Own a (Tesla Model Y) EV: 100% Real-world XP with that Fun Range Enxiety

After 20,000 miles on my 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range, my two-year move from gas, or internal combustion engine (ICE), to electric has proved quite a trip.

For the most part, it’s been a fun ride. But it could be even more fun if I had known better.

If you’re thinking of making the same switch from ICE to EV, this post will help. While I wrote it based on my Model Y, much of what I mentioned here applies to all Tesla models and most EVs.

Let’s start with driving.

Dong’s note: I first published this post on September 29, 2021, and updated it on February 22, 2023, with additional information via first-hand experiences.

Tesla Model Y Family Bonneville Salt Flats
Life is a journey, but sometimes a destination can be fun. We were getting baked at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, some 800 miles (1300 km) from home. We didn’t use a single drop of gasoline on this road trip of close to over 2500 miles in total.

Driving: EV vs ICE

The first thing you’ll note with an EV is the different levels of control you’d have on a car — or the car has on itself — and the efficiency.

ICE: One-way resource spending

In an ICE car, it’s simple: you hit the gas pedal to bring the vehicle up to a certain speed, then use the brake to slow it down or put it to a stop.

If you make it go a bit too fast for the distance ahead, you’ll need to hit the brakes a bit harder. And you can never make it go fast just enough for that next stop. Using the brakes is essential to driving, especially when going downhill.

So an ICE car means you have to pay in fuel or the cost of materials — the wear and tear of the brakes — for making it move, slowing it down, or stopping it. All the while, you get nothing back other than moving from A to B.

It’s a one-way street in resource-spending.

EV: The single-pedal experience

With an EV, things are a bit different. Generally, the car slows down more acutely via “regenerative braking.”

Ease the foot on the accelerator, and you’d immediately feel the de-acceleration — the car captures the momentum to regenerate electricity.

As a result, you will not feel the usual rolling of an ICE. Instead, the car slows down at a greater level and comes to a complete stop at a much shorter distance — sometimes intelligently so when approaching a stop sign or behind another car.

The concept of regenerative braking requires some getting used to. It’s roughly similar to driving an ICE car in low gear, albeit smoother.

But after a while, you’ll love it. And after a short time, when you’re accustomed to it, you won’t need to use the brake much. It becomes “one-pedal driving.”

And that’s been my experience with my Model Y. Tesla claims that the car’s brakes will last its entire life, and I have no reason to doubt that. On most trips, I don’t use the brake — there’s just no need.

For the most part, the car’s motors handle the acceleration, deacceleration, and stopping — according to how I move my foot on the accelerator via various degrees and nuances. Over time, the car seemed to “learn” my driving habit and move around how I wanted it to.

The brake pedal still works, and I use it now and then in an emergency or out of habit.

Regenerative braking is why EVs generally have excellent mileage when driving around town or when you’re stuck in traffic — anytime you must stop and go often.

However, driving long distances is a different story — more in the range section below.

Tesla Model Y vs Acura MDX
Out with the old, in with the new: Here’s my 2021 Tesla Model Y Long Range — delivered on the last day of December 2020 — next to my previous ICE car, the Honda Acura MDX 2004. Among other things, the Y has much more storage room than the slightly larger gas SUV.

But there’s more than regenerative braking in handling an EV.

Driving a Tesla: The “smart” experience

And there’s more to the “control” notion in riding an EV.

Generally, electric vehicles are advanced “drive-by-wire” vehicles. Specifically, the car’s usual controller — the steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator pedal, etc. — doesn’t have physical connections to different parts of the vehicle.

Instead, they are sensors that carry the driver’s inputs to a computer, which takes care of the actual movements and actions and gives you synthetic feedback.

For example, on my Model Y, the steering wheel would vibrate if I let the car stray out of a lane — the shaking has nothing to do with the road’s surface or the car’s wheels.

The steering wheel also gives a little resistance when I change the lane without turning on the signal. (Doing this would bring the car out of Autopilot if engaged.)

This type of “control” works out well for the most part. You’d feel like the car is “smart,” as in you let it know what you want to do, and it’d take care of business, often gracefully so. It’s like you always have a friend helping out with the driving. And that’s nice.

