As you probably know, today’s cars are almost more like our smartphones than like the cars we knew and loved from the 70’s and 80’s. Electric Vehicles (EVs) even moreso.
I have a 2017 Tesla Model X. Most of the time I have it parked at home where I can leave it plugged in as much as I want to ensure that it’s always topped up and ready to go with a full tank of “gas”.
One big difference between EVs and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars is that, unless you leave your headlights on, there is very little that will impact your ICE car if you leave it just sitting somewhere like an airport parking lot while you are traveling to some far away destination. EVs, or at least Teslas, have a relatively low power “Idle” mode that they enter immediately after you lock the car and walk away.
They also have an ultra-low power consumption mode referred to as “sleeping” that they are supposed to enter soon after that. They are supposed to remain in this sleep mode most of the time they are not in use, waking now and then to check for software updates or to perform some internal housekeeping.
Since I’ve owned my car, it has be very reticent to actually sleep. This didn’t affect me much except to be concerned for what the long-term impact of the car basically staying active all the time might do to its components. This was dramatically exacerbated when I upgraded my Full Self Driving computer and Media Control Unit (MCU) to the latest and greatest versions.
When I was at home any drain was not an issue since the car could be plugged in all the time if I so chose. But I found my “Phantom Drain” (as the excess power consumption caused by not sleeping is called) was pretty impactful when away from home. I was on a cruise a while ago and lost just under 30% of my battery state of charge just sitting in the hotel parking lot for a week.
Anyway, this is all just a preamble to say that the latest firmware update – called 2021.24.5 (I get these, on average, about every 18 days) seems to have absolutely addressed the sleep issue for my vehicle.
I mean it’s night and day. Where it was alternating 16 minutes sleep, 45 minutes idle for much of the day, ever since the update it sleeps for literally HOURS at a time regardless of whether it’s plugged in or not!
It even sleeps when it’s not at home (Sentry mode off, of course) which was a rarity before. But now it appears to be the norm.
I imagine this does not affect a lot of people, but I’m pretty pleased with this update.
Oh, and as a sidenote, as of about 3 software updates ago (2021.12.25.7 or 2021.24.2) I was finally able to log into YouTube in my Tesla’s entertainment system.
So somebody on Tesla’s engineering team seems to be fixing these ancient issues…
Back in early December (2019) I noticed that the regen on my Tesla was not what it should be.
Basically, after overnighting in my garage on a 63 degree F morning, it would take about 25 minutes of my 40+ minute commute before I had full regeneration restored.
On a cooler 37 degree night, I ended up preheating the car for *54* minutes (miscalculated departure time) and, for that 32 minute drive I NEVER regained my full regen.
I contacted Tesla to have them take a look-see, after all, not a couple of weeks earlier they had replaced my Battery Coolant Heater (coincidence?).
Regardless, in spite of what seems like an obvious connection between a battery coolant heater and my battery heater not activating properly, Tesla came back and initially informed me basically that “battery packs are big and can be slow to warm up” and, when that didn’t work they then let me know that there is a firmware bug that is preventing the battery heater from activating.
Below is the transcript of my conversation with Tesla. I’m still waiting for the “future firmware update”.
Basically I’m seeing that Tesla Model X (Premium car) has now become so niche that it basically is not getting much attention at all. And I frankly believe that Tesla service is so overwhelmed that they can’t spend the time on customers such as myself, the earlier adopters who helped to fund the whole enterprise, to ensure that our vehicles are running correctly.
Color me disappointed. I can’t wait to see where I end up on the list of HW 3 upgrade recipients.
Welp, that was not the way to go. Besides Georgia Power’s ability to charge whatever they like, whenever they like (read the above article), it’s extraordinarily difficult to figure out in advance what your peak usage is going to be. Georgia Power only offers a daily electrical consumption summary if you remain on their hyper costly legacy plan. Despite having the very same smart meter and, ostensibly, the ability to report the total number of kWhs that were consumed over the past 24 hours. I shouldn’t think it would be terribly difficult to report back to you what consumption was during what time frames (since the charges vary by time of day on the plans in question) and surely the meter can show your peak consumption spike for that period as well. I understand you are charged (penalized really) based on a peak that lasts 30 minutes or more. But I have no way of measuring or monitoring that.
So, for my case, it seems that we have a base load of energy consumption (not unexpected) that would include all the electrical bits and pieces that run constantly throughout the day – furnace fan motor, fridge, lights, computers, etc. – that I have no means to measure. Then, despite my extended efforts to schedule things like pool pumps, car charging, air conditioning, oven / stove use, clothes dryer use, etc. I still managed to hit significant peaks that lead to my bills being far greater than I was/would have been paying under the Plug In EV plan.
