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Owning a Tesla Model Y EV: Driving, Maintaining, Charging, and that Range Anxiety

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After putting more than 10,000 miles on my 2021 Tesla Model Y, my 13-month move from gas — internal combustion engine (ICE), to be precise — to electric has proved quite a trip.

For the most part, it’s been a fun ride. But it could be even more fun if I had known better.

If you’re thinking of making the switch or has just gotten an EV, this post will help. While I wrote this based on my 2021 Model Y, much of what I mentioned here applies to other Tesla models and most EVs.

Let’s start with the driving.

(This post was originally and exclusively published at Dong Knows Tech.)

Dong’s note: I first published this post on September 29, 2021, and updated it on January 31, 2022, with additional information. I’m no EV/Auto expert, nor am I an electrician. This post is not a how-to or a review but just a guy’s real-life experience.

Tesla Model Y Saltflats
They say life is a journey, but sometimes a destination can be fun, too, for like half an hour. Here we were getting baked at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, some 800 miles (1300 km) from home, in mid-2021, without using a single drop of gasoline on the trip.
(Kids got salts everywhere, and it was quite a task to clean it off. But it was worth it.)

Driving an electric vehicle

The first thing you’ll note with an EV is the different levels of control you’d have on a car — or the car has on itself is more like it — and the efficiency.

In an ICE car, it’s simple: you hit the gas pedal to bring the vehicle up to a certain speed, then use the brake to slow it down or put it to a complete stop.

If you make it go a bit too fast for the distance ahead, you’ll need to hit the brakes a bit harder. And you can never make it go just fast enough for that next stop — using the brakes is an essential part of driving.

In short, you have to pay for making the car move, slowing it down, or stopping it, in fuel or the cost of materials — the wear and tear of the brakes — without getting anything more than moving from A to B in return.

So, driving an ICE car is always a one-way street in resource-spending.

Driving an EV: The single-pedal experience

With an EV, things are a bit different. That’s because, generally, the car slows down smartly via “regenerative braking.”

The moment you ease your foot or lift it off the accelerator, you’d immediately feel the de-acceleration. The car would use the momentum to generate electricity for its battery.

As a result, you will not feel the usual rolling of an ICE. Instead, the car slows down at a greater level and comes to a complete stop at a much shorter distance — sometimes intelligently so when you’re approaching a stop sign or behind another car.

The concept of regenerative braking requires getting used to at first — you might think the car is hitting the brake on its own — roughly similar to driving an ICE car in a low gear.

But in the long term, you’ll love it. And, over time, when you become good at it, you won’t need to use the brake much, if at all.

A lot of folks call this “one-pedal driving.” And that’s been my experience with my Model Y. Tesla claims that the car’s brakes will last its entire life, and I have no reason to doubt that.

That’s because, on many trips, I don’t use the brake at all — there’s just no need.

For the most part, the car automatically holds itself, goes, and stops according to how I move my foot on the accelerator — there are various degrees and nuances. Over time, it feels like the car learns my driving habit and drives the way I’d like.

Sure, the brakes still work, and I use them now and then, mainly in an emergency or out of habit.

But the majority of the time, the car’s motors handle the acceleration, deacceleration, and stopping, converting the excess inertia when applicable back into stored energy.

Regenerative braking is why EVs generally have excellent millage when driving around town or when you’re stuck in traffic — anytime you have to slow down or stop often.

Driving long distances is a different story, however. I’ll explain more in the range section below.

Tesla Model Y
Out with the old, in with the new: Here’s my Tesla Model Y Long Range the day of delivery, 13 months go, next to my last ICE car, the Honda Acura MDX 2004. Among other things, the Y has much more storage room than the slightly larger gas SUV.

A couple of general notes for those moving to an EV

  • There’s no on/off or ignition: The car is always on — you’d have trouble if the car is turned off somehow. You just get in and drive.
  • No car key: On a Tesla, there’s no car key — you can get a keyfob but there’s no actual key — the car knows who you are and unlock itself via your phone, a fob, or a key card. As you move away, it’ll lock.
  • There’s no gear: You have four positions for the shifting: Park, Drive (going forward), Reverse (going backward), and Neutral.
  • Immediate acceleration: There’s no delay, you hit the accelerator and the car will move immediately and the acceleration is smooth since there’s no gear-shifting.
  • No engine noise: The car is very quiet from the perspective of those on the outside. There’s no engine or exhaust noise but all Teslas make a distinctive noise when going in reverse. On the inside, a Tesla is about as quiet (or noisy) as most modern ICE vehicles.

Driving a Tesla: The “smart” experience

And there’s more to the “control” notion. Generally, EVs are advanced “drive by wire” vehicles.

Specifically, the car’s usual controller — the steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator pedal, etc. — doesn’t have physical connections to different parts of the vehicle.

Instead, they are sensors that carry the driver’s inputs to a computer, which takes care of the actual movements and actions and gives you synthetic feedback.

For example, on my Model Y, the steering wheel would vibrate if I let the car stray out of a lane, even when the road is smooth — the shaking has nothing to do with the road’s surface or the car’s wheels.