And all that is in the software, which can be re/programmed. Tesla has pushed out over-the-air software updates regularly with incremental improvements, mostly.

Driving a Tesla: The “too smart” experience

But the experience can be annoying, too.

For example, you wouldn’t know if a tire’s pressure is low or it’s completely flat just by how the car feels — you have to rely on the sensor.

What’s more, sometimes, my Model Y shakes its steering wheel for seemingly no reason, likely because it doesn’t perceive the lanes correctly. Also, the car is unhappy when I deliberately do a bit of lane-straddling on a curve.

And the car often gives warnings prematurely — even with the latest update.

For example, I might get the “take control of the car immediately” warning just because the car in front of me suddenly turned, even when I was already holding the steering wheel. Or, when on the street, the car would slow down by itself for no apparent reason.

So the smart notion could feel like a back-seat driver in the car gets involved arbitrarily.

It’s a tricky balance that will take Tesla, or any car company, to figure out. After all, driving automation is extremely complicated.

Tesla’s service mode

On any Tesla, you need to put the car in a specific “service mode” before you can do simple stuff — car wash mode, towing, windshield wiper servicing, .etc. — for the car to behave accordingly.

For example, on models with Air Suspension, the car would think something is wrong with the road and adjust the suspension accordingly if you lift it without putting it in the service mode first.

By the way, you also need jack pads — lifting a Tesla the way you do an ICE car with a jack might damage its battery.

Read the manual

So it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your EV.

Check with the manual and give yourself some time to adjust. Driving an EV will differ from your existing gas car, and you’ll run into issues keeping the ICE mindset.

And the differences are also acute when you’re not driving, namely the charging, maintenance, and range management. All are entirely new compared to an ICE car.

EV charging deserves a post of its own — take a read if you haven’t. Or you can open the drawer below for some quick highlights!

Three levels of EV charging

EV Charging in brief

The tabs below contain brief info on the three current EV charging levels.

Level 1 EV Charging: 120V (up to ≈ 15A)

  • Electricity: Alternating current (AC).
  • To-car connectors: J1772, Tesla.
  • Charging rate: 3 to 5 Miles Per Hour ( 1.5 kW).
  • Applicability: Home or anywhere with a 120V wall socket.
Tesla Slow Charging
Level-1 charging is when you plug an EV into a 120V wall socket. It’s slow but enough for most users in overnight charging.

Level 1 charging is the lowest and, in the US, generally means you plug the car directly into a 120V outlet using the car’s default (often included) portable charger, technically called electric vehicle service equipment or EVSE.

There are also third-party portable chargers. While varying in design, costs, and possibly quality, all chargers will work with all EVs. It’s just a matter of getting the right adapter when necessary.

Apart from the 120V socket, most level-1 chargers also work with 240V sockets to deliver faster Level-2 charging speed.

Until April 17, 2022, Tesla included the Mobile Connector with its cars. It’s the company’s default Level-1 Charger.

Level 2 EV Charging: Up to 240 V (up to ≈ 80A)

  • Electricity: Alternating current (AC).
  • To-car connectors: J1772, Tesla.
  • Charging rate: Up to 80 Miles per Hour ( 20 kW).
  • Applicability: Home or anywhere with a 240V wall socket or a charging station.
Charging Station
Here’s an example of a third-party home Level-2 charging station. It works with all EVs.

Level-2 charging is the fastest option you can install at home. It requires new wiring.

At the minimum, in the US, you’ll need a separate breaker for a 240V outlet, similar to an oven or dryer. Most EVs’ portable chargers work with 240V and 120V outlets via interchangeable to-wall adapters.

New wiring is required if you want to get a charging station, such as the Tesla Wall Charger. This type of charger must be wired directly into a 240V breaker and won’t work with any socket.

Level 2 can deliver between 15A to 80A of electrical flow and give an EV up to 80 miles in an hour of charging through 60 miles/hour is common.