Fortunately, to Georgia Power’s credit, it’s not terribly difficult to switch back again which I did after reviewing the past few bills.
My December bill showed as 1,280 kWh consumed with a peak consumption of 13.4 (!) kW for a total of $189.43. My November bill showed as 1,344 kWh consumed With a peak consumption of 9 kW for a total of $155.78.
Similarly my December bill from LAST year showed as 1,620 kWh consumed (686 kWh Super Off Peak and 0 on peak) for a total of $157.06. My November bill from last year showed as 1,715 kWh (771 Super Off Peak, 10 kWh On Peak) for a total of $164.25
Part of the lower consumption during the past few months was that I was able to charge my car at work more often recently. Regardless, I had already reduced my car charging consumption to around 3.5 kW. This was done on the car charging page where I can limit the amperage draw. This was part of my strategy to avoid hitting the onerous peak consumption penalty.
Just grossly speaking, it seems that I could take my total consumption for the December and November bills from this year and divide them into the cost to get an average of 13.16 cents a kWh. Doing likewise for the same months from 2018 yields about 9.63 cents a kWh or about a 40% increase in my per kWh rate.
I understand that this is not super accurate, were I to look at ONLY my November bill the average per kWh rate would be somewhat more reasonable (maybe 20 % more costly). I guess, at core, my issue is that it is much more impactful on our day-to-day living to try to avoid the Smart Usage peak use penalty and I am chafing because Georgia Power appears to be withholding a very effective tool (daily consumption email) that might make it feasible to try to keep going down this path.
The fact remains that, for me, the increase was significant enough that I decided to fall back to the Plug In EV plan.
Summary: There is not enough information provided on your electric bill to verify if you are being charged correctly.
Cause: There are two items on the tariff sheets that are not reported and, it appears, there is no way for a normal person to know their costs.
These are: Demand Side Management Schedule is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Demand Side Management Residential Schedule, including any applicable adjustments”. and Fuel Cost Recovery is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Fuel Cost Recovery Schedules in the manner ordered by the Georgia Public Service Commission, including any applicable adjustments”.
This came up when I was reviewing my electric bill to see if the “Plug-in Electric Vehicle” rate, to which I currently subscribe, is the best option for my use patterns.
Georgia Power has 6 rate plans. Two of which (Flat Bill and PrePay) I dismissed immediately as being of no value to me. The remaining ones all had potential so I created a spreadsheet to contrast the amounts I would have paid under those plans compared with what I actually paid.
I took the last 12 months of bills and put them into a spreadsheet. Since I am already on the Plug in EV plan I already had my peak, off peak and super off peak hours broken out for me to simplify the calculations.
I also assumed that the crap fees (Environmental cost recovery, Nuclear boondoggle, Municipal Franchise fee, Tax and the monthly basic service charge) would be about the same regardless of my plan since most of these are based on my energy consumption.
When I first began my calculations I was pretty happy with the results as it looked like there was a tremendous potential for saving money by switching to a different plan. However, to my dismay, I found that the calculations for the rate plan I currently have also gave results that were significantly lower than what I’m actually paying.
I reviewed my formulas a bunch of times and had to conclude that Georgia Power was adding something into the per kilowatt charges that was not obvious on the main part of the bill. Enter the Demand Side Management Schedule and Fuel Cost Recovery items that I finally noticed in the lawyer section of the document.
By my figuring, for the past year, those two items accounted for cost increases on the power portion of the bill of from 21% (last October) up to 59% (last February) over and above the actual published rates.
In real dollars this means I paid $21.40 more on a bill totaling $124.83 up to $58.05 more on a bill totaling $157.06.
Suffice it to say I am not impressed.
So I have no way to really know how much I will pay for electricity under ANY of these plans since it appears Georgia Power can charge pretty much any amount the PSC will let them and I can have no knowledge of that.
The inability to actually calculate the costs of future bills notwithstanding, I can at least get a feel for the *relative* cost differences between the various plans.
Almost universally, the Residential plan is the worst for me.
Likewise Nights & Weekends will not do my wallet any favors although it’s much better than Residential.
Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. It took me a long time to figure out what the “Smart Usage” plan was doing. The description kept going on about needing to split up your high energy uses so as not to consume a lot of power at once. But the mechanism they were using to determine this wasn’t clear to me. Then I understood. This section here:
DETERMINATION OF BILLING DEMAND: Maximum kW: Maximum kW shall be the highest 30-minute kW measurement during the current month.
Means that you are essentially punished for the entire month for your highest amount of consumption at a single point in the month regardless of whether you are using the energy in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, or at 2 in the morning, you will pay a premium of $6.64 per kilowatt for the month for that spike.
