Monday, June 29, 2015

Enjoying a big gulp of free juice at the largest Tesla dealership in North America

Tesla Montreal has two Superchargers and three Connectors for Model S owners at what is said to be the biggest such dealership in North America. In town for the International Jazz Festival, I rolled up with 23 miles on the clock late this morning and left with 208 miles after about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

There is plenty of espresso available in the customer lounge, but no milk, only a French Vanilla-flavored substitute. Bottles of spring water also were available. I didn't see any snack bars or other treats, like the ones at the Tesla dealership in Paramus, N.J.

I met another owner who said his rear-wheel-drive Model S did much better handling Montreal's bad winter weather this year than the Mercedes-Benz 500 he once owned. He also said the air-conditioning system in his Model S had to be replaced after one year.

In the Tesla Montreal service department, rear, a young woman declined my request for a free car wash, explaining they are provided only when the Model S is serviced.

Tesla Montreal, 5350 Ferrier St., Montreal, QC. Two Superchargers and three Connectors available 24/7 in a front parking lot.

See related post: 

We traveled very well on our stomachs

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The second revolution from Tesla: Putting the adventure back into vacation car travel

With no Tesla Superchargers between Albany, N.Y., and Montreal, Quebec, we stopped at the Basin Harbor Club, a resort on Lake Champlain in Vergennes, Vt. Owners of the Model S will find at least two Tesla Connectors, which charge the all-electric hatchback at the rate of 31 miles per hour, below. 

We had more than three hours to kill before setting off on the final leg of our trip from Hackensack, N.J., to Montreal for the International Jazz Festival.

Grass and soil are hardly the ideal parking surface. While we waited for our Model S to charge, we had lunch and then sat in front of the fire in the resort bar, listening to a player piano. Before we left, we made a reservation to stay at the Basin Harbor Club on our way back to New Jersey after July Fourth.


Owners of the Model S can still tear up the highways on their vacations, speed into service areas and race to the bathroom, their bladders about to burst.

If they have Tesla Superchargers to rely on, that is.

But on our trip from Hackensack, N.J., to Montreal on Saturday, we found only one Supercharger on the most direct route, and it was slower than I expected.

That stop lasted about 90 minutes to add 110 miles of range and have a bowl of soup at the Whole Foods Market in the Colonie Center, a big mall outside Albany, N.Y., with six free Superchargers. 

The Tesla app on my smart phone reported the Supercharger was adding 84 miles an hour, but when I first plugged in the car, the rate of charge was a lot slower, though increasing by the minute.

I had to stop outside Albany, because my Model S 60 has a maximum range of 208 miles and the distance to Montreal from our home is about 360 miles.

Lunch break in Vermont

Our second stop was at the Basin Harbor Club on Lake Champlain in northwest Vermont, where we found a Tesla Connector that charged our car at pretty much the same rate as the 240-volt outlet I had installed in my garage -- 31 miles an hour.

We started our third and final leg to Montreal about three and a half hours later, and had about 30 miles of range left when we pulled into the garage of the Hyatt Regency.

I didn't know at the time, but the Connectors at Basin Harbor are part of a network Tesla calls Destination Charging, where the company partners with hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and resorts "to make charging when you arrive at your destination as simple as charging at home."

See: Tesla's Destination Charging Network

The alternative to stopping in Vermont was to drive a circuitous route of Superchargers, going west in New York State, north to Canada's Ontario Province and then east to Montreal -- a driving time of more than 10 hours, and that's without break time.

Our drive was an adventure

Instead, we got to cross a gorgeous cantilevered bridge and drive over some twisting two-lane blacktop in Vermont, where we discovered a beautiful resort that may figure into future vacation plans.

We drove through farmland stretching to the horizon in Vermont and Quebec, a soothing landscape so different from the sea of brake lights we see on our congested, antiquated streets in North Jersey.

In Vermont, we were driving on a two-lane road and saw a white-haired man, who just got off a tractor, ambling to his mailbox, more or less with his back to us.

Then, he turned, flashed a smile and waved. 

