2018 Tesla Model 3 – driving for Lyft for fun

This post is kind of lenghty, but I think well worth reading. I split it into subsections:

Introduction, Model 3 on Lyft, Lyft driving in general and the conclusion. 

Introduction

I am no stranger to teslas performance and autopilot, we replaced our last gas car end of May 2016 with a Tesla Model X, after the last time teslas stock was recovering from being artificially suppressed by lots of ‘creative news’ about car fires (despite gas cars having more such), or about how they are never going to build model x etc, and I had just kept buying on the downturns including some options. So in a way you could say tesla shorts paid for my Model X, which I also justified as a means to validate my investment.

You gotta live with it to really know its potential. And so after being wowed by owning the Model X, and my mind blown by Elon’s presentation of the Model 3, I had the hopeful expectation when I reserved my Model 3 that this still holds true, even at half the cost of a comparable model S. But I have to admit I was somewhat concerned that the economy ‘model e’ would have sacrifized some of its tesla appeal in order to get to that price point.

I can now confirm, the ride in the Model 3 is legendary and no downgrade, especially if you like dynamic, sporty driving.

So when I got my Model 3 in January, I did expect it to be more fun than the 2015 VW eGolf it replaced, but I had no idea how much more fun. I ended up putting more than 6000 miles on the car in just a few months and found myself tooling around in the mountains and playing with cornering, hugging the apex, learning how to use autopilot driver assist to my advantage in dynamic driving, enjoying different seat settings while in stop and go traffic etc, loving the streaming of about anything in highest audio quality. Autopilot is really a god-sent in stop and go traffic, turns a commute nightmare into a relaxation opportunity. Check out this small video from my commute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aB_uGz_6gI

And eventually I realized, I am spending an hour before work each day just having fun driving around, which seemed like a waste somehow. So I was ready for my next adventure: Signing up to drive for Lyft. 

           

Obviously this pays a lot less per hour than my day-job, but the idea is to do this only for fun and when doing unproductive car fun-time anyways. If I am already spending extra time in the car, I might as well pick people up and bring them to where they need to be.

It took me about 3 days from the idea to giving my first ride, which is pretty amazing IMHO, the longest wait was for DMV and background check, which took about a day to show up checkmarked in the app.

Since I drive this car so much, its uniquenesses seems normal to me now, but to have passengers that mostly never have seen one before is an interesting way to look at it with fresh eyes.

Model 3 on Lyft

I love how I can just put my personal belongings into the frunk and have an empty clean trunk for my riders,  most important when picking up from the airport.

The door handles and controls however are definitely not intuitive for a first time rider.

Almost every single passenger is confused at first about how to open the door, both from the outside as well as from the inside, there was exactly one that just figured it out right away.

My quick intro is ‘push the bigger piece of the handle with your thumb’ and then they say ‘oh wow, cool’ and it works.

When they want to get out, there is confusion again. I tell them ‘push the little switch with that white line’ and point to it. Again you would think that would be annoying as an experience, but somehow they find it amazing again, they somehow like how the door pops open and they just push it out. And maybe also because of the rest of the experience.

Another point of confusion is the window control. Nobody opened the door yet by accident, but especially when driving in the dark it is not obvious at first on how to control your window, and I often just do it for them. I learned how to turn on the lights in the back for them from my screen, and that helps.

A definite plus however is performance, looks, quality of the music streaming and voice control.

I usually ask them if they want to listen to music, and if they have a favorite artist, then use voice control to start for example like ‘play phantogram’. 

Often they say: ‘I listen to anything’ and so I challenge them a bit with bassnectar, and let them know they can change their mind anytime. Turns out they more often than not actually like it.

Also I get to listen to cool music I didnt know about before, and get delighted responses like somebody asking for coldplay and it happens to pick their favorite song. I get comments from audiophiles how unexpectedly excellent the sound quality is.

My favorite new song I am super grateful for learning about is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98bi0dxJGGc 

People are generally wowed by the quality of the ride:

‘I must have gotten a silent upgrade, normally its priuses or something’

‘this car really has pickup’ 

‘this feels more like riding in a train, I mean the road bumps you still feel but there is no vibrating and shaking, its like gliding really’

‘wow, I didnt notice that all-glass roof until now’

So far have been able to maintain a clean 5.0 driver rating, probably in part because of the unexpectedly awesome car  🙂

LR Range is more than enough for me, since I don’t drive all day, and the car is super efficient since I drive a lot more conservative and mindful about comfort when I have passengers.

