My Tesla Journey Begins…

Welcome! First, let me announce that my wife and I have become proud owners of the first “real” electric family sedan (Tesla 85 kWh Model S) in the world that can drive about 265 miles on one single charge but nevertheless, it can look as cool as a sports car!

As of 2015 Feb, other automakers like BMW (i3), Chevrolet (Spark EV), Fiat (500e), Ford (Focus Electric), Nissan (Leaf), Kia (Soul EV), Mercedes (B-Class Electric Drive), Mitsubishi (i-MiEV), Smart (Electric Drive), VW (E-Golf) have all been selling pure-electric cars and the one with the best miles range on one single battery charge is Kia Soul EV with 93 miles and on top of that, all those aforementioned cars fall under “small” cars. Now compare this to a 4,647 lbs beauty that can drive a family of 5 (or 7 with the optional 2 seats in the back) upto 265 miles on a single charge. Also I cannot skip mentioning about the drag coefficiency of Model S. To keep it simple without getting too technical, drag coefficiency is a measure of how aerodynamic a car is and is very much talked about in the auto industry, especially in sports cars. The lesser it is, the better it is, the faster the car is and the more efficient it is on the engine/motor. Some of the best American sports model cars are Chevy Camaro and Chevy Corvette and their latest models’ drag cooefficient are 0.34 and 0.28 respectively while Tesla Model S is 0.24 which is unbelievable even for ICE cars but Tesla has made it possible in a pure electric car which can zoom from 0-60 in about 5 secs. Hope now you get why I started this blog with a statement like “my wife and I have become proud owners of the first “real” electric family sedan in the world”!

It is not just the size and the range that makes it apart from other electric automakers, but several other features that makes it  a “highly technology fuelled car” of modern times. Tesla is something of a Silicon Valley “darling” because it’s as much a technology company as an automaker. One of the other nicer aspects of Tesla is that it’s a new American manufacturing company at a time when so much manufacturing has moved abroad. Okay, okay, enough of singing the praises…let’s get back to where we left off – we bought the “beauty” in 2015 Feb, but the real journey began way before that – during the Summer of 2014.


Jun 2014: We just then came back from a wonderful vacation from India and UAE and started getting back into the thick of things – family, kids, work, etc. Life was getting back to where it should be!


Jul 2014: Sometime at the end of July, while driving to work, I caught a glimpse of a wonderfully designed sporty car that just amazed me by its look. Since then, for a while, all that was etched in my memory was the ‘T’ logo that I noticed on the back of the car.

Tesla Logo

I suspected that to be a ‘Tesla’ and I was damn right and that indeed was – it was a Model S, the only model manufactured by Tesla. I gradually started doing more research about the car and was eventually impressed by its  features and the automaker’s future plans.


Aug 2014: Test drive

8/15/14 – Called the Tesla Gallery (showroom) at the Domain (Austin) and scheduled a test drive for 8/20/14.

8/20/14 – Test drove a Red 85 kWh Model S.

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I was just blown away by the experience. The sexy and sporty look, the aerodynamic design, the 17in monitor at the heart of the car, the pickup, the instant torque generated during acceleration, the spacious trunk, the spacious “f”runk and many other things just blew me away. I immediately decided to take my wife for a test drive in it and scheduled one in Sep.

Now, switching gears from new to old – I have been owning a 2002 VW Passat for about 13 years, so I have been planning to sell it and buy a new car for a while as my VW was nearing the 150K mark. Not that I disliked Passat, it was a great car and always loved to drive it even though I had a newer 2008 GMC Acadia SUV, but I just needed a change.

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2002 VW Passat

I knew that the Tesla was a big investment, but my VW’s replacement was anyways going to be a more expensive investment in the lines of an Audi or a BMW, if not a Tesla. From the day I set my foot in this country, I have never been a fan of Japanese cars, it’s just my opinion and absolutely no offense to folks who own them. I agree that those cars have a good resale value but nevertheless, I always felt that they lacked the style and the looks of a great car. Of all the Japanese automakers, Nissan/Infiniti cars had the best looks, but still not upto the mark set by their German and American counterparts, so my options for a new car were very limited: an Audi or a BMW or a Tesla – and my wife was never a fan of BMW.

