Every part I Realized Driving a Tesla 1,000 Miles in a Week

What’s higher than highway tripping by California? Doing it in a Tesla. 

Every spring, PCMag sends drivers on highway journeys everywhere in the US to gather provider pace and reliability knowledge for our Greatest Cell Networks challenge, and I have been fortunate sufficient to snag a spot behind the wheel since 2014. More often than not, we hire vehicles on the decrease finish of the worth spectrum. A number of instances, I’ve lucked out with a fancier experience, like when Chevy sponsored the challenge and I obtained to drive a top-of-the-line Tahoe, or when Silvercar(Opens in a brand new window) lent us an Audi A4. 

This 12 months’s highway journey was maybe my most epic but, as a result of I landed a route by the Golden State and I obtained to take a Tesla. Over every week, I put greater than 1,000 miles on the Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary we rented from Hertz, driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego to Phoenix. The Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary begins at round $56,000 and will get about 358 miles of vary on a cost. 

Testing mobile networks in a Tesla Model 3

Testing cellular networks in a Tesla Mannequin 3
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

I’ve examined numerous e-bikes, however this was my first time working a Tesla, or any electrical automotive. The Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary affords a really completely different driving expertise than my gas-guzzling 2015 Jeep Patriot, so I had lots to be taught. If you happen to’re questioning what it is prefer to hop behind the wheel of a Tesla, learn on. 

Getting the EV VIP Therapy

My crash course in electrical autos started on the Hertz counter on the San Francisco Worldwide Airport. Hertz just lately made an enormous funding in EVs, which the corporate is promoting(Opens in a brand new window) with the assistance of seven-time Tremendous Bowl champ Tom Brady. 

Picking up the Tesla from Hertz

Selecting up the Tesla from Hertz
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

As soon as the Hertz affiliate pulled up my reservation and noticed I used to be booked for a Tesla, they handled me like royalty, repeatedly calling me a “VIP” loud sufficient for others to listen to. The affiliate personally walked me to the automotive, which was primarily model new, with lower than 150 miles on the odometer. It was the very best rental automotive expertise I’ve ever had, by far. (By the best way, this challenge isn’t sponsored—I booked the Tesla on the PCMag firm card.)

I used to be anticipating to hop within the Mannequin 3 and seek the advice of YouTube for directions on find out how to function it, however a Hertz EV specialist spent a superb half hour patiently answering all my questions and strolling me by all the things I wanted to know. That is normal observe for anybody who rents a Tesla by the corporate, the affiliate mentioned. 

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On the highway with the Mannequin 3
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

They taught me find out how to lock and unlock the Mannequin 3; put it in drive, reverse, and park; open the trunk and frunk (the entrance trunk); regulate the temperature; and extra. They defined find out how to cost the automobile and identified an included adapter, saved within the trunk, that you should use at third-party stations. If you happen to’re renting a Tesla by Hertz and use the adapter, bear in mind to seize it once you’re performed charging. If you happen to return the Tesla with out this small plastic piece, Hertz will cost you for it, an organization consultant mentioned. 

Nailing the Fundamentals: Truly Getting Into the Automotive

Earlier than you even consider using Autopilot, you want to be taught the fundamentals: find out how to lock and unlock your Tesla, and getting the grasp of placing it into drive, reverse, and park. 

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The Mannequin 3 and I in San Francisco
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

There are three other ways(Opens in a brand new window) to lock and unlock a Mannequin 3: together with your telephone through the Tesla cellular app (obtainable for Android and iOS), a key card, or a key fob. Utilizing your telephone as a secret is the best; when you join the Mannequin 3 to your handset through Bluetooth, the automobile will robotically unlock once you press a door deal with, and lock once you get out and stroll away (if the Stroll-Away Door Lock characteristic is enabled). 

