Why I Canceled My Tesla Model S Reservation

Tesla Model SOn March 1, 2013, I canceled my order for what I thought would be my next car, a Tesla Model S. The reason is because I felt Tesla was being hugely misleading with their marketing promises and warranty practices. I placed a substantial down payment on what I thought would be my next vehicle, only to find out that it didn’t meet all of the expectations that Tesla had created. They lost me as a customer by putting their needs above their customer’s. Here are the concerns that led to my order cancellation:

  • Annual fee to maintain warranty: Tesla tries to make it sound like they are doing their customers a favor by charging an annual inspection to not void the warranty. However, there is no published maintenance schedule nor are there are details of the work performed during the inspection. There is a comment on a Tesla blog post talking about how an Apple technician couldn’t diagnose a cracked laptop screen over the phone because he was unable to “see” the screen, so therefor Tesla needs to “see” the car to maintain the warranty. I disagree. Tesla needs to improve their diagnostic capability. Or they need to include the inspections in the price of the car. No other car manufacturer voids the customer warranty if the dealership isn’t paid an inspection fee.
  • Deceptive Pricing and Advertising: The Tesla website shows the price after the Federal Tax credit, which is deceptive because you pay the full price of the car when you buy it and you may not qualify for the tax credit. You have to wait a year to get the money back when the file your taxes, but only if you paid enough taxes to qualify for the credit. Most people considering an expensive Tesla would probably  qualify, but not all (especially retirees.) I also didn’t like the “total cost calculator” that wasn’t so clear on actual cost of the car vs. details of supposed savings the car would yield. The number looked low, but you couldn’t tell if it really applied to you or not. It factored in how much time you’d save not filling up a gas tank and assumed your time was worth about $50 per hour. However, it neglected to include the time it took to plug/unplug the Tesla every nite, and forgot about the hour you’d have to spend waiting for the road-side SuperStation charge to complete. The end results is that I felt like I was being hustled. If the car is as great as Tesla says it is, there’s no reason to “trick” people by manipulating the numbers.
  • No Accident Avoidance Safety Technology: Just because a company innovates in one area (high energy density electric drivetrains), does not excuse a lack of innovation in other areas (vehicle safety features.) Tesla represents itself as a technology leader, but that only goes as far as the touchscreen and powertrain. Tesla is clearly lagging the industry is in the area of  automotive technology. Tesla doesn’t offer front collision detection and pre-braking, lane detection, active lane correction, blind spot monitoring, active cruise control, driver drowsiness monitor, or rear collision detection and preparation. All wheel drive would be nice as well. In this price range, pretty much all competitors are offering these features. Safety functions typically are not activated very often, but when they are, they save lives.
  • Probable Battery Replacement after 10 Years: I tend to keep my cars a long time; one is 10 years old and the other is 14. Engine failure/replacement within 10 years is pretty much unheard of. With a Tesla, battery replacement after 10 years is almost guaranteed. Tesla acknowledges this and even offers a pre-payment on the replacement – 10 years in advance of needing it (not a wise investment.) I also have concern regarding the warranty replacement policy for the battery. Tesla has not specified how much the life has to degrade to actually be covered by the 8-year battery warranty. Without clearer guidelines, I don’t have much comfort that a battery failure would actually be covered by the 8-year battery warranty.
  • Unpredictable delivery window and price increase: Forum posts detailed deliveries occurring 6 months earlier than initially communicated and with less than 2 weeks notice give to the customer. Purchasing a new car entails careful financial planning for most people.  If you’re going to make me pre-order, give me the option of sticking to the original delivery date and eliminate the necessity of me having to scramble to deal with finances because delivery will take place 6 months sooner than expected with less than 2 weeks notice.
  • Reliability Issues: The Tesla forums are full of thread about the door handles not deploying so the doors can be opened, squeaks, premature seat and B-pillar trim wear, and battery/motor issues. Tesla makes it sound like an electric drive system is simple and more reliable, but the reality is that vehicles have a lot of parts and systems, and it’s difficult to achieve reliability across all of them. I don’t want these problems to become my financial obligations when the warranty expires. Green Car Reports has data predicting two-thirds of all early Tesla Model S sedans will experience a drivetrain failure within 60,000 miles, which sounds sounds like a very expensive repair if it happens out of warranty.
  • Software bugs: I no longer want to spend my time tinkering with technology that doesn’t work as anticipated. Especially not in something that costs as much as a Tesla does. Other automotive manufacturers have extremely rigorous software test procedures. Forum posts indicate that bugs are pretty common with Tesla, and the bugs can be fairly substantial and even vehicle disabling (rebooting, unexplained software-induced overnight total battery depletion, etc.) I’m sure these will eventually be fixed, but they should never make it to production in the first place.
  • Not as Fun to Drive as I expected: I suppose I shouldn’t have expected a 7-passengeer car weighting 4,650 pounds to perform like a smaller sports sedan weighing 3,400 pounds. I’m looking for a car that is fun to drive both in a straight line and around corners. The Tesla Model S instantaneously produces massive amount of torque, and that is very rewarding to the driver when going in a straight line. But beyond that, it didn’t find it all that sporty or engaging. Manual transmissions help connect the driver to the car where as electric motors give a passive, disconnected experience; I’m looking for the former. I also thought the automatic regenerative braking engaged too aggressively when lifting off the throttle pedal, making me a little motion sick (my daughter as well.) This feature can be toned-down via a software setting while the vehicle is stopped; an intermediate “staged engagement” setting or “only when brake pedal depressed” would be my preference.
  • Continual Misrepresentation of Safety Information: I think the Tesla is a very safe car, even though there have been several fires. So I’m baffled as to why Tesla continually misrepresents the facts when it come to safety. This misrepresentation makes me question their credibility and motives.


