Thursday, October 31st, 2013
- Burlington, NC – Tesla Supercharger
- Glen Allen, VA – Tesla Supercharger
I forgot to mention how much I like the little touches in this car, like the way the cruise control works. Tesla really looked at the scenarios of what a driver need on a long road trip, which is exactly when you tend to use cruise control. Being trained as an industrial designer, and having worked as an interaction designer for 15 years, it’s so refreshing to see great design make it into products. How do you know when it’s great design? When you use something and it not only works the way you would expect it, but it exceeds your expectations and fulfills needs you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. This is the case with the cruise control on the Tesla Model S.
Here’s what I mean. As I would drive along either the highway or back roads, eventually I would come to a city or town where the speed limit decreased. On the highway speeds would typically go from 70 mph down to 65 or 60 mph as I would approach a city. In most cars I would have the cruise control set to 70 mph and engage the “coast” mode to let the car slow down to the lower speed limit and then let it go once it’s at that speed. Until now, that seemed totally reasonable. But now that I’ve experienced how the Model S does it, this seems totally dumb.
In the Model S, I would have the cruise control on, usually set to 65 mph. When the speed limit would decrease to 60 mph, all I would have to do is bump the cruise control lever down one time and it would automatically decrease the set point 5 mph from 65 to 60 mph. And with the regenerative braking, it would slow down to that speed limit automatically. This is especially nice when driving on back roads when the speed limit is 60 mph and suddenly drops to 45 near a town. In that case I would just bump the cruise control lever down three times (5 mph for each “bump”), which would decrease the cruise set point down 15 mph to 45. Having heard multiple stories of local police setting speed traps near towns and catching people speeding when the speed limit would decrease, I was sticking to the speed limit fairly strictly. Also, I’ve noticed that speeding in an electric car really does you no good. The time you gain by speeding is offset by increased charging time once you reach your destination, resulting in leaving the charging station at the same time regardless of how fast you drive to get there.
Once I would pass through the town and the speed limit would go back up to 60 mph (or 65 on the highway) all I would have to do is bump the cruise lever up one time for every 5 mph increase in speed and the car would be set to the new speed limit. If I didn’t hit any stoplights going through a local town, bumping the cruise control lever down and back up would be all I would have to do in terms of controlling my speed through the town. I mean think about it. Speed limits are ONLY set in 5 mph increments. Period. I’ve never seen a speed limit of 62 or 48 mph anywhere. So if that’s the case, why not make it easy to change cruising speed in 5 mph increments? And that’s just what Tesla did.
The other nice thing about the cruise control in the Model S that I haven’t seen in other cars is that once I would increase the speed back up from 45 to 60 mph, the car would accelerate up to the new speed at a reasonable rate. In every other car I’ve driven, to use the cruise control to increase speed I would have to hold down the accelerate mode until the car reached the new speed limit, which sounds fine on paper. The problem is that when I would press accelerate in the other cars I’ve driven, the cruise control system seems to tell the car to accelerate as fast as it can. It’s like flooring the accelerator, which not only isn’t necessary but it’s bad for gas mileage. I’ve never understood why gas cars do this. The same goes for if I have the cruise control set to 65 mph, hit the brakes to slow down for a while, and then press Resume to go back to the previous cruising speed. The gas cars just flog the engine to get back up to that cruising speed. Why? If I really want to get back up to my original cruising speed that fast I can floor the accelerator myself and then engage the cruise control once I get to the speed I want. Honestly, I never really thought about this much until driving this car. Now that I have, all other cars seem pretty lame with regard to cruise control management.
Okay, enough geeking out on the cruise control. As with all of the other days of driving, this one too was a pleasant, easy, three hour drive to Burlington, NC. Once I had charged up completely, I headed over to see a friend of mine from high school who lives with her family in Raleigh, which was right along my driving route. I arrived at her house around 4 PM. We hung out and played baseball with her three boys in their front yard, had dinner and went trick-or-treating with the kids. The weather was so nice, around 65 degrees – perfect trick-or-treating weather. We went to her old neighborhood to trick-or-treat because there were a lot more houses and they were closer together. Plus her kids would get to go out with their friends from their old neighborhood, which was nice. We stopped along the way to talk with several of my friend’s former neighbors. I asked one of them what they were giving out and the things she listed off weren’t anything I liked. She said she didn’t like them either, but the kids did. I asked her why she would get candy she didn’t like and she replied “this way I won’t eat the leftover candy.” It was at this point I had been doing it wrong all these years. I would buy candy I like so that I COULD eat the leftover candy. In fact, I would secretly hope that no trick-or-treaters would come by so that I could have all of the candy to myself. But if I buy candy I don’t like, I won’t eat any of those empty calories. Brilliant!
After the kids were worn out from trick-or-treating, I said goodbye and headed up to Glen Allen, VA. Little did I know that the side trip to my friends and over to the old neighborhood for trick-or-treating would leave me with barely enough to get to Glen Allen. I kept the cruise control on set to 65 mph, which kept my actual range just over the rated range. I arrived in Glen Allen with about 15 miles of rated range left. Not the closest I’ve cut it, but also not leaving much wiggle room for the unexpected either. The Supercharger was about a quarter mile from the hotel, so I charged up for about a 20 minutes. Once I had about 100 miles of range on the car and the batteries were back into the middle area of their capacity, I headed over to the hotel to check in. It was late and I was tired. Also, I wanted to charge the car up in the morning so that it wasn’t sitting at full capacity overnight. And with that, I was just one day’s drive away from my goal of getting to South Jersey for my reunion on Nov. 2nd. Barring any disasters, it looked like my original planning from two weeks prior would work out as I had hoped.