Level 3 EV Charging: At least 400 V

  • Electricity: Direct current (DC).
  • To-car connectors: Combined Charging System (CCS) and Tesla
  • Charging rate: at least 3 miles per minute, up to over a thousand miles per hour.
  • Applicability: Public charging station
Tesla SuperCharger
Tesla Supercharger is a prime example of Level-3 EV charging. This charger is rated at 250 kW and can fill a Tesla battery from 20% to 80% in less than 10 minutes.

Level 3 charging equals “gas stations” for EVs — it’s the fastest charging option.

In the US, most, if not all, non-Tesla Level-3 charging stations use the CCS connector, which encompasses the J1772 connector.

Level 3 charging uses direct current (DC) instead of alternating current (AC), like in the case of Levels 1 and 2. Each charger costs tens of thousands of dollars. That’s not to mention the electricity cost.

With that, let’s check out the maintenance.

Maintaining an EV

The maintenance has been nearly nothing for the past years on my Model Y. You can expect the same from any other Tesla, likely any other EV.

Tesla Service Center Berkeley CATesla Model Y Tire Rotation
Tesla’s service centers are generally crowded and can take weeks to book an appointment. But in the past year, the only service I needed on My Model Y was the tire rotation. It was a learning experience.

The only work I got done on the car was the rotation of the tires at 6000 miles.

I detailed part of that experience in this post on the car’s tires, but the gist is I contacted Tesla via the app, and a friendly technician arrived a few days later on my driveway. It was a straightforward, painless experience that cost $50 — the payment was made via the app.

Since then, I’ve gotten my own jack and done all subsequent rotations myself — it’s the same process as on any car.

Other than that, the only other thing I had to do was fill the windshield wiper fluid now and then.

Compared to my previous gas car, My Model Y has saved me from dealing with oil changes, brake checking, engine tuneup, .etc. It’s been a much easier experience.

Specifically, in the past two years, I had to deal with three minor issues with my Model Y — all with the car’s tires.

I detailed the first in this post about driving without a donut — it’s a fun read. The second time, it was in my driveway. My boy found a box of nails and scattered them around the house.

And the third time, somebody tossed a bunch of roofing nails under my car (and others in the parking lot); as I later found out via the Sentry records — I got three punctures in two tires at once. It was quite unfair.

By late 2022, all of my tires got at least one nail. I managed to plug them all the way I mentioned the first time, and the tires were fine. But in early 2033, I decided to get four new tires to stay on the safe side.

Tesla Model Y Nail on Tire Plug
Tesla Model Y Nail on Tire Plug

Other than those, my car got a few curb rashes — not the car’s fault, and they didn’t bother me.

It’s important to note that my experience wasn’t typical — I hope it stays that way. I know a few who weren’t so lucky — the drawer below includes a few examples if you’re interested.

Extra: Tesla accidents and aftermath

Getting a Tesla repaired: Be prepared to wait

Like driving any car, your luck with a Tesla varies regarding getting into an accident. But dealing with the aftermath is generally the same: It’s much more time-consuming than with an ICE car.

My buddy whose Model S crashed in November 2021 — I mentioned the story in this post on driving automation — wasn’t fixed until August 2022. He was out of a car for 10 months.

Tesla Model S Accident 1
Tesla Model S Accident 1

In case you’re curious about the incident, it was determined not to be the car’s or the driver’s fault, according to the police report.

The Model S was traveling around 70 MPH behind a truck at a reasonable distance. Suddenly, the truck veered out abruptly to avoid a vehicle stalling in the middle of the freeway. It was too late for the driver on the Model S to react.

The car’s emergency brake did engage, which kept the driver and the passenger safe — it impacted at slower than 30 mph. Still, the damage cost over $30,000.

My neighbor’s Model Y got rear-ended with a few big dents on the liftgate. It took him over two months to get them repaired.

Tesla Model Y Dents Lift Gate Dents
Tesla Model Y Dents Lift Gate Dents

As it turned out, due to the pandemic, the broken supply chain, and probably some miscalculations on Tesla’s part, it can take a long time — months in most cases — to get spare parts.

The owner of a local Tesla-certified repair shop told me it’d take them just “a week or two to repair a car, but we don’t have parts. And things keep piling up!”

