Confessions of an EV/Tesla Fanboy: Who’s Dumber, Me or My Tesla?

I’m a huge EV fanboy and have been driving electric cars now for 8 years. I also have solar panels on my house, so I can brag that I’m driving on sunshine. I owned three Nissan Leafs, with ranges of 81 miles, 115 miles, and 150 miles. My first Nissan Leaf had a 24 kWh battery. I now own a Tesla Model 3 Long Range with an EPA range rating of 310 miles and a 75 kWh battery. It has 93,112 miles on the odometer. The longest trip I dared to make with my 3rd Nissan Leaf was 265 miles. However, I now routinely make 1500-mile cross-country trips with my Model 3, driving 500 miles/day just like I did with my gasmobile.

My newly repaired Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla Service Center in Pleasant Grove, Utah. April 5, 2023. Photo by Fritz Hasler

I paid $6000 extra for Full Self Driving (FSD) when I purchased my Model 3 in October of 2019.

To buy FSD (beta) now costs $12,000. I used FSD obsessively when I first got access several months ago, but I exceeded the limit of 5 forced disengagements and lost access twice. I now only use FSD for short local trips where it is of most utility. I concentrate on supervising its use without as many distractions as come up on longer trips — like navigation changes, eating, selecting music, etc. I’ve had no forced disengagements in the last 3 months.

Until a month ago, I could brag that I had driven my Tesla for ~80,000 miles, frequently using Full Self Driving (beta) and never had an accident.

Using Tesla’s Traffic Aware Cruise Control, I observe that my Tesla slows down for slower moving cars and automatically stops behind the car in front of me at stop lights. I also have access to automatic stopping at stoplights and stop signs. This feature does a very nice job except for stopping ~30 feet too early at some stop signs. However, I’ve also read how Teslas have plowed into the back of stationary firetrucks and emergency vehicles at full speed where the Traffic Aware Cruise Control never tried to stop the car. How could both scenarios be true? I have also observed that sometimes when I manually cross the double yellow line in the middle of the road to avoid a pothole or other obstruction, I get a loud alarm warning and red flashing steering wheel on the touchscreen and I am warned to take immediate corrective action.

Here comes the part where I was stupid. I usually drive with my right foot resting lightly on the accelerator. Full Self Driving (beta) and even regular Traffic Aware Cruise Control will occasionally do what we call phantom braking. I try to be always prepared to add some acceleration so that I am not rear-ended by a car following me. Also, Full Self Driving (beta) is frequently too timid at stop signs and I have to encourage it with a little accelerator pressure to merge safely into traffic on a busy crossing street. This accounts for my right foot habitually resting lightly on the accelerator.

Critical moment: Traffic Aware Cruise Control stopped my car automatically behind a car at a stoplight. While I was waiting for the light to turn green, I had a brain fart and was distracted. With my slight pressure on the accelerator I drove into the back of the car in front of me at, say, 3 mph. Fortunately, the car in front of me was a big SUV and I did no damage to it. Unfortunately, 3 mph was too fast for the front facia on my Tesla Model 3. Years ago, cars actually had bumpers that would survive a 3 mph collision. Pickup trucks still have sturdy bumpers. If you wonder why Tesla calls the bumpers on the front and rear of the car facia and not bumpers, this is the reason. They are just made of plastic and will be damaged by the slightest contact with an object or another vehicle. From the crash, I had a small dimple in my front facia and a few scratches in the paint down to the underlying layers.

Question? With all the cameras in my car, the supercomputer, the ultrasonic sensors in my front facia, and Tesla’s smart software, why did I get no warning? The same warning I get when crossing the yellow lines in the middle of the road would have been plenty for me to hit the brakes and avoid the collision.

The small dimple and slight scratches in my front facia were minor enough that I would have ignored it if my car wasn’t such a new (3 years old) beautiful car. Tesla will not do most body work at their service centers. However, they will replace the front and rear facia in the case of minor damage. Therefore, I took my car into the Pleasant Grove Tesla Service Center only 4 miles from my house in Lindon, Utah. The estimate was $950 for a new factory-painted front facia plus another ~$150 for labor. I have had paint peel off repainted bumpers in the past, so you can understand the appeal of factory paint to me. Unfortunately, I had damaged the bracket that holds the radar in place, which cost me another ~$227.55. My complaint that I have read numerous reports that the radar sensor is no longer used fell on deaf ears, so my total bill was $1498.78 including tax.

In the picture at the top, you see my beautifully repaired Tesla Model 3 in front of the Pleasant Grove Tesla Service Center where the replacement of the front facia was done. This service center opened around the first of the year. The great part is I am only 4 miles from the new service center and no longer have to drive to the Salt Lake City Service Center, which is 37 miles away. Unfortunately, during our summers in Northern Wisconsin, the nearest service center is in Madison 224 miles and 3.5 hours away. Fortunately, we have relatives there who we can visit if we need to go there for service.

If you look closely at the picture at the top, you can see it is snowing. We have had snow here in the valley now for 7 days straight. The Alta ski resort is at 880 inches of snow for the season. One more storm will take it over 900 inches. The previous all-time record in the last 80 years was 745 inches in 1995. The climate is changing, and as predicted, more global warming means more precipitation, including more snow.

The fortunate part is that the front of my white Tesla Model 3 has no paint chips and now looks beautiful again, so my Tesla adventure continues.

This experience brings up another question? When parking, the ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear facia tell me the distance to objects and warn me to stop at the appropriate time. Why don’t I get automatic braking or at least an audible warning? I have only tried the Smart Summon and Automatic Parking features once each. Perhaps if I would routinely do autoparking in parking lots, I would get some assistance.

Please tell me your stories of your minor “fender-benders” or major body work on your Teslas in the comments section below.


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