I used the important thing card as a result of the Mannequin 3 I drove was a rental. If you happen to purchase a Mannequin 3, you will get two key playing cards with the automotive. They appear like bank cards and conveniently slot in your pockets like one. To lock and unlock the automobile, you faucet the important thing card in opposition to a reader, positioned under the Autopilot digicam to the correct of the motive force’s aspect window. This methodology does not all the time permit for the quickest entry or exit, as a result of you must scan the important thing card in simply the correct spot or it will not work. Sometimes, I would be waving the important thing card within the normal neighborhood of the reader for a few seconds earlier than I tapped the right spot and the Mannequin 3 responded. 

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The Mannequin 3 on Rodeo Drive in LA
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

“You might have to bodily contact the middle console or driver’s aspect door pillar with the important thing card, and it’s possible you’ll want to carry it in opposition to the transmitter for one or two seconds,” Tesla says(Opens in a brand new window) on its web site. 

As a phrase of warning, bodily touching the important thing card in opposition to the reader as Tesla suggests might trigger seen scratching on the automobile. That is very true when you put the important thing card inside a case, related to a wire keychain, as Hertz did. 

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The Mannequin 3 in San Diego
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

If you happen to use your telephone as a key more often than not, you need to nonetheless hold a key card in your pockets as a backup simply in case your telephone dies or the Tesla app goes down. 

I did not attempt Tesla’s key fob accent (bought individually), however I think about it is faster and simpler to make use of than the important thing card. It options three buttons that allow you to lock and unlock the automobile, in addition to open the frunk and the rear trunk with a easy press. The fob additionally helps computerized locking and unlocking, which the important thing card doesn’t. 

The Model 3 in Phoenix

The Mannequin 3 in Phoenix
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

When the Mannequin 3 locks, the outside lights flash, it beeps (if the Lock Affirmation Sound is on), and the aspect mirrors fold in. If you happen to’re paranoid like me and really feel compelled to repeatedly examine that you just locked your automotive, you’ll be able to merely look on the aspect mirrors to make sure they’re tucked in.

Getting the Really feel for It

Contained in the Mannequin 3, there is a card reader behind the cup holders on the middle console. To begin the automobile, scan the important thing card in opposition to the middle console reader, then press the brake pedal. Like with the surface reader, it’s possible you’ll often need to wave the cardboard round a bit to get it into the right place to scan. 

You probably have a key fob, you’ll be able to scan it in opposition to the middle console reader or press the unlock button, then press the brake pedal to begin the automotive. If you happen to wait longer than two minutes to press the brake pedal, you want to re-authenticate utilizing one of many beforehand described strategies. 

The Mannequin 3 is so quiet, you won’t understand it is on. You may know it’s when the display screen lights up. 

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You employ the gear stalk to shift into completely different drive modes
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

As soon as powered on, you utilize the gear stalk, positioned on the correct aspect of the steering column, to shift into numerous drive modes. To drive, push the drive stalk all the best way down and launch. To reverse, push all of it the best way up and launch. To park, merely press the button on the tip of the drive stalk. These controls are so intuitive that after a day of utilizing the Mannequin 3, I did not have to consider them. 

Exploring the Inside: Too A lot Tech?

The Mannequin 3 is way extra superior than some other automotive I’ve pushed. One of many first issues I seen was its streamlined inside design, with no dashboard and only a few bodily buttons. 

You control most of the vehicle's features via a 15-inch center console touch screen

You management many of the automobile’s options through a 15-inch middle console contact display screen
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

As an alternative, you management many of the automobile’s options through a 15-inch middle console contact display screen, which primarily serves because the mind of the Mannequin 3. The iPad-like pill helps you to management the heating and air-con, headlights, mirrors, music, navigation, streaming choices, and extra. My Jeep Patriot does not also have a contact display screen inside.

