If you haven’t seen it, there is a Tesla Model 3 driving around the country right now, driven by one of the first non-employee owners, You You Xue. Check out the Facebook page of the Tesla Model 3 Road Trip to see if there are any remaining stops near you.
I traveled to Ann Arbor Michigan to see it Friday, the closest stop to my house. This is an unbelievably generous thing for You You (sounds close to yo-yo) to do. Be sure to thank him. He’s beating the tar out of his car, putting a ton of miles on it, and enduring a lot of sleepless nights for little to no personal gain.
Let’s start with full disclosure. I have a first day deposit down on a Model 3. I do not own Tesla stock (unless it’s in one of our mutual funds.) While I’m a big fan of Elon Musk, I am not a total fanboy, I’m more than willing to be critical.
Problems with the Model 3
Speaking of being critical, let’s start with the problems with the car either You You or myself noticed. Almost all of them are software based, which means that Tesla can push an Over the Air Update to fix them. Most were related to the record breaking cold snap You You was driving through.
1. Fogging glass in cold weather. There was ice inside the back windows. The HVAC system in the car couldn’t completely clear the fog. You You said he couldn’t get it to completely clear. I tried a few things as well and didn’t get anywhere. There may not be enough outside air coming in to dry out the interior or enough dehumidification capability at these low temps. This is something that will need to be addressed by Tesla, it reduced visibility out of the car significantly. It’s also the only serious flaw I experienced.
2. Poor trip calculations in cold weather. Cold weather below about 10F is really hard on batteries and electric cars in general. Cars only get about half the range and charge at slower speeds. You You almost got stranded just before he got to Ann Arbor, I watched this harrowing video live in my hotel room, he pulled in with 0 km showing on the range meter, and drove for a few minutes with it on 0. He was less than pleased about it (language warning at the end of the video.)
3. “Ping Pong” in Autopilot. AutoPilot 2.5 is still a touch rough compared to 1.0. It bounces around in the lane sometimes. Here’s a video of the test drive where we got on the highway and engaged AutoPilot. Ping ponging is not super obvious on video. It also doesn’t seem completely fair to whine about small imperfections of a car literally driving itself. This will get ironed out over time, and part of the ping pong was a dotted line on the side of the road where an exit was. It does better with solid lines. Using AutoPilot on snowy days where road markings have been obscured is not a great idea.
There were a few other things You You mentioned like navigation being glitchy and some glitches with the screen like there being no way to exit the “Paint” app where you can draw on the screen. All of them can be solved with updates, and since updates don’t require a trip to the dealer, I’m not concerned.
My Car Cred
I should probably start with a little car cred on my part. I grew up around expensive ($250K+) 1920s and 1930s cars being restored by my dad. I’ve rebuilt 3 engines (only one of which blew up…) I’ve driven more cars that I can count from a Ferrari Testarossa to a Mercedes S600 to one of the Queen's Rolls Royce Phantom 5 limos to my wife’s first car, a rusty 1992 Toyota Corolla. I four wheel drifted my 1989 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe through college, scaring the bejeebers out of my friends. (That car is still in one piece, but it’s the engine I blew up.) While I may not be the most skilled driver, I’m no slouch.
Basically, I’m a car guy. I decided a few years back that I’m done with internal combustion. The path to the future is to electrify everything, something that we do to houses in our Cleveland Ohio practice.
As far as EVs, I’ve driven a Nissan Leaf, a Chevy Bolt, and a Tesla Model S P100D Ludicrous. I found the Leaf and Bolt to be quite vanilla and uninspiring. The P100D is a stupidly fast car, but it costs more than my house and I don’t prefer big cars anyway. I’ve always wanted a BMW M3, I’ll likely get a different kind of M3 now…
Driving Impressions of the Model 3
Thankfully, car magazines have already gushed about this car. Motor Trend’s Kim Reynolds said “Have I ever driven a more startling small sedan? I haven’t.”
I agree. This is not just a great EV, it’s a great car. The Chevy Bolt felt like a $22K car that costs $40K. The Model 3 feels like a $70K car that costs $35K. (Or $55K in the case of You You’s car.) I think the base car would suit me fine, which was a pleasant finding for my pocketbook.
The Model 3 reminds me of a mild mannered brother of a mid 90’s BMW M3 I drove. It has a very firm, but not punishing ride. The steering is laser precise like the Bimmer or my 2006 Saabaru with Subaru WRX steering. I loved it. You can even make the steering lighter if you want with the touch of a button.
It’s very quick. You You encouraged us to hammer the car, I did and let off at 75 MPH. My gut is it took 7-8 seconds with 4 adults aboard on salt slick roads in snow tires.
It’s sure-footed. With snow tires You You said all wheel drive is not necessary. I didn’t drive it in the snow, but the car is unusually sure footed on salt encrusted roads. I got in my car after the test drive and spun the wheels like crazy with the same driving aggression.
It was only a 10 minute test drive, but where the Leaf and Bolt felt very vanilla, this car felt like it was built to be driven hard. It almost begs to be beaten on.