Now that I have already test driven a Tesla, I wanted to test drive an Audi and a BMW before test driving the Tesla again in Sep.

8/27/14 – Test drove a BMW 535i.


Sep 2014:

9/5/14 – Test drove an Audi A6. And for me, Tesla won over BMW and Audi hands down, no doubt about that. I should have test driven a BMW 7 series or an Audi A7 which are more apt competitors to Model S than the 5 series and the A6, but my mindset was such that I would rather shell money and buy a luxury electric car rather than a luxury ICE car! The only thing pending now before deciding on which car to go for – a test drive in Tesla with my wife.

9/18/14 – Both of us test drove the Tesla and my wife was just amazed and we both fell in love with the car. I knew even before I took her for the drive that she would fall for it 🙂 Also, read somewhere that Tesla has decided to add lane assist, speed assist and blindspot assist to all Model S cars going forward and me already inclined towards buying a Tesla, this news on the new safety features further strengthened my liking for the car.

Being a practical guy, I wanted to make sure that if I buy a Tesla in Austin, will it be worth it? For me, the daily commute to school, work and day to day chores is not a problem with a 265 mile range car, but the real question is if the car will surivive a munch longer journey. Being an Austinite, the cities that I frequently take trips to are Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, so for me to drive a distance of about 100/200 miles one way to any of those cities and then head back home, I need to make sure that, if I buy the Tesla, my trip should be free of range anxiety. Tesla has a huge supercharging network across the country covering most of the interstate highways and Texas has a bunch of them, one each on the way to San Antonio and Dallas, a couple on the way to Houston and a several others spread across the State. One of the most important luxuries that Tesla owners get is that supercharging is free of charge and is very fast that it can charge about 170 miles in 30 mins. The only thing that I, as a Tesla owner needs to do is plan my trip accordingly so that I stay free of range anxiety.

Meanwhile I also met with and talked to a few recent Tesla owners in Austin to get an idea on their experiences and all of them were very positive. One of them who owns a 60kWh Model S did say that he regretted not buying the 85kWh version due to the more miles that it can cover and also the supercharger part of the standard package.


Oct 2014: Model S with autopilot features

10/9/14 – Elon Musk announced that all future Model Ss are going to come with new Autopilot features by default and also revealed that the car would come with a dual motor option. The dual motor option did not fascinate me much but just the fact that the Model S is going to come equipped with Autopilot features drove the last nail to confirm my selection of the Model S!


Nov 2014: Order and preparation for the new car’s arrival

11/3/14 – We submitted the order for the new car online – that is the only way to do it! Below listed are the options that we went with: 85 kWh Model S w/ Red Multi-Coat Paint, All Glass Panoramic Roof, 19″ Wheels, Black Nappa Leather Seats, Piano Black Décor, Supercharger Enabled, Dual Charger and Tech Package with Autopilot.

Even though the car could have been delivered by end of Dec, I was not in a hurry as my VW was doing just fine and I also wanted to have the new car delivered for my wife’s birthday if possible, so I had the delivery scheduled for Feb 2015.

Everybody raves about Tesla’s features, but every car comes with pros and cons and Model S is not an exception to that. When one buys a new car, he/she always sees the pros which justifies the purchase and eventually the cons start to show up as surprises later after the purchase. I wanted to make sure that I get as few surprises as possible after my buy. Below listed are a few of them that I noticed in the Model S:
– There are only 2 cupholders in the whole car and especially if you have kids, you definitely need more than that, but anyways all kid booster seats come with cup holders in them.
– All doors have pockets in them, but small when compared to other cars of the same size, but there is a small pocket in front of both the driver and passenger seats.
– No seatback pockets, but we can always buy it as an accessory and hang it behind the seats

The way I see it is Tesla wanted to reduce as much as clutter or load on the car to reduce the drain on the battery and in the process, the above items were off the car’s design chart. Of course, one cannot satisfy everybody in this world, but I am satisfied 🙂

11/28/14 – My order’s status on teslamotors.com said ‘Car entered production queue at the factory in Freemont, California’. Yay!

