Ok I promise I’m actually going to tell you which electric vehicle (EV) we bought in this post! (Unlike the last teaser post haha!)
As a reminder, or for those who haven’t been following the blog regularly, we’ve now owned a Nissan Leaf for 4.5 years and an electric cargo bike (Xtracycle Edgerunner) for 3 years, and just recently took the last step to becoming an “EV-only” family by replacing a 2011 Subaru Forester. In this post I’ll share what we bought, and some of the reasons for our choice. Drum roll please….
If you hadn’t guessed correctly yet (and some of you did, even noticing a recent change in my PlugShare profile when I signed into a charger haha), we bought a Tesla Model 3!
“Wait Andrew, didn’t you say this was to replace your Subaru Forester?”
“But, umm, it’s a sedan… with normal clearance…”
Yep to that too! More later. Let’s start with “Why Tesla”, then move into more specifics. (First off, if you are wondering why a new EV in the first place, go back to the 4.5 year cost post and read the bullets starting just below the graph – and I’ll add that commuting another 3 – 6 years in the Forester would have added about 21 – 42 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere in combusting 9,000 – 18,000 L of fuel.)
There are quite a number of reasons that we chose to buy a Tesla as our next EV. Listed roughly in order:
- Tesla is the only company 100% dedicated to producing EVs (at least in North America, NIO recently started up in China and is doing well so far). They are not trying to protect their other petrol version cars by releasing EVs with odd choices (e.g. no power seats on Leaf and Bolt, weird doors on the BMW i3, no cargo room in the Toyota Prius PRIME, no AWD on the Hyundai Kona EV even though the gas car has it…). Their sole goal is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation” – they are consistent in all of their messaging in this regard, and I feel they absolutely mean it! And it is driven from the top, by their CEO, Elon Musk: check out this segment from about 1:30 to about 3:25. Also take a look at their “Secret Master Plan” and “Master Plan Part Deux” – as the name implies, these are the master plans for Tesla… and they have now finished delivering on the first one!
- Tesla is the only viable 100% vehicle replacement (for now). Take a look at this map of Superchargers (their version of direct current fast chargers, DCFC)… now note that they have at a minimum 4 stalls at each location, and in busy areas, up to 20 or even 30! Contrast this to the current situation world-wide right now, where the norm is to have one DCFC unit at a location, maybe 2 if you are lucky… now note that Superchargers are capable of 120 kW vs typical DCFC of 47 kW. The difference in the charging experience right now is a huge gulf (both in terms of speed and reliability – check Plugshare… it is a mixed bag for DCFC right now, but 10’s across the board for Superchargers), but one that will be crossed sometime in the next several years, depending on where you live. But if you want a no-compromises road-trip capable car now, Tesla is really your only bet. (We did take our Leaf to the coast a few years ago, and a few different people have driven EVs clear across Canada – or Bolted! – you just need to allow for a more leisurely pace.)
- Tesla vehicles score the highest on safety out of any vehicles on the road right now. The most dangerous thing I do is commute to work each day on the highway, so this was a big consideration – if they scored poorly, I wouldn’t have bought one, no matter how cool they were otherwise (incidentally, the Leaf does score poorly on the relatively new IIHS Small Overlap test… one of the reasons I wanted to retire it from the highway).
- They treat EVs as part of a larger ecosystem; they do the obvious design & manufacture of the cars, but they do so in a way that works well with the rest of their system, which includes: direct sales and service (no dealer salespeople hassling you), over-the-air (OTA) software updates (yes, your can get better over time rather than slide into obsolescence), the aforementioned Supercharger network, Powerwall home battery systems, and solar panels (or solar tiles) for your roof!
- With the success of Model 3, I now feel that Tesla will be a going concern for the foreseeable future. This makes me more confident in buying one of their cars, knowing that it will be supported as long as I own it.
Why the Model 3 Specifically?
I actually started my search for a 2nd EV in early 2018 thinking I would buy either a Kia Niro EV or an Audi e-tron quattro. I’ve been watching Tesla since the days when they were trying to get the Roadster production going (almost 10 years now), so I’ve been pretty interested in the Model S for some time now; the problem had always been price – if I recall correctly, the cheapest price for a Model S was around $80 – 85k, back when the $CDN was almost at par with the USD. So when the Model 3 was announced in March 2016, I was pretty excited… until I learned it was a sedan (i.e. has a trunk)… I’ve owned only exactly 1 car with a trunk and didn’t like it – everything else has been a hatchback or wagon.
So I wrote off the idea of a 3 and started paying attention to other brands. As noted above, I had narrowed the search down earlier this year to the Niro EV and forthcoming e-tron quattro. The latter especially was pretty exciting, as it was near a perfect drop-in replacement for our 2011 Subaru Forester (e.g. size/cargo, AWD, clearance, etc). But then the price was announced for the Audi – $90k! Way out of my league 😐
Concurrently I had been researching the Niro EV – I looked at the hybrid version a number of times, comparing its size and comfort to that of our Leaf. It beats the Leaf on basically all counts – more seating room, power seats, similar cargo space… but it suffered from a few major caveats:
- Both Kia and Hyundai have only been making “compliance cars” thus far – meaning that they produce EVs in just sufficient quantities to satisfy the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rules that mandate a certain amount of ZEV credits be either earned by selling qualifying EVs and PHEVs, or by buying excess credits from other manufacturers. Quantities for the Niro (and Kona) have been announced, and they are essentially still compliance cars, with no serious effort to build up production in sight. This may mean support headaches down the road, and a long wait list to even get one (especially if you are outside of any CARB jurisdictions, which by the way, Quebec is now a de facto part of with their ZEV mandate).