And on Route 89 in Vermont, as we headed toward Canada, a Harley-Davidson rider pulled up in the fast lane, turned his head and gave me a thumbs up.

Most annoying?

The most annoying part of the trip wasn't the sluggish Supercharger outside Albany or the detour to reach the Tesla Connectors in Vermont.

It is what Tesla calls Range Assurance, which tries to route you via Superchargers when you enter a destination in the car's navigation system.

When we set out the 135-miles trip to the Colonie Center Superchargers, the Google Maps navigation system kept on sending us to the new one in Newburgh, N.Y., even though we started the trip with a rated range of 210 miles.

After we charged the Model S in Vermont, we couldn't set the Hyatt Regency Montreal as our final destination without repeated warnings there were no Superchargers on our route.

I had to use the Waze app on my phone to navigate to Montreal. 

Rue University in Montreal, not far from our destination, about 13 hours after we set out on Saturday morning. More than four hours of that time was spent charging the Model S.
As we approached Montreal, the sky took on a golden glow.

My lunch at the casual Red Mill Restaurant, part of the Basin Harbor Club in Vermont, included a tasty Lemon Chickpea Soup ($4 for a cup).

My wife had Sriracha Chicken Wings ($10) and Sweet Potato Fries ($2), which proved irresistible.

Red Mill Restaurant at the Basin Harbor Club.

Lake Champlain Bridge connects New York State and Vermont. In Canada, we drove over another Champlain Bridge to the island of Montreal.

We streamed Bob Marley and other reggae stars as we drove north on Route 87 in New York, a stretch of road that has no service areas and no Tesla Superchargers.

I saw three other Model S owners use one of the six Tesla Superchargers in the Colonie Center outside Albany, N.Y., close to the New York State Thruway. You'll see the Superchargers as soon as you turn into the mall's main entrance.

An 8-ounce cup of Portuguese White Bean and Kale Soup was $3.79 at the Whole Foods Market in the Colonie Center.

The Colonie Center uses waterless urinals.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Just when you thought TV ads couldn't get any more bizarre: The Chevro-Benz SUV

Does this look like the interior of a Mercedes-Benz?


When you own a Tesla Model S, the inane TV commercials other manufacturers run can drive you crazy.

Tesla Motors doesn't spend tens of millions of dollars to advertise on TV or in newspapers and magazines, which may be at the root of the media's hostility toward the all-electric luxury car and the genius behind it, Elon Musk.

But just about every other manufacturers does, and the cost of those ads boosts the MSRP of the vehicle you buy. 

And now ... the Chevro-Benz

In northern New Jersey, where I live, I've seen a TV commercial showing prospective SUV buyers sitting in a Chevrolet and enthusing over how the interior looks like one in a far more expensive vehicle.

In turn, different people say they think they are in a Lexus, Infiniti, Audi, BMW and even a Mercedes-Benz.

What were they smoking?

They are shown in several gas-guzzling Chevy SUVs, including the enormous Suburban.

When I was working for fleet management companies for a measly $12 an hour, I drove a lot of SUVs from Mercedes, other German manufacturers, Lexus and Infiniti, and I can tell you none of them look or feel like the far cheaper Chevy. 


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Further EV adventures: The charge port on my Tesla Model S gives up the ghost

Less than 10 days before a planned trip to Montreal in my Tesla Model S, the door on my charge port wouldn't open.


When I picked up my Tesla Model S 60 in mid-April, one of the product specialists in Paramus, N.J., advised me to charge the car every day.

But I'm retired and drive 20 miles to 40 miles a day at most, so I often waited two or three days before plugging in the car and scheduling the charging to begin at midnight, when electric rates go down.

Tesla says the battery re-charges more easily, if you follow a daily schedule.

Then, last Wednesday night, which would have been the second night in a row of my daily charging, the door to the charge port wouldn't open using the touchscreen or the universal mobile connector.

I called the Tesla Motors Service Center in Paramus and was told to come in the next day.

No problem found

As sometimes happens when cars malfunction, the problem went away as soon as I drove into the garage off Route 17 north, and the service technician showed me how the door was opening normally.

