New update for Hobbes has subtly made a huge improvement on my personal daily usage example.
Before the update, in slow stop and go traffic, like a school pick up:
Moving at 20MPH, you take your foot off the accelerator and the regenerative braking starts slowing you down but you still roll.
You move your foot to the brake and tap it to stop the car, and then you press it a little bit more to put it in “Hold Mode” which means it’ll stay in that stop till you press the Go pedal again.
No rolling back or forward while on an incline – this is a great feature, but it could get better.
There are a hundred of these events each trip while queuing to transport my kid to and from school, which in my day was handled by something called: A Bus.
Now, new and improved, you just take your foot off the accelerator, the car inches forward a bit and comes to a gentle stop by itself and then puts the car right into hold mode. My foot stays over the “accelerator pedal” and that minor change is a GIGANTIC mood changer.
This is the kind of little tiny improvements that are made possible when the car is fly-by-wire. Any little thing you can think of that might help – they can add that after it leaves the factory and that makes it way better than an old ICE car.
No one asked, but I need to talk a bit about Hobbes, our 2019 Model 3 (standard).
He is named Hobbes, after the philosopher, because it is hard to tell your kids not to waste milk or to turn off the lights when you go out and buy an expensive car. Some day they’ll learn about social contract theory and think back to our Model 3 and how dad was in the ruling class.
I fundamentally believe that I do not deserve anything nice at all. I hold this opinion while also owning one of the very nicest of all things. Apparently, I contain multitudes.
The “Why Tesla” discussion is a tough talk. One reason is that “the cost of cars” in general is shrouded in mystery and lore. Everyone knows the price of a Tesla because there are no “President’s Day Sales” that can mean very different prices for different people. All other car sellers claim that prices are “Starting at $xx,xxx” (RIP Saturn Motors) – what even is that kind of crazy ambiguous talk for the second most expensive thing bought during the American Dream. While driving in my aging mini-van, I would random ask my phone for the MRSP of that car I just passed. Lots of cars cost as much as the Model 3. Cars be mad expensive.
When someone asks me about the “Why Tesla” I respond with the buckshot justifications that I needed to make to myself. None of that matters and no one is trying to hear it. The car is a dream; it’s Disneyland with no lines; it’s finding a crumpled $10 bill while doing laundry; it’s getting parking spot right up front when you’re late.
We had a /long/ test drive with Mariel’s Model 3 (LR AWD), Hedy LeCar. So putting the second foot into the “Electric Vehicle lifestyle” water was not scary at all – we were more than ready to shed another ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. Comparing an ICE Car to a Model 3 is like comparing an apple to a very good cappuccino. If you enjoy coffee, apples are great, but we would never choose the best apple over a hot cup of life affirming liquid energy. MMMmmm, cappuccino.
The car we purchased before this was a 2014 Honda Civic EXL, MSRP $27180. So that was our ballpark. $39,490 is the purchase price for the Model 3. It is a bit irresponsible for (me) us to take a big loan when I’ve got my kid’s college education looming in the near future. It’s arguable that buying any new car is a really bad idea. I’m not real confident in my take on that issue. For us as a family, this was a conscious investment instead of “traveling to destination vacations” cause’ we weren’t getting that done anyway. That money spent on vacation would have a higher interest rate than a car loan. So if you’re borrowing money to feeling happy about working for money.. this is where the cheap borrowed money is.
I feel like the Honda Civic is a great car – but I wouldn’t feel self-conscious about catching judgmental side-eye rolling in a brand new one. The difference is $12k between Hobbes and Lola, the Honda Civic.
Picture secret, imaginary amenities that no one lists on the pamphlet and how much money they would be worth (spread over 5 years at 3.9%). Here is how I convince(d) myself:
1) magic Fuel gnomes come to our house and fill the “gas” tank at night. We never have to go to a gas station again. This is a free metaphorical service for the lifetime of the car. (Honestly, I could just stop here and lay the mic down gently.)
2) the cost per mile for our Civic was $.12/mi (at a gas price of $3.75/gallon). At our currently electric rates (not considering our solar production) charging at night costs me $.02/mi ($.9/kWh from 12am to 6am).
3) No oil changes needed. Oil changes, transmission fluid, radiator coolant and other crap all become a distant memory.
4) Hobbes dodges when other cars try to hit us. Story time: driving home, tired from physical therapy, I was in complete mental auto pilot on a two-lane highway (the 56). Someone merging onto the highway, in my right-side blind-spot, started pulling into me. The car chirped, accelerated and moved a bit into the left lane. It was a first for me, I actually didn’t know if I was the one who made the move subconsciously. But it wasn’t me, I was tired and just staying in my lane. I checked the recorded cameras when I got home and saw it was a near hitâ€¦ Oh yeah,
5) There’s a dash-cam – 4 constantly recording cameras that record to a USB key.