I end up using less than 220 Wh/mile on my rides. When I have fun between rides I can consume closer to 270Wh/m 🙂

One sunday night I wanted to see how far I get with a full charge, filled it up to 310 mile range, and started driving at 8:30pm. By 1:30am and 11 rides later I had enough fun, and still 180 mile range left, and headed home, parking with 144 mile range in my garage, having driven 134 miles and consumed 36kWh of energy, which thanks to home solar I can recharge for free, but at the californian supecharger this would cost me $9.36

Lyft driving in general

People are generally very friendly and reasonable. Most don’t tip. The ones that do surprise you.

Driving late at night means driving more drunk people which carries the risk of soiling your car, but also results in more interesting stories to tell at parties (no names mentioned obviously) but so far so good. Driving before work is better than driving at night.

I now also always carry some water with me, that people are really thankful for, i.e. when they come from a long sunny day in the city and are all dehydrated.

Lyfts driver app has a red overlay of areas with surge pricing in effect. I spent a few hours taking screenshots every now and then to log when they start showing up and going away. 

Chasing the red (surge rate areas) was often not useful for me, typically evaporated before I arrived, and I get reasonable amounts of rides wherever I am in the SF bay area. I talked to another new driver and he had a similar experience. 

I don’t think I average more than $20/h, especially factoring in driving to pickups etc, last sunday night I did average $26/h thanks to more tips and surge pricing than usual.

I usually use destination mode on my way to work. It’s rare that something comes out of it. The controls for it are not easy to use, and if you correct it too often then they lock you out of using the feature with ‘you used it six times today, try again tomorrow’.   One time when returning from a Palo Alto trip back into the city with destination mode it routed me through the airport to pick up a family with luggage. He said he also has a Model 3 on order and was thrilled to be in the front passenger seat. 

By default the app is set to NOT use the bluetooth for the traffic dirctions, but still tunes out the music on bluetooth you are playing from your phone, then only announces its directions on the internal phone speaker which means you can’t hear it very well. I changed it in the app settings, but the voice quality is a lot less pleasant than the tesla one, so I am considering turning it off and asking people for the destination address and put that in with ‘navigate to’ voice command to demo the capabilities better.

Also a pity that the app is not integrated into the big screen, it is kind of annoying to look far down below the screen where the phone dock is. I wish tesla would get us a webbrowser like in the model S/X, maybe the touchscreen web interface of lyft driver would be sufficiently supported that way. It appears the app is halfway a webapp anyways, i.e. when I switch to the dashboard. I ended up buying a hands-free magnetic phone holder to have it higher up at the b-pillar so as not to block my view, but am concerned that it may be in the path of an airbag in case of a bad accident. Have to find out more about this.

Conclusion

I am super thankful for this opportunity to help people get to where they want to be while getting them interested in electric driving (if they ask). I love meeting all those different types of people, having good conversations, learning about new music and seeing the excitement when they get their first ride in a tesla. They give a consistent 5.0 rating and positive feedback all around.

Share the Love – if you want to sign up too, consider using my referral code https://www.lyft.com/drivers/WILL53406 and get the same bonus as me ($1.55 for every ride you do in first 60 days, capped at $775)

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What if… cars moved people, objects, energy on demand

What if a car driving a person was just a side effect, one of its on-demand purposes fulfilled.

What if you did not own a vehicle but it would be available anytime like über from close by, and when not driving you or anybody else, it will function as a receiver and giver of energy, drive to a charging station, when fully charged drive and park at a building that needs more power as a power building block. It can fulfill energy, people and object transportation needs.

It will never sit idle uselessly, just moving to where it is useful.

Idea published by Michael Will March 15th, 2016, feel free to use, don’t patent it as its already published.

2015 was the year of the electric car for us

eGolfAtHouse.png2015 was the year of the electric car – good bye gas cars and petrol stations.

After one year of owning a Volkswagen eGolf I can say I truly love it. The only real hard issue with it is that my wife wants to drive it most of the time and leaves me with the gas guzzler since she has a 20 mile commute and I don’t. We drove it for about 13,000 miles in 12 months.

Let me first tell you about the cars I compare it to, and then focus on the eGolf with issues I found annoying, and also the advantages that make me love it in spite of them. Too many reviews I read are just a reiteration of other reviews, so I promise that none of what I detail is not directly from my personal experience and impressions.