Although I canceled my reservation, I still think Tesla is onto something. They got me to consider purchasing an electric car. The car is beautiful, the (optional) 7-seat, hatchback, 2-trunk configuration is very practical. The 85 kW battery version has enough range to make daily driving (and nightly recharging) practical.

However, I think longer road trips are best handled by vehicles with internal combustion engines. They can be refueled virtually anywhere in less than 10 minutes and have substantially longer (up to 800 mile) driving ranges.

In the end, there are a lot of automobile manufacturers offering very nice vehicles with fewer ownership compromises and more straight-forward warranties and less deceptive marketing practices. For these reasons, I decided to look elsewhere.


Due to both regulatory requirements and negative customer feedback, Tesla has made notable improvements to their warranty and marketing practices. Had they made these changes sooner, I would have been much more likely to purchase one of their vehicles. Here’s hoping they continue to listen to customer feedback and invest in industry-standard safety technologies.

  • 2013-April-26: Tesla has changed the warranty terms and no longer requires the annual inspection to maintain warranty.
  • 2013-August-06: Although nothing has been officially announced, Tesla seems to be working on improvements in safety technology. A recent software update hints of lane detection and automated cruise control. Reports have surfaced of All Wheel Drive being offered. But it’s all speculation until it ships.
  • 2013-April-26: Tesla has changed the battery warranty and now offers unconditional 8-year battery coverage, so no more guessing on whether or not a battery failure will be covered under warranty during the 8 year period.
  • 2014-July-29: I’m surprised by the numerous issues Edmunds.com had with their Tesla Model S long-term test vehicle. I don’t think all Teslas are this unreliable, but I’m definitely glad I didn’t end up with the car that they tested. From the review: “Extensive list of repairs necessary, interior amenities don’t match other luxury sedans in its price range, latest active safety systems not available . . . numerous problems with its touchscreen, tires and drivetrain make it hard to recommend.”
  • 2015-Oct-20: Consumer Reports Stops Recommending the Tesla Model S due to ongoing reliability issues. Elon Musk tweets that these issues are only with early production vehicles, but I don’t buy it. These issues wouldn’t be showing up 3 years later on reliability surveys if that were the case. Tesla takes care of owners during the warranty period, but these issues would like be quite expensive when the warranty expires.
  • 2015-Oct-30: Battery capacity loss is a real thing, though I must admit, less than I would have guessed.
  • 2016-Feb-27: Check out this unbiased video from Tesla owner Bjørn Nyland detailing the numerous repairs his 2013 Model S has gone through during 2 years and 130k miles of ownership:

Written by in: Automotive | Tags: , , , , | Last updated on: 2016-February-27 |


  • Guillermo says:

    Buy a V8 gasoline car. This is not for you.