I began reading everything about the car and about the preparations that had to be done before the arrival of the car. One of the things that most Tesla buyers do not give importance to is to have the charging outlet installed ready on time before the new car arrives into the garage. I started getting quotes for having a 14-50 Nema charging outlet installed in my garage. The car can be charged on a normal 110V outlet at a rate of 3 mi/hr, but a 14-50 outlet can do it at about 30 mi/hr which was the recommended option by Tesla. Tesla has its own electrician network that is listed on their website, but I decided to go with local qualified electricians who were much cheaper than Tesla’s. Since the main breaker is on one side of the house and the garage is on the other side, the effort to run the cables from the main breaker to the wall outlet in the center pillar of my 3 car garage was a little trickier as well as expensive. A new 50amp circuit breaker had to be installed specifically for the charger outlet, that way, the normal electrical load for the daily usage in the house does not get affected.


Dec 2014: Garage organization

12/9/14 – I finally narrowed down on a quote and had the outlet installed in Dec. Am I crazy to install the outlet 2 months before the delivery? Maybe I am! Installing a Nema 14-50 outlet can be cheap or expensive, depending upon how one’s house is laid out and mine was a little expensive. If one’s house’s (like mine) main breaker’s location is on one side whereas the garage is on the opposite side, for one to  run a bunch of 100ft electrical cables in a conduit from one side of the house to the other side is quite an effort which will in turn burn his/her wallet 🙂 If you are lucky enough to have a house where the main breaker is very near the outlet location, then it will cost you less. If not that lucky, then atleast, at the time when you buy a house, you need to plan accordingly with a future possibility of becoming a Tesla owner!!! The best way to reduce your expense is to get a few quotes from a few electricians. The first time, when you have an electrician come over and have him give you the effort and price, you will get an idea on the electrical project. And finally after getting all the quotes, you can decide on which one you want to go with.

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Now that the outlet has been installed, my next job was to cleanup the 8yr old garage to make good space for the heavy beast to relax at, so I installed the bike rack and sent all the bikes packing onto the rack and I also had an overhead rack installed and sent all the junk sitting in my garage up the rack.

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Wait! Did I call the car a beast? Or a beauty? Yes, it is a Beauty as well as a Beast. What else would you call a beauty that weighs more than 4600 lbs but can still zoom from 0-60mph in about 5 secs without making an iota of noise?!


Jan 2015: Eagerly waiting for the arrival.

1/22/15 – Order status said ‘The Tesla Factory is building your Model S’. That same day, I got an email from the delivery manager that the car can most probably be picked up during the week of 02/09.

1/29/15 – Order status said ‘Production of car complete and ready to be shipped for delivery’.

1/27/15 – Payment for car purchase is complete.

1/29/15 – Received the purchase agreement from Tesla and had to sign some documents before mailing them back to the sender.

1/30/15 – Car was shipped and was scheduled to be picked up on 02/06. I would have been more happier if the car could have been delivered on my wife’s birthday, but 2/6 was the earliest possible date, which was a few days later than my wife’s birthday, but fine what else could I have done?

1/31/15 – Signed the documents and Fedexed them back.


Feb 2015:  Goodbye VW, Welcome Tesla!

02/01/15 – Finally, the time came to sell my VW. The VW dealership and carmax did not give me much of a good offer, so I decided to go with Craigslist and I posted some nice pictures on a Craigslist.

02/03/15 – Received a call from Tesla and confirmed the pickup date as 2/6.

02/05/15 – My new car passed State inspection

02/06/15 – Right before going to pickp my new car up, the delivery specialist said that there was a very small negligible paint bubble that had to be fixed which could be done after the delivery. I had to drop off the car in the service center and I would be given a loaner car for a few days. I politely declined the offer and decided to postpone the pickup of my car until after the paint bubble issue was fixed. I was a highly disappointed that I could not pickup the car that day. The “paint bubble” that they mentioned me should have been noticed at the factory itself but somehow wasnt, but anyways they spotted it in their final inspection before delivery and notified me on that. What I understood from the conversation that I had with the delivery specialist was that it was a very very small and negligible that the bubble was not easily noticeable to human eyes. Another reason that I decided to take delivery of the car after the paint fix was to make sure that the car did not have any record on the VIN due to that paint job after taking delivery. The following day, I received a call from another manager apologizing for the inconvenience and he offered me a free rental car of luxury category until the new car is delivered.