Hopefully, things will change as the supply chain gets back to normal. But for now, if you have an EV, especially a Tesla, you better not crash or scratch it.

There’s no good time for that, but scheduling an appointment at a Tesla service center alone in the Bay Area takes weeks. That’s the case even in early 2023. Keep that in mind before you hit that accelerator.

However, I’m on the same board as everyone else regarding the car’s range.

EV: That range anxiety

Since the beginning of 2021, we’ve taken multiple road trips, putting thousands of highway miles on the Model Y. On one trip during early 2021 alone, we drove over 2500 miles.

And I learned a lot about the car’s range.

The first thing is that the so-called range anxiety applies only to long-distance driving — it doesn’t exist if you drive around town.

As mentioned earlier, an EV has an amazing range when you have to stop and go often. But in long-distance driving, the range-related worry is real. Since, to some extent, we also need to worry about the range in driving an ICE car, let’s check out some specifics.

Before the Model Y, I drove a Honda Acura MDX 2004 — to 250k miles before letting it go. I’ll stack these two against each other.

There are three things involved in long-distance driving: the amount of energy on board, the efficiency, and how fast we can refill.

EV vs ICE: Energy storing

My MDX has a tank capacity of 18 gallons — it’s actually 19.2 gallons, but I never drove it all the way to empty — and generally has the max EPA range, on a good day, of 400 miles (644 km).

My Model Y has a battery capacity of 75kWh and an EPA range of 324 miles. Here’s the crucial part: 75 kWh of energy equals just 2.25 gallons of gas. Since I’d never drive the car to empty, I’d round down to 2 gallons.

So, regarding onboard energy, my MDX has nine times that of my Model Y. Gasoline has a significantly higher energy density than the current battery technology, pound per pound.

And that brings us to efficiency.

EV vs ICE: Energy spending and the Model Y’s real range

Let’s speak in terms of gas to compare apples to apples.

The Model Y gets roughly 160 miles per gallon of gas per EPA estimates, while the MDX gets only 20 miles. So, my Model Y has much better efficiency than my MDX — about eight times.

One thing is for sure: you won’t get these numbers in real-life driving unless you drive by yourself, hauling nothing at around 60 miles or slower at all times. None of us do that, not on a freeway.

So on my MDX, I often got about 15 miles per gallon or 25 percent less in real-world efficiency. But considering the car has 18 gallons, I could still go as far as 300 miles on a full tank.

The Model Y also loses its efficiency progressively at higher speeds, but at a much more acute rate considering the amount of energy it can carry — it has only two gallons of gas.

So if I lose 25 percent, I’d get around 240 miles out of a full charge. And the faster you go, the more efficiency you’d lose. Indeed, if you cruise at 80 MPH on a Model Y, discount at least 30% from the car’s EPA range.

On many trips, when legal, I set the cruising speed at 90 mph, the top available for my Model Y (before the Tesla Vision shenanigans). In this case, the car’s range often ended up merely 170 miles out of 90% of the car’s full charge.

So to be sure, I generally only counted on some 200 miles out of my Model Y’s la-la-land 324-mile range, or 150 miles when charged at 80%.

Though I believe I could likely get farther than those most of the time, it’s always better to underestimate the cars’ range than the other way around.

But generally, in terms of range, an ICE car is hands down, superior to any EV right now. And that’s especially true when considering this last piece of the range anxiety puzzle: The refilling.

Tesla Model Y in desert
While greatly exaggerated by Tesla, the Model Y’s range is enough for me to take trips out of urban areas conformably.

EV vs ICE: Energy refilling

Refilling an ICE car’s tank is easy and takes less than 10 minutes, no matter what car you drive.

You can even bring a few jerry cans along if need be. And if you run out of gas out of now where, somebody can bring gas to you.

On the other hand, EV charging can get complicated and take hours. And there’s no extra power pack to carry along or quick refilling in the middle of the road. If you run out of juice the only option is getting a tow.

EV range: The speed vs time balance

Considering the efficiency mentioned above, the rule with an EV is that the faster you go, the shorter distance you can travel with the amount of energy at hand and the longer you’ll need to charge.

