September 30, 2021: 7 Years Forward

This is Big Blue in 2049 as I step into the California wildfire haze covering San Francisco.

It's been an amazing 7 years so far since I took delivery. My aging Model S is still a thrill to drive and while the thought of trading to a newer one (with all the bleeding edge technology and future capabilities) is tempting, I'd rather put my money to use elsewhere for now. That said, here are some major notables as I look back at the past year and more...


Right now the odometer sits at 131,152 miles running software version 2021.32.21. In reflecting upon the last 7 years of ownership, the first thing that comes to mind are recent maintenance costs. I've had several out-of-pocket events in 2020 and 2021 that were both expected and not. Here's the breakdown:

Item Date Cost (incl. taxes) Notes
Front brakes,
coil spring assembly
03/04/2020 $1,989.81 An unexpected cost. Tesla likes to emphasize the reduced brake wear if you rely on regen for most of your braking. Back in March 2020 I took the car in to get some brake pulsing checked out as it was noticeable when decelerating around 20 - 30 mph (more obvious on a declining slope). The driver's side coil spring assembly apparently had a leak in addition to sufficient rotor wear enough to warrant a replacement.
MCU2 upgrade 09/04/2020 $2,731.25 Included a new instrument cluster panel that's compatible with the new MCU design (the previous IC unit was starting to bubble at the edges so the upgrade solved that nicely), although it cost me a pretty penny. But that resulted in much more frequent software updates even if most of them are relatively superficial for my vehicle hardware.
12V battery 09/12/2020 $223.50

(plus $505 towing)

While the (sort of) original 12V battery lasted me 6 years which I got replaced a year ago, the towing costs in 2021 related to the subsequent first and second 12V battery failures this year added up to about $505 across two tows (I didn't have AAA and also decided to not use my insurance for this ... I've since signed up for AAA just in case).
Motor swap 03/20/2021 $0 The infamous Tesla milling noise reared its ugly head for the second time in March this year. This was completely unexpected as I thought this issue was completely solved in the refurbished units years ago. Thankfully I was still covered by warranty.
Tires 09/30/2021 $1,382.80 My last set of my daily-driver tires was purchased in April of 2018 at 82,660 miles on the odometer and finally got swapped out after a little over 37k miles on them (factoring in the few months I changed them out for my gray set of Turbines and then the few weeks I put on my Silver ones). I realistically could've kept a pair since only the rears were worn down but decided to start on a fresh set.

This place has become rather familiar. At least today it was just an innocent tire change...

...which is much less of a hassle than being towed here.

2020 and 2021 hasn't been a hassle-free year.

What's that Elon? Electric cars are super low maintenance or something?

TSLA to the moon

I've lucked out as a shareholder. Looking back at the last 5 years:

That seems to be the start of a hockey stick. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

I've been fortunate in holding onto my (relatively few) TSLA shares that I purchased back in 2015 on a whim and watched the meteoric appreciation in 2020 while TSLA joined the S&P 500. That's about a 60% annualized rate of return and I intend to HODL for quite a few more years. I only wish I had bought more back then as it could've been retirement money. But alas, I was too short-sighted and bought a Model S instead. Worth it though. Recommended. Would buy again.

I'm normally not an advocate for individual positions if you're investing long-term in the stock market (I like broad-based index funds myself), but TSLA is an exception. Which brings me to...

AI Day

Artificial Intelligence. Machine Learning. In my industry these buzzwords are over-hyped and over-marketed while adding little substance to the product/service, but Tesla seems to be much, much more serious about it.

During the AI Day presentation it became immediately obvious that legacy auto manufacturers are way behind. It's just beyond stupid how far ahead Tesla is innovating while everyone else is still thinking in terms of 20th century vehicle manufacturing.

If/when Tesla ends up with a bunch of unstoppable Borg ExoPOD cubes of efficient compute power to drive AI and real-world/real-time learning ... it's no contest. Game over. They've already won.

Software Updates

Prior to my MCU upgrade last year, software updates were sporadic. Tesla obviously wasn't spending much on development effort for old APv1 vehicles anymore. After getting MCU2 the rate of incoming updates shot up dramatically and I briefly went over this back in February. Here's a more complete list:

