, work, Starbucks, whatever – and repair your vehicle there. Tesla sent one of its Rangers out to my house to repair the door handles on my Tesla Model S when a few of them were having intermittent issues. The repair happened in my garage after I returned from work and took about an hour while I sat in the comfort of my living room on my laptop.

→ Related: Tesla Model S Service Screens Exposed

It was a breeze and took far less time than it would have if I would have had to book an appointment to come into a dealership or service center and wait for the repair, not to mention the coffee wasn’t burned and the WiFi was much better.

Tesla is also scaling up its service operations in preparation for Model 3, much as it is doing with its Supercharging network. Having visibility into the exact geographic locations where its customers will be (from the massive stack of Model 3 reservations) gives Tesla the data it needs to proactively build out Supercharging and Service Centers exactly where the most customers will be. It’s another brilliant component of the strategy of taking reservations for the vehicle in advance of the move to production.

Tesla is specifically adding 100+ new service centers, 350 mobile service vehicles, and 1,400 service technicians, which all told represents a tripling of its global service capacity. Check out the video below, which was posted to Tesla’s official Facebook and YouTube channels earlier today.

Photos by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

How Does The Chevy Bolt Compare To The Tesla Model 3?

Originally published on CleanTechnica

The reality of electric vehicles is that there are many more people who would love to drive an electric vehicle (EV) but aren’t doing so today for a number of reasons. Cost and range are the top 2 reasons, with charging being an issue for some buyers as well. The Chevy Bolt was the first mass-produced, widely available, affordable, long-range EV in the US that also happened to offer fast charging. Right on its heels is the Model 3.

Having owned a Tesla Model S for a few years and having spent some quality time with a 2017 Chevy Bolt loaner, I spent some time to compare the two in the categories I felt were most impactful based on my years as an EV driver (owning or having owned a Mercedes B250e, Nissan LEAF, and Tesla Model S).

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Charging

Drivers are split into two categories — those who have owned and lived with an electric vehicle and those who have not. To those who have not owned an EV, they may appreciate the benefits of driving one and have an idea what charging might look like if they were to buy an EV, but it is a different thing altogether to own an electric vehicle. Living with an EV with fewer than 100 miles of range forces the owner to work the kinks out of the system where the rubber meets the road.

Those who have taken a journey that is longer than the range of their EV understand what it is like to really, truly have to rely on public charging in their area. The Chevy Bolt is a big step for electric vehicles with regards to charging, as it has an option for a DC Fast Charging CCS port that enables much faster charge rates. While CCS chargers are not as prevalent as Tesla Superchargers, there are not as many vehicles looking to use a CCS charger to refill.

[Editor’s note: It’s important to understand that Tesla’s Superchargers allow a driver to add about 170 miles of range in ~30 minutes, whereas the Bolt is more likely to max out at about 90 miles in ~30 minutes. However, again, the faster charging stations the Bolt would need to charge this fast can probably be counted on one hand. They will be increasing in number, but not nearly as fast as Tesla’s Superchargers.]

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Chevy Bolt DCFC @ 21 kW. Image Credit: Kyle Field

Here in progressive Southern California, there are generally one or maybe two 50 amp DC Fast Charging stations in each city. They are typically bundled with a CCS and CHAdeMO port, which makes it easier for the stations to charge up a DCFC-capable vehicle but can also further restrict the charging station’s ability to deliver a charge to more than one vehicle at a time. In my time with the Bolt, I fast charged via DCFC stations several times and found the experience better than I expected, but I also realized that range anxiety came back. With just one station, it was all too easy for the station to be ICE’d with a gasmobile parked in the charging spot or found to be non-functional, which would have left me stranded.

Tesla’s foresight and upfront investment in building multi-station Level 4 Supercharging stations serves the company well in this regard. Most stations include 8 or 10 stalls, and (almost) no station has fewer than 4 stalls. Tesla is also adding stalls to high-traffic stations in advance of the flood of Model 3s that are expected to hit the road in the next 12 months.

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Oxnard Supercharger expansion from 10 to 18 stations. June 6th, 2017. Photo Credit: Kyle Field

On my 2,600 mile road trip across most of the United States in my Tesla Model S, I never worried about whether a Supercharger would be available when I arrived or even where it was, as they are built in as stops by Tesla’s integrated navigation by default. This highlights the difference between Tesla and Chevrolet. Tesla is run by people who drive electric. They understand the real barriers and benefits of electric vehicles and operate with that in mind. No other automotive manufacturer has had the foresight into electric vehicles to invest in a charging network like Tesla has … and no, VW’s dieselgate-mandated Electrify America initiative does not count.