  • brian says:

    I’m not sure why you even considered it. Im with you on the annual service fee, but the other reasons I find you contradict yourself. Not enough safe technology? I suppose you want a car to drive itself? How is that fun? Battery replacement is subjective, it all depends on how much you drive. Delivery window? Sure, that will really change my mind from buying one. Software bugs? Every new car has bugs, some never get fixed. I’m not sure why you even bothered.

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Hi Brian,

      For the Safety Technology, if you’re driving a car properly, it will never engage and you’ll never know it’s there. I’m very passionate about safety and have significant involvement/exposure through work. Accidents happen when several small issues happen at the same time, allowing a much bigger accident to occur. Glancing down at the car radio generally isn’t a big deal. Glancing down as someone pulls into your blind spot also isn’t usually a concern, because you wouldn’t be glancing at the radio when changing lanes. But when these two things happen just as the driver in front unexpectedly brakes, there is an accident. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, technology can prevent accidents and save lives. But if it annoying intervenes when there is no need to do so, I agree with you, it become more of a distraction than a benefit.

      The software bugs Tesla has experienced are of a much greater magnitude than any other production vehicle I’ve known, except maybe the now defunct Fisker Karma. I can’t think of any other vehicle that has to be rebooted when driving because all of the instrumentation stopped working. Or one that caused the battery to completely drain overnight for no apparent reason after a software update. Or caused the brakes to lock when moving in reverse because the driver seat occupancy sensor was too sensitive. These types of issues should never make it into production. These are more than minor annoyances and I’d rather not deal with them.

      • Rick says:

        Carlton someone above pointed out not only is your diatribe full of contradictions but as an engineer I’m wondering what type of engineering degree you might of acquired?
        I could not stop laughing at the irony dripping from each point of dissatisfaction.
        Based upon reading your entire body of work I really do not understand why you’re even considering purchasing this vehicle.

        1. Safety…..according to you, if you buy and keep your cars every 10 to 14 years..then what kind of safety components do you currently have in you car, compared to those available even five years ago? Does your 14 year old car have crumple zone, air bags,etc, lane change warning, blind spot technology? C’mon be honest with yourself. The list is endless in this rapidly changing technological environment.
        2. Awd. Maybe in a car for winter but with the amount of torque, awd would seem to be unecessary/overkill.
        3. To my knowledge ALL VEHICLES need to be maintained to the dealers predetermined maintenance schedule in order to validate the new car warranty!! Now you might be able to take it somewhere else for maintenance but why would you want to do that, except for price, which I would agree might be cheaper elsewhere. But 600 bucks a. Year for a hundred thousand dollar car??? Pretty cheap.

        4. Delivery and pricing issues….. If you keep your car 10 to 14 years it doesn’t seem like delivery of your car one month earlier or later would mean much. As far as pricing goes if you buy from Tesla you have a fixed price. GO try that at any other dealership FOR ANY OTHER CAR.
        5.not fun to drive????? Zero to sixty in four secs…great handling, an air suspension option…I can only imagine how fun your 14-year-old car is to drive, especially with all the updated technology it must have.!! :) and safety features.
        5. Battery issues?. How long is the average warranty on most current new cars…..not 10 years on the engine or transmission save two brands.

        Lastly but most importantly, based upon the content of your article I wonder if you would have ever bought a car back in the early 1900’s, when they first came out.
        About as fast as a bike. No safety features. All kinds of mechanical issues. No radio. No disc brakes. No seatbelts.
        No headrests. No Windshield wipers. No Antitheft devices.
        No automatic transmission. No color choices. And probably less than stellar guarantee,

        As an engineer why would you want to drive a car that is vastly outdated instead of driving a car that’s constantly updating itself to the newest technology available.

        I shudder to think how anything would’ve got invented if there were more folks like you, when there’s such a compelling lack of interest in the newest technology available.

        As someone above also said…this car’s not for you!

        • Carlton Bale says:

          Rick, you are certainly free to disagree with my opinions, but I find your personal insults against me to be a bit petty and unwarranted. Nevertheless, here are my responses to your points.

          1. When I purchase a car that I intend to keep for a long time, I purchase one with the most advanced safety features available at that time. Of course new safety features will be introduced in the future, but the idea is to not start at a deficit. If safety features were the singular most important aspect of vehicle ownership, then it would make sense to upgrade every few years. But for me, there are a variety of competing considerations, one of which is fully maximizing the investment in the vehicle by extending its life for a very long time.