- While the Niro is capable of a slightly faster charging speed then the Leaf (up to 70 kW instead of 47 kW), there aren’t any chargers in BC that are capable of delivering that rate yet. And it is still ultimately slower than any Tesla on a road-trip, even accounting for differences in driving efficiency (e.g. it is more efficient than the Model S, but total road-trip time is still better for the S).
- Couple the above with the relative dearth of DCFC charging/availability at this point, and any Tesla is a sure winner for road trips.
I really wanted a vehicle that would largely replace the Forester and still serve well as my daily commuter. After distilling our use cases that needed to be filled (after accounting for what the Leaf can already do: local commuting, “utility/dirty” jobs, mountain bike shuttle up Giveout Creek FSR), we were left with long daily commuting, road trips (skiing, BMX/MTB trips, ‘regular’ road trips), launching/retrieving our sailboat, and farther away trips to rougher forest service roads (FSR). I put together a scoring matrix, with weighting on how often we do different things and availability of alternatives, and ranked the Niro EV, e-tron quattro, used Model S, and Model 3.
The e-tron quattro scored highest everywhere except for road trips, where the charging network and speed meant the Model S won (it also hauls more cargo than the Audi believe it or not!). But since money has to be part of the consideration, I took a closer look at alternatives and added money into the weighting (Model 3 will pay for itself over about 5 – 6 years instead of keeping the Forester and commuting in it). After all this, the Model 3 came out on top!
Back to my earlier comment on “sedan” and “normal clearance”, plus elaboration on the use cases:
- Model 3 (long range) won anyways for local commuting; at a minimum it can do my round-trip twice to work and back for several years to come (this is helpful to stagger availability of our one charger between two cars – and we can’t install a second one) – none of the other cars could do this; and it is the cheapest to operate to boot (most efficient).
- The big “ah ha” moment was when I started looking into road trips. The primary concern here with a family of 4 and lots of outdoor gear was cargo space availability – so it needs to be able to have a rack for a roof box (Model 3 checkmark) and a hitch for the bike rack (check again), plus sufficient cargo room in the vehicle itself – hmmm, a sedan? Well, we had taken the Leaf on a few road trips already, and while it was a tight squeeze, we had managed. The Model 3 was rated for lower cargo room then the Leaf though, which would be a problem unless you put on a huge roof box. BUT, when I dug into it after seeing a Model 3 locally (thanks Mike!) and thinking the trunk looked at least as big, it turns out that Nissan has been over-reporting the cargo capacity of the Leaf badly in North America for years! The reported value is 660 L, and the actual measured value is closer to 375 L! Big discrepancy, and explains why the hatch of the Leaf looked so similar to the Bolt when I compared it in 2016 (at the time, I thought GM had under-reported capacity of about 375 L…) For comparison, our Forester has 770 L and has been full on previous bike + camping trips. Tesla reports the Model 3 at 340 L for the trunk only – actual measurements show it to be closer to 450 L, and once you add in the “hidden” storage (under the rear trunk floor 80L, plus frunk 85L, plus another 50-75L for soft fluffy stuff like pillows/sleeping bags on the rear glass parcel shelf) you are closer to 650 – 700 L! If we buy a bit bigger roof box than we own already (a Yakima Rocketbox 11), we could have “dry” cargo capacity similar to the Forester. Now add in the much better efficiency of a Model 3 over an S and it will have faster road-trip times even!
- Launching/retrieving sailboat – well, we only do this twice per year, since our boat lives on a mooring. We plan to rent or borrow a friend’s truck… but I’m betting our Model 3 will work fine, since it has more than enough power (335 hp, 300 ft-lb torque) and is rear-wheel drive. I included the cost of renting in my economics calculation.
- Further away FSR trips – actually most FSRs are relatively well maintained, so I’d entertain the idea of bringing the Model 3 on a gravel road (e.g. to head into Lussier Hot Springs in the east Kootenays) – but we can also rent a vehicle for that, and we are only doing this on average once per year at this point in our lives (with majority of the kid & family activities we do now, we are largely paved road warriors).
Following on the hitch note above – you could easily tow a small utility trailer (like this sweet Go Easy) and negate any cargo capacity advantage the Forester had. I’m actually looking forward to renting/borrowing a 13′ Boler or 15′ Escape and giving glamping a try! The 3 should tow it no problemo 🙂
So in a very long-winded fashion, that’s why we bought a Model 3!
Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post – here’s a sweet picture of a Hotwheels Model S that my family painted blue and gave me for Christmas (thinking my car wouldn’t get here by Christmas lol)!
Oh yeah, this is exactly what we bought:
Tesla Model 3 (deep blue metallic), Long Range Rear Wheel Drive, Black Premium Interior, 18″ aero wheels
If after all this you are swayed to buy a Tesla, please consider using my store referral link to order: https://ts.la/andrew71174, or give the code “andrew71174” to your Sales Advisor during your purchase. Generally you will get some kind of benefit.
And lastly, here’s a gallery with some images from the first week of ownership:
Lots more to come as I get to the know the car, test various features and put it through more paces than a typical owner would do!