In my mind, the first major automotive company that forces all of its executives to drive electric cars will be the first one to truly make an intelligent push into the electric vehicle market.

The Tesla Model 3 wins the charging wars with its massive network of ~130 kW Tesla Superchargers boasting multiple charging stations in an intentionally deployed, integrated charging network that spans most of the US, Europe, and several other regions around the globe. Yes, any other manufacturer could do this, and it’s just a matter of a few billion dollars … but they have not done it to date and suffer because of this inaction.

Price

Affordability of a long-range electric car was, until recently, a major constraint for those wanting to drive electric. The new $30,000 Chevy Bolt (after the US federal tax credit for ZEVs) is a major accomplishment and evidence that Tesla has indeed scared mainstream manufacturers into bringing long-range, affordable electric vehicles to market. It was clearly a response by GM to the threat of Tesla’s Model 3 and I’m sure Tesla is excited about its existence.

Before rebates, the price of the Bolt at $37,500 is slightly higher than the Model 3 at $35,000. Federal tax credits for Tesla vehicles are expected to run out in the next 12 months, meaning that anyone who is not already in the reservation queue for the Model 3 will likely not get a tax credit for it. Chevrolet has similarly produced numerous plug-in vehicles over the years and is thought to be nearing the end of the 200,000 plug-in vehicles that are eligible for the $7,500 US federal tax credit. Though, with lower demand for the Bolt (available in showrooms today), a tax credit is all but guaranteed for buyers.

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Chevrolet Bolt specs at CES reveal. Image Courtesy: Chevrolet

The base Tesla Model 3 does not include important add-ons like the current Autopilot suite and full self-driving software, features expected to add thousands to the price of the vehicle. Based on data gathered by the Model 3 Owners Group, the average selling price of the Model 3 is expected to be around $50,000. That’s not to say that you have to spend that much, but most buyers will add options. Bolt does not have as many options in this regard and many buyers are comfortable with the base model with the exception of the missing DC fast charging option at $750.

I’m calling the price category a wash. Though, technically, Model 3 beats the Bolt at the base price.

Availability

For drivers who are just done driving a gasmobile, the Bolt can be purchased today, and as some of our single-car readers are aware, it meets the vast majority (if not all) of the needs of the average driver. (More on that later, though, when some of our Bolt-driving readers publish their own reviews of the car.) Deliveries of the Bolt started in December, while Model 3 will not be delivered to the first people in the reservation queue until July. Having said that, if you are not in the reservation queue for Model 3, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that you should expect to wait until late 2018 to get your Model 3.

This gives the Bolt a sizeable advantage with the average consumer, as it can literally be driven off the lot today, whereas that same luxury for Model 3 is around 18 months away for most prospective buyers — and even then, we don’t know how long demand will outstrip production capacity and force consumers to wait a bit for their cars.

Autonomous Driving

While not specifically cleantech focused, autonomous driving technology has become synonymous with Tesla. Its Autopilot suite of technology changes the driving experience for drivers today, with nearly hands-free freeway driving in most regions and Elon Musk committing the company to performing a fully autonomous hands-free cross-country road trip by the end of this year.

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Zach testing Autopilot in a Tesla Model X. Image Credit: Kyle Field

Chevrolet, on the other hand, has developed a healthy suite of autonomous driving technology that it has demonstrated in San Francisco but with none of the features included in the production version of the Chevy Bolt EV. In response to Tesla, Chevrolet has escalated the pace of its development of autonomous vehicle technology — but, again, the technology is absent in the production version nor has Chevrolet committed to bringing it to market in any future vehicles.

Model 3 will have all the hardware necessary for full self-driving functionality and clearly comes out on top for autonomous driving technology.

Performance

The Chevy Bolt is no slacker when it comes to performance. Stomp the pedal and even with its impressive traction control it is possible to chirp the tires. It boasts an impressive 0–60 mph time of 6.5 seconds and is a blast to drive. Most people do not care about a 0–60 time, and in my 7 years of owning my Prius, I had and still have no idea what it was. Performance for most is about the day-to-day driving experience, and in that regard, the Bolt delivers a peppy pedal with all the torque one could want.