          2. After the winter we’ve had this year in Indiana, I think AWD is more important than ever. And even as far south as Atlanta, where the city was completely shut down by only a couple of inches of snow, I think the benefits of AWD are apparent. But I agree with you that AWD is unnecessary in most conditions. My biggest complaint against AWD is the fuel efficiency penalty from the additional weight and drivetrain losses. Most other safety technologies have very little negative impact on fuel economy, but the impact of AWD is measurable, even on hybrid and electric cars. From an efficiency standpoint, snow tires provide a substantial traction benefit and little efficiency penalty, and that’s what I use on my RWD Infiniti G35 in the winter.

          3. You are correct that all cars need to be maintained to the OEM’s maintenance schedule. The big difference is that they do not required to be maintained by the OEM. The other major difference is that all other OEMs publish a list of maintenance requirements and detail exactly what is being done at each maintenance interval. Tesla does not provide any of this information. They simply specify that you must pay them $600 and take the car to them, for some undefined inspections. Personally, I try to never pay for something if I have no idea what I’m paying for and what benefit it provides. $600 over 4 years equates to $2400. For reference, that is about how much I’ve spent on maintenance and repairs for all 3 of my vehicles since 1998. This includes oil and filter changes, air filters, brake pads/rotors/fluids, windshield wipers, bulbs, 1 water pump, 2 thermostats, an accessory drive belt, an ignition switch, 2 sets of spark plugs, and 2 oxygen sensors. (It does not include tires.) I achieved this low cost by performing all of the inspections and the labor myself, so you could argue that if the value of personal time is included, the cost is higher, but I enjoy doing this type of work. So for me, $2400 over 4 years for 1 vehicle is substantially more expensive than $2400 over 16 years for 3 vehicles. During these 16 years, I’ve paid exactly $0 to any dealer.

          4. Over a long time horizon, delivery timing isn’t a huge factor. But as you stated, Teslas are expensive cars, and when someone receives call that their vehicle will be delivered in 1 week rather than 7 months in the future as originally forecasted, it can create financial planning stress. As far as the non-negotiable price, I see that as a negative. Tesla is forcing every customer to pay MSRP. It’s very rare that any other brand changes above MSRP, especially for vehicles that are custom ordered, as all Teslas are. For my car purchases, I’ve negotiated prices substantially lower than MSRP, and have done so using publicly available dealer invoice pricing information. The fact that Tesla does not do this is not a win for consumers, expect for perhaps those who do not do well at negotiating and feel comfort in knowing that someone else didn’t pay less than they for the same vehicle.

          5. The Tesla is not as fun to drive as my (almost) 16 year old Porsche Boxster. While the Tesla does have faster 0-60 times, it performs substantially worse around curves. The low polar moment of inertia benefit of a mid-engine configuration is substantial when it comes to turn-in and carrying speed through corners. The feel from hydraulically-assisted steering in the Boxter is immensely superior to the electric-assit in the Tesla, and the manual transmission is much more engaging. I can also say the same for my Infiniti G35 6MT. But for people who define fun-to-drive as being constrained to a straight line and depressing the left foot, the Tesla is superior. As for the safety feature gap, they are surprisingly minimal. The Boxster lacks vehicle stability control, which was added 2 years after I purchased my car, but that alone was worth the cost to upgrade. From a safety technology standpoint, the Tesla doesn’t have anything that my daily driver 2004 Infiniti doesn’t include.

          6. There is a big difference between battery/engine warranty and battery/engine life. I know of no car manufacturer where engine replacements frequently occur after only 10 years or 120,000 miles. With the battery pack in a Tesla, it is very possible that this would be required on most vehicles.

          I think comparing modern safety expectations to those at the beginning of the industrial revolution is short-sighted. The industrial injury and fatality rates were several orders of magnitude higher then, and the value placed on human life substantially lower. I think it’s fantastic that safety has become so much more important over the past century. Just because a company innovates in one area (high energy density electric drivetrains), does not excuse lack of innovation in other areas (vehicle safety features.) I recently read an article where the driver of a Tesla blamed the “new car smell” for causing him to fall asleep at the wheel, cross the center line, and kill a cyclist. Now in my opinion, the “new car smell” is nothing but an excuse for a driver who is solely to blame for falling asleep at the wheel. But it is also my opinion that the cyclist would likely be alive today if the Tesla were equipped with a lane departure notification and avoidance system.