The cars I am comparing are the 2015 eGolf, the 2006 Volkswagen Jetta S 2.5 I replaced with the egolf, our 2014 Honda Oddysee that we bought as our family van in 2014, the tesla S that I test drove 2014 in the 85kw version and 2015 in the P85D version, and the Chevvy Volt 2014 that I test drove in 2014.

Characteristics of each car that I find noteworthy:
– 2006 Jetta 2.5 is a sporty roomy car, and with the tires I put on it had excellent cornering, temperamental sporty drive, a modern dynamic responsiveness to the gas pedal that makes a friends ford mustang of the same year feel dated and inaccurate, same for goes for
traction when accelerating fast. Being the 2006 version, it does not show the MPG, so I calculated those at the pump between filling up and while it beats the van, its not excellent, and I flirted with the idea of replacing the car with a TDi for a while,
higher cost and less availability of diesel at gas stations is what kept me from doing it. Thank goodness now that the VW Dieselgate truth came out.  It seats 5 which is good when picking up my kids and a neighbors kid at the same time, and is a lot of fun to drive on my daily commute.
– 2014 and 2015 Tesla win hands down on any aspect except cost, the experience of test driving those can be best summarizes as ‘WOW’ not just from the driving / handling but also all the other engineering aspects from the large display, charging station navigation integration, automated adaptive cruise control (no need to push gas/brakes in stop and go traffic), keyless entry is also buttonless start, ‘start’ really means turn on electrical system of car by putting foot on brakes after sitting down without pushing any on/off button, turn off the car by leaving the car with the key in your pocket and closing the door. It seats 5 comfortably. 7 is not really true, unless you want to seat two small children in seats you can buy as an option rear facing in the trunk area. So I consider it a 5 seater. Cabin lights are bright and full despite of using LED because they actually use hybrid lighting with conventional bulb and LED light to give you the full light experience with low energy consumption.
– 2014 Honda Oddyssee seats 7 on a trip to the Ski resort and has so much room for luggage more than any other mini van out there. For commute the MPG it gets are somewhat miserable, like 16-18 in the city and 24 on highways. Coming back from tahoe with lots of hypermiling tricks I got 34 mpg. Range of course is excellent, I can make it on one tank to Los Angele. Automated doors and high quality picture rear camera when backing up as well as blind spot camera when signalling right are great. Electric driver seat moving forward and backwards slowly with the button when switching drivers is very annoying, opening and closing side and trunk door from remote and from car buttons at driver seat are excellent. Drives like a street car and not like a truck, which is both fun and safe in any weather.
– 2014 GM Chevvy Volt – a plug in hybrid that at first impressed with 0-30 mile acceleration, but at highway speeds the handling does not seem safe to me, it just does not have enough responsiveness and power for room to get out of sticky situations. Also its a 4-seater since the battery protrudes into the cabin between the two rear seats. I seriously considered it for a while and it put the idea in my head that I can afford a vehicle with at least some electric range. I heard the 2015 and 2016 are a lot better in terms of handling too, but never test drove one again because of the short comings experienced on the 2014 model.
– 2015 Volkswagen eGolf – an 86 mile range pure electric vehicle, very impressive 0-30 mile acceleration leaving most gas cars behind at the light (probably even my jetta s),
reasonable 0-60 mile acceleration. So smooth it makes you feel like mounting a dinosaur when going back to drive a gas car.

Here are the good and bad things about the car and electric driving in general that I discovered:

