I’m going electric…
I’m going safely…
I’m going self driving…
I’m going Tesla!
In July I made a decision to go back to driving based on a lot of factors which I want to describe in this blog in two parts.
PART ONE: Why I decided to stop flying and renting a car and purchase a Tesla
If you don’t know this already, I work on the teeth of horses and have been doing so since 1983 when I was in vet school at Cornell in upstate New York. It is a specialized niche in the equine veterinary field that I was doing before it was identified as a niche. Actually before most veterinarians wanted to do the very physical task of manually filing off the pain causing sharp edges of the teeth so unique to horses.
In 1998 I limited my general horse practice to just performing the routine husbandry task called “floating teeth” and many people think I am good at it. After working on over 67,000 horses maybe I have developed some skills. Of course, as horse people talk, word got out about me and over the years I have developed a large following that takes me from my home in Florida to all over New England, the east coast, central US and the north west state of Washington. I have become a LIFETIME Platinum Premier member of the Marriott hotel (over 2000 nights).
In the early days I drove up and down the east coast between FL and NY every month working on farms and race tracks. My patients have ranged from Kentucky Derby winners to back yard ponies owned by little girls with freckles and pigtails and everything in between. I graduated from driving to flying in 2000 and flew on September 9, 2001. Two days later the airline industry changed forever and by 2003 I had enough of the cattle hauling ways the airlines developed and went back to driving.
I purchased a GMC pick up truck with quadrasteer that turned the rear wheels with the front wheels. It was a brilliant concept that should have remained in the line up but because of infighting, it was scrapped forever. In 2007 I bought my first diesel pickup – a GMC 2500HD four door 8 foot bed. This was a monster of a truck that carried me safely for 519,000 miles without a hitch. But in 2015 I parked it and went back to flying everywhere. As I write this I sit in the Houston airport waiting for my morning flight to Seattle.
I don’t like flying. Not the actual flight because I think it is safe and for me, fun. I just don’t like the non-horse people and the process the industry puts me through. I am assumed guilty until I am scanned and prove to them I’m not a terrorist. Flying saves a lot of time though. Days are shrunk to hours and it has proven its efficiency most of the time. Delays are accepted as they are few and the bags have been lost only once. But I am left with a feeling of not being free and that, to most horsemen, is not a good feeling.
Then there is the car rental. They are expensive. They need to be clean when returned (mud on the farm is inevitable). A cracked windshield from a flying rock is another $200 as it falls below the deductible. Different driving controls every time and they are usually cars which is hard for a truck driver like me. And I am a truck driver who has logged a lot of miles in 18 wheeled tractor trailers hauling horses for a living to get through vet school. Mack, Freightliner, Peterbuilt – I have driven them all with 5, 10, 13, and 18 speed transmissions. Tucker The Trucker was my nickname and my CB handle was the Buckaroo. “That’s a big 10-4 good buddy.”
In June I was rented as an upgrade a brand new Chevy Suburban with autocorrecting steering. WOW! I became hooked when the vehicle corrected my drift out of the lane and back into the center. I tested it by letting it cross a very long two lane bridge by itself and it performed perfectly even steering into the curve at the end of the bridge – until it screamed at me to regrip the wheel.
Most of you who know me know that I am a computer geek. Since 1969 I have been working with computers and have purchased every new computer development from amber screened IBM with DOS to Windows 95 to Mac computers and iPhones. This Suburban smart car hooked my interest and I couldn’t let go. I decided to sell my truck, now 18 months in the garage, and purchase a brand new GMC diesel pick up with all the latest safety innovations including auto steer. And this is when I found Tesla.
PART TWO: Why I am buying a Tesla X Model
I love diesel because it is powerful, long lasting, reliable, and very clean burning. But then so is electric. Being a big fan of trains, I have been aware of the diesel – electric locomotives (the original hybrid vehicles) as well as the totally electric trains used within cities (trollies and subways). Electric motors are very cool for so many reasons such as no gears, instant torque and few moving parts. Now the battery technology has come along to the point that it can supply power to these motors for a reasonable amount of time (or miles). So I looked into all sorts of hybrids and fully electric vehicles. The Tesla stood out for 2 great reasons. First the owner is an amazing man (Elon Musk) with a team and a vision that is attractive to anyone looking for a leader in this field. Second is an incredible warranty of unlimited miles on their motor and battery (or 8 years). Quite a statement. Add to this that every Tesla owner I have talked to has loved their vehicle and service. Some Teslas have even been driven over 200,000 miles. My plan is for more.
I analyzed the cost which is basically the purchase of the vehicle. They also recommend about $2900 of service every 50,000 miles (a year for me). Plus new tires. But no lube, oil and filters, or DEF for diesels, or diesel fuel. With a special code I am receiving unlimited FREE charges on the road at their extensive and growing network of superchargers. A full charge there can be achieved in 1 ¼ hours, but 80% charge can be achieved in about 20 minutes. A full charge lasts about 295 miles while the superchargers are spaced about 235 miles apart.
My analysis looked at the cost of flying and renting as well as the cost of vehicle operation for the miles I drive and the cost is about even between what I am spending for traveling now and the annual cost of the Tesla. Add to this the 5 star safety rating the X model has attained which is the ONLY 5 star SUV made today. This is due to the low center of gravity (the battery makes up the floor of the vehicle), the extensive front crumple zone (no engine), the sturdy construction and the 8 cameras, 12 sensors and forward facing radar that keeps the vehicle out of trouble. The self driving technology is more advanced than any other car manufacturer with full autonomous driving built in but not allowed by the states – yet.
The only down side I see is the restructuring of my day to driving around charging sites and increasing my stop times to allow for full charging. But I will always have my computer for blogging then and for adding to TheHorsesAdvocate.com website.
I’ll be back later with more details, but I have some questions that I won’t be able to answer until I actually drive the Tesla. How long will it take to actually charge fully? How will outdoor temperature, elevation, cross or head winds, and heavy loads (passengers) affect range? How much battery degradation will occur over time? So this may be an expensive flop of an experiment. I can see it, “Sorry but I’ll be an hour late due to a needed charging.” And I don’t want to start talking about the added complexity of scheduling. Yet I am very excited about the new vehicle being delivered in September. Stay tuned for updates!