          As for your assertion that nothing would be invented if there were “more folks like me”, I’ll let my public record of 2 patents speak for itself, not to mention other non-publically disclosed contributions I’ve made to my employer. And as for electric cars specifically, they are not all that new or innovative, as the first practical electric car was invented in 1859. The biggest difference with modern electric cars is battery energy density, but even that innovation did not originate within Tesla or the auto industry. Where Tesla excels is packaging these high energy density batteries in a vehicle design that offers a usable driving range in many practical usage situations. But this accomplishment is not without drawbacks that simply are not present in competing automobile configurations. This will change over time. However, I don’t think we will see mainstream adoption of purely electric vehicles, or even plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for that matter, because other alternatives will continue to be less expensive. The fact is that most consumers care more about their costs than they do about their singular impact on the environment. And although electric vehicles do not directly produce emissions themselves, they do indirectly produce remote emissions at the power plant that creates the electricity. Although these emissions are typically less than comparable internal combustion engines, it is a misnomer to call electric vehicles zero emissions vehicles. Remote emissions vehicles would be more appropriate.

          You don’t need to reference a previous commenter to figure out that this car is not for me. That’s the whole point of the original article, and the reason I felt compelled to write it is that I felt like Tesla was being hugely misleading with their marketing promises and warranty practices. I placed a substantial down payment on what I thought would be my next vehicle, only to find out that it didn’t meet all of the expectations that Tesla had created. To Tesla’s credit, and to the benefit of consumers, Tesla has since corrected many of these issues. In a few years, I think they could very well make a vehicle that I would purchase. But they aren’t there today.

          • Steve says:

            No personal insult intended, but what a my case.
            I live in Atlanta and have for over 15 years. Do you know where my preowned P85 will be in an ice storm. Safe in our garage. BTW they no longer require annual inspections and yes it is retroactive. They now offer AWD and all the high tech features you insist upon. I had a 2003 G35 coupe but my P85 would leave it behind carrying 5 adults. Tesla is definitely not for you.
            You don’t deserve one – period

          • Carlton Bale says:

            Steve/Ernesto/Rick, yes, Tesla now no longer requires the annual inspection to maintain warranty, offers all wheel drive as standard equipment, and offers all of the safety features that I pointed out were missing…I mention all of those items in the numerous updates I made to my original post.

            I’m glad that I identified the deficiencies that were important to me and decided not to purchase at the time, rather than being one of the outraged owners complaining about it after the fact. Tesla found these to be important items as well, which is why they were addressed in subsequent model updates.

            I’m unsure why I do not deserve a Tesla. I pointed out deficiencies that I felt were substantial enough to warrant cancellation of my order. Unfortunately, some Tesla owners want to misinterpret this into me attacking them over their decision to place their own order. Each person is entitled to their own opinion regarding what does or does not fit their own personal situations. That does not invalidate the decisions that others make for their own personal situations.

          • Steve says:

            Oh and in that Atlanta ice storm what will I be driving – our excellent 2008 Honda 4wd Ridgeline as I have several ice/snow storms before. To each his own.

  • All Tesla buyers are people willing to stay on the cutting edge in order to be eco friendly. All your points shows you do not have the willingness. Also, point 5, basically discards electic cars at a whole. I’m looking forward an electric perhaps in 5 or 10 years i can buy an basically forget about engine maintenance and gas stations!

    I hope one day once you have some more dispensable income (and the model X is launched) you reconsider buying a Testla, i’d love to read about it here as i do when look for TV info.

  • Dj says:

    Drove the P85+ car, explored the financing options and resale value along with cash out of pocket requirements (I would not be writing a check for $100-120K, alas). It is a fun car for sure, but the purchase numbers just do not make any sense unless you just want to drive a Model S at any cost, logic be dam*ed. Comparing this to the financial side a conventional luxury or performance car purchase (with maker’s subsidizing, guaranteed residuals and such) – Tesla just can’t put this together for the buyer at this time – you’ll still write a $25K check even with their co-branded finance program to guarantee the 3 year residual. Add to that a known $12K-ish battery 10-ish years down the road makes it look even worse. Maybe not for you, but for me.