A Automotive Standing view, positioned on the left aspect of the display screen, exhibits your gear (D for drive, R for reverse, and P for park), pace, and battery degree, amongst different data. Since there isn’t any instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, you must look barely proper to see your pace, which is an adjustment. It is not onerous to see the speedometer, however you won’t like its place. Given its central location, the Mannequin 3’s speedometer is lots simpler for passengers to see in contrast with a standard automotive, a possible disadvantage for these with a lead foot. 

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If you happen to get bored whereas charging, you’ll be able to watch Netflix
(Picture: Chloe Albanesius)

If you happen to’re nervous about boredom whereas charging the Tesla, here is the excellent news: You possibly can watch Netflix and different streaming providers on the Mannequin 3’s massive display screen. Faucet the Theater app to check in to your account and watch Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, TikTok, Twitch, and/or YouTube. Right here, you can even entry Tesla Tutorials to be taught in regards to the automobile and its many options. 

We weren’t allowed to stream something whereas driving, as doing so might intrude with our cellular community testing. However after wrapping up testing one night time, I logged into my Netflix account for the sake of journalism, and to cross the time whereas charging. Netflix seemed sharp and vivid on the Mannequin 3’s high-resolution contact display screen, and the automotive’s seats provided the right viewing angle. 

Enable the Fart on Turn Signal option to prank your passengers

Allow the Fart on Flip Sign choice to prank your passengers
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

The Mannequin 3 has two wi-fi telephone chargers within the middle console, one in every of my favourite options. Simply place your Qi-enabled smartphone on a middle console telephone tray, and it ought to begin altering inside seconds. The charger labored with my iPhone 12 Professional Max and the Samsung Galaxy 22+ handsets we used to check cellular community speeds and reliability this 12 months. As an essential observe, you would possibly have to take away your telephone case for the wi-fi chargers to work. That is a bit annoying, however the comfort of the chargers is price it. 

However, a few of the Mannequin 3’s expertise feels a bit pointless and overly difficult. For example, there isn’t any bodily deal with on the glove field, so I needed to Google find out how to open it. Seems, you want to use the contact display screen to do this. A fundamental deal with could be simpler to make use of, and doubtless faster. I could not even entry the glove field in my rental, as a result of it was password protected. 

Acclimating to Regenerative Braking

The Mannequin 3 is enjoyable to drive, and it is quick. My Jeep Patriot is the slowest automotive I’ve ever pushed, so going from that to the Mannequin 3 was a welcome change. I had heard Tesla autos are fast, however after I stepped on the Mannequin 3’s accelerator, I used to be nonetheless pleasantly shocked by its pickup.

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The Mannequin 3 in San Francisco
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

I did not understand it on the time, however you’ll be able to regulate the quantity of acceleration within the Mannequin 3. To take action, faucet the automotive icon on the decrease left nook of the display screen to open the Controls menu, then faucet Pedals & Steering. Right here, you’ll be able to choose from two choices: Chill, which limits acceleration for a smoother, gentler experience, or Normal/Sport (you will see one or the opposite, relying in your automobile configuration) for the usual pickup. 

This would possibly sound counterintuitive, however the Mannequin 3’s quick acceleration typically felt like a security characteristic, permitting me to shortly change lanes on San Diego’s busy freeways, and zip previous vans on the mountainous route east to Phoenix. 

When the battery is fully charged, regenerative braking is temporarily reduced

When the battery is totally charged, regenerative braking is quickly lowered
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

For me, the most important distinction between the Mannequin 3 and different autos I’ve pushed is the braking expertise. The Mannequin 3 does not coast like a gas-powered automobile. If you let your foot off the accelerator, regenerative braking kicks in, decelerating the automotive earlier than you even press on the brake pedal. Consequently, braking occurs a lot faster, which is a giant change to get used to. 

With out entering into the technical particulars, regenerative braking captures extra power and feeds it again to the battery, rising driving vary. When the battery is totally charged, regenerative braking is quickly lowered, and the automotive will inform you about this with a notification on the display screen. 

