Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition

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Tesla Autopilot Long Distance First Drive – It Simply Works!

Courtesy of sister company, Georgia EVentures (Georgia EVentures, LLC), I was able to drive their 2015 Tesla Model S60 with the newly downloaded Autopilot features on a 950 mile round trip between Atlanta and Raleigh NC with stops in Charlotte and Winston-Salem between October 19th and 22nd.

Here are my experiences with each of the Autopilot features:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control (TACC) works by setting the number of car lengths desired to follow the vehicle in front of you which adjusts the Tesla’s speed to maintain that distance all the way to a full stop. This feature has been available since the “Autopilot” equipment (windshield mounted camera, lower facia mounted sonar and sensors on the front and rear bumper sections) but has been improved with the addition of the other features.  This core offering of Autopilot works quite well. As I came upon slower moving cars and trucks, the Tesla slowed down according, and as those vehicles changed lanes, the Tesla sped back up to the prescribed speed which can be set in increments of 1 mph or 5 mph depending upon how you activate the stalk.  Acceleration is smooth and sure. But on a few occassions, it did not accurately sense the rapid change in traffic fast enough and I have had to intervene. On Friday, post trip, I got an odd ‘crash’ indication on the instrument cluster when no obstacles were in my way. Overall Grade: B
  • Auto Steer works by first engaging adaptive cruise control with one pull of the lower left lever toward the driver which shows the TACC icon turn blue, followed by a second pull on the lever to activate Autosteer, also with a dash icon turning blue when activated. This really does take an act of faith to ‘let go of the wheel’ but soon I found that the Tesla was steering itself better than I was!  Using all of the camera/sonar/sensors, Auto Steer is constantly scanning the left and right painted lane lines and keeping the Tesla exactly in the center of the lane.  It handles grade changes and curves with ease.  The lanes markings on the newly designed instrument cluster turn blue when Auto Steer is active and if one side of the lane cannot be discerned, the lane color changes to grey/white.  If Auto Steer cannot see the lane marking, it prompts you to ‘take control of the steering wheel.”  Easy, just grab the wheel and in doing so it ‘breaks’ the Auto Steer control while maintaining Adaptive Cruise Control.  While I limited my Auto Steer use to hundreds of miles of highway driving, it could be engaged at speeds of 30 mph if the lane markings were clear.  I did notice the function was disabled on a very dark early morning drive in Winston-Salem NC where lane markings were too faint for the system to register. I only experienced errant Auto Steer on four occassions when it tried to move into an exit lane in search of the lane marking. With Tesla actively mapping all data from Auto Steer, that should improve with thousands of real-time data points being captured daily. This has been the most debated feature in the Autopilot suite.  My experience:  used properly Auto Steer works as advertised. Keep your hands on or near the steering wheel (I used a tracing grip where I just allowed the wheel to move in my hands without expending any effort) with an occassional hands-free event and Auto Steer will truly reduce driving fatigue.  Overall Grade:  A-
  • Auto Lane Change works by activating the left or right turn indicator when the Tesla is in Autopilot mode. I found this to be the most useful, safe and reliable feature of Autopilot.  For both left lane and right lane change manuevers, the feature worked perfectly, measuring speed and distance to safely pass, execute the lane change, then show the car was firmly in the center of the lane (line marking goes from dashed to solid) cueing me to cancel the turn indicator.  Only once did Auto Lane Change have to abort a manuever when a pick up truck came up on the Tesla too fast to allow it to safely change lanes.  The Tesla simply stayed in its current lane.  I felt that Auto Lane Change saw obstacles and blind spots (of which the low raking rear roof is one) much better than I could. Overall Grade:  A+
  • Auto Parallel Park:  I had no opportunity to use this feature so that will have to wait for a follow up review.
  • BIG DATA: Remember, Tesla has clearly declared this version of Autopilot to be a Beta version and the 40,000+ equipped and engaged Autopilot Model S drivers are providing valuable feedback to Tesla/Google mapping to improve the performance of the suite of Autopilot capabilities fairly quickly.

Overall Grade: A- the first generation Autopilot is intuitive, reduces driver fatigue (950 miles proved it to me) and can predictably and reliably execute its functions.  It will get better and better . . . so stay tuned for updates.

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2016 Plug In EV Sales up 19% through June

2016 is turning into a boom year for plug in electric vehicles!  According to InsideEV’s monthly sales scorecard, electrified vehicle sales are up +19% (+10,455 units) vs. sales through mid-2015 reaching almost 65,000 in sales.  The month of June recorded the highest sales of any month on record breaking 15,000 in sales. InsideEVs Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard

Behind the EV resurgence are four factors:

1). Tesla. Combined sales of Model S and Model X have topped 19,000 units commanding just under 30% of the EV market.  Model X reached almost 7,000 units and Model S, refreshed in April, sold just over 12,000 new vehicles through June. The 373,000 Model III advance deposits provide a nice tailwind, as does the recent price reduction on the 2016 Model S (about $5,000 less than a comparably equipped 2015:  see our earlier post (New Tesla Model S 60: A good value?).