That said, pick the best balance of the speed you like and the time you need to spend on the road before reaching the final destination.

In my experience, 65-70 MPH is the best cruising speed on the Model Y, where I could get where I wanted with the least time spent on driving and charging.

This math doesn’t apply if you drive for 200 miles or less, but that’s the optimal speed for a trip requiring multiple charges. I’ve tried this on numerous 500-plus-mile legs that needed at least two charging stops, often three and sometimes four.

And, again, going more slowly will get you far, even more than the EPA estimate, but it will take longer to get there. So, slow down if you think you might run out of juice sooner than expected.

Tesla Model Y Charging from a House
Here’s my Model Y getting juiced up from a remote campsite’s office.

But even when straying out of this network, I’ve always been able to get the car charged. There are third-party charging stations everywhere, and the possibility of plugging the vehicle into a house’s outlet is real — folks can be generous.

EV range: When the anxiety is no longer

My take is that the range anxiety will be no longer when an EV has a real-world range of some 500 miles, charges as fast as we fill a gas tank, or better yet, both.

And I have no doubt we’ll get there — the fast charging speed and the vastly improved battery capacity — relatively soon. It’s just a matter of time.

So far, humans have focused more on creating energy than storing it — with EVs, that will change. Until then, the little range anxiety can be fun math. Just don’t push it too hard!

You might have heard a lot of stuff about a Tesla. Here are a few of the common items.

  • A Tesla’s paint is worse than those of a regular car: Completely inaccurate. They use the same paint. However, if you pay extra for non-standard paint color — red, blue, black, etc. — chances are the car has thinner paint than the standard color.
  • A Tesla has a lot of rattles: Sort of. In my experience, they are caused by the seatbelt buckles tapping on the dry fake leather seats. To avoid this, tuck them away for clicking them in, even when there is no passenger.
  • A Tesla interior looks cheap: This is subjective, but generally, a Tesla, except for the Plaid trim, is not supposed to be a luxury car. You pay for the tech and safety, not the bling.
  • A Tesla’s doors and panels tend to be misaligned: Totally true. My Model Y’s front and back doors were more than a bit out of sync on arrival. I complained to Tesla via the app, and a technician arrived a few days later. He adjusted them to perfection with a wrench in less than 20 minutes. No charge.
  • A Tesla’s EPA range is exaggerated: Completely true, as mentioned above.
  • Tesla drivers must deal with “unreasonable hatred”: Sad but true. We’ve seen folks acting weird on the road, like trying to pass us aggressively on a single-lane road, honking at us for no reason, or, even worse, putting nails under my tires in the parking lot. Others I know have had even worst experiences, like getting their car vandalized for no reason.
  • Tesla drivers are the worst: Totally an untrue stereotype. You’re dealing with one, and I consider myself average.
  • Tesla’s Full Self-Drving makes the car drive by itself: Completely untrue. FSD, so far, has been a scam on the company’s part.
  • A Tesla requires special tires: Completely inaccurate. But the car’s power and weight can be hard on them — more in this post.

The takeaway

EVs are the way of the future. If you don’t think so, that’s likely because you haven’t driven one.

Remember that we’ve been in the ICE age for over two centuries, and gas-powered technology is not going anywhere just yet. The era of EVs has now just begun in earnest.

The move will require some getting used to, but you’ll realize how it is a much “cleaner” driving experience.

Folks have been arguing about which is better for the environment, EVs vs ICE, and I feel that’s beside the point. No matter what we do, we use what has come from the Sun (or suns) anyway. It’s just a matter of how fresh.

If you drive an EV and use solar-powered charging stations like most Superchargers along the US freeways, you draw the energy directly from the Sun instead of using what has been here on Earth for millions, if not billions of years.

The former is more efficient in my book and, therefore, totally cooler.

As battery and charging technologies evolve, soon, we’ll be able to continually juice up the car as long as it’s under the Sun. And that’s one of many things you can’t do with an ICE vehicle.

Ultimately, EV vs ICE is apple vs oranges. There’s no comparison between the two.

Luis Robinson

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