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Matte Black Tesla Model 3. Image Courtesy: Tesla

The Tesla Model 3, on the other hand, will have a 0–60 time of around 6.0 seconds, with Tesla’s famous Ludicrous mode being available as an (expensive) option farther down the line. The addition of a second motor also promises to offer an incremental performance boost for those who want a faster vehicle but want to retain the ability to breathe during acceleration. Tesla has always had a sweet tooth for performance, clearly claiming it as one of the top selling points of its vehicles (example: the Tesla Model S boasts the fastest 0–60 time of any production sedan at just over 2.2 seconds!!!).

For the average driver, these two cars will feel about the same in terms of acceleration, but with Model 3 offering extra options to step it up, Tesla takes the cake for performance.

Dealership Experience

When I bought my Model S, I was very impressed by the “dealership experience” Tesla provided. It had been a few years since I had visited a dealership, as I bought my Nissan LEAF online (which was also a very satisfying, low-stress purchase). Unrelated, unsolicited, and unpaid aside: we bought our LEAF from John Dibella at Wayzata Nissan. They had (have?) LEAFs from the factory that had/have not been titled but do have a few miles on them at great discounts. I highly recommend them.

Tesla is known for its all-out customer service and held up to that high standard in spades. I was VERY impressed and enjoyed every aspect of it. Knowing that prices are not negotiable at any Tesla store anywhere in the world at any time is nice. Tesla vehicles can also be configured and purchased online, which is handy in states where Tesla still cannot operate a physical sales center.

Tesla Santa Barbara. Image Credit: Kyle Field

And then we have … Chevrolet dealerships. I went into a few to test drive the Bolt before I took possession of the loaner Chevrolet that provided to me to review for CleanTechnica, and it was an eye-opening experience. To be fair, this is not a Chevy thing — it’s a dealership thing for all major automakers with very few exceptions. The salesmen were high-pressure sales people, were uneducated on the product, and left me feeling gross. I was pressured with follow-up phone calls to the point that I had to threaten to escalate to the manager to get him to stop calling (harassing) me. This is an issue with all dealerships, not just Chevrolet, but it is a HUGE disadvantage. (Editor’s note: Automakers would do well to understand and try to solve this sooner rather than later. And, no, fighting Tesla in the courts regarding its right to sell directly to customers is not the solution.)

Similar to how conventional vehicle manufacturers should force executives to drive electric, they should also be forced to buy a car from a handful of their dealerships … and from Tesla. The contrast is stark. I like going to the Tesla dealership even though I have no reason to go there. Granted, I’m a fan, but it goes beyond that. The experience was so positive and the approach is so different. (Editor’s note: I’ve heard of other Tesla stores being places for Tesla enthusiasts to hang out as well, almost like clubhouses.)

Tesla has redefined the car-buying experience in a way that makes it a competitive advantage. If I had to choose between buying another Tesla from a dealership or having to negotiate at a Chevrolet dealership for a car … even if it were free in the end, I would be hard-pressed to not choose Tesla.

Safety

The foundation of the autonomous driving technology is a base of sensors and cameras that, even on the base Model 3, provide a brilliant array of active safety features that will enable Model 3 to perform feats like “Automatic Emergency Braking,” swerving and dodging — and even accelerating — to avoid incoming vehicles. These features truly raise the bar for what it is to be a safe vehicle. Model S and Model X are the safest vehicles in their respective classes, and with safety as the #1 priority for Tesla, all signs point to Model 3 being an extremely safe vehicle as well.

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Bolt Airbags. Image Courtesy: Chevrolet

While Chevrolet offers many of these active safety features, they are only included on higher-optioned vehicles, meaning most buyers will not benefit from them. Chevrolet has high hopes for a favorable safety rating for the Bolt, and based on the performance of the Volt with its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Pick rating, I am hopeful that the Bolt will earn high marks.

Because of Tesla’s proven track record of delivering safe vehicles, the inclusion of active safety features in all current Tesla vehicles, and its safety-first focus, I’m going with Model 3 for the safety category.

Summary

The Tesla Model 3 and the Chevy Bolt EV are neck and neck in just about every area, and everyone will weight each of the categories differently, which makes it difficult to compare the two. With the massive advantage of the Tesla Supercharging network and the autonomous vehicle technology the Tesla Model 3 will arrive with next month, I’d say the Model 3 takes the cake. Buying a car is often an emotional decision not driven by categories or data, so take this comparison for what it is — my perspective — and do your own research. Become an expert and, most importantly, Drive Electric!