The steering wheel also gives a little resistance when I change the lane without turning on the signal. By the way, doing this would bring the car out of Autopilot if engaged.

This type of “control” works out well for the most part. You’d feel like the car is “smart” — you just let it know what you want to do, and it’d take care of that, at times, gracefully so.

It’s like you have a friend who’s helping out with the driving at all times. That’s nice.

And all that be programmed to behave better over time — Tesla indeed pushes out over-the-air software updates regularly with incremental improvements, mostly.

Driving a Tesla: The “too smart” experience

But the experience can be annoying, too.

For example, you wouldn’t know if a tire’s pressure is low, or it’s completely flat just by how the car feels — you have to rely on the sensor.

What’s more, sometimes, my Model Y shakes its steering wheel for seemingly no reason, likely because it doesn’t perceive the lanes correctly. Also, the car is not happy when I deliberately do a bit of lane-straddling on a curve.

And the car often gives out warnings prematurely. For example, I might get the “take control of the car immediately” warning just because the car in front of me made a sudden turn, even when I was already indeed holding the steering wheel.

So the smart notion could feel like there’s a back-seat driver in the car. It’s a tricky balance, and it will be a while before Tesla can figure this out.

Tesla’s service mode

On any Tesla, you need to put the car in a specific “service mode” before you can do simple stuff — car wash mode, towing, windshield wiper servicing, .etc. — for the car to behave accordingly.

For example, on models with Air Suspension, the car would think something is wrong with the road and adjust the suspension accordingly if you lift it without putting it in the service mode first.

By the way, you also need jack pads. Lifting a Tesla the way you do an ICE car might damage its battery.

The point is: read the manual and give yourself some time to adjust. Driving an EV can be different from your existing ICE experience. The differences vary between makes and models, but you can’t avoid them — we all come from the ICE mindset.

And the differences are also acute when you’re not driving, namely the maintenance and getting the “tank” filled. Both are entirely new compared to an ICE car.

Let’s check out the maintenance.

Maintaining an EV

I don’t know about other EVs, but the maintenance has been close to nothing for the past 13 months on my Model Y. You can expect the same from any other Tesla.

Tesla Model Y Tire Rotation
Tesla Maintenance: My Model Y’s only job done in the past 13 months was tire rotation. It was a learning experience.

The only work I got done on the car was the rotation of the tires at 7000 miles.

I detailed part of that experience in this post on the car’s tires, but the gist is I contacted Tesla via the app, and a friendly technician arrived a few days later on my driveway. It was a straightforward, painless experience that cost $50 — the payment was done via the app.

After watching him, I planned to do the rotation myself the next time — it was the same process as on any other car.

Other than that, the only other thing I had to do was fill the windshield wiper fluid now and then.

Compared to my previous gas car, My Model Y has saved me from dealing with oil change, brake checking, engine tuneup, .etc. It’s been a much easier experience.

Getting a Tesla repaired: Be prepared to wait

As for getting the car repaired, that was a different story. I learned this from friends who weren’t as lucky.

Tesla Model S Accident Front
My friend’s Model S that’s been in repair for months due to issues in the supply chain.

In the past 13 months, I had to deal with two minor repairs for my Model Y. Both had to do with the car’s tires. I detailed the first in this long post about driving without a donut — it’s a fun read.

Tesla’s tire: A real-world experience of driving without a donut

The second time, it was in my driveway. My boy found a box of nails somewhere and scattered them around the house. It was more of a failed parenting than car repair, but I could plug the second hole with no issue.

Other than those, my car did get a few curb rashes but they didn’t bother me. On the other hand, had I needed any more serious repair, things could have been much different.

Tesla Model Y Nail on Tire Repair
That’s yours truly plugging the second nail, this time on a back tire. Photo courtesy of the lady who somehow thought the incident was “cute”.

My buddy whose Model S crashed back in November 2021 — I mentioned the story in this post on driving automation — has been in the shop since.

It’s estimated that it will take two or three more months before the repair is completed. “I’ll be lucky to get my car back by June, it seems,” he told me and added, “I miss my car.”

In case you’re curious about the incident, it was determined not to be the car’s or the driver’s fault, according to the police report.

The Model S was traveling at around 70 MPH behind a truck at a reasonable distance. Suddenly, the truck veered out abruptly to avoid a vehicle stalling right in the middle of the freeway. It was too late for the driver on the Model S to react.

The car’s emergency brake did engage, which kept the driver and the passenger safe — it impacted at slower than 30 mph. Still, the damage was estimated at over $30,000.

As it turned out, due to the pandemic, the broken supply chain, and probably some miscalculations on Tesla’s part, it now takes a long time — months in some cases — to get spare parts.

The owner of a local Tesla-certified repair shop told me that it’d take them just “a week or two at most to repair a car, but we just don’t have parts. And things keep piling up!”

And on December 10 last year, my neighbor’s Model Y got rear-ended with a few big dents on the liftgate. Only two weeks ago — that’s a month later — he could get his car in the shop. Now, he has to wait another two weeks for the repair to be complete.