6) Key-less – I just use my phone. I walk up and the car lets me drive. My wife and I can swap cars willy-nilly without even telling each other. Interchangeable cars is a very cool idea I didn’t know about.
7) Hobbes is always connected and phone controlled – I can start the climate control remotely, I can check my battery range, I can start or stop charging during the day. I can use my phone to see a map of where my car is and how fast it’s going. I can let someone into my car when I’m 3000 miles away. I can send it directions, or songs, or movies to watch from my phone.
8) Media Streaming – The car streams music, podcasts, radio, movies (when parked). An added benefit is that I rarely ever even do a quick check of my phone. Also saves me on my phone bill because NPR podcasts about the clown show can add up.
9) It’s a robot. Hobbes can do highway miles and “stop and go” traffic all by his self. You don’t know how taxing driving is until you have a helper.
10) [Now for an audience of just geeks] my car has an API or a software interface. I can write programs that do all sorts of neat stuff. When Hobbes gets back home my home server records my mileage and battery levels and also downloads any dash-cam footage. I also have a program that changes the charge rate of the car to match what my solar panels are producing.
Those above are just “package enhancements” or whatever, like any car could have those as an upgrade or maybe as aftermarket additions.
Now I will get into more stylistic themes.
A) Comfort – The front seats are the most comfortable thing. Better than any in-house furniture.
B) It is quiet – Seriously, it’s a carpet ride. You may think the novelty will wear off, but it never does. Any time an ICE car strains to pass you up a hill you remember how quiet it usually is.
C) There are no gears – The transmission doesn’t slip or lag. You never wait for the car to catch up to what you’d like to do. It’s so smooth.
D) It’s fast as hell – I once had a very fast motorcyle. It had 140 horsepower and weighed maybe 500 pounds. I was just an engine, wheels, and rider. Hobbes can reportedly do 140mph, and a 5.3s 0-60, 12 second quarter mile. Going fast on a bike requires some recklessness and the Model 3 is completely reckful.
You can do drive zippily on the way home from the grocery store with three kids in the car and full trunk. Even emergency stopping feels “safe”. Accelerating through turns, lane changes, quick starts from a stoplight that leaves everyone far behind – it all feels safe and in control. All that performance is guilt free in that you’re not bleching exhaust out the back, or counting imaginary quarters like I would when on-ramping to a Californian highway in my V6 minivan.
E) Dream Car effect – It’s a smile to drive the car. I would not trade straight-up for any car. [Editor’s note: remove long list of exotic cars which I would refuse]. Unless I was selling the trade to buy a better Model 3 and pocket the difference, I wouldn’t take that trade.
F) Upgrades – the car has legitimately improved since I took delivery. They made “lane departure correction” automatic since the data showed that would help keep people safer. They added the rear camera to the dashcam recordings. Video games, Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, Podcast streaming, Music, spotify support, fart noise generator. Sentry mode, oh yeahâ€¦
G) Security – those cameras for the dash-cam also record what’s happening around it at night. We had a break in to our old car last year so that’s kind of on my mind.
H) AI or Learning systems – people are skeptical about the car’s AI and stuff, but I’m a convert. I concede that there may be accidents caused by “the car” making a mistake. But when one idiot makes a mistake in a Model 3 they /could/ change a half million cars later that week. When an ICE car makes a mistake that’s just lost information.
I) Energy infrastructure – I’m not going to wander into the carbon offset comparison discussion because I’m not smart enough. I will say that electric distribution /could/ change for almost millions of cars with a power plant upgrade. Big changes are possible (and probable now that electrics are provably a thing). That ain’t happening with old cars.
All told, with rebates from California, and Federal, free charging referral for road trips, and my electric company – by the year’s end I’ll get back about $8.5k of what I paid down on the car. I switched from my mini-van at $.19/mi to about $.02/mi (at $3.75 per gallon). My monthly gas expenditure averaged about $220/mo for the last 4 years. Hobbe’s car payment is $500/mo.
Now we’re down to about $280/mo to drive a fricken’ spaceship.
The downsides: the range of 210 miles is not for long trips. Hedy LeCar has 300 and that’s good enough to go up the coast on a long trip. There are space constraints for a family of 5 and a dog.
“Never go to a gas station again”
“Wake up with a full tank e’ry day”
“Watch Netflix while waiting for the trumpet lesson to end”
“False sense of superiority because you’re using a next gen fuel source”
“Giggling with your kids while getting on the highway because your stomachs are trying to catch up”
“Even I go unconscious, Hobbes /could/ pull over itself and let the kids out”
Every silly trip is great. Sometimes, I stay in my car in the driveway for way too long after dropping the kids off just finish my coffee or work with my laptop.
That’s how different great Hobbes is.
It’s a cappuccino, not an apple.