The interior is sweet. I’ve never seen such a simple interior, almost devoid of buttons. The steering wheel feels a bit cheap, but all the rest of the materials in the car feel expensive and nice to the touch. The wood on the dash is better than I expected. The buttons to open the doors have a great tactile feel. The doors close with a satisfyingly solid clunk. The Drive noted no squeaks and rattles in a record breaking cross country trip, that was my impression too.
The HVAC, aside from the defrosting problem, is remarkable. I love how you can aim the airflow anywhere you want. The single vent slit and lack of other vents is part of why the interior is so striking. I only scratched the surface of how to configure the HVAC system, but it’s one of the slickest setups I’ve seen.
Being an energy guy, I had my Flir One infrared camera with me and I clocked the back seat vents at around 135F. For reference, most home furnaces put out air from the vents in the 105-120F range. My camera is not super trustworthy for temperature readings, but this felt about right, the air coming out of the vents was hot. The car has no problems keeping warm, even in frigid temps. If, that is, you have the range to run the heat that hard, a challenge unique to EVs.
The backseat is cavernous. I’m 5’8”, so no giant, but I had 6” in front of my knees and the front seat was set for You You, who is around 6’. The back seat made me think of a 7 series BMW for legroom. The glass roof made the car feel open and I had 4-6” above my head as well. The space is really well utilized inside the car. I wouldn’t want 3 people in the back seat, but for two it is quite comfortable.
If you are on the fence about buying a Tesla Model 3, just do it.
I can’t thank You You Xue enough for doing this crazy trip, which he has done largely solo. I was particularly impressed with him, he’s self confident and wildly organized. He bears up well under challenges like his car almost dying a few hours before he arrived and two severely bent wheel rims just after he left Ann Arbor. He’s young, still studying, and I got the impression that I’d met a great man just about to start his career.
He’s also not a Tesla fanboy, even though he has 3 Teslas. (An S, 3, and X, I can’t help putting them in that order.) He was quite critical of Tesla at times, talking about how some of the programming issues in the screen were elementary and being pretty fierce about the range calculator in cold weather. He’s been quite open about his experience with the car on the Tesla Model 3 Road Trip Facebook page, if you want to know about the car, warts and all, be sure to read the whole page.
Oh, and don’t ask questions that are already answered on the FB page. He will simply point you to the page to look for the answer.
You You was originally scheduled to get to Ann Arbor at 5 PM. He arrived at 3:40 AM the next day. The experience of meeting him, seeing the car, and then driving it was totally worth it!
I also hope he enjoys the signed copy of The Home Comfort Book I gave him, which just below the surface is about how to electrify your home.
Thanks for reading! And good luck to you as you #electrifyeverything!
If your electricity bills seem too high, and you aren't sure why, getting a home energy monitor could be a good way to figure it out. If you want to know if your usage is high, use our calculator that compares your home to others in your state based on Department of Energy data.
In our practice we've used three different energy monitoring systems. More importantly, we've used them all for over a year, so we understand their strengths and weaknesses.
Two recent entries are the Curb and the Sense, which offer more modern looking apps than "older" electricity monitors like eGauge 3000 at the Hiram College Tree House project. (You can see what's happening at the Tree House live here.)
Let's dive into the comparison of the three, here's my video comparison of the three energy monitors (which is more in depth than this article):
Full Disclosure: Curb sent me two of their monitors for free and paid to install them. I bought and installed Sense myself (they recommend having an electrician do it.) The eGauge 3000 was bought and installed by Hiram College, my role was in fixing the setup so it created useful data.
Energy Monitor Framework
When comparing products with very different strengths and weaknesses, I find it's best to look for the attributes I care about. For power monitors here are 5 attributes I find useful. Next we'll dig into how the attributes apply to each monitor.
Ease of Install
There are two types of home electricity monitors, which one you choose basically determines install time:
Installing machine learning energy monitors is no big deal. If I did it every day, I bet I could do it in 15 minutes, my two installs each took about 25. While the manufacturers recommend having an electrician do it, for DIYers that aren't nervous around their electric boxes, it's not a big deal. (Be sure to turn the power off!)
One bad part of machine learning energy monitors is that you never really know if a device will be monitored. Sense doesn't seem to pick up individual appliances under 30 watts. If you want to know when your cell phone charger is on, you're probably out of luck.
Another bad part is that machine learning devices often confuse appliances. My Sense thinks that my coffee maker is my dishwasher, and vice versa. It also thinks my heat pump water heater is my dehumidifier, and vice versa. If two devices look similar, the Sense Labs device may get confused. Fair warning.
Multiple circuit electricity usage monitors, on the other hand, will let you know if something is on, as long as you choose to monitor that circuit. It won't tell you what specific appliance is on, but you will likely be able to tell by how many watts it pulls. In the case of a dishwasher or refrigerator, which are supposed to have dedicated circuits, you will know for sure when they are running.
A big downside to multiple circuit devices like Curb and eGauge is that they are a serious pain to install well. Every circuit in your house has to be labeled, and often they aren't. It took me over 2 hours to figure out the 40+ circuits in my house. In one install, the circuits were mislabeled, so after spending 4 hours carefully installing a Curb, I had to go back and totally change the configuration, which took me another 3 hours, plus the time it took to figure out what the correct circuits actually were. (I would get faster with time, but the 45 minutes that Curb mentions is unrealistic in anything other than ideal conditions.)