So the minor repair will have caused him to be out of the car for more than a month.

Tesla Model Y Dents Lift Gate
These minor dents on a Tesla Model Y took a month to wait for parts and another month to repair.

Hopefully, things will change as the supply chain gets back to normal. But for now, if you have an EV, especially a Tesla, you better not crash or scratch it.

There’s no good time for that, but it takes weeks to schedule an appointment at a Tesla service center alone in the Bay Area. Keep that in mind before you hit that accelerator.

Charging and EV

More than a year ago, in preparation for my Model Y’s arrival, I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how to charge it at home — mostly because I didn’t know better.

Doing my search and listening to the advice of online EV “experts” — there are lots of them these days — I got quotes between $5,000 to $10,000 in wiring and breaker upgrades.

It’s “all about the amps,” they told me, and it seemed to make sense. After all, charging a car is like charging any gadget — you need to plug it in a socket that has enough power, measured in amperes (amps), and the more power, the faster the charging speed. And a car’s battery has a much higher capacity than a phone.

In the US, the standard 110V socket — the one you have around your home — can push out a maximum real-world rate of 15 amps, and a Tesla Wall Charger needs a 60 amps breaker at 240V to deliver the fastest home charging speed, which is 42 miles (68 km) per hour on the Model Y.

Tesla Charging Speeds
The charging speeds of a standard 110V (15A) socket and a 240V (32A) socket

While all Tesla chargers output significantly fewer amps than their source circuit breaker for safety reasons — the Wall Charger, for example, outputs 48 amps from a 60 amps breaker — my existing exiting 50 amps for the entire garage sure isn’t enough. Or is it?

EVs and energy usage

EVs are considered large appliances in terms of power consumption and should be plugged in as such. Specifically, you shouldn’t charge your car at home during peak hours. Instead charge them at night time when, among other things, the cost of electricity is lower.

But before going into the detail of getting an EV charged at home, we need to understand the idea of using miles (or km) as the measurement for charging speed and battery capacity.

This unit is what Tesla (and most other EV makers) uses. My Model Y, for example, has the EPA range of 324 miles on a full charge. That seems intuitive but can be inaccurate — at best, it’s an estimate.

By the way, you have the option to use the percentage instead of distance, which proved in my case to be a much better gauge once I’ve gotten used to the car.

Tesla Model Y
Getting charged can be a fun experience, at least for the kiddos, especially on a snowing day — you can charge an EV in any weather. Actually, most of the time, they just want to stay inside the car to play games — we have to make them go outside to stretch their legs.

The general math of charging

Charging a battery is like filling a tank with water. The tank is the battery, and the water flow (pressure) is the incoming electricity determined by amps (and voltage).

Extra: Voltage vs Ampere vs Wattage

It’s easier to understand electricity (which is invisible) if you think of it as the flow of water through a pipe from one tank to another.

  • Voltage (V): The force that pushes the electricity (water pressure.)
  • Ampere (A): The size of the flow (the result of pipe size + pressure.)
  • Wattage (W): The load or capacity (the size of the tanks at either end of the pipe.)

The higher the amperes and voltage, the faster electricity can move from one place to another (charging speed). The more wattage, the more power is stored, used, or delivered.

Here’s the relationship between these three:

V * A = W

So a 110V/15A outlet has a capacity of 110 * 15 = 1650W or 1.65kW.

You generally find wattage in two measurements:

  • Kilowattage (kW): It’s the metric way to call 1000W. It generally indicates the rate of electricity.
  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The energy consumed, delivered, or accumulated over one hour. It indicates the amount of energy.

A car’s battery is measured in kWh. The higher the number, the more energy it can hold.

When the flow is constant, the rate of water going into the tank is the same. So, how long it takes to fill the tank depends on how large the tank is. After that, how long that full tank lasts depends on your usage — the efficiency.

The Tesla Model Y 2021’s “tank” has a capacity of 75kWh — more on its efficiency below.

When plugged into a 110V (15 amps) socket, the Model Y charging rate is about 5 miles per hour. But this rate is only true if we can indeed get 324 miles (521 km) out of a full charge. Hint: No, we can’t count on that!

However, what is always true is the rate electricity flows into the battery, which, in this case, is 1.2kW (give or take).

This electric flow rate applies to all Tesla EVs that use the same battery technology. But on a Model S, this rate will translate into roughly 3 miles per hour — this model requires more energy to move.

You can increase this filling rate by using higher amps (and voltage) outlets. So, to charge the car faster at home, you generally need a 240V socket to get the energy draw higher than 15A.

Charging a (Tesla) EV

All EVs come with a charging port. All Teslas have one at the back of the car on the driver’s side.

Be aware of charging scams

If you use a third-party charging station — there are plenty of them — make sure you pick one that bills you by the energy and not by how long the car is plugged in. The latter will be ridiculously expensive — it’s a scam.

While many venues come with free charging stations, which is great because you’d need to park your car anyway, other places put up time-based low-energy chargers as a way to scam high “parking” fees from EV drivers.

The point is, make sure you read the sign or do the math.