Issues:
– ac automation: while air conditioning works well when outside temperature is very low or very high, in the 70’s it does not seem to hold it stably at the 72 that are dialed in automatically after turning on the engine, feels more like 69. Not so much an issue for me, but my wife complains 🙂
– resetting adjustments on power off/on: it does not remember when I change the ac from 72 to something else.
– noise maker: its quiet except they put in an electric noise generator for low speeds to warn pedestrians which I find annoying because it sounds downright ugly, and you can’t override it or customize the type of sound it makes. It ruins the fact that this car is so excellently smooth and quiet when it takes off.
– range anxiety: the range anxiety is real, if you venture out beyond its range and dont want to plan on a lenghty stay at a charging station, you start turning off air conditioning and music and get nervous. they mitigate that with the road side assistence promise below, but depending on how you use the car you can feel the anxiety. For me driving it shorter distances it is a nonissue, but visiting friends 40 miles away this has become an issue before. Lunch rescheduled from noon to 2pm. Thankfully finally we have some DC fast chargers from NRG EVGO to help out in a pinch…
– mobile app features: mobile phone app car-net could be better, i.e. responsiveness and using it from two phones at the same time can lock one out, I curse at it a lot but would not want to miss it at the same time as it is a major plus in usability.
– charging availability: DC fast chargers (80% full in 20 minutes) didn’t really exist yet at the beginning of 2015, but NRG EVGO caught up on the buildout, unlike BMW and Volkswagen who promised to put money into chargepoint to build that out 2015, but so far I have to rely on Level 2 chargers that can fill it up from empty to full in 4 hours, in my case I am just topping it off in however long I want to park there, usually it is full in 1-2 hours. Still much faster than in my garage at 110V outlet. It seems there are more Chademo chargers out in the wild january 2015 that the eGolf does not support than the DC Combo that it does support. I know of exactly one charge point DC charger in the bay area.
– 86 mph limit – yes they put a speed delimiter into the car. While its beyond the slow legal speed limits in the US, in case of any emergency I would want to be the one to decide about that and not the car. I got used to it and dont notice it anymore, but I don’t agree with it at all, imagine tsunami or other emergency.
– different charging networks at first seemed annoying (blink/nvgo/chargepoint/…) – volkswagen gave me two chargepoint cards and their network is large so I don’t mind too much and end up using charge point exclusively except for when I have to DC fast charge, which I can do for $10/use with NRG EVGO.
– LED lighting in the cabin could be more bright, compared to the 2006 Jetta this looks very weak. That is why Tesla uses hybrid lighting which combines LED’s and conventional bulb for a low energy full light experience.
– Charging Plug lock – when you charge the car, the plug gets locked so nobody can mess with it while you are away. When you come back you have to unlock it with the key remote button, so keyless entry does not apply to it. Sometimes it takes several attempts of unlocking before the car lets go of the charging plug, which can be annoying.

Advantages:
– clean: no visits to stinky gas stations, no guilt driving past a bicylist polluting the air they breathe in heavly, happy to park in my garage without concern of gas/oil getting into things stored
– less hassle and expenses: no expensive oil changes, no smog check appointments on registration renewals, no service appointment for two years until cabin filters inspection. I get about 4 miles per kWh so even when not charging for free at my gym every now and then the cost per month is a lot less than it used to be. Also after adding solar to my home and adding an L2 fast charger in the process means I can assume my energy was created clean, and the car is ready in the morning.
– quiet: this changes your perception on your other gas car – suddenly gas cars seem old and shaky and loud in comparison, despite of the excellent sound insulations cars have nowadays. I am not kidding, I did take the Oddysee in to service to find out why it was shaking, because I had driven the eGolf for a while and just was not expecting it to be normal again.
– just go: charging overnight in the garage means no planning on visiting a chargepoint station unless you drive it around for more than the 80 miles a day, basically I just drive it around, plug it in when I got back in the garage and forget about it, next day it is full. In the winter I preheat it in the garage while it is still connected to the charger. While at breakfast, from the iPhone. Besides comfort, this also means the impact of cold weather on range is less because the car is fully charged and its cabin preheated.
– safety: road side assistence button, if I ever get stranded out of electricity they will come and tow me home or to a chargepoint station if I am more than 100 miles from home. Have not had to use it yet (knock on wood). In fact they will call you in your car and ask if you are ok when the air bags get deployed in an accident…
– mobile app features: allows me to find where I parked it, how much range it has and how much longer it will charge until full, it allows me to turn on air conditioning from the restaurant table while waiting on my bill to get the car’s temperature to acceptable levels, especially going to be important in the hot summers here in CA
– premium parking spot finder: The chargepoint app allows me to find a free parking spot with a charger, typically located at the bottom of a parking garage, and it tells me if occupied or not. This translates to finding premium parking. The chargepoint network is pretty good in the bay area and in san francisco, but it depends on where you go. For me its a huge plus. I also use plugshare to find NRG EVGO DC fast chargers.
– sporty: acceleration from 0 to 30 is excellent, immediate torque and no shifting means you will pull away from the green light faster than pretty much any gas car around you, and you don’t worry about the inefficiency of it because the rest of the drive regenrative braking and low consumption still give you a good 4 miles per kWh for your trip.
– looks: I love the accent lights in the front and the general look of the car.

So in summary – I love it and hope that one day we will replace the honday oddysee with a tesla X and I wont feel bad about my wife taking the eGolf any more, which I will one day also replace with a tesla 3 🙂