  • Carlton Bale says:

    The current value proposition for Tesla is basically that an owner pays an extra $10k-$20k for some innovative features and a more environmentally focused design. If these aspects are extremely important to someone, this can be a good investment. If they are of lesser importance, then there are a lot of other vehicles that offer a better value proposition.

    For me, it really came down the the design of the vehicle not meeting all of my current usage scenarios. The compromises weren’t with the advantages and the cost.

    I’m very interested in the BMW i8 gasoline/electric hybrid. It’s smaller, sportier, and has a backup gasoline engine. This means I could drive it to visit my friends and family who live hundreds of miles away in an area where charging is an impossibility. But the cost of the i8 is expected to be even higher than the Tesla, so that’s likely to be a show-stopper for me.

  • Kablo Kanali says:

    A good car to buy. The range is amazing and we are waiting for the low-cost model also…

  • Viktor says:

    You can’t expect a car with groundbreaking technology to be perfect from the beginning. If everybody would demand perfection from new technology it would never succeed.

  • Edward says:

    Carlton. After Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Model D a couple of weeks ago, all of your points are now pretty much moot…but enjoy what ever you decided to purchase, and drive.

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Edward, you are absolutely correct. Tesla actually listens! I still haven’t purchased a new car and the Tesla Model S 85D is now on my short list. My biggest reservation now is the price. . . it’s a lot to spend on a car (of any make.)

  • Peter Peterson says:

    Carlton, I am with you on all points. I am glad you did more testing than I did, and made a better informed decision. I bought P85D, and now can’t stand regenerative braking being triggered by releasing accelerator pedal. I sent multiple requests to Tesla, as well as I found that many people like you and I requested that there will be an option to engage regeneration from brake pedal only. To no avail. I even offered to work for free and implement this feature for Tesla, which was ignored. Also, either there are too many Tesla zealots that responded to you and other people complains about Tesla, as I found every time someone doesn’t like a smallest thing about a Tesla car, or they are paid Tesla shills or PR staff. In either case if I don’t get resolution soon, I will sell my P85D. By the way, not easy to sell your Tesla car either. Tesla does not use dealers, but they don’t act as a dealer either. They don’t buy and resell their used cars, at most you can trade in an old model for a new model, for significant loss. I thought Tesla not having dealer channel is cost saving for a customer; no, it just serves them to push cars out, and when you bought a car you are on your own. Again, smart move on your part to do your research. Now, I expect the shills to pile up on me: 3-2-1 go?

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Peter, I’m very sorry to hear of your troubles with your P85D. It’s frustrating that the regenerative braking isn’t more configurable, as it is in other vehicles (including my wife’s 2007 Lexus 400h.) Tesla seems to be more focused on creating a definitive electric vehicle experience vs. creating an compromised driver-focused experience. Most Tesla fans seem to feel the compromises are part of the allure, and that any personal sacrifice is more than offset by other attributes. I’m somewhat envious of them, because I’m pretty finicky and less satisfied by compromise.

      I’m also a bit surprised how overwhelmingly one-sided Tesla supporters seem to be. No company or product is perfect, and it’s OK to be disappointed with some aspects. But voicing these opinions about a Tesla seems to generate very passionate responses. Pretty much every Tesla post on Autoblog.com demonstrates this if there is the slightest criticism.

      Given all of the improvements Tesla made to the Model S since I canceled by order, I almost put my deposit down again on a (non-P) 85D. But after lots of test driving, I ultimately decided on an Audi S7. It’s actually similar in a lot of ways to the Model S, but the 2 main differences that drove me to the Audi were: 1) it had a more satisfying driver-focused experience that isn’t easily described and 2) it was substantially cheaper because I purchased it used (from a dealer)…and I was unable to do so with a Model S. An added bonus is the Ross-Tech VCDS software, which gives an even greater level of configuration for anyone willing to recode the default programming. It’s disappointing there isn’t similar software available for Teslas and the regenerative braking setting…

  • Peter Peterson says:

    Carlton, I may end up doing something similar, unfortunately after reselling my car privately. How regenerative braking is implemented is the only serious issue I have with Tesla cars. Particularly that as an engineer I can tell you that I could implement this feature given access to their software. That is, 1) making another option – coast or go into neutral mode when accelerator pedal is released, and 2) use currently used in Tesla cars Bosch iBooster brake module to pass regenerative braking commands to car control system from the brake pedal, pretty much what accelerator pedal does now. The first one is trivial, second one is a bit more involved, but technically not challenging at all.