Many don’t. And that’s why we run into sensationalized headlines along the line of “charging an EV costs more than driving a gas guzzler.”

Read those as “Oh, the humanity!” 

It’s a Tesla-proprietary port that works with all Tesla Supercharger stations. Each Tesla includes a to-car adapter that allows you to charge the car at any non-Tesla charging station around the world.

By the way, no matter what EV you have, its charging port will work no matter the weather, rain, or shine.

Water and electricity generally don’t mix well, but it’s rather simple for the manufacturers to keep the connection shielded from the element, and I’ve changed my Model Y outdoors in all kinds of weather, including heavy snowing and pouring rain, with no issue.

Tesla SuperCharger
This 250kW Supercharger can fill my Model Y from 20% to 80% in about five minutes.
Tesla Supercharger

For now, Tesla’s Supercharging network includes Tesla-only charging stations which is one of the main reasons I decided to get a Tesla. Two reasons.

First, it’s ubiquitous and super convenient to use:

  • When the car’s battery is low, its map will show nearby Supercharging stations.
  • Punch in a destination on your car and the car’s navigation will include charging station(s) if need be.
  • When you pick a charging station, the car will automatically optimize its battery for fast charging.

Drive the car to a charging station, plug the charging cord from the station into the car and you’re all set. You then can manage the charging (and payment) via the car’s touchscreen or the app.

Secondly, a Supercharger station can charge a car fast. Starting at 70kW and can go as high as 250kW, a station can fill my Model Y’s battery from 20% to 80% in about 30 minutes or 5 minutes, respectively.

This 20/80 range is significant. That is when the car’s battery (or any battery for that matter) can perform at its optimum, meaning:

  • You can charge it the fastest.
  • It outputs energy the most efficiently.
  • The battery itself can last the longest without degrading.

According to the manual, you should keep the battery within this range unless you drive a long distance. In other words, it’s generally not a good idea to keep the battery level below 20% or higher than 80% for an extended amount of time.

And you never want to empty an EV’s battery — it needs the power to keep the subsystem alive.

Tesla also has Destination Chargers as low as 15kW — they are similar to home chargers that top at around 60 miles per hour. Most non-Tesla charging stations charge at this rate, too.

Supercharger and cost

I’ve paid for Supercharging many times and found it affordable enough.

The actual price varies from one area to another but generally, the cost to fill my Model Y from 20% to 80% is about $15 — that’s easily over 100 miles worth of energy.

On average, on a long road trip, I paid around $14 each time I used a Supercharger. With my old ICE car, the cost for each tank refill would easily be four times that or even more.

By the way, many venues, cities, or regions come with free charging stations in parking lots. In that case, you can just plug the car as you park it.

Home charging

For home charging, all EV comes with a portable “charger.” Tesla includes with its cars the Mobile Connector, which is just a glorified power adapter — the charger itself is inside the vehicle.

For this reason, you can always buy a third-party portable charger. They all function as power cords.

Though much bigger, the Mobile Connector is similar to a laptop’s power adapter — it can handle power outlets from 110V to 240V and various amps outputs via different to-wall adapters — and comes included with a standard adapter head for the region.

In the US, that adapter head is the NEMA 5-15, which is the three-prong plug for any wall socket around your home. In this case, you can plug it right in, just like a phone, and it will charge the car at the rate of a few miles per hour, as mentioned above.

Tesla Nema Bundle
Tesla sells this bundle of NEMA to-wall adapters that you can use with its Mobile Connector. The NEMA 5-15 comes as default with all cars in the US, and the NEMA 14-50 is what you want for fast home charging.

Using different adapter heads out of the bundle in the above picture, you can charge the car at faster rates, depending on the power output of the fitting socket.

In the US, the best option is the NEMA14-50 — a popular plug for electric ovens or dryers. With it, the Mobile Connector works with a 240V outlet to draw up to 32 amps of power to deliver the filling rate of around 7kWh. (For my Model Y, that’s 30 miles per hour.)

Note, though, that the actual amps the car’s charger draws depend on the real-time condition when you plug it in. For example, my Model Y might take somewhere between 7A to 12A out of a 110V (15A) outlet, and its charging speed varies from one location to another.

By the way, users have control over this, meaning we can make the car draw lower amps than what is available, via the Tesla app.

Extra on EV chargers: Portable vs Station

The wall charger is another option for home charging. It’s a charging station that you need to wire directly into a circuit breaker instead of using a wall socket, so it’s less flexible and requires a bit of wiring work.

In return, it can charge at a higher rate than a portable charger. A Tesla Wall Charger can output up to 48 amps of power, or 9.8kWh. (That’s 42 miles per hour on my Model Y.) A third-party charger can do the same — again, it’s all about the amps.

Compared with the 30 miles per hour max rate of the Mobile Connector, though, the Wall Charger seems a bit over-the-top. And it’s indeed so considering how we charge an EV in real-life.

However, if you don’t have a garage, a charging station is the perfect fit if you intend to park your car on the street or driveway — you’d need to do some wiring work anyway.