2). VOLT.  The all  new 2017 Chevrolet VOLT is outselling it’s Gen 1 model by 73% with sales just under 10,000 vehicles through mid-year.  Plug-In hybrid buyers know that the VOLT is their best option for daily electric commutes and the range to go the distance (400 miles).  Chevrolet dealers might be getting better at selling the new VOLT; or at least not ‘unselling’it to well educated PHEV buyers.

3). Ford. Ford’s Energi models (C-Max and Fusion) along with the Gen 1 Ford Focus Electric managed to grow unit sales +26%. Ford, through CEO Mark Fields, has committed to invest $4.5 Billion to electrify its product line and offer at least 13 electric models in the near future.  Watch the Blue Oval.

4). New EV offerings in total helped support Plug In growth. BMW X5 Drive40e, Audi A3 E-tron, Volvo XC90, VW eGolf and Hyundai Sonata plug in all have added just under 9,000 vehicles through mid-2016. Most of these models did not exist in early 2015.

Two EV have lost significant sales base in 2016: Nissan LEAF (under 6,000 units/-41%) and BMW i3 (under 3,000 units/-36%). Nissan needs to launch the GEN 2 LEAF as soon as possible and BMW may need to adjust the value equation for its i3. At $42-50,000 the 84-110 mile EV is crossing into Tesla territory.

What can we conclude from 2016 so far:  new product with longer range is driving market growth and the impact of ‘cheap’ gasoline appears to be part of the history of 2015 Plug In EV sales. Growing charging infrastructure is building confidence in EVs and is slowly chipping away at ‘range anxiety disease’. Major public utilities commitments to building out EV charging infrastructure, especially in California and in the Pacific Northwest is a harbinger of what can be expected across the US: public/private enterprise to support EV charging station build out.

Tesla inventories are reportedly a tad high and the Detroit and Asian Automakers always run ‘end of model year’ clearance sales. Now might just be your time to get into an EV metro Atlantans!

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Tesla Model S 60 is back: A Good Value?

Tesla Model S 60 – is this the affordable long range EV before the Model III? Read here for more.

Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition

New Again Tesla Model S 60! This past week, Tesla announced the re-introduction of the Model S 60 kWh battery with a range of 210 miles and a base price of $66,000 USD. Other features include the new front end styling and headlamps introduced across the Model S line just a month earlier and the optional 75kWh upgrade to add another 39 miles of range for $8,500.00 USD and the optional Dual Motor for another $5,000.00.

Our sister company, Georgia EVentures, LLC, took delivery of one of the last Model S 60 kWh vehicles produced in March 2015, so we thought we would provide a comparison to see just how good a value the new, now 5 year old Model S 60 is compared to it’s original  60 kWh version launched in 2012.

2016 or 2015 Model S 60 – Which is the Better Value? To make the fairest possible…

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Tesla Model S 60 is back: A Good Value?

New Again Tesla Model S 60! This past week, Tesla announced the re-introduction of the Model S 60 kWh battery with a range of 210 miles and a base price of $66,000 USD. Other features include the new front end styling and headlamps introduced across the Model S line just a month earlier and the optional 75kWh upgrade to add another 39 miles of range for $8,500.00 USD and the optional Dual Motor for another $5,000.00.

Our sister company, Georgia EVentures, LLC, took delivery of one of the last Model S 60 kWh vehicles produced in March 2015, so we thought we would provide a comparison to see just how good a value the new, now 5 year old Model S 60 is compared to it’s original  60 kWh version launched in 2012.

2016 or 2015 Model S 60 – Which is the Better Value? To make the fairest possible comparison, we used the same color and trim (Blue Metallic, Grey Leather, Obeche Gloss, fixed roof, white headliner),  the same options (Autopilot, Tech Package/Premium, Air Suspension)  and 19″ base wheels. Supercharging was a $2,000 option in 2015 and standard in 2016; our 2015 Model S has both front and rear Nex Gen seats so a -$1,000 adjustment was made to account for the actual cost of the Nex Gen rear seat in the 2015.

Four factors make up the biggest components of value for the new Model S 60:

  1. Base price reduction of $3,900 (-6%) for comparable range (210 vs. 209)
  2. Inclusion of Supercharging which was a $2,000 option in early 2015.
  3. Decoupling of Autopilot and Tech Package/Convenience features saves $1,750.
  4. Future ability to unlock 15 kWh of battery/39 miles but not for $8,500-9,000 as offered today: Tesla is still struggling with how to price longer range battery packs.

Bottom line, before Federal and State Tax Credits (Georgia’s $5,000 ZEV tax credit vanished on July 1, 2015), the “New” Model S 60 is a better value at $4,000 less (-5%) than the 2015 Model S.

As they say, timing is everything. And this might just be a good time to finally purchase that Tesla Model S you’ve always wanted!

