What Do I Drive is a series where the editors and writers of InsideEVs share with readers the cars we personally drive. These are the cars we bought with our own money and drive in our daily lives. As such, we've got a lot to say about them.
Some of you may remember a Dr. Lyle Dennis. He started a site called GM-Volt to promote electric vehicles and I was hooked. I got actively involved in the forum there and finally got my 2012 Chevrolet Volt a year or so later. Being a Mechanical Engineer, the Volt fascinated me. It was a mechanical engineer's dream come true. It was very complicated and I wanted to know everything about the car.
I bought a device called a DashDaq that allowed me to capture all the internal data from the car and make detailed engineering plots. I wrote lots of articles on the Volt detailing how it worked. That is where I met Keith Ritter (HVACman), another mechanical engineer, and we are still writing articles together.
What did I think of the Volt overall?
I really liked my Volt. It was very reliable and it was fun to drive. Keith still has his but mine was a three-year lease, which in retrospect was good because the car depreciated pretty fast.
Was there anything I didn't like?
The only thing I didn’t like about the Volt was that you couldn’t take it on a long road trip without adversely effecting your lifetime MPG and I spend more time on the road than in town.
Like many of us, I wanted a Tesla but could not afford a $100,000 car so I waited until the used prices got down to around $50,000 and picked up a 2012 Tesla Model S. It was out of its four-year general warranty, so I lived in dread of a huge repair bill for some out-of-warranty issue.
The first summer I had my 2012 Model S I took a Supercharger trip to California from Arizona to visit my sister. On the way across the desert to Barstow it was around 115 degrees F outside. I left the last Supercharger when the car’s navigation system said I had enough charge to make it to Barstow. However, as soon as I left the Supercharger the car was predicting I would not make it.
I learned later that this is normal and if you wait a bit you get some range back, but I was a newbie to the car and a bit panicked because it was so hot outside. In order to conserve battery, I ended up having to turn the A/C off and drive at 45 MPH. Once I got about an hour into the trip my range recovered and I was able to turn the A/C back on ... but the A/C wasn’t working very well and it couldn’t get the interior temp below 85 degrees F.
I shrugged it off and finally got to Barstow for the night. The next day I was going to Sacramento. It was hot again and the A/C had all but quit, so I turned it off and made the rest of the trip to Sacramento with no A/C.
How was I liking my new Model S so far?
You can guess the answer to that. The next day I had to take a day off and go to the service center outside of Sacramento. My A/C was not under warranty anymore, so my big fear of a huge out-of-warranty repair bill looked like it might come true. However, the service center repaired my A/C for no charge and I was a happy camper.
The service center said I had a slow leak in my front tire so my next stop was a tire shop to get that fixed. Turns out it was a cracked rim (mine had the nice 21” rims on it). The tire shop could not get it fixed so I was on my way again — no problem, just put air in the tire every day and I was OK. I’d get the rim fixed when I got home (a refurbished rim cost me $700 back in Phoenix). Here’s another thing about the 21” rims: they look nice but they are a PITA. Curb rash is a never-ending issue.
I’ll shorten up the rest of the old Model S story. The left door handle quit working a year later but I fixed it myself for $100. The final straw was the center screen replacement out of warranty.
Did I mention that the Volt was a very reliable car?
So what did I do after my experience with the old Tesla Model S?
Having learned my lesson, I ran right out and bought another Tesla. It’s the Model 3 Long Range RWD version and it charges to 325 miles range.
How do I like it?
So far, I love it. 325 miles range is unbelievable. It has autosteer, so long trips are a joy. It makes our weekly commutes to Phoenix an effortless pleasure. So far, I have not had any issues with the car, and even if I do, I have a warranty. I’ll never own another Tesla unless it has a warranty. It is 10 times better than the old Model S. My vampire drain is significantly reduced compared to the Model S. I like the Model 3's size and it is not prone to curb rash as I have the standard 18” aero wheels. Model S was too big.
What don’t I like about the Model 3?
That’s why I have a reservation for a Tesla Model Y.
Some people never learn.