When you're writing about electric vehicles (EV), or anything for that matter, it kinda pays to do just a bit of homework. Case in point: Neil Winton, writing for Forbes magazine, put out an article about the death of EV. No where does he mention Tesla's just-announced battery factory (see the article below), much less Tesla Motors, the car company, and the good things they're bringing to life. Shame on Mr. Winton. Reader beware!
Today I got an invitation to the two parties in Tokyo celebrating the delivery of the first Model Ss to Japan. Drum roll, please! Model Ss start to roll into the country on ... Wait for it ... September 8th!
Bummer! I'll be away that day, so I cannot attend. But I will be watching and reading news and recording some usual outlets to watch later.
I'm so excited! Some here have waited 3 years for the day to come. Film at eleven!
Well, I pulled the trigger. I've ordered a new car for the next phase of my life: a Tesla Model S P85+. The homepage makes it easy to choose options and imagine how the features will look. I did need to do some reading on others' thoughts on the seat covers and the plus package. The seat covers were the hardest choice. I'm lucky I wanted black because that was the only color choice for the cloth covers. After seeing the samples up close when I went to Osaka, I decided on the red multicoat. That red (and the pearl-white) has tiny specks of blue, green, and other colors. From what I understand, it's the color Tesla worked the most on.
I'll leave this post to stand on its own...
On Sunday, I went back to the local Porsche dealer. The week before, the test drive cars were away in Omura, Nagasaki for an event. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my dream car has been a Porsche 911, but after seeing the latest models, I preferred the Cayman. The folks at the Porsche dealer, run by Adel Cars in Kumamoto were kind enough to let me take the car above for a very generous test drive.
The car is started by a special key, and immediately you can hear that awesome Porsche tuning and power. The dealer is more towards the southwest of the city, so they use the road heading down to the port (a nice, long straight road). The car is all automatic; although you can simulate shifting with the gear selector. I'm told the automatic function is faster than a manual transmission, and from the smooth shifting in the car I drove, I can take no issue with that.
The car is a breeze to drive—the shifting is smooth, the steering is tight, and the braking is solid. I had a clear route several times on the way to the port and back, so I was able to step out a bit, as it were. I had a fantastic impression from the car. Even though the engine was right behind me (it's mounted midship), it was not noisy. However, there is no comparison to the quiet of the Model S. I did not test the sound of the audio system, so I'm not sure if there is an auto adjustment according to the sound of the engine. All in all, the car was a blast to drive.
If I had no knowledge of the Model S, I would have chosen the Cayman. After comparing the two, I prefer the Model S P85+. The Cayman's small navigation system screen, lack of storage space, missing wifi connection, 6-10 kilometers per liter in gasoline (the high-octane variety!) and, at a minimum, ¥80,000 in annual maintenance costs were deal-breakers for me. Plus, there are thousands of Porsches on the road here. I want to be a kind of pioneer for electric cars and support the burgeoning infrastructure supplying electric energy for transportation. A full Model S P85+ charge using the night rate is around ¥1,000. A full tank of gasoline for the Cayman (60 liters) is around ¥10,000. The choice became easy for me.
On the other hand, the local Porsche dealer will have full service in case of problems. Tesla will need to work hard to get its service out to the country. I was told orders for Model Ss have come from Hokkaido to Okinawa and all points between. A lot will be riding on sales of the Model S in Japan.
I'd like to thank Ms. Ideta for taking care of my wife and me for around two hours two weeks ago. We had the run of the shop since we were the only ones there. Mr. Nakahara, the manager of the Porsche dealer, took care of us on Sunday. He was very friendly and allowed me to put the Cayman through its paces for that drive down to the port. Thank you, Mr. Nakahara. If anyone in the area is interested in a Porsche, please go to the Porsche Center in Kumamoto and ask for him.