    I was trying to communicate with Tesla pretty persistently over the last couple of months, always ending with being passed to Tesla support, who invariably would respond, that feature like this in not in the plans, but they can write down my request.

    I’ve done a good amount of searching on forums, and I find that there were many people like you and I, asking for this functionality, starting at Roadster times and on. I have no proof, but it seems to me that someone high up in Tesla figured they invented a better way of driving. They called this one pedal driving. And whoever it is, he or she is adamant on keeping it this way. I don’t see it in any way necessary or making the car more efficient.

    I live in pretty cold climate, at least in winter, and occasionally, if I park outside, in the morning car is cold, and regenerative braking turns itself off because battery is cold (not very cold, just a minus few degrees C but it all it takes). Then I find what a pleasure it is to drive P85D, for 20 minutes until regenerative braking gradually starts to kick in. Looking back on my two desired features, I would like 1) and 2), but I would settle on compromise of having just 1). As I found, regenerative braking, even in mixed City/Highway driving extends my range by about 15%. That is all; my car typically consumes about 430 watt hour per mile while most conscientiously using regeneration, or about 490 watt per hour when regeneration is off – until the battery warms up. From environment perspective and from cost perspective this is negligible.

    Sorry for the long story. I believe you made a smart choice Carlton, I wish I insisted on taking the car for 2-3 hours test ride on couple occasions, and hopefully in hindsight I would make a decision like you made. I just could not imagine the driving experience would be like this, given so many positive reviews. If some day Tesla will change their ways, you probably will consider them for your next car. But again, by then most likely there will be a number of other high end electric cars to choose from. Again, Tesla zealots, I am not going to start another discussion with you, these are my comments for Carlton.

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Peter, I think you’re spot on with the one footed driving comment…this is how Tesla thinks all cars should function. Unfortunately, as implemented, regenerative braking is fairly abrupt. It’s like an unexpected push in the back of the head every time there is foot pedal lift-off. I call this “head bob.”

      Cars with manual transmissions produce engine compression braking when lifting off the throttle (without depressing the clutch.) The big difference with that deceleration is that it comes on more gradually, and has lower overall magnitude, so it’s not a distraction. It’s an analog transition vs. a digital transition. In addition to your 2 proposals, I think a third option for Tesla would be to gradually phase in the regenerative braking force over 5-7 seconds, so there’s not a sudden/abrupt change in vehicle speed. The result would be a tiny/gentle head bob forward after throttle lift-off vs. a more neck-snapping head bob. And Tesla gets to keep on being a “1 foot driving” company.

      In a somewhat related topic, I made a switch to a different type of transmission in my Audi S7 for similar reasons. I’ve driven cars with conventional manual transmissions for the past 20 years. My one complaint was that, no matter how quickly I shifted and how precisely I tried to match engine revs, there was always some amount of head bob. This was due to the pause in power delivery while the clutch was depressed and a similar head bob when the clutch was re-engaged (if the engine wasn’t at the perfect RPM for the selected gear and current road speed.) For this reason, I decided to give up on the conventional manual transmission, and instead opt for a computer-controlled dual clutch automated manual transmission (aka Audi S-tronic, Volkswagen DSG, Porsche PDK, Honda DCT.) The gear changes are instantaneous. The engine speed matching is perfect every time. And the end result is…no head bob during gear changes.

      Teslas obviously don’t have this gear change “head bob” problem during acceleration, due to no multi-speed transmission. So it’s extremely unfortunate that the head bob distraction is there during regenerative braking…and all it would take is a software change to eliminate it. Competition is coming on all fronts, from companies who are known for addressing these kinds of issues. Hopefully Tesla will respond.

      • Peter Peterson says:

        Carlton, it looks like we come from a similar driving experience, and both picky and enjoy real good driving. I also was driving mostly manual transmission cars – BMW i328 convertible in 1990th till 2003, and since Subaru WRX STI where I aftermarket upgraded turbo, clutch, E85, etc. bringing it to 460 HP on wheels and under 4 sec to 60 MPH. Subaru STI handling is superior to many ‘sports’ cars, and of course Model S. But I would have no issues driving P85D, handling is still very good. It is laughable when on Tesla forums people try to explain how Model S handling is like manual transmission sports car in second or third gear; you explained it exactly. And then they say how ICE style driving should be the thing of the past; o really, they don’t see their own contradiction?

