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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Part 8: Winter of Discontent

Having once again committed ourselves to delayed gratification and having skipped two solid chances to get, essentially the same car, you'd think we would be done with Tesla for a while.  Unlike other deferred purchases, the Tesla stubbornly lingered at the forefront of our plans.   The first order was a gut check but the second near purchase was a screaming wake up call.
Meanwhile, the Tesla promises were starting to come true... 
January saw the first whispers of construction happening about an hour Southeast of Pittsburgh, right off the Somerset exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  There'd long been rumors and announcements that Tesla (and Elon Musk himself, eventually) would be making a coast-to-coast cross-country run.  The official cars would attempt to set an electric vehicle record (least time spent charging) and Elon would attempt to not strangle his herd of young sons after hearing "Are we there yet?" in 5.1 surround sound for a couple thousand miles (I'm not sure who gets the short .1 stick, but I'm playing the odds they're not ALL geniuses).

The cross-country route would clearly be going through Pennsylvania and the Turnpike was picked out early on as the highway of choice.  As Supercharger installations accelerated along the coasts and started to penetrate inland, we knew the clock was ticking and chargers were coming... and as soon as permits were issued the underground network of Tesla intelligentsia sniffed them out.

Jake chatted up the construction workers and dug into the Tesla contacts he had and we were able to make a pretty educated guess when the Somerset Supercharger was going to "go live".  Somerset is actually close enough that a Tesla with the 85kwh battery can make the trip from Cranberry to Somerset AND BACK without charging, so we had a solid safety net-- even in January temperatures.

Early on the morning of January 10th we headed out.  Expectations were that a Tesla test vehicle had certified the charger just prior so-- if our hunch was correct-- we were going to get the first customer charge of a Pennsylvania Supercharger.   Not a HUGE honor in the history books, but hey-- a first is a FIRST!  You can see the video we made of our trip here:
In February, Jake's car went in for its first annual service.  Teslas don't really NEED a lot of service (at least, that's the expectation) but as an early-build car he wanted to make sure it was holding up as expected and to get some upgrades added to his car that current cars were getting.  As part of their service, Tesla provides loaner cars and in this case they trucked a car from the Columbus, OH service center to swap his out with when they took his back to work on it.  For a while we THOUGHT the loaner might actually end up being the grey S85 with the textile seats that I'd passed over at Christmas, but instead a silver car showed up.
The silver loaner was definitely a fun car to play with.  It was a Performance version--  ostensibly an early version of the P85+.  We didn't know about the "+" until after the car went back, maybe a month later, when I ran across its new owner.. in San Diego!  He bought the car out of inventory sight unseen and I was able to send him some early pictures of it.  I did not tell him how we drove it.   The P85 is obscenely fast.  The 60kwh car is faster than most anything around, the 85 takes out the rest of the crowd, but the P85 should just come with a flux capacitor installed.  It warps time-- well, it would have were it not for the loaner-limiter that cut in just shy of the time-travel initiation speed.  Unfortunately for us, the roads were pretty wet while we had it and the traction control was abruptly cutting in constantly (the 19" tires were completely overwhelmed too-- and the San Diego buyer received it with staggered 21" wheels which will better match the torque of the motor).  The P85 was also notable for being retrofit with the horizontal woodgrain, one of the first cars, presumably for sales demo purposes (pictures HERE).
Late February brought rumors of a Supercharger installation even closer to home.   A "hole" in the map suggested it might end up close by and Jake and I were quite happy to see it was only a couple exits up the highway from us in Cranberry Twp.  Multiple sites were submitted for permits and we stalked Tesla for a few weeks until the final location was revealed.  Furthering his reputation as a Tesla headcase, Jake made even more frequent visits to the site and dropped copious amounts of Girl Scout cookies and other motivational supplies.  The picture above is from one of these "runs" when the cabinets were all installed but yet to be tested or certified.
February finally drew to a close with a late birthday celebration.  My parents-- ever my benefactors for transportation as I grew up, from ski bus fares to college car-- weren't about to be complacent on my Tesla quest.  Clearly the budget this time around was more daunting, however, so they gave me the closest alternative they could for a bleeding edge high tech battery powered wonder-car.  Funny, REAL funny!


A lot of amazing developments were taking place all around.  Superchargers everywhere, I'd driven probably several hundred miles on Jake's car, I knew more than I'd ever known about a car prior to purchase-- indeed more than just about anyone COULD know short of ownership-- and yet...  I was surrounded by two aging cars in need of constant repairs and maintenance and my patience was wearing thin.  I regretted more than once that we'd missed the state tax rebate deadline--  not because it was a lot of money (it wasn't) but because the "frugalist" in me let a coupon expire on something I knew I was going to buy anyway!   I was getting tired of sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else enjoy the game.

But then something fortuitous happened...  and the equation changed again.
To be continued...  Click HERE for Part 9.    Or go back to Part 1.

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