Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Thoughts after 5 Years using a pure electric car

I’ve written in the past about buying an electric car, and running it, and what I think, and today to the day is five years since I took delivery of it, so a good time to write down how its been to be driving pure electric all those years.

I drive a 2015 Tesla model S 85D. They don’t make that precise model any more, its kinda of mid way between the low end and high end dual-motor model S. That means its very high performance, but its not ridiculous high performance like you see in youtube videos. For those who care, its 0-60 is 3.8 seconds, and its 518 horsepower. Thats a lot of horses.

When I bought it, this was not only the most expensive car I had ever bought, it was TWICE the cost of the most expensive car I had ever bvought. It was the second time I’d bought a new car, going from a small hybrid lexus to a big pure-electric tesla. I absolutely loved it the minute I got it.

The first thing to mention is that its not exactly the same car as when I got it. I had a few people use my referral link to buy cars so I got given 2 kids-size teslas (one I gave away to charity, one is in my office) plus some ‘arachnid’ wheels, which I guess look a bit cooler. I mostly got em (for free) because it was a plot point in an episode of silicon valley.

As well as getting new wheels, very very recently I gave in and upgraded the screen and the media-computer in the car. TBH this is overpriced (£2k), but in my personal experience was worth it. The graphics chip in the original 2015 model S was just too crap given the insane size of the screen, and it also meant that the screen could be buggy, voice-response was spotty, it was prone to the odd bug (unconnected to the actual car, you can even reboot the media unit while driving…)

Early Teslas like mine have a tendency to flake out due to an old chip that needs replacing. Theoretically you can pester tesla to replace it under warranty, but that leaves you with the same GPU and screen, and I was happy to pay for an upgrade.

During the time I’ve owned the car, thats pretty much all its cost me. Its been serviced twice (in FIVE years), and both times nothing was wrong at all. They check brakes and so on, but with a pure electric car the brakes are used very rarely due to the regen braking. The car has been for an MOT test once, and passed perfectly. It *did* need the front door handles replacing in the first year, but that was under warranty.

TBH the biggest cost of owning the car has been accident-prone driving and having it cleaned. I got a bunch of scrapes and a small dent in the first year, which needed a specialist body shop because the body is aluminum. Then last year I spectacularly screwed up by reversing when the front of the car had settled (air suspension down) onto a kerb by a parking space, which practically pulled the whole front of the car off. Ooops. That was pricey. My fault… BTW insurance is still stupidly low, about £470 a year, even after I recently made a £2k accident claim for the bumper thing. (I’m 51 BTW which likely reduces my insurance cost, also rural UK has less auto-thefts).

shiny body, fancy wheels…

The only other issue I have had is that the glue that the number plate is stuck on with started to fail slightly after four years, so it slightly bent outwards (not really visibly), and this interfered with the calibration of a parking sensor. I ended up just screwing the number plate on myself instead of relying on glue (you cant really tell). The cleaning cost is due to it being aluminum and not really safe for automatic carwashes. I get someone to come to my house, to save me time. Its expensive but super worth it.

In terms of experience, the car still feels like new. If I’d never seen one, and it was delivered to my house tomorrow, I’d assume this was an amazing cutting edge high tech supercar released in 2020. Its still pretty much unbeatable. The new model S has more range, and you can pay more to get the 0-60 time even quicker, but honestly who cares. This one is dangerously fast as it is. The range in practice is about 240-250 miles, given British weather and roads, and TBH thats fine for me. I’ve never really found myself cursing its range. Supercharging is fast!

When we first got the car, the supercharger network was very limited. Since then they have added a bunch, especially on the M3 and M4 motorways, which I use now and then. Sadly the really new superchargers use a different standard, and although I *could* pay to have mine adapted to the new ones, I likely will not bother. In addition to the supercharger network getting better, they have also released a stupidly long list of software upgrades to the car. It has numerous silly and cool features I won’t bore you with it. All software updates are always free.

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Luckily, as an early buyer, my supercharging is also free for life. This sounds amazing until you do the math. Filling up my car paying retail (5p/kwh) electricity costs me £12.75. That gives me about £0.05p a mile to run. Superchargers cost more, but you use them really rarely. I reckon that perk earns me about £100 a year tops. I also get free premium connectivity (free Spotify with voice control!) which is actually more valuable I think.

In terms of reliability, performance, and general driving experience, the car is as awesome as when I bought it. There are no discernible squeaks or creaks or bumps. It feels new. An app I have on my phone (tesla core) says my battery degradation after 5 years is 2.69%. Yup, 2.69% of battery capacity lost over five years… BTW I’ve done 38,000 miles so far.

I guess the best question to ask someone in these circumstances, is would you make the same choice again, and will you keep it? To the first, The answer is actually….not sure. I Bought mine because the Tesla model 3 was not out in the UK at the time. I live down single-lane dirt track roads and the model S is WIDE and LONG for rural UK. But thats the ONLY reason that would make me choose the 3 over the S. I also really like the big dual-screen setup for the model S.

We do not yet have the Tesla model Y in the UK, but when we do, I may be very tempted to trade in my car for that. My model S has lost roughly half its value in 5 years, which means its still quite a chunky trade-in value if I wanted to swap to a new model Y. I’d do this in order to get the new autopilot hardware (something too involved to upgrade for mine), and dramatically longer range and charge time, and also the much smaller car. I would miss the dual screens though, and probably be a bit sad to lose free supercharging and connectivity. ho hum. Mine is also a ‘panda-nose’ early model, might even be considered vintage one day…

I do have to say that there is NO CAR on the market other than a tesla that would vaguely tempt me away from what I have. If I won a Porsche taycan in a lottery I’d sell it the next day, same with the Audi e-tron or anything else. The supercharger network + autopilot is a complete game changer, and only Tesla has those. I’d never even consider a non-electric car of any make or any value. Smelly, unreliable, expensive to maintain, awkward to fill-up, less safe and more expensive to run, plus they belch out fumes and contribute to climate change. No thanks.