I declined a car wash, but was told to wait for a few minutes in the lounge while the technician checked fluids and tire pressures.

Then, the service adviser returned to the lounge to tell me that upon further investigation, "an internal electrical fault" in the charge-port assembly was not "disengaging" the door, which is actually part of the tail-light assembly.

(That diagnosis was in the invoice I was given before I left.)

Then, I got the bad news: 

No loaners were available and putting in a new charge-port assembly under the warranty and updating the firmware would take two hours.

I was offered a lift to a nearby Shake Shack or the mall, but declined. That was a mistake.

No TV reception

The Tesla lounge has an LG flat-screen TV on the wall, a Keurig coffee maker, a Poland Springs water dispenser, snack bars and other treats.

But the TV gets only one channel, if you don't lose the signal, which happens frequently.

Tesla employees in the showroom and service center said they knew of the TV problem, but couldn't do anything to fix it.

The flat screen TV in the Tesla Motors lounge on Route 17 north in Paramus gets only one station, and does so intermittently, as the signal keeps cutting out. I spent a couple of hours staring at this photo.

At Hackensack Toyota, where we service our 2007 and 2010 Priuses, a flat-screen TV is tuned to a news station, copies of a daily newspaper are provided, and bagels, espresso and other drinks are free.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cordless EV charging sounds sexy, but its slow pace is likely to put you fast alseep

No other manufacturer has come up with EV charging to compete with the speed of Tesla Motors' network of free Superchargers, which now allow you to drive across country or from New York to Florida.


I got an email about the Plugless charging system for electrical vehicles, and watched a video showing a Nissan Leaf being driven into a garage.

The Leaf drove over something on the floor of the garage -- just inside the door -- and there was another gizmo on the wall.

Gee, I thought, why don't I have that for my Tesla Model S?

Cause, the company, Evatran, doesn't make one yet for the Model S.

Plus, it's slow, taking 6 to 8 hours to fully charge a Leaf, which only has a range of 84 miles.

The system for the Leaf costs about $1,900.

Later in 2015, the company says, it plans to release a Leaf system rated at 6.6kW, double the current 3.3kW.

With a special 240-volt outlet in my garage, my Model S 60, with a range of 208 miles, is fully charged in about 7 hours (29 miles an hour).

And I can program the car to begin charging at midnight, allowing me to take advantage of lower electric rates.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tesla easily swallows long distances, but not BMW i3, Leaf and other small EVs

Tesla Motors Superchargers at a showroom and service center on Route 17 north in Paramus, N.J. Going north, the next Superchargers are in a shopping center outside Albany, N.Y., about 135 miles away, well within the range of a Model S, below.


3.5 hours.

That's how long it takes to achieve a full charge on the all-electric version of the BMW i3.

Then, 81 miles later, you'd have to spend another 3.5 hours recharging the German car.

The i3 is best suited for urban and suburban driving.

On a long trip, its limited range is crippling.

The same goes for the Nissan Leaf, Mercedes-Benz B Class and every other EV except the Tesla Model S.

The Model S -- the only electric with a range of more than 200 miles -- also benefits from a network of exclusive Tesla Superchargers that already allows you to drive across the country and from New York to Miami.

And recharging is free and fast -- about 30 minutes for a range of 170 miles or enough to reach the next Supercharger, and take coffee and bathroom breaks.

Montreal or bust

Later this month, I will be driving my Model S about 350 miles to the International Jazz Festival in Montreal, Canada.

Leaving my home in Hackensack, N.J., my first stop is Colonie, N.Y., an Albany suburb, where 30 minutes hooked up to one of six Tesla Superchargers will give me enough range to reach my second stop.

Tesla doesn't yet have a Supercharger between Colonie and Montreal.

I could go out of my way to use Superchargers in Utica, N.Y., and Ontario, Canada.

Instead, I'll head for standard electric car chargers at the Basin Harbor Club, a resort on Lake Champlain in Vermont.

We'll stop for lunch and a boat ride on the lake, because I'll need two to three hours to recharge the Model S for the final leg of the trip.

Montreal has a Tesla dealer with two Superchargers available 24/7.