Plan on installing multiple circuit monitors twice. Once with the best information you have, and again when you have a better handle on which circuit goes where. Since you are limited in how many circuits you can monitor, you'll likely change which circuits you monitor the second time if you see the "other" category with huge power usage.
While the install time of multiple circuit devices may seem off-putting, with machine learning devices you will spend a fair amount of time figuring out which appliance is which. Sense will tell you that "Unknown Motor 6" just turned on, it's your job to figure out what that motor is. So machine learning devices can be heavy on after install work, where multiple circuit devices are a lot of work to set up.
Is the Machine Learning type or the Multiple Circuit type better? It depends on what you need and your preferences are. If you absolutely, positively have to know what that big draw is, get a multiple circuit device. If you are ok with the potential that a machine learning device won't find some appliances, you want a quick install, and you don't mind a little detective work figuring out what "Unknown Motor 6" is, get a Sense or Neurio.
The software really makes or breaks electricity usage monitors. Depending on your preference, you may want a web app, a mobile app, or both. The video does a far better job dealing with this than I can in words, so take a look at that section of the video. The last 3 attributes relate directly to the software/apps.
The quick rundown is that Sense has hands down the best app, but it's a mobile app only and you can't export data from it. eGauge only has a web app, it's a bit old-school, but provides the best data download. Curb has mobile and web apps that function similarly, and is really good at charting usage by circuit.
Odometer vs. Speedometer
In your car, the odometer tells you how many miles you've driven, but not how fast you went to drive those miles. In a home energy monitor, this is how much energy you have used over time. Sense and Curb will tell you how much energy individual appliances/circuits used. Sense will tell you almost any time period you want, Curb only tells you week by week in their weekly "energy audit" email.
In your car, the speedometer tells you how fast you are going at any given moment. In home energy monitors, they tell you how many watts you are using at any given moment, and also chart how many watts were being used at different points in time. All three tested monitors will tell you how many watts were being used at a certain moment by individual appliance or circuit.
The Sense stands head an shoulders above the Curb and eGauge 3000 for odometer and speedometer functions, in my opinion.
For the speedometer function, Sense lets you quickly zoom in and out on usage at any moment since the device was installed.
eGauge lets you do it by setting the time parameter, but that's much slower.
Curb has an awesome chart for which circuit was using how much power, but you can only choose time periods of 3 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, and all. If you want to zoom into 3 hours yesterday you're out of luck.
For the odometer function, Sense lets you look at the total usage of any day, week, or month. (See the app review video, it's pretty cool.) It also breaks it down by the appliances it has found.
Curb is quite limited in that the only usage data over time comes from the weekly audit emails, hopefully that will change. Curb does break usage down by circuit in that email, though.
eGauge has a pretty decent odometer function that lets you select any time period to look at usage, and by default shows you the last month of usage. It does not break down usage by circuit unless you export the data, which is our next topic.
If you really want to crunch the numbers, you need to export data into a spreadsheet and go nuts. Personally, I don't really like manipulating spreadsheets with lots of data, I prefer visual representations of data to look for anomalies.
eGauge wins this category hands down. You can export data from any period, and you get usage by circuit. It's awesome.
Curb lets you export data for its set time periods (3 hours, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, and all.)
Sense fails in this regard. There is no data export as I write this in October 2017. They plan to do it, though.
It's up to you to decide if this is a big deal.
This is a particularly sticky issue. CT clamps are very sensitive about how they are installed. If you put one on "upside down" it won't report that a circuit is using energy, it will report that it is generating energy. That's what I mean by reverse polarities. If you ever got your pluses and minuses backwards in math, you know that it makes your answers wrong.
This only appears to be a problem with multiple circuit devices. If you put a CT clamp on backwards for Sense, the software compensates.
For the multiple circuit monitors, it can ruin the usefulness of the data. At the Tree House, enough were reversed to essentially zero out the energy usage of the building. The eGauge said it had used 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) for a year, when reality was a little under 15,000. I've struggled with my Curb to get it accurate.
Curb and eGauge both give you ways to reverse the polarities of the circuits, but it's an extra step.
Curb made it more difficult to reverse polarities with a recent update, and now I have to classify circuits like they are generating electricity rather than using it to reverse them. It's less than ideal.
Avoiding the reverse polarity problem is another reason I lean towards the Machine Learning variety unless you are an advanced user.
Having a year+ with each of these three home energy monitors has been really useful to understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Professionally, we use them to figure out if our assumptions and energy use predictions were accurate, and to find problems in client homes.
As a homeowner, it's a step to finding out why your usage is so high. (You can use our calculator, which is based on Department of Energy Data, to see if your house is an energy hog or not.) You might also look at which months are highest to figure out what might be causing the bills, or hire an energy auditor to help you.
Free Comparison Chart
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Nate Adams is fiercely determined to get feedback on every project to learn more about what works and what doesn't. This blog shows that learning process.