The Model S used to come with only the front carpeted mats, but that has changed recently and it now comes with the regular carpeted floor mats in front and back. Given that I have 3 kids, only I know how much mess kids can make sometimes, so I was anyways planning to buy the $200 worth All-weather floor mats from Tesla’s online store. Since the manager had offered me a free rental for a few days, I utilized that opportunity and requested him for those mats instead of the rental and he said that he would try his best to fulfill my request.

2/10/15 – Received call from Tesla that my delivery would be on 2/12 and received the confirmation from the manager that the mats will be delivered as part of the car during pickup on 2/12.

2/11/15 – I stopped by the Tesla Service center to check out my new car and took some cool pictures with it. I called insurance and took a policy effective the following day.

2/12/15 – I got a ride in a Model S (not mine) by the delivery specialist to the Austin Service center and went and picked my car up at 1:06pm. The feeling that I experienced when I drove her out of the service center was an inexplicable and an amazing experience – she had just 11 miles on the odometer when I started to drive her back home and more importantly, I was proud of doing something good for the environment – owning a Zero Emission car.

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My first drive – from service center to home
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23 miles on it, after reaching home

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My wife and kids did not have a clue about the new car until later in the day. After I picked up my kids from school in my old Passat and opened the garage after reaching home, they were so spellbound to see a new addition to the garage that they could not believe that we own that. The moment the kids stepped into it, they literally started treated it like a play toy, not a luxury car. They started swiping the sunroof option on the huge 17in monitor, started to play songs on the media app, etc. Below you can see my kids sitting in the “frunk” (front trunk).

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Later in the evening, it was my wife’s turn to get surprised and oh boy! she did get surprised. Looking at how she reacted, my older daughter felt that her mom was a little dramatic given the situation, but anyways it made my day 🙂

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That weekend, I took some cool pictures of the car.

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17in touchscreen monitor in front
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panaromic sunroof that blocks 98% UV rays and 81% heat

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frunk

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Model S shaped keyfobs

Below listed are some of the wonderful features that I love in the car
– door handles get flushed with the body of the car while getting locked and they come out once you approach the car
– panaromic sunroof lightweight glass blocks 98% of ultraviolet light and 81% of  solar heat, it opens/closes at the swipe of the slider on the 17″ inch touch screen
– quiet start
– smooth acceleration
– volume decreases to minimal when doors are opened to avoid disturbing anybody outside the car
– energy and trip meters
– regenerative braking which makes me not use the brake most of the times
– model s shaped keyfobs
– folding of side view mirrors when the car locks
– a “frunk” (front trunk) with 5.3 cu.ft of cargo volume, wich takes the total cargo volume to 31.6 cu.ft including frunk and trunk (to compare, Honda Odyssey minivan has a total of 38.4 cu.ft with the 3rd row up)- digital display on the instrument panel
– most of the controls in the steering wheel buttons
– we can also give a name to the car – we named it SAARA (going by the first initial of all 5 of us!)

One of the best features is that the frequent software pushes keeps adding new or updating existing features in the car.

2/16/15 – I wanted to go for a long drive in the new car. Since I had anyways planned a few weeks earlier to take my family to the Bluebell icecream factory in Brenham, TX which is about 105 miles from my home, I decided to do that in my new car. The car comes with “Daily” and “Trip” ranges that you can set for charging the battery. “Daily” range is charging the battery from 50%-90% of its capacity and “Trip” range is >90%. Tesla recommends not to charge the battery to its full capacity frequently which will reduce its life. If during the trip, if I had to charge the battery, then I was planning to charge it either at a public charging station or at a nearby supercharging station. I made sure that I had the J1772 adaper with me in the car. I had both the J1772 and the 110V adapters with me in my glove box. They both perfectly fit in the small pockets provided at either sides of the glove box.