I am able to charge my car at work many days but if I choose to charge it at home at the maximum power available to me (50 amp service at 240 volts * .8 (max sustained draw) which is 9.6 kW that means a premium on my bill of $63 even if I do it only once during the month.
But I’m able to lower the rate of consumption through my car’s charging controls. Since most of the time I don’t need the car charged *that* fast, I can simply drop it down to something more modest.
So theoretically I can charge my 75 kWh battery from absolutely empty, assuming about 85% efficiency, in 18.4 hours rather than 9.2 hours and reduce my hit by about $31 from Georgia Power. Keep in mind that it’s pretty rare for me to ever get below 45% charge, so those times change from 7.8 hrs and 15.6 hrs at 40 and 20 amps respectively to about 5.2 and 10.4 hours which is very comfortable.
Of course there can be other high consumption appliances running when I’m charging my car, so I just need to set my car schedule to off hours and make sure those items don’t conflict. For me the next biggest consumer of power in the house will be my pool pump. So I will just schedule it outside of the car charging hours. Between that and ensuring that the clothes dryer isn’t running at 3 in the morning should keep things pretty simple.
We walked into the Tesla Showroom in the Avalon on impulse as it was on the way to another store that Michelle was wanting to check out.
At the time I had zero awareness that Tesla was producing an SUV and, frankly, only a dim awareness of what they were trying to accomplish, period.
I had bought my 2009 Honda CR-V used about 6 years earlier and was not really thinking about a new car quite yet. I usually prefer to drive my cars for 10+ years before I start to chomp at the bit for a new one.
But this car was checking off all the right boxes:
Large, comfortable interior
Room to carry significant amounts of stuff when needed
Room for 6 people comfortably
200+ miles range (well, I would have been happier with 300+ but… you can’t have everything)
One of the most technologically advanced cars on the planet
(recently proven) the safest SUV in America and quite possibly globally
So, after some significant soul-searching and not just a little bit of math (helped a LOT by this guy), I put down my deposit and ordered a new car.
As luck would have it the car would take a couple of months to produce and I had a pressing need to get the car sooner. So we explored the Tesla inventory – basically cars that had been ordered and were either being used for test drives or, for whatever reason, that the folks ordering decided not to take. Because I was taking an existing inventory vehicle, I was able to get it for a pretty significant discount (> 10%). I also ended up with a feature that I had not intended to get but now love: the Self-Presenting doors.
I also had not intended to get the Premium Sound System and, truth be told – since I mostly listen to podcasts at a modest volume, can’t tell if this is any advantage for me or not.
In case you’re wondering, “75 D” means I have a 75 kilowatt hour battery and dual motors – one at the front and one at the rear.
Together those motors offer me 518 Horsepower where the wheel meets the road as well as instant and unbelievable acceleration for a 5,000 pound car.
With the Tesla Supercharging network in place, I can go most places in North America (wherever there are interstates) with zero planning whatsoever. Tesla was the first Electric auto maker to make this a reality.
I have travelled from Fort Meyers, Florida, to just South of Algonquin Park, Ontario and as far East as Virginia Beach. I still haven’t found a reason to travel out West, but I’m sure I’ll come up with one.
The car is a dream to drive and has rekindled my enjoyment of driving. Dare I say it’s even more fun than the motorcycles of my youth?
As icing on the cake, the Autopilot features (really driving assist) are wonderful for taking the edge off both long-haul trips and traffic jams where the car can do the bulk of the more monotonous driving and the fiddly stop-and-go nonsense and leave the fun parts to me.
I had a fellow comment to me that he had looked at the Tesla but didn’t feel the fit and finish was what he expected for a car of that cost. Since I had not been born with a silver spoon in my mouth I did not have those sensibilities or expectations. But regardless, he completely missed the point. With a Tesla, you’re certainly paying a premium, but that premium is for the points I outline above.
Beyond that, I absolutely understand that part of what I’m investing in is the future of the automobile, the future of energy and hopefully the future of the planet as a whole. There is so much innovation happening on so many fronts *just* with Tesla (Car Sales, Feature Upgradeability, Automotive Safety, Autonomous Driving, Energy Efficiency, Travel Energy Infrastructure, and on and on) that I am absolutely willing to support that. Then consider the other Elon missions out there, SpaceX being my next favorite, and I am happy that I can contribute in some small way to shake up as many industries as possible and maybe even help reset some of our industrial and exploration priorities.
I was *very* nervous when I made this substantial commitment. Prior to this I was always a “top-of-the-bottom-of-the-line” kind of guy. The luxury car had no appeal to me. But this is one package deal that I absolutely do not regret.