Tesla Home Charger
Here’s my home charging station. Note the original Mobile Connector in action and the NEMA 14-50 I was holding in front of its corresponding 240V socket for “fast” charging. I can quickly swap out these to-wall adapter heads on my Mobile Connector for different charging speeds.

My charging setup

I decided not to run new wiring for a wall charger. Instead, I had an electrician friend install a 40 amps NEMA 14-50 240V outlet with a separate breaker, and get a NEMA 14-50 adapter head for my Mobile Connector — All that cost some $600 and a nice bottle of wine.

(Make sure you get this done correctly. I’d recommend using a professional for the job. I did.)

I later got a second Mobile Connector and mounted it in the garage as my home charging station and keep the original with the car.

With this, I have the option of trickle charging (5 miles per hour) via a regular outlet or faster charging (30 miles per hour) via the 240v outlet. I hardly use the latter at all — the former is all I’d need.

I’ll explain.

Tesla Model Y Snow
My Tesla Model Y handles snow and cold weather well. We’ve taken it a few times to snow and sub-freezing conditions and never had any issue.

Charging vs filling the gas tank

Again, we can’t help thinking of an EV with an ICE mindset initially, especially in filling the tank.

Specifically, with an ICE car, we always fill the tank at a gas station, and we don’t (want to) spend a lot of time there, so it’s great that we only need a few minutes to fill the tank. Then we drive home, and the car sits there in the garage or parked on the street, waiting for us.

On the other hand, with an EV, you can charge your car whenever you’re home or when it’s not driven. So, in most cases, fast charging is not necessary. We have got all night.

Sure, a fast charger will help, affording us more control in case of an emergency, like before an unexpected trip. (Or if you want to charge only during certain hours to avoid high electricity costs.) But we can always go to the Supercharger if need be.

That said, in the past 13 months, I’ve used my 30-mile-per-hour charger only a couple of times, mainly to test it out. (It worked!)

The rest of the time, the regular wall socket is enough. Even when I need to drive, I can still get over 60 miles out of it in 24 hours, which is more than my daily driving needs. Some days, I don’t drive at all.

And generally, for any battery, slow charging is always better for its longevity. On this front, Tesla told me that the difference between home charging and Supercharging is negligible. But it never hurts to charge the car slowly.

So my routine is, when I get home, plug the car in and let it do its things. By the way, unless before a long trip, I set the max charge at 180 miles (that’s about 55% of the battery’s capacity.)

Charging Station
Here’s an outdoor generic home charging station. This particular one belongs to my neighbor, who drives a 2021 Polestar 2 and has no garage. I can charge my Model Y with this station via the car’s included to-car adapter.

That range anxiety

Since the beginning of 2021, we’ve taken multiple road trips, putting thousands of highway miles on the car.

Among other things, I figured out the realistic range of my Model Y and experienced the so-called range anxiety, which applies only to long-distance driving — it doesn’t exist if you just drive around town.

And this range-related worry is only applicable when we compare an EV against an ICE vehicle. So, let’s check out some specifics.

Before the Model Y, I drove a Honda Acura MDX 2004 — to 250k miles before letting it go, mind you! – so I’ll stack these two against each other.

There are three things involved in the range: the amount of energy on board, the efficiency, and how fast we can refill.

EV vs ICE: Energy storing

My MDX has a tank capacity of 18 gallons — it’s actually 19.2 gallons, but I never drove it all the way to empty — and generally has the max EPA range, on a good day, of 400 miles (644 km).

My Model Y has a battery capacity of 75kWh and an EPA range of 324 miles.

Here’s the crucial part: 75kWh of energy is equivalent to just 2.25 gallons of gas. Since I’d never drive the car to empty, I’d round down to 2 gallons.

So, in terms of onboard energy, my MDX has some nine times that of my Model Y. Gasoline has a significantly higher energy density than the current battery technology, pound per pound.

Extra: Human and energy storing

Since the beginning of our species, making and spending energy have been our strong points. But we’re terrible at storing it.

Specifically, electricity is the main source of power for modern life, and, on a large scale, we generally have to use it as quickly as we produce it. Without a good way to keep it, we’ve always relied on fossil fuel as a reliable method to “store” electricity. But turning fossil fuel into electricity is hugely inefficient.

The move to EVs will likely steer us in the right direction regarding how to store electricity effectively and efficiently. That’s the hope, anyway.

And that brings us to the efficiency.

Tesla Model Y Long Range Autopilot
80 mph (130 km/h) is the speed limit on many US freeways. In this case, you might need to go 85mph or faster on a slow lane, or else some truck drivers will be furious at you. I speak from experience.

EV vs ICE: Energy spending and the Model Y’s real range

The Model Y has much better efficiency than my MDX — about eight times.

Let’s speak in terms of gas to compare apples to apples. Per EPA estimates, the Model Y gets roughly 160 miles per gallon of gas, while the MDX gets only 20 miles.

One thing is for sure: you won’t get these numbers in real life unless you drive around 60 miles or slower at all times. None of us do that on a freeway.