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To cover the total trip miles, I had charged the battery to upto 95% of its capacity, which came to 253 miles as rated range. In the last minute, my wife had to bail out on us for the trip, so it was just daddy n kids. After we reached Brenham, the rated remaining miles was 116.

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Before we headed back home, the car showed the below ‘warning’ which I think is a very good feature. Based on the driving habits of the driver, which in turn affects the battery due to various factors like, speed, A/C, fan usage, music, etc, the car gives a warning if you cannot make it to the destination with the current charge on the battery.

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Looking at the warning, I used plugshare website to find the nearest charging location and found a nearby RV park with one 110V outlet and a 14-50 Nemo outlet. I called the number listed on the site and asked for the price of the charge and the gentleman said $20 but when I mentioned that the plugshare site listed the rate as $10, he agreed to it. Later, when I pulled over there, I realised that I did not carry my Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) with me, so I had to drive to a nearby supercharging station.

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These are the things that I learned regarding charging at locations away from the house:
– Tesla superchargers and HPWC (High Powered Wall Connector) that you may find at Tesla service centers and stores – you do not need to carry anything as they have cables that plug straight into the car.
– Most public chargers are J1772. They have cables but you need to carry an adaptor with you.
– For all campgrounds and homes, etc you need to carry your UMC. Campgrounds (50 amp) use your NEMA 14-50 adapter with your UMC to plug in to their outlet. If it is a regular 110V wall outlet, use your UMC with the 110 volt adaptor.

From Brenham, I drove to the nearest supercharging station on I-10 at Columbus, TX with 31 miles remaining on the battery. I also saw a warning that the cold weather can deplete the battery further and recommended immediate charging. There were total of 6 stations and I noticed 2 cousins of Saara already charging there. Tesla has installed these supercharging stations at locations near restaurants, convenient stores, etc, thus making the customers not feel out of the place during their journey. I pulled into one of the free charging stations, plugged it, and took my kids to a restaurant nearby, about 200 ft from the supercharger.

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Saara being charged at supercharging station

I had lunch and came back in an hour to see that the car was 95% charged and ready to head back home. During the initial phase of the charging, it charges at a very high rate of 350mph and the screen also shows how many rated miles were added to the battery since the charge began.

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When I forgot to take the charger out of the car before driving, Saara warned me about that as well and the gear stalk would not move up or down. Simple but important warnings like these make the car more lovable.

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Later, when I reached home, I had 68 miles left on the battery. During the journey, I kept trying, testing and mastering the various features in the car. Some of the best features that I love are the Auto-pilot features. Autopilot combines a forward looking camera, radar, and 360 degree sonar sensors with real time traffic updates to automatically drive Model S on the open road and in dense stop and go traffic. Once you activate the cruise, the Traffic Aware Cruise Control automatically accelerates or decelerates depending upon the flowing traffic without the driver’s foot on the accelerator. Also camera-enabled automatic high/low beam headlights is a feature where the high beam headlights automatically dim when driving in lighted areas. Now that Tesla has set new standards in the auto industry, the Audis, BMWs and the rest have to play the catchup game now.

As per http://www.teslamotors.com/models, there are some pretty cool new features that will be soon pushed out to the car via software updates – where changing lanes will become as simple as a tap of the turn signal, Model S will both detect a parking spot and automatically park itself when you arrive at your destination. In the city, it will notify you when it finds a parallel parking spot, then control steering, acceleration and deceleration to back smoothly into it. When approaching a Supercharger station, Model S automatically parks in an open stall. Model S will even park itself in your garage at home. At the right time, it turns on the climate control and opens the garage door. On private property, Model S will even pull out of the garage and meet you at the curb.

And hopefully, many more to follow I guess!