The Mannequin 3’s regenerative brakes compelled me to adapt how I drive. In a fuel automotive, I normally let my foot off the accelerator effectively earlier than a crimson mild, and let the automotive coast because it slows down. Within the Mannequin 3, I would wait till I used to be nearer to a cease to let my foot off the accelerator. 

Security Options for Miles

Whereas the Mannequin 3 is, arms down, the quickest automotive I’ve ever pushed, it is also the most secure. The automobile is supplied with eight cameras and 12 sensors that actively monitor the encircling space, providing 360-degree visibility. 

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An actual-time visualization exhibits your automotive and its environment
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

As you drive, the Automotive Standing view on the left aspect of the display screen exhibits a real-time driving visualization of the highway and your automotive’s environment, together with different autos, pedestrians, and even visitors cones. The driving visualization will be particularly useful when altering lanes, providing one other strategy to double-check that no person is in your blind spot earlier than shifting over.  

When the Mannequin 3 detects an object in your blind spot, reminiscent of one other automobile or a guard rail, the driving visualization exhibits strains round your automobile within the offending spot. The strains are color-coded white, yellow, orange, or crimson based mostly on the thing’s proximity, with crimson being the closest and white being the farthest away. 

Beneficial by Our Editors

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Colour-coded strains across the automobile point out close by objects
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

If the automobile senses you are at risk of hitting something, that object will flip crimson on the driving visualization, and the Mannequin 3 will ring a warning chime. If vital, the Mannequin 3 will robotically apply the brakes to forestall you from crashing, a normal security characteristic known as Computerized Emergency Braking. 

In some situations, the Mannequin 3 can also take over management of the wheel and robotically steer to a safer place. When this occurs, the automotive will show a warning message on the display screen. 

The Model 3 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

The Mannequin 3 in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

The Mannequin 3 additionally makes it lots simpler to park. In my low-tech Jeep, which lacks a backup digicam, it may be onerous to find out how far to tug up earlier than the curb cease, or how a lot room I’ve behind me when backing right into a spot. The Mannequin 3’s superb Park Help characteristic exhibits your precise distance, in ft, from objects in shut proximity to your entrance or rear bumper, so you understand precisely how a lot room you may have. 

Juicing Up the Mannequin 3

Earlier than driving a Tesla, the entire charging state of affairs is what gave me probably the most anxiousness. Wouldn’t it be onerous to search out chargers? Am I going to get electrocuted if I do it fallacious? Am I going to have to attend round for hours for the factor to plug in? No joke, these ideas all handed by my thoughts earlier than the highway journey. 

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Supercharging in El Centro, Calif. en path to Phoenix
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

Fortunately, charging turned out to be one of many least difficult features of utilizing a Tesla. It is really simpler, and lots cleaner (to not point out cheaper) than refilling a fuel tank. If you happen to personal a Tesla, you will in all probability simply plug it in at residence, and cost it in a single day. 

Whereas highway tripping, I largely relied on Tesla Supercharger stations, that are simple to search out in California. Supercharger stations are sometimes conveniently positioned at malls and buying facilities, so you’ll be able to pop right into a Greatest Purchase or Goal whereas your automotive costs up. Outdoors of the Golden State, Superchargers will be tougher to return by. On the time of this writing, there are solely two Supercharger stations in all of Phoenix, for instance. After I went to 1 there, all of the spots have been stuffed, so I needed to wait about 20 minutes to even plug in. 

View of charging cable plugged in

Plugging a Tesla connector into the cost port could not be simpler
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

When Supercharging, you sometimes have to again right into a spot so the charging cable can attain your automotive’s port, which is positioned on the left aspect of the Mannequin 3 close to the rear tail mild. That is the toughest a part of the method. As soon as parked, you merely navigate to the Controls menu on the contact display screen (through the automotive icon) > Charging > Open Cost Port, and the door of the cost port will open. From there, you merely plug the Tesla connector into your automotive’s cost port—it is as simple as plugging a lamp right into a wall outlet, as an example. An indicator mild formed just like the Tesla emblem close to the port will blink inexperienced when the automobile is charging. 