So on my MDX, I often got about 15 miles per gallon or 25 percent less in terms of real-world efficiency. But considering the car has 18 gallons, I could still go as far as 270 miles on a full tank — easily.

Similarly, the Model Y also loses its efficiency progressively at higher speeds, but at a much more acute rate considering the amount of energy it can carry — it has only two gallons of gas.

This is why you’ll note that Tesla EVs are aerodynamic to reduce the drag caused by wind at high speeds. Considering the limited amount of energy a battery can carry, they only have the efficiency to count on.

So if I lose 25 percent, I’d get as far as around 240 miles. Except I’ve always experienced higher losses on freeways.

Indeed, I generally lost about 30 percent or more if I cruised at 80 mph or faster. On many trips, when legal, I set the cruising speed at 90 mph, the top available for my Y, which I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing on my MDX. In this case, the car’s range sure was south of 240 miles.

Still, I don’t know my Model Y’s actual range — nobody does. That’s because you can’t just drive the car until its battery dies completely. And there’s no way you can time it to deplete perfectly at a charging station.

Supposedly, you can still drive an EV for a reasonable distance when the battery gauge is empty. But you’re not supposed to deplete the car’s battery since that’s very bad for the vehicle.

Nor should you drive an ICE car until its tank is empty. Apart from being stuck on the road, you might get harmful sediment from the tank into the engine.

So to be sure, I generally only counted on some 200 miles out of my Model Y’s la-la-land 324-mile range. Similarly, I never expected to drive more than 300 miles out of a tank with the MDX, and I indeed never drove it for more than 200 miles on ends without filling it up.

I knew I could likely get farther than those most of the time, but it’s always better to underestimate the cars’ range than the other way around.

(Keep in mind that on our trips, either car carried a family of four, with luggage, plus a few plugged-in gadgets, AC/heating when applicable, and music, all put a heavier toll on the Model Y’s battery than on the MDX’s engine, which produced a lot of excessive heat.)

But generally, in terms of range, an ICE car is clearly, hands down, superior to any EV right now. And that’s especially true when considering this last piece of the range anxiety puzzle:

The refilling.

Tesla SuperCharger charing
Though less often than gas stations, you’ll find weird behaviors at Tesla Supercharging stations, too. We had to wait quite a bit in this case.

EV vs ICE: Energy refilling

Refiling an ICE car’s tank is easy and takes less than 10 minutes no matter what car you drive. You can even bring a few jerry cans along if need be. And if you run out of gas out of now where, somebody can bring gas to you.

On the other hand, refilling an EV can get complicated and take hours. And generally, there’s no refilling in the middle of the road or extra power packs.

For this reason, if you like taking road trips, Tesla is the best option, thanks to its extensive network of Superchargers.

But even then, expect to spend between 10 minutes to an hour each time you want to charge, depending on the available charging speed and how empty your battery is.

In most cases, with a Tesla, you only need to fill the car enough to get to the next Supercharger, plus some extra.

EV range: The speed vs time balance

So the rule with an EV is that the faster you go, the shorter distance you can travel with the amount of energy at hand and the longer you’ll need to charge.

That said, pick the best balance of the speed you like and the amount of time you need to spend on the road before getting to the final destination.

In my experience, 70mph is the best cruising speed on the Model Y, where I could get where I wanted with the least time spent on driving and charging.

This math doesn’t apply if you have to drive for 200 miles or less, but that’s the optimal speed for a trip that requires multiple charges. I’ve tried this on numerous 600-plus-mile legs.

And, again, going more slowly will get you far, even more than the EPA estimate, but it will take longer to get there. So, slow down if you think you might run out of juice sooner than expected.

(Any Tesla can give you a relatively accurate real-time range estimate via the Energy section of its touchscreen.)

Generally, after some 200 miles, you want to take a good rest anyway. And for this reason, when traveling within the Supercharging network, I had no range anxiety at all.

So, I often picked the road with Superchargers within 200 miles of one another. Straying out of that beaten path, how to get charged was indeed my biggest concern.

But we have always ended up figuring out a way to plug the car in, sometimes overnight out of somebody’s home — folks can be very generous.

Tesla Model Y
Here’s my Model Y getting filled up out of an office at a campsite. You can’t do this with an ICE vehicle.

EV range: When the anxiety will no longer be

Here’s the endgame: my take is that the range anxiety will be no longer when an EV has a real-world range of some 500 miles or when we can charge the car as fast as we fill a gas tank.

That’s because you sure can find a (fast) charging station within any 500-mile distance. Most importantly, after those many miles, you’d need a good night’s sleep before continuing, and you can charge all night.

And I have no doubt we’ll get there — the fast charging speed, the vastly improved battery capacity, or both — relatively soon. It’s just a matter of time.

So far, we humans have focused more on creating energy than storing it — with EVs, that will change. Until then, the little range anxiety can be fun math. Just don’t push it too hard!

Extra on owning a Tesla: Rumors vs reality

You might have heard a lot of stuff about a Tesla. Here are a few of the common items.