Overall, my first journey outside the city was sweet, smooth and on top of that, I am glad to say that I drove around 250 miles in a zero-emission car without spending a penny and without burning a drop of gas, becoming as eco-friendly as possible 🙂 My kids and I are still waiting to go on a long trip with my wife…

02/18/15 – Thanks to the ICE-car friendly nature of the state of Texas, Tesla cannot sell the car legally in here, so when the car was sold to me, it was sold as if the purchase was made in California and I had paid only the purchase price and not the State tax. I have to pay the State tax and the registration fees at my local county office. My wife and I went and took care of that. Also, today is the first time we both drove Saara minus the kids 🙂

2/21/15 – UMC consists of a charging brick (which weighs about 3-4 lbs) which puts pressure on the adapter plug. This pressure over the course of time, will damage or distort the pins in the plug and it might short the circuit which you would not want to happen especially when your Tesla is being charged! So my next priority was to take care of that. I bought a few hooks ($5) from Home Depot and a UMC wall hanger ($25) from the Tesla service center, installed them, placed the brick on the 1st hook that way its dangling weight’s pressure is eased off on the adapter, coiled the cable around the 2nd hook and placed the other end of UMC into the wall hanger. Job well done!

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2/28/15 – Buying a car with a new technology always comes with an unique perk of taking friends on as many test drives as possible! A few of my friends came and wanted to check out the car while I took the pleasure in taking them on test drives and  explaining them the various cool features the car the has come with. My kids too love to show off to their friends – their most popular showoff item is the opening and closing of the panaromic sunroof by making swipes on the touchscreen.

Mar 2015:  Front license plate

3/01/15 – Texas being a 2-plate state requires you to display your license plate on the front and the back of your vehicle. Being said that, installing the plate in the rear is a breeze and a non-issue, but the design of Model S in the front is very unique with a nose-cone unlike the ICE cars that have a big grille and also the fact that there is no specific place that Tesla has allotted to install the front plate, makes it a little more annoying. For a car enthusiast like me, the idea of installing a front plate is mostly a ‘no’, but it is always a ‘yes’ for me to abide by the law. http://www.teslarati.com/installing-tesla-model-s-front-license-plate/ lists a few options and I went with the 1st one. I purchased the front license plate kit from www.torklift.com that is specifically designed for a Model S with autopilot features and it worked like a charm even though it took almost an hour for me to install it. While installing, please make sure to take precautionary measures not to scratch or ding the paint on the car.

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Before installing license plate
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After installing license plate

Wake up car! – Saara takes about 33 secs to wake up if you have the ‘Always Connected’ option unchecked under Settings/Display/Power Management.

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Below displayed are the progressive screenshots of the ‘Tesla’ mobile app on my phone when I try to invoke the app while the car is not connected.

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Ionizer – Turning on the Ionizer option cleans up particles that enter the cabin through open windows and doors. The ionizer emits positive/negative ions that attach to airborne viruses/bacteria/molds and neutralizes them.

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Me, being a tennis guy, used to take all my tennis stuff in my SUV, but it lost its privilege since Saara’s entry! With so much trunk space, why not?! The footwell serves its purpose beautifully by accommodating my 2 ball baskets.

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Nowadays, when I do grocery shopping, the groceries go into the “frunk”, as opposed to the trunk, that way when I park my car in the garage, I do not need to walk all the way to the rear trunk and bring the groceries from there…I love this cool feature, but at the same time, I read somewhere that using the front trunk often may not be a good idea as the trunk latch is not designed for frequent usage unlike the rear one. Since it is anyways covered under warranty, I will use it I guess.

20150222_143332 (Mobile)It has been a few weeks since I bought the vehicle and I have been deeply analyzing how it uses the electricity, how much battery I use daily, how much it costs me every day to charge, etc.

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11 thoughts on “My Tesla Journey Begins…”

  1. Nice to hear the you are driving the future of automobile with zero emission. congrats once again as you explore keep me updated. I am picking mine on 17nov2015 in the uk with the same spec with addition of ‘D’. yes its S85D.

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      1. Yes, spotted in a store in Bristol, UK during Christmas 2014 shopping. Then researched with Bjorn Nyland videos on Tesla and became his fan. Ordered 1Jun2015 . Delivery 17Nov2015. went for dual motor MCRed. That would be my only car for everyday commute. will post pics after I pick.

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