Fortunately for Georgia EVentures, the Georgia ZEV tax credit more than made up that difference, providing about $1,000 in lower cost versus the comp equipped 2016: yes timing is everything!

 

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Tesla Model 3 Vice News Story

Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition was invited to be interviewed by Matt Smith of Vice News for his story on the amazing response to the Model 3 – 325,000 pre-order deposits one week after unveil.  Here’s a link to Matt’s story with some great perspective by energy focused market research firm Navigant Research and some perspectives on the Model 3 from yours truly.

Vice News – Tesla Model 3 Is a No Brainer

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Tesla Nation: Atlanta Joins In!

Tesla Nation has officially begun! Since it’s March 31st official launch, Tesla reports over 250,000 $1,000 pre-order deposits have been made for its $35,000 base price ($42,000 well equipped said Tesla CEO Elon Musk) Model III.  While smaller, and half the price of the original Model S 60 kWh model, it delivers the same range (215 vs. 208), acceleration (0-60 in under 6 seconds) and overall driving characteristics of its larger brother! Impressive. The Model III will offer AutoPilot suite standard and Supercharger capable with Musk being a bit vague on ‘free’ vs. ‘pay as you go’. Atlanta EVDC is betting it will be free. Why? Because Musk committed to doubling  the high speed Supercharger network and quadrupling ‘destination charging’ locations by the end of 2017 (7,000 of each).

Hundreds of Atlantans lined up at the Tesla Decatur, Lenox and Marietta stores to put down their $1,000 deposits and talk with current Model S and X owners.

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Photo Credit: Michael Beinenson

Never in automotive history have that many deposits been made for a new automotive model.  Automotive dealers may order say 30,000 vehicles for a new launch across thousands of ‘dealer points’ but never before have individuals been able to accomplish this feat.Musk is also doubling the ‘store’ count to about 440 by end of next year with commensurate service centers. So Tesla is making all the right moves to get ready for the Model III.

If you missed the launch event, here’s a link to the 22 minute video – worth the watch!

Tesla Model III Launch Tesla Hawthorne CA Design Studio

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All Quiet in Georgia

With the 2016 Georgia General Assembly session coming to its close, there was no action taken on either Bill introduced to reinstate a graduated EV tax credit or to reduce the $200.00/year AFV road use fee.  As the owner/operator of 3 EVs (2014 VOLT, 2015 LEAF and 2015 Tesla) my bill from the State of Georgia for annual registrations is a whopping $768.00!  Ouch!

With EV sales continuing to slide precipitously, a glimmer of hope lies in the establishment of an EV study committee by the Georgia State Senate; I hope to participate as both an EV driver and in my role as National Sales Manager for Current Powered by GE EV charging stations. The committee may not ramp up until after the summer, so check back for updates.

Fortunately, the Federal Goverment reinstated its 30% Income Tax Credit with a $30,000 maximum per job site both retroactive to January 1, 2015 and expiring on December 31, 2016. Here’s a handy link to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, THE source for Federal, State and Local incentives information:  AFDC Federal EV Charging Infrastructure Tax Credit.

With the arrival of the 2017 Chevrolet VOLT, 2018 Chevrolet BOLT, Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model III (to be unveiled on March 31, 2016) many great new EV options with longer ranges and lower price tags will be available!

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Georgia EV Tax Credit Revived?

The electric vehicle tax credit debate simply will not go away!  Last week Georgia General Assembly House of Representatives member, Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta) and her Democrat co-sponsors introduced HB 877 GA Gen Assembly HB 877 EV & EVSE Tax Credits which provides the following:

1). Three year program with tax credit level changing at the 18 month mark and an annual $30 Million Tax Credit Cap.  Tax Credit would run from July 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019.

2). Tax Credits for EV’s with battery size of 4.0 to 10.0 kWh: $2,000 reducing to $1,000 on January 1, 2018. 10% Income Tax Credit against vehicle purchase price subject to these caps.

3). Tax Credits for EV’s with battery size >10.0 kWh: $3,000 reducing to $2,000 on January 1, 2018. 10% Income Tax Credit against vehicle purchase price subject to these caps.

4). Purchases and Leases are eligable. Ineligability for Georgia residents who were granted a tax credit ($5,000 ZEV tax credit reduced to $0 in 2015) the three prior years (2013-2015).

5). Tax Credit to business enterprises who install EV charging stations at 10% of the charger cost subject to a $2,500 cap. Defintion of business enterprise is clarified in HB200 which cleared the House in 2015 and is still with the Senate.

This legislation is substantially what was proposed under HB220 in last year’s session with the notable inclusion of the EV charging station and slightly lower caps.  Now the Bill needs a Republican co-sponsor and the best candidate is Don Parsons (R-Marietta) who chairs the House Energy Utilities and Technology Committee and is a member of the tax related committees: Appropriations and Ways and Means.

Watch this blog for updates as we did last year!  If you live in metro Atlanta and support EVs, email or call  your Georgia House Representative this coming week.

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