Tesla Model 3 Production On Track as Tesla Ramps Up Supporting Infrastructure

Originally published on CleanTechnica

Tesla announced earnings for the first quarter of 2017 today and the message is loud and clear about the Model 3 — Tesla is on track for the move to production and ramping up its infrastructure across the board in support of the launch.

Model 3

Starting with the most foundational of Model 3 activities, Model 3 production is on track with all production-ready manufacturing equipment set to start working in July for honest-to-goodness manufacturing:

“Model 3 activities related to vehicle development, manufacturing equipment installation and supplier readiness remain on plan to start production in July.”

The letter continues by unpacking the work Tesla is doing to improve its overall geographic footprint across the globe.

“We are significantly expanding our infrastructure to support Tesla owners by increasing the density and geographic footprint of our presence.”

This comes on the heels of Tesla’s focused announcement that the Tesla Supercharger network will be doubling in 2017.

All signs point to Tesla’s gamble on installing production-capable manufacturing equipment right off the bat vs installing special, essentially disposable equipment and then upgrading to full-volume equipment after the release candidate vehicles are validated. The release candidate vehicles have been built so that improvements can be taken back to the manufacturing process to ensure it is capable of supporting Model 3 production at scale — at quality targets.

As the world has already seen, release candidates are also getting out in public for real-world road testing as part of the validation process.

Digging into the details of the manufacturing lines, Tesla has brought its latest Schuler press line up and has started the commissioning process for it in preparation for Model 3 production. This timing is in-line with the planned Model 3 ramp and allows “sufficient time to install and tune die sets ahead of volume production.”

Work continues across the Fremont factory, with the paint shop getting an overhaul as well as upgrades in the new Model 3 body welding process and general assembly lines, with Tesla noting that these are all on track.

On the supplier front, Tesla is also pounding on the upstream suppliers to ensure it doesn’t hit any roadblocks like those encountered with the Model X production ramp, which had serious issues with the components required for the second-row seats, supersplendulous windshield, and falcon-wing doors.

Service Improvements

Beyond just physical service centers, Tesla has moved forward with mobile service teams and is ramping up from the pilot of just a single mobile service vehicle to a fleet of over 100 mobile service vehicles by the end of Q2 2017. Tesla notes that it has built its vehicles to be largely serviceable without the need for a lift, which means mobile service is much easier to accomplish at the home or business of a customer, which saves the customer the time and effort of traveling to and from a service center (SC) as well as the non-value-add logistics associated with a SC visit.

I personally found the Ranger Service to be extremely user-friendly when a tech came to my home to swap out a door handle on my Model S while I made dinner for my family in the next room.

Tesla has also done work to continue to drive service times down. Specifically, it has continued to leverage proactive and reactive remote diagnostics to identify and flag service items before they leave a driver stranded on the side of a road. This has the potential to drive the uptime of Tesla vehicles up higher than any other competitor, as no other automotive manufacturer has or is using this type of advanced, remote diagnostic capabilities today. The work done to drive service times down this year has resulted in reductions of repair times by 35% this year alone.

A 30% increase in physical footprint density is also in the works for this year, with over 100 new retail, delivery, and service locations globally in parallel to the previously communicated doubling of the Supercharger network in 2017 to 10,000 stations and a 4-fold increase in the destination charger network density to 15,000.

Tesla is also moving into the body shop business, which is a part of the service model that it has historically outsourced. Body work has been a source of significant headaches and delays for users, with the rear quarter panels being a known constraint that regularly cause delays of several months due to their complexity, lead time for parts ordering, and the sheer effort required to remove and rebuild that section of the vehicle.

On the investors call, which CleanTechnica joined, the Tesla team noted that there has been a significant ramp in the number of loaners the company is keeping ready to ensure owners have a Tesla to borrow when their vehicle is in for service. The company noted that it is stocking well-equipped vehicles to give owners the best experience and to make service a positive experience to the point where they will be sad when it’s over. If a fleet of loaner Model X P100Ds are sitting at the ready, Tesla may see an increase in service requests from owners. 🙂

That positive experience could also lead to more upgrades and Model X or S sales. As reported in our freshly released second-annual EV report, the largest percentage of current EV drivers in Europe and North America plan to next buy a Tesla Model 3, but another large portion of initial EV drivers plan to buy a Model S or X next. In fact, among current Tesla drivers, approximately 26% plan to next buy a/another Model S and 10–11% plan to next buy a/another Model X.