Date Software Version Odometer
2020-09-04 10.2 (2020.32.3) 120,948
2020-09-17 10.2 (2020.36.3.1) 121,845
2020-09-18 10.2 (2020.36.11) 121,845
2020-10-13 10.2 (2020.40.4) 122,807
2020-11-10 10.2 (2020.44.10) 123,000 (estimated)
2020-12-09 10.2 (2020.48.10) 123,500 (estimated)
2020-12-20 10.2 (2020.48.12.1) 123,800 (estimated)
2020-12-27 10.2 (2020.48.26) 124,000 (estimated)
2021-01-04 10.2 (2020.48.30) 124,028
2021-01-22 10.2 (2020.48.35.5) 124,220
2021-02-14 10.2 (2021.4.3) 124,626
2021-02-19 10.2 (2021.4.6) 124,650 (estimated)
2021-03-03 10.2 (2021.4.11) 124,919
2021-03-16 10.2 (2021.4.12) 125,198
2021-04-14 10.2 (2021.4.15) 125,665
2021-05-12 10.2 (2021.4.17) 126,090
2021-05-19 10.2 (2021.4.18) 126,346
2021-06-18 10.2 (2021.4.18.2) 127,304
2021-07-31 10.2 (2021.12.25.7) 128,752
2021-08-17 10.2 (2021.24.3) 129,380
2021-08-23 10.2 (2021.24.4) 129,668
2021-09-03 10.2 (2021.24.5) 130,085
2021-09-16 10.2 (2021.32.10) 130,783
2021-09-23 10.2 (2021.32.20.1) 130,992
2021-09-27 10.2 (2021.32.21) 131,110

That's 25 incremental updates to the vehicle package in the last year, although none of them were earth-shattering for me since I don't have APv2+ hardware that can leverage the new code, but at least I got Sky Force. Not that I really even play video games in the car, but it's fun to have anyway. A clip from the Tesla Software Updates channel (not affiliated with Tesla):

Unfortunately I can't ride along the FSD journey so I'll have to live vicariously through other owners YouTube channels. With jealousy.

Supercharging Speeds

A couple of months ago I did some sampling of what the charging speed(s) were like at various Superchargers and the results turned out disappointing. I decided to jot a few more numbers down and the speeds turned out better, but nothing compared to what a new Model 3 or Y will give you. This is where I'll wave the yes-but-I'm-grandfathered-into-free-Supercharging-for-life flag, but truth be told time is money and the less I spend it at a Supercharger stall the more productive I can be in life. Fortunately I often shop at Target and many of them near me are also Supercharging stations so it works out.

Date Location (California) Max Rate Ambient 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
2021-07-16 Fremont Auto Mall 250 kW 65 F * 68 63 61 53 45 39 31 13
2021-07-18 Fremont Auto Mall 250 kW 76 F 92 74 71 66 56 46 40 31 16
2021-07-24 Fremont factory 150 kW 85 F 111 86 73 61 52 45 39 31 14
2021-07-29 Fremont Auto Mall 250 kW 73 F 113 84 77 68 56 47 40 32 18
2021-08-01 San Carlos 72 kW 82 F 71 ? 69 65 54 45 39 ? 12
2021-08-06 Mountain View 150 kW 63 F 88 76 73 67 55 46 39 31 13
2021-08-09 Fremont factory 250 kW 89 F 108 81 75 66 53 45 39 ? ?
2021-08-21 Hillsdale Boulevard 250 kW 62 F 115 84 76 67 57 47 40 32 18

There were a couple of times where I missed the reading since I was distracted by [ YouTube || my phone || etc. ] but when compared to the Model Y charging speeds that I saw when I Turo'd one, it was clear how old my technology is (and/or how much Tesla software-throttled my car). Note that the above numbers are subject to differences in real-world dynamics on variables such as battery pack temp prep prior to charging, shared stalls, ambient temperature, the various moods of software versions, whether SpaceX was successful in its latest flight, etc.

While the initial charging speeds vary somewhat wildly when the battery's at a very low state of charge, as the charge level goes beyond 30% the rates settle in consistency. And what certainly is consistent is that trying to drip in the last few electrons between 80 - 90% is painfully slow and is nothing but self-punishment ... unless you're playing Sky Force, in which case you might as well charge to 100%.

Battery Degradation

The original 2014 spec of the car's rated ("real-world) range is 265 miles, and when I spot-checked a year or two ago the estimated range readings implied an 8% degradation. I recently attempted to do a 100% charge at a Supercharger and saw roughly 240 miles of range at 99.x% SoC. I say "roughly" because once you're past the 90% SoC mark the Battery Management System starts spitting out estimates in Elon Time. At 90% the system claims an estimated remaining time of about 20 more minutes ... a total lie that'll make any politician blush. The BMS is just pulling numbers out of a hat. I waited over an hour while the charge rate trickled down to 2 - 3 kW while promising "just another 3 minutes." And yet another 15 minutes later, it was promising "just another 2 minutes."

It might as well have just said, "Two weeks."

I dared myself to wait it out until I saw Charging Completed displayed while watching yet another YouTube video. My patience wore thin and eventually decided there's a life to live and I need to get on with it since FSD will likely be available to everyone before I reach 100%. So we'll just say degradation is currently around 9 - 10% and leave it at that.

