Tesla Model 3 2020

My lease (Kia Sportage) was over and I needed to get a new car. I know I am just a single car owner, but I believe electric cars are the future and want to do my part. My first thought was the Kia Niro since I was leasing a Kia already. I drove it and thought, “Meh…this is kinda lame.” I asked the price and was shocked. It was about the same price as the Tesla Model 3.

I visited every dealership in Steven’s Creek and realized that ALL of the electric cars were the same. They were either 85k+ or they were the same price as the Model 3 (45k). And universally, they all seemed to be poorly designed. They all had small screens and cheap interiors.

Contrarily, the Model 3 felt like something special. When you sit in it, you just feel delighted. I have never been a “car guy”, but this car is more than transportation. It is an experience. It reminded me of the original iPhones compared to their flip-phone counterparts.

Coincidentally, I had to drive to Sacramento the day I received the car. Here are some initial thoughts from my first days with the car.

The Design

It’s hard to underestimate how different the interior is, especially at night. There are literally no lights in front of your face. Where you normally see the speedometer is just empty. All, and I mean 100%, of the information is on the giant tablet screen in the middle of the console. The steering wheel has two rocker-dials and two stalks on either side. It is the most minimal design in a car I could imagine.

Aesthetically, it is gorgeous. However, usability leaves a bit to be desired. I am sure I will get used to it, but most of the functionality is buried in menus on the screen.

Poor Usability examples: The doors are hard to open from inside or out. Inside, it’s a tiny button that no one knows about. (They literally sell stickers that say “Open Door”.) Outside, you need to contort your hand in an awkward way. Don Norman would not be pleased.

Podcasts

I am making a special section for podcasts. It’s actually killing me. I can’t sync my podcasts with my phone properly. Android Auto (in the Kia) is actually pretty great, but that is not compatible with the Tesla. I wish Google and Tesla got along a little better.

I am trying this thing called TuneIn, but I am afraid it will require me to pay $8 a month for it. I have Spotify, but This American Life isn’t on it. Also, I am totally confused. How do you have a queue of the “latest” releases? I follow about a dozen podcasts. I want some of them to pop up to the top. How do I do this? After much Googling, the answer is “sucks to suck”.

I could listen to the phone audio through the Tesla, but the interface is confusing. This might be my best option.

Overall, listening to podcasts is just broken. What I really want is for Tesla to allow “apps” and PocketCasts would make a good app for it. That will change the interface substantially.

Maps

Tesla maps are OK, but really not as good as native Google. Weirdly, despite the fact that Tesla Maps are powered by Google, it often takes me on a different route. I am not sure why it’s so customized. There are details that make it hard to read and understand where to go. I am not sure why Tesla felt the need to reinvent the wheel here, but it’s vexing. Lastly, when I put in a route in my phone, it doesn’t sync with the Tesla so I need to put in the address twice.

Couldn’t the Tesla App know what I am doing and sync with navigation?

Semi-autopilot

I didn’t pay the extra $7,000 for full autopilot. Maybe one day I will. I tried the basic version on the highway and I have to say that it is addicting. It really changes your focus. You pay way LESS attention to your own car and way MORE attention to the other cars. It’s pretty obvious to me that it lets the driver lose focus some of the time. Still, it is more relaxing.

I need to drive it more to get a better handle on it. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is much easier to drive. On the other hand, it feels inherently dangerous and I did lose focus once in a while.

The basic version is best for stop and go traffic. It allowed me to zone out and stay in my lane with appropriate spacing. It is NOT good (it’s terrible!) for merging lanes and getting on and off the highway, at least with the basic version. Currently, I only use it until I need to change lanes.

Charging

I am a classic range-anxiety person. I don’t like cutting it close. The drive to Sacramento was stressful. More importantly, there were not any Superchargers near my hotel. I had to stop and charge along the way.

So basically, there is enormous variety of how fast the car can charge.

TypeSpeed
Home (220 Volt)30 miles/hour
Supercharger150+ miles/hour
Other public chargers4 miles/hour

I tried to charge at a non-Tesla charger and it said “8 hours until charged.” At Tesla it was a little over one hour. This means you have basically have to charge at Superchargers or home. I am not sitting at a Walgreens for 8 hours!

At home, with a 220 volt plug, you need an adapter. Unfortunately, the Tesla store was sold out. That was a bummer. I stayed on hold with customer support until they found me one at a local store in Palo Alto. This is just one of the weird gotchas.

Locking the doors

Apparently, you just walk away. This is ultra weird for me. Hopefully, I get used to it. I keep feeling like “Did it lock? Is it locked?” You can’t even check because if your phone gets near it, it will unlock. It’s like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle or something. It’s freaking me out.

Note: A few days after writing the above, I figured out how to make the car beep at me when it’s locked. Makes me happy.

Phone audio

This might not be a problem, but someone said that I sounded weird in the car. Like my voice was warbled. I hope that is just a one-time thing.

Next steps

I really do love the car, but I clearly need to get used to it. I ordered a few accessories for it that will help a bit. Wireless charging of my phone was high on my list. So far, it is working. I changed the floor mats.

If you haven’t tested one, I strongly recommend it. It’s (mostly) delightful. So far so good.

Last note: Blogging really is great for me because I can write notes to my future self about what is happening to me. This is a great example. I now know when I got my Tesla. Thank you to my mother for all her help.

4 replies on “Tesla Model 3 2020”

Congrats on the new whip! I’m eyeing the same. I’ve heard others complain of the deeply nested menu problem on the touchscreen. It would be a fun design challenge to improve this.

One important detail remains a mystery: What color did you choose (and why)?

Congrats on your new toy. I feel the same no complaints after getting my blue color 2019 model. I am looking forward to your one more blog on the accessories and exterior protection, which is also interesting to explore. FYI – Especially I have seen custom purple color in the south bay.

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