  • A Tesla’s paint is worse than those of a regular car: Completely inaccurate. They use the same paint. However, if you opt to pay extra for non-standard paint color — that’s red, blue, black, etc. — chances are the car has thinner paint than the standard color.
  • A Tesla has a lot of rattles: Sort of. In my experience, they are caused by the seatbelt buckles tapping on the seat. To avoid, tuck them away for clicking them in, even when there is no passenger.
  • A Tesla interior looks cheap: This is subjective but generally a Tesla, except for the Plaid trim, is not supposed to be a luxury car. You pay for the tech and safety, not the bling.
  • A Tesla’s doors and panels tend to be misaligned: Totally true. My Model Y’s front and back doors were more than a bit out of sync on arrival. I complained to Tesla via the app and a technician arrived a few days later. He adjusted them to perfection with a wrench in less than 20 minutes. No charge.
  • A Tesla’s range is exaggerated: Totally true in most cases as mentioned in this post.
  • Tesla drivers have to deal with “unreasonable hatred”: Sad but true. We’ve seen folks acting weird on the road, like trying to pass us aggressively on a single-lane road, honking at us for no reason, or, even worse, putting nails under my tires in the parking lot. Others I know have had even worst experiences, like getting their car vandalized for no reason.
  • Tesla drivers are the worst: Totally an untrue stereotype. You’re dealing with one and I consider myself average. To be clear, I’ve never even had the desire to key anyone’s car or put nails under their tires, and I drive quite conservatively most of the time. Go to a popular Supercharger and witness that for yourself. Just regular folks with the same body types (and parts). We’ve always had cordial conversations, or no conversation at all — very similar to a gas station in that regard.
  • The Tesla Model Y is “critically flawed”: That’s literally the assessment of a supposedly “reputable” car reviewing website. It seemed the reviewer was mad because he had to lease the car instead of getting the normal press junket treatment. The review focused mostly on the driving automation feature and the Model Y in question had no RADAR. Go figure! In any case, the Model Y is still an excellent ride, even without “Autopilot” or “Full-Self-Driving” which are mostly hyped up, to begin with — more in this post.
  • A Tesla requires special tires: Completely inaccurate. But the car’s power and weight can be hard on them. More in this post.

Tesla Model Y: Weight, power, and those pesky curb rashes

The takeaway

EVs are the way of the future. If you don’t think so, that’s likely because you haven’t driven one.

Remember that we’ve been in the ICE age for almost two centuries, and gas-powered technology is not going anywhere just yet. But the era of EVs sure has now begun earnestly.

The move will require some getting used to, but you’ll realize how it is a much “cleaner” driving experience. There’s no gas smell, no oil change or leaks, and no regular trips to the gas station.

Folks have been arguing which is better for the environment, EVs vs ICE, and I feel that’s sort of beside the point. No matter what we do, we use what has come from the Sun (or suns) anyway. It’s just a matter of how fresh.

If you drive an EV and use solar-powered charging stations, which are the case of most Superchargers along the US freeways, you draw the energy directly from the Sun instead of using what has been here on the Earth for millions, if not billions of years.

The former is more efficient in my book and, therefore, totally cooler.

As battery and charging technologies evolve, soon, you’ll be able to charge the car as it runs or parks, as long as it’s under the Sun. And that’s just one of many things you can’t do with an ICE vehicle.

As time goes by, we’ll get to a point where there’s no comparison between the two.

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20 thoughts on “Owning a Tesla Model Y EV: Driving, Maintaining, Charging, and that Range Anxiety”

  1. Hey, Dong, you seem to be the perfect person to ask because you’re an expert in wireless connectivity and you are knowledgeable about Tesla vehicles. I am considering real carbon fiber side mirror caps as a means of protection. However, my understanding is that the side mirrors have antennae inside them. Would using those carbon fiber caps lead to any connectivity issues or decreases? Thanks!

  2. Great article! I am taking delivery of Model Y in June of this year. If I do much of the driving around town say 30 miles a day, do I need to plug in and charge every night? Or is there a percentage that should be reached and then charged to 80%? Could I go 2 days and then charge? Trying to use your reference of setting the max charge at 180 miles for in town use. Also, for a road trip, do you charge to 100% before departure? Thanks for all you do!

    • No, you don’t, Brian. But plugging the car in doesn’t mean charging, you can tell the car when to charge and how much, etc.

      For your driving need you can charge the car to 80% then drive it till 20% or plug it in every day but let the max at 55%.

      As for road trip, you charge the car enough for the next Super Charger plus some extra. How much extra depends on how you drive and you’ll figure that out over time. I’ve charged mine to full a few times but only from home, not using SC. That makes no difference in terms of range and charge speed, but using SC, from 80% to 100% takes much longer. You’ll notice excellent range driving around town. Road trip, not so much as I mentioned in the post.

      Congrats on the new car, make sure you check out my other posts, especially the one one curb rashes. πŸ™‚

  3. Quick question about the tires. I have read that the tires tend to go bald fairly fast due to the weight and torque of the car and that Tesla tires are very expensive to replace. How are your tires holding up?