Newer/Shinier Envy

I recently took the Model Y Performance for an all-day spin. It's hard to describe how much that car will deflate the ego of any older Model S. And speaking of Model S, there are plenty of YouTube entertainment for the Plaid:

Your move, Porsche.

PPF Replacement

Paint protection film is generally expected to last 5 - 10 years before needing to be replaced, depending on how well it's cared for and the abuse it faces on the road. Big Blue is the first car I had PPF applied to so I have no other reference point to compare against, but I'd say the film is holding up well and it's possible no section of factory clear over the blue paint has been compromised after all these years. Was definitely worth the cost to wrap the entire vehicle.

The piece of film that's wrapped on my hood has been a bit hazy for the last couple of years although it's probably not immediately noticeable for most people's eyes unless they're looking for it. For this reason alone I've been pondering whether I should get new film put on sooner than later. That said a new whole-car job would be in the $5,000 vicinity and I'd also likely opt for a coating job to make washing easier and that'll add say another $1,000 to it.

Due to the pandemic I've hardly put on any miles in the last couple of years (at least relative to the years prior) and didn't even get the car in for the annual professional detail for 2020 or 2021. I'll probably schedule one later this year or early next year though and review my options then.

Phone App Update

Finally, the iOS and Android apps got a facelift at the end of last month with an animated charging cable pulsing with green electricity ... although they got the color of my car wrong. I guess the old factory colors weren't loaded into the app's palette. That said, I wouldn't mind being able to get my car to become Deep Blue Metallic.

Also interesting is that the vehicle avatar renders the side cameras which mine doesn't have. And where's my sunroof and classic rear diffuser, Elon? I guess the app designers didn't get the 3D models for the older-generation design so the visuals get me an upgraded treatment in the virtual world.

In addition to getting access to the Tesla store, there's also a History section (under Account > Charging > History) that lets you see previous Supercharging sessions and the amount of payment for each session, although the specifics of how many kWh and how long the charge took isn't noted. The data for my actual charging history going back to 2014 isn't available yet, even though the menu placeholders are there.

Speaking of colors, I was at the Fremont factory the other day and happened to come across a rare Green Metallic Model S, possibly pre-Autopilot (doesn't look like there's a camera in the windshield and if I recall the instrument cluster bezel was of the thicker variety). I briefly considered this color over Blue Metallic during my original order submission. The Green and Brown colors were the least popular if I recall and they were the first to be removed as Design Studio options, but I tend to see Brown more often on the road than Green.

Saw this one earlier in the year at the Fremont Service Center.

Thoughts Moving Forward

Amidst all the newer models which are more efficient/faster/more features/FSD/better street cred/etc. I still thoroughly enjoy what I have now and will continue to drive it for the foreseeable future. It's smooth, relatively silent, is somewhat future-proofed with the MCU2 upgrade, and I still have free Supercharging for life (at the cost of slower charging speeds) which makes keeping Big Blue a no-brainer. No (noticeable) dents either. The PPF was well worth it.

My main worries are potential catastrophic failures with the motor or battery in the coming years. If my main pack completely dies, I may consider having Gruber Motor look it over rather than pay for a replacement pack directly from Tesla unless they bring the price down significantly since my warranty expires next year.

There's been chatter about Tesla eventually opening up the Supercharger network to non-Tesla vehicles. My experience with non-tesla public charging stations has been minimal but in general has been pretty disappointing in regards to ease of use and reliability. ChargePoints seem relatively primitive and there's quite a price variance from place to place. Tesla really got the experience right since everything's encapsulated in their ecosystem with an account, a credit card on file, and the simplicity and plug-and-play. It's also rare to encounter a stall that's out-of-order. I'm all for EV adoption in general so I'm fine with seeing a Mach-E or Polestar charging next to me, but as a frequent Supercharger user I'm sure I'll end up waiting longer for a stall to open in some locations.

Software updates are still a thing, the phone app keeps evolving, and the Tesla ecosystem is thriving and continues to expand. The chance I took on Tesla as a new car company all those years ago has paid off in both the long-term driving experience as well as the financial side with the stock price rocketing upwards. Tesla's no longer teetering on the edge of bankruptcy but rather solidly positioned in the vehicle, software, energy, and AI businesses. As far as I'm concerned, they've become unstoppable.

I live in a privileged part of the world where there are Teslas everywhere. It's a rarity to see a Model S in my old blue color so at least I have that going for me. Sure, I'm out-performed and out-classed by every other Model S/3/X/Y on the road now, but if I can set it to Chill mode and not notice much difference I'll be just fine with my aging relic. Plus I have an actual sunroof and two sets of performance wheels and summer tires to keep me happy. I'm living the dream.

Here's to 7 more years...