Well, what can I say? I went to Osaka on Saturday for the express purpose of getting in another test drive in a Model S. While the test drive around the block in Tokyo was just too short, the trip to Osaka surpassed my dreams. First, the important contact information and thanks to the helpful duo in the tiny Tesla display in the Panasonic Center Osaka are in order. I didn't catch the woman's name, but she helped me work through the Tesla Motors Japan homepage and looking at the samples of paint colors and seat covers. James Williams, a fellow Californian and fan of Kyushu did a great job of answering my questions and giving me the scoop on Tesla cars and company. If you would like to take a test drive or just ask some questions about the cars, give him a call at: 090 2482 8442. [UPDATE: There's now a link to make a reservation for a test drive in Osaka on the Tesla Japan homepage.]
On to the cars. I had back luck again with the weather; I've had rain both times I went for a test drive. The two cars in the photo above were in the garage, so the colors don't stand out. However, the black P85 was just off the delivery truck; James was bringing it in when I first arrived at the Tesla shop. Look at the panel shot below, the gauge on the left side shows the car's battery usage; it shows a long, straight yellow line across the bottom. That's the time the car spent in the factory, before it was finished. The lines at the far right show its testing and transport to Osaka. Look just below the usage gauge, and you'll see 34 km on the odometer. That's how far the car had been driven before I was the first to take a test drive (insert big grin).
James leaves the parking lights on the cars in the parking lot; the cars look VERY cool parked like that. While we were sitting in the car talking about features and displays, the driver of just about every car that went by took a good look at the cars. The black car with the black anti-grill (no need for a grill to cool the engine because there's no engine) looks like a good candidate for Batman's next car. Power side mirrors working off a button in the door is a new feature for Japanese Model Ss, and right-hand drive is to be standard here.
The lines of car are smooth and rounded in the right places. Extensive testing was done to improve energy use. The hatchback door is large and opens up high and out of the way. Take a look:
There is plenty of storage space, even with two-four passengers. With one or zero, you can fold those rear seats down and take a visit to Costco or your local hardware mega-store and pretty much fit whatever it is you want in there (don't forget the frunk).
I was offered the chance to drive both the black P85 and the blue P85+, and I took the black one out first. James has at least two courses he uses, one of which includes a run on the loop highway around Osaka (handy, that highway!) I'm always a bit conservative starting out driving someone else's car, so I took it easy getting out of the parking garage and out on the roads of Osaka (last time I drove there was around 23 years ago). Both cars have ETC (the system used in Japan to automatically pay the highway fees), so I'm hoping those systems will be a part of the standard package. Highway on-ramps are usually uphill in Japan, and with no effort on my foot's part, we were on the highway cruising along. The car has good visibility, but no rear window wiper, so if you're bothered by rain left there (I'm not), you might want to take notice. You can turn the back camera on for added visibility; with the huge center display, you can have it on full screen or split with your map readout.
The car handled very well. Steering is tight and very responsive. There were no vibrations, and the car is very quiet. You will hear wind sounds when you're driving at highway speeds, and you might even think those sounds are louder than they should be. They are not. What you are used to is hearing an engine working away plus wind, so you don't hear so much wind. I like a quiet car, and both Model Ss were even quieter than I thought they would be.
Acceleration? lol How fast do you want to go and how quickly do you want to get there? The P85 exceeded my expectations by far. To put it bluntly, the car hauls ass. I hit the pedal several times; the acceleration is so fast, I couldn't do it for long. I'm grinning big-time as I write this. Here's the odometer reading after the drive (James was kind enough to let me drive 26 km in his brand new car; thanks, James):
Notice the right side of the panel shot above. That's Otis Redding playing from Internet radio. The car comes with 3G wireless, so you can use the features of the Internet using that gorgeous center display.
Again, sorry about the photos. The lighting doesn't really show the difference in the colors. Both black and blue look great.
The big differences between the P85 and the P85+ are different tire widths in the back and the suspension. The P85+ has 21 inch rear tires for more traction (sorry, I didn't catch the width of the black P85's tires) and reworked suspension to keep the tires on the road.
