Thoughts on the Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3

Full disclosure: I own stock in Tesla Motors. Now you know!

Last week Elon Musk finally announced the long-awaited Tesla Model 3. The Model 3 is the final step in the company’s “Master Plan” to bring affordable electric vehicles to the masses and judging from the number of pre-orders I’d say it’s about to become a reality. There’s a lot to love about the Model 3 including a minimum driving distance of 215 miles on a single charge and a base starting price of $35,000.

There’s also many unknowns including how many of the over 250K pre-orders Tesla will convert into actual sales. With a promised delivery of somewhere around the “end of 2017” it’s unclear if the government’s $7,500 EV tax credit will still apply to the Model 3 at the time of its release. The credit only covers the first 200,000 units of a given model which means some 53,000+ buyers may not be eligible. In addition, thanks to an anti-electric vehicle assault the Koch brothers plan to mount this year, the entire tax credit structure may not survive in Congress long enough for owners to take advantage of purchasing a Model 3.

Tesla Model 3 Interior'

I’ve read lots of strong opinions on the Model 3’s styling; from its strange lack of a front grill to the huge flat-panel display that seems overly distracting when sitting behind the wheel. The smooth nose I understand and I think I could get used to, but the large, center-mounted instrumentation panel does seem like a deal breaker, at least to me. I’m curious to see how the display looks when driving at night as well as how responsive it is to touch commands. The entire interior of the Model 3 seems overly minimalistic which isn’t necessarily a bad thing I just feel like I’ll be sitting inside Flynn’s home from TRON: Legacy.

Without a doubt the most appealing aspect of the Model 3 is its range of at least 215 miles on a single charge. Having owned a Ford C-MAX for almost a year now, which has a maximum distance of just over 24 miles on a charge, I can’t wait for the rest of the industry to catch up to Tesla. Whenever my car switches from EV mode to combustion I feel disheartened, like I’ve somehow let the environment down. Having the freedom to travel great distances without worrying about re-charging will be a huge selling point for Tesla and makes hybrid car owners like myself seriously consider it for their next vehicle.

Although I didn’t put a pre-order in for a Model 3, I am enthusiastic for those who did. The entire world will be watching to see if Tesla launches the Model 3 on time and on budget. Meanwhile, other companies like Nissan, Chevy and even Apple are eager to see where Elon Musk’s vision takes us all next. The company’s success or failure will undoubtedly influence the direction of sustainable transport around the world for decades to come. Personally, with the threat of climate change worsening day-by-day, I’m rooting for Tesla to succeed and drag us all into a cleaner, greener future whether we like like how it looks or not.


2009 Honda Fit Review Is Go!

Back in August I wrote that I had test driven a 2006 Honda Fit and was in a holding pattern for the brand new 2009 model to come to Honda dealers before I made my final purchasing decision. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I took the plunge in early October and I’m pleased to report that it was the right decision. I’ve now been driving my new car for over a month and have a good handle on how the Fit drives, my likes, dislikes and quirks. The review that follows isn’t an exhaustive play by play, but rather what I’ve come to learn that might help other buyers like myself decide if the Fit is right for them. If you’re in the market for a new fuel efficient vehicle and have been thinking about the 2009 Honda Fit, then read on.

The Good

Having been an owner of three previous Honda CRV’s, I was really worried about how much space I would have in the new Fit. I’m not a small guy and I do feel cramped in my wife’s Civic. But one of the first things you notice is that it is surprisingly roomy. It feels like it’s just big enough for me without having the extra size and weight of an SUV. The magic back seats are much better than my old CRV seats and fold down 100% flush with the storage compartment in the back. I can already tell this will come in handy when loading big items into the cargo area.

Honda’s advertisements for the Fit tout its fuel economy and with good reason. My Fit’s gas tank is a full 3 gallons smaller than my CRV’s, but now I’m getting an average of 31.5 mpg as opposed to 21 before. This means I’m getting roughly the same number of miles out of a full tank as I was with the CRV, but for less fuel and less money. Totally wonderful!