    • Mine are fine, but I drives rather gently. That’s just how I drive in general. But the car has crazy power and I can see how folks mess up their tires fast since it’s fun. The tires cost about the same as those of most cars though.

  4. I like the concept of a BEV, but there are two obvious constraints, one of which you mentioned, i.e., battery storage. In my opinion, battery technology is the long pole in any wholesale conversion to BEVs. I have no doubt we’ll get there, but for now, I think of the Tesla cohort as “city cars”. Those of us with long range driving requirements still will be better off with ICE vehicles for some time.

    Which brings me to my second point. Certain states, such as California, have accelerated the transition from fossil fuel/nuclear energy production to “sustainable” sources, such as wind and solar power. Unfortunately, without the requisite battery storage technology that does not yet exist (see point one above), when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow (at all or enough), energy producers are forced to rely on fossil fuel energy generation, or buying very expensive energy from elsewhere. Since a lack of capacity leading to rolling blackouts already are the “new normal” in many parts of California, the stress that would be placed on the electrical infrastructure by a wholesale move to BEVs would seem to make BEVs impractical at best in such a scenario, not to mention being as dirty as ICE vehicles, given the realities of fossil fuel energy generation and distribution. Finally, there’s the environmental impact of driving a relatively heavy vehicle (because of the weight of the batteries) and the conundrum of battery production (e.g., mining of lithium) and recycling without permanently degrading the environment.

    I’m very glad you are happy with your new BEV and wish you the best with it. I will be a BEV proponent once BEV battery technology has matured a bit, the environmental effects of rare mineral mining essential to battery production have been diminished, *and* there is a wholesale switch to clean, safe nuclear power.

    P.S. Yes, I’m aware that we need to drill if we are to extract, refine and use petroleum products, and those activities have their own environmental impacts. However, apart from the fact that we will need to do so anyway to produce plastics and other products, I’m concerned about merely swapping one environmental impact technology for another one without there being a clear and widespread understanding of the tradeoffs in doing so.

    • I got your points, Tom. We generally creat needs first and the infrastructure will catch up. That’s been how humans progress. And ICE will never go away. It’s a matter of degrees.

    • Love the comments here Tom. I have a hard time with the “push” towards EV technologies when we don’t have long term plans on dealing with the limited resources required for battery production. Every car I drive is eight or more years old (some more than 20) and at that age, It would take 2-3 battery packs. Battery replacement costs are going to be expensive when these vehicles start hitting 10+ years and need new batteries.

  5. Dong,
    I thought your readers may find this EV compare web app helpful in understanding how going EV vs hybrid vs ICE would impact their day to day. You can compare make/models against each other as well.

    Came across this randomly and thought it was really neat.

  6. You covered a lot of ground in your posting. A lot of your readers are pretty much “Do it Yourselfers”. I have installed two of the NEMA 14-50 outlets for my nephew to support his Model S. Do not skimp on the quality of the outlet. By one that uses an Allan wrench to tighten the terminal lug to the wire. 6 gauge wire is a PITA to work with in the small space of the outlet shown in your write up above. The higher quality outlet reduces the possibility of a loose connection.

  7. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an ICE engine noise, it can be a delight or a disgusting drone. If the silence of an electric engine makes the road noise more evident, that’s not necessarily an enjoyable thing. I drive a hybrid, test drove a tesla model 3, too stiff for my taste πŸ™‚ Drove a model Y, yep, nicer than my 2004 MDX πŸ™‚

    • Agreed, Gabrel. Sometimes I miss that sound. And I loved my 2004 MDX. It ran like new at almost 250K miles. It was the imminent required vale job that was the last straw. πŸ™‚

    • I found that after driving an EV for a year or so, it was the smell of gasoline that became more obnoxious. I never really noticed the relative quietness of my Tesla during driving, only at startup and when idling.

  8. Dong, you missed a couple of points. I am a happy Chevrolet Bolt owner and I never want to get into a ICE vehicle again. OK, an ambulance would be an exception, should I need one.
    You didn’t note that an EV is quiet – very, very quiet. There are no cylinders and no exhaust pipe. Sure, there can be road noise, but that is the road, not the car. Acceleration and deceleration are smooth – very smooth. There are no gear changes. Yes, there are emergency brakes, but most normal braking will done by turning the EV engine into a generator, as you pointed out.
    Range anxiety? Just use use your favorite search engine to find the nearest charging station when you need one. There are lots of them already and not just in the Bay Area. And, a major convenience store chain is planning to put them in most of its stores.
    An interesting development is Ford Motor Company’s electric pick up truck, scheduled to be available this Fall. The battery that powers the car can turned into a power supply that Ford claims can power an average single family home for three days. That would have helped a lot of people in Texas last winter.
    Finally I have high hopes that electric pick-up trucks will help end the culture wars. An EV is not and should not just be for techies or environmental activists. There are a lot of people who just need a truck for their job, or a car to bring home groceries or take their children somewhere. They might as well do it in a quiet, efficient vehicle.

    • I agreed, M. But I can’t list everything. πŸ™‚

      Also, some gas cars can be very quiet, too, for the drivers that is. Thanks for the input, though.


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