I took the P85+ plus out on the same route as the first test drive. I'm happy we drove the cars in the order we did because I was more comfortable driving the second time and hypothetically did a couple of things I haven't done since I was in high school. Because the car is tuned as a sports car, I felt the bumps of the loop highway, but nothing out of the ordinary for a sports car. The car handled really well, even better than the P85. It has excellent acceleration and I could put the car anywhere I wanted on the highway. I got honked at only once (stupid Kei-car driver). At the end of the drive, I may have been at the front of a line of cars at an intersection. I may have taken my foot off the brake and had it on the accelerator because the car was set in non-creep mode. And I may have floored it at the green light. If I had, the car would have taken off like a rocket with the wheels spinning only twice because of the wet road, but quickly adjusting because of the traction setting of the car. If that had happened, I would have had an incredible adrenaline rush and a huge grin on my face. If I had looked in the rear-view mirror, I might have seen all the other cars still back at the intersection. I think it may have just been a dream.
The photo above is the charger set up. Just plug it in. There are settings for how much of a charge you want and what time you want to do it. If you want to keep the batteries maintained, you set for that. If you're taking a long trip, you set for that. If your community has varying rates in electricity based on time of day (mine is cheapest at night), you can take advantage of the lower rate period. Two more awesome features: 1) the car has its own app. You can adjust the charge settings from the app without having to go into the car. Several other features are a part of the app and more will be added as time goes by. For example, you can honk the horn, unlock the car, and start the heater/air conditioning before you get to the car. 2) the car is basically run by a computer, which means any time a change is needed (a fix or a new feature), an update is downloaded through the wireless system.
All in all, it was a great couple of test drives. Thanks again to James and his co-worker for taking care of me. I'll add more later. I think I've broken a few length rules for a blog post as it is.
I cannot just go out and get the first car I see; I want to see what is out there. Last weekend, I went out to see the competition and started at the local Porsche dealer, run by Adel Cars, a local company. They were having an exhibition in Omura in Nagasaki, so many of the test cars were out. I was greeted by a friendly salesperson who answered all my questions and left me to look at all the showroom cars to my heart's content. I haven't shopped for a car in years, but this trip was one of the best experiences I've had in a dealer.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my dream car has always been a Porsche, a 911 or a Carrera. The black car in the foreground above is the latest incantation of those models—a 2014 911 Carrera, a four-seater. Check out the back:
It's a beautiful car. But wait! Check out the 2-seat Cayman next to it:
I fell in love with the Cayman; it is beautiful. But it is probably the most impractical car there is. Two seats, very little storage—just the frunk space, and 6-7 km/lt for city gas usage (the info sheet says 11.4 km/lt on the highway). I want to go back and drive it. Film at eleven.
Another dream car of mine is a Ford Mustang. There are no dealers in my part of the world, so that one is on hold. I did go by the local BWM shop to see what they had, but I was not impressed. I spent close to two hours at the Porsche dealer, about 45 minutes at the BMW shop. They do have an all-electric model out, but they had none to look at. Rumor has it there is a luxury plug-in coming out later this year. Their sedans just don't have much pizzazz, although they have some incredible features. The one I saw had a kind of Mayday button in case you get into trouble; press it, and an emergency crew will come out. Another cool one was you could wave your foot under the trunk and open it while your hands were full—very clever. But alas, BMW is off my list. Right now, it's down to a Cayman S or a Model S...
The plan for this blog is to document the search, research, purchase and use of my retirement car. Since I was a teen, my dream car has been a Porsche, either a 911 or a Carrera. My first car was a 1967 VW bug, so a step up to a Porsche seemed a logical move. Who doesn't want to drive a fast, slick car, built for speed and catching peoples' eyes? Sigh...
This dream was transformed in the past 18 months as I read about the car company Tesla. As you may know, Tesla is working very hard to bring all-electric cars to the planet. As you must already know, the image of electric cars is not a good one; I've read and heard that golf cart is the most common image of an electric car.
Tesla does not build golf carts; in fact, they are building some of the sleekest, fastest production cars on the road. If you did not know that, get ready for a ride. I haven't driven one for more than a short test drive, so I cannot yet comment much on that (more coming). However, I will post what I have found out about the car as time goes by. If you cannot wait, just google what you want to know.
Oh, yeah, I live in Japan, so this blog will document information as it purtains to having a Tesla in Japan. Fasten your seat belts.