        I also would like an automated dual clutch manual transmission though.

        I wanted to use an electric car for years, or more like decades. From technical perspective though I believed that an electric motor per wheel would be ideal. I believe that AWD is the way for cars to be designed. To get rid of transmissions, differentials, and ideal electronic control circuits. When Tesla announced P85D, I figured it is close enough with two engines. Even though it is not an engine per wheel, it looks like it will be decades when that future design will be implemented by car manufacturers. So I guess I was too taken by marketing and positive spin to really test drive the car, and took sales person word that after short while I will get used to and even like the way car handles regeneration. Now I believe that on top of it being unpleasant to drive this way, it is an accident hazard – having people on the road who are reluctant to use their brakes. I notice it about myself, when I get in mode of using accelerator pedal regeneration, it becomes less automatic to hit the brake pedal. I also read in forums where people laugh that when they switch to a normal car once in a while, they forget how to use brake pedal; and this is not a laughing matter, in my opinion they are dangerous on the road.

        I was trying to convey same as you say to Tesla, that when real car manufacturers catch up and release high performance electric cars, and provide same better scheme of regenerative braking most of them have on plug in and hybrids, Tesla will be in trouble. Upsetting customers and potential future customers by insisting that Tesla knows the best, and will not do something that is tested for decades, because they just invented a new way of driving is going to become a liability. Our example shows it already is a liability. For now Tesla can’t manufacture enough cars to fulfill the demand, but it doesn’t mean Tesla can loose customers, because of some notion that in addition to building an electric car Tesla invented a new way how people are supposed to drive, and how Tesla will force them to do so, whether they want it or not. Which is really a pity, because the car is very good in most other respects. Again, I am not going to respond to Tesla zealots, save your script for someone else.

  • warren says:

    hey i need some serous help with the little info i have. I have a Tesla with a salvaged title. what was wrong? I don’t know. What was fixed? I don’t know. What I do know is that to get it “activated”, I need to go through a authorized Tesla body shop to get the car inspected then checked off by Tesla then reviewed and the car will be unblocked and will become drivable. What I need to know is is this their way of having an “emissions test”? And can it be passed and or avoided so i can use this car. Please get back to me asap.

    • Carlton Bale says:

      It’s a zero emissions vehicle, so no testing required. You should probably post on the Tesla forums for more details on where to take it for chassis inspection.

      • warren says:

        The car is functioning. Tesla has an override in the operating system to not allow the car to start. To make that happen, they charge $600 for an inspection and require a “ok” vitrifaction from a Tesla authorized body co. to release the car to the owner and then it starts and is drivable.

        • Carlton Bale says:

          I’m glad you got it figured out. I’m not sure that $600 is a reasonable charge, but at least they have a process and have a way to get a sign-off and reactivation. I’d never heard of a car maker disabling the vehicle once it goes to a salvage title. Please respond back after you get it complete and let us know how the process goes.

  • Ernesto says:

    Perhaps a Leaf might be more to your liking. Meanwhile Consumer Reports rated it (Tesla S)”the best car they have tested”

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Steve/Ernesto/Rick, the initial review by Consumer Reports was indeed glowing, and owner feedback is extremely positive as well. However, Consumer Reports rated longterm reliability as only “average” based on their long-term test and owner reliability feedback. Edmunds listed 28 separate issues during their 17 month long-term test of a 2013 Model S. I’m glad I didn’t purchase one of the early models; I’m sure reliability has improved since then.

      Edmunds summary:

      Pros: Thrilling performance, spacious and comfortable cabin, unmatched electric range, easy-to-use driver interface, plenty of cargo space, free national supercharger network, no routine maintenance costs, strong resale value.

      Cons: Extensive list of repairs necessary, interior amenities don’t match other luxury sedans in its price range, latest active safety systems not available, needs at least a Level 2 charger to make it useful as a daily driver.

      Bottom Line: The Model S is a fast, comfortable and technologically brilliant luxury sedan, but numerous problems with its touchscreen, tires and drivetrain make it hard to recommend.

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