Owning a Tesla in Brooklyn

Will Schenk, March 10, 2016

I’ve owned a Tesla in Brooklyn for about 10 months now. This is what I’ve learned so far. A Tesla in Brooklyn isn’t that hard.

I park my car on the street and have no regular place to plug in the car. This is very much like having a cell phone that you can only charge at the office or in coffee shops — kind of weird, takes a little bit of planning, but it can work. The car is so much fun that dealing with it is actually fun. The city is a tough environment. When I’m worried about leaving it on the street, mainly during snow storms where I don’t want to get buried in by a snow plow, I park it in a garage. See how well that works out when the snow all suddenly melts:

I picked up the car from the Syosset service center 10 months ago and I’ve put over 11,000 miles on it since then. I drive the car to work every day, through the soupy New York summers and through the increasingly mild winters. I’ve taken the car camping up in the woods away from the Supercharging network, as well as up in the mountains where we had few days of -20 degree weather.

The best thing is flooring it off of a stop sign and going to 40 MPH in a second or so. Faster than a Ferrari, greener than a Prius.

The three zones

When you own an electric car, you are in one of 3 zones:
1.  Radius of home, where you plug in every night and drive less than the range.
2.  Road trips, highway driving on the Supercharger network, where you go from
     charger to charger to final destination.
3.  Range mode: Repurposing the public electric network, charging from regular outlets,
    the (surprisingly extensive) RV power network, or public charging stations.

Zone 1: Home Zone

I imagine that most Tesla drivers live in Zone 1, where honestly there’s nothing to think about. If you plug into the wall, you get about 4 miles of charge per hour. If you drive for less than 40 miles a day and leave it plugged in for 10 hours at night the car is always full.

I have a house outside of the city I use in the summer, and I asked an electrician to put a drier plug in my garage, a standard 220volt 40 amp circuit, which cost a couple hundred dollars to install. This puts 17 miles of charge per hour on the car, so an overnight charge puts 170 miles per night on the car. Which is way more than my normal driving day, but coincidently the distance of the house from Brooklyn, so once I get up there I’m ready to turn around the next morning.

So if you live in Zone 1, charge-wise you never really need to think about anything.

Zone 2: Highway Superchargers

The next thing is the supercharger network, which is amazing. It takes about 20 minutes to fill up halfway, and about 1 hour 10 minutes to fill up the 85 kWh battery. But there’s a better way.

The trick here is that since the batteries charge faster when they are empty, you want to only charge what you need to get to the next charger. You spend less time at the charger since you fill it up less, and the little you do add gets added quickly.

I tend to give myself about a 30% buffer, so if the route says I have 100 miles to go I try to get up to 130 miles range so I don’t need to think about driving speed. More buffer (50%) if it’s cold, if you have a lot of vertical, or if you are planning on speeding.

Zone 3: Range mode

Range anxiety is a real thing, but only for people who don’t own an electric car. You are driving around, slowly watching the battery meter go down, down, down, there’s no place obvious place to top it off, maybe you won’t charge it for a few days, and unless you figure out a plan the car will just stop somewhere, probably in the middle of a highway… When you own a car in Brooklyn, this is the Zone you are in most of the time.

What happens when you are driving and you run out of juice? Answer: no clue. Never happened. Of the Tesla owners that I’ve spoken to — and we are in a secret club where flash our little Tesla car keys to each other in liue of a handshake — they don’t know either. It happens about as much as you run out of gas, which I’ve never done either. It does take a little planning to avoid it, and you need to put some thought into it, but they are very simple thoughts to have.

The biggest difference with an ICE Car, or Internal Combustion Engine, is that there’s a hundred years of infrastructure built out there. You don’t need to think about putting gas in the car because there are gas stations everywhere.

Brooklyn Charging

When I need to top off, I’ll park the car in a garage that has a charger in it. There’s one in my neighborhood that is part of the ChargePoint network. I drop the car before work and head home with a full charge. Another in city option is the Supercharger in JFK.

Summer Driving

In the summer I can go a little more than 2 weeks driving in the city without charging. However, I tend to go away on the weekends, so I hit a supercharger on my way out. The Paramus supercharger is about 30 miles away, so if I have more than 50 miles of range when I leave I stop there first. Newburgh is about 90 miles away, and it’s got a better restaurant.

Winter Driving, Regen and Phantom Drain

The winters are where things get very different. I would figure that you need a good 30 minutes of driving to warm up the car. Between 50 and 30 degrees you lose 2–5 miles a night in phantom drain, which is energy that battery is using to keep itself warm. Lower than 20, drain notably increases. So when it’s cold, the car drives less efficiently because you lose regen, and then the battery uses a lot more energy keeping itself warm. You basically you need to plug it in once or twice a week to keep things safe.

In conclusion, owning a Model S in Brooklyn totally works.

For more details, see Will’s full story here.

Tags: Model S, city, Charging, Ownership