On the display screen, it exhibits your present battery degree, and the way lengthy it can take to complete charging. Superchargers are fairly fast, giving the Mannequin 3 as much as 175 miles of vary in quarter-hour. Pricing varies, however count on to pay about $5.33 per 100 miles(Opens in a brand new window) to Supercharge the Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary. Cost is billed by your Tesla account, so you do not even need to take out your bank card like at a fuel station. Because the automobile costs, it exhibits the worth for that session on the display screen. 

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At high-usage Supercharger stations, they cap you at 80%
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

Totally charging the Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary at a Supercharger station sometimes takes round an hour. Throughout my highway journey, I encountered a number of “high-usage” Supercharger stations, the place Tesla caps your max cost degree to 80%. Be careful for idling charges(Opens in a brand new window) at high-usage stations; one time, I incurred a $7 cost for staying at one for too lengthy. 

Charging at my hotel in San Diego

Charging at my lodge in San Diego
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

Along with some 30,000 international Superchargers, Tesla says there are round 4,500 Vacation spot Charging websites, positioned at inns, eating places, and different touristy areas. My lodge in San Diego had a single Tesla charger, which I gladly occupied. It was a lot slower than a Supercharger, taking round 5 hours and 50 minutes to provide the Mannequin 3 Lengthy Vary a 55% cost (about 199 miles), however that wasn’t a problem as a result of I merely left it plugged in in a single day.  

As one other on-the-go possibility, you’ll be able to cost your Tesla at a third-party station. These aren’t all the time the quickest or most handy. Utilizing the adapter Hertz supplied, I plugged right into a ChargePoint station at Meta’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA, gaining a measly 2% cost (4 miles) within the half-hour I toured the campus. 

Plugged into a ChargePoint station at Meta's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Plugged right into a ChargePoint station at Meta’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
(Picture: Angela Moscaritolo)

If you enter your vacation spot within the Mannequin 3’s built-in navigation system, it can create your route based mostly on charging station availability. I did not expertise a lot vary anxiousness throughout my journey, however I used to be much less inclined to take the scenic route. 

Again in 2018, I highway tripped from Los Angeles to San Francisco for PCMag in a Chevy Tahoe through scenic Freeway 1, which hugs the coast, a journey that took round 12 hours. This time, I did not need to likelihood it within the Mannequin 3. The considered getting caught on the aspect of a cliff with no battery and no entry to a Supercharger was scary sufficient for me to take the boring, direct route through Interstate 5. 

Going Again to Gassing Up and My Jeep

I am a fan of boxy autos, so in my eyes, my Jeep Patriot is aesthetically good. And because it’s paid in full, I do not actually see myself ditching it for a Tesla anytime quickly. However one can dream, and after spending every week with the Mannequin 3, the thought has crossed my thoughts. 

After I hopped again in my Jeep, it all of a sudden appeared so loud, and even slower than ordinary. Teslas are quiet, arguably to a fault(Opens in a brand new window). As somebody who will be delicate to loud noises, the Mannequin 3’s silence is a giant plus. Its pace and security options are additionally interesting. 

As a aspect bonus to proudly owning a Tesla, I discover that Supercharger stations could be a good place to make buddies. Everybody’s ready round anyway, and you’ll bond over your shared love of the model. 

One particular person I met on my journey, who bought a pre-2017 Tesla with free limitless Supercharging(Opens in a brand new window), mentioned they make round $200 a day delivering for Grubhub whereas juicing up their automobile without cost. If Tesla ever brings again its free limitless Supercharging incentive, I’d contemplate getting one. (Unlikely, I do know.) Within the meantime, I am going to push for one more Mannequin 3 rental after we take a look at the cellular networks in Canada this August.

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