The car is super fun to drive. Unlike my CRV, the Fit takes corners tightly, hugs the road like a semi-real sports car and does an admirable job of shifting both up and down. There are many winding roads around where I live and I’ve rediscovered the joy of driving on them thanks to my new Fit. Other nice things include:

• Daytime running lights for safety

• Real time MPG indicator as you drive

• Two glove boxes instead of just one

• Hidden iPod adapter in the upper glove box

• Audio controls on the steering column

• GPS navigation system shows ATMs, restaurants & more

The Not So Good

I’ve never run across a car that was perfect and the 2009 Honda Fit is no exception. There will always be things that, for one reason or another, you wish were different about the vehicle. Thankfully, I don’t consider any of the items below to be deal breakers from a buyer’s perspective. I do think they are things that Honda should look at improving in future revisions.

My single biggest problem with the 2009 Honda fit is the lack of useable dash space. What exactly is useable dash space you ask? It’s those places where you can put loose change, a pen, maybe a receipt the bank teller just handed you, etc. Because the Fit’s dash features sports style gauges, there is no place above the steering column to throw things. My CRV’s gauges were flat and therefore there was a small “shelf” that I often used for just this purpose. What’s worse, the passenger seat pretends to have such a shelf, but it lacks a rubber foot like the CRV did which renders it useless as objects simply slide right off when you turn a corner.

Honda also touts the fact that the interior of the Fit has no less than 10 cup holders, but this isn’t so much of a feature as it is a waste of space. Even seating 5 people, each person would have to have 2 drinks each to make use of all those cup holders. Note to Honda: I’d rather have utility space rather than so many cup holders in the future, thank you very much.

Being an user interface designer, I can’t help but critique the audio and navigation system too. On the surface the hands-free GPS seems great, but after using it for more than a few minutes, you really start to learn how poorly it is designed. Every single time you turn the ignition on, you’re confronted with a disclaimer screen that you must manually dismiss. Every. Single. Time. If you don’t, the system will default to a giant digital clock. Sure, you can get to the audio controls, but you won’t be able to use the GPS portion unless you hit that damned “Okay” button. Bad Honda, bad! Other things that need improving include:

• Honda’s iPod interface doesn’t see “Podcasts”, only playlists

• Turning off auto-door locking isn’t obvious or easy

• Too many hands-free voice commands to remember

• Cloth materials on doors seems to scuff easily


Overall, I love my new car. I managed to lower my car payments significantly while keeping much of the cargo space of my old CRV. The Fit’s gas mileage is great for a non-hybrid vehicle and has cut way down on my fuel costs. The 2009 Fit is fun to drive, has sleek lines and nice styling. While I would love for the interior to make better use of space, and some of the quirks of the audio / navigation system to be ironed out, I none-the-less can recommend the 2009 Honda Fit whole heartedly for anyone looking to buy one.


It’s a Science Experiment!

Inspired by a recent episode of Mythbusters, I’ve decided to undertake a small science experiment. I want see how many more miles I can get out of a full tank of gas simply by changing my driving habits. It’s a documented fact that the more aggressively you drive, the more gas you waste. As Kari, Grant and Tori showed on Mythbusters, driving stressed out or angry used up to as much as 1/3 more gasoline as when speed limits, traffic signs, etc. are obeyed. Now, I wouldn’t call myself an overly aggressive driver, but I do exceed posted speed limits from time to time, and if you ask my wife, she’ll gladly tell you that I take corners rather hard. So when I filled my tank on August 8th, I made a mental note that I was going to “go to my happy place” while driving around town. I would then compare my average milage during my experiment with what I’ve been getting over the last 10 fill-ups. Fortunately, I’ve been keeping track of my average miles per gallon since May for just such an occasion.

Using the data I’ve collected over the last ten weeks I’ve determined that I get an average of 258 miles to a single tank of gas which is about 21 miles per gallon. I rarely do highway driving so my around-town trips fall squarely at the low end of Honda’s 21-23 MPG rating for the Civic. It will be interesting to see how much, if any, I can increase my average miles per gallon simply by becoming a more responsible driver. Even if I don’t manage to get much more bang for my mileage buck, I can say without a doubt that I’ve actually enjoyed driving more these past few days than I usually do. Since I know I can’t speed, I plan my departure accordingly and give myself plenty of time to be places. This results in a more relaxed pace and a more enjoyable experience behind the wheel.

One unexpected side-effect of my experiment is that I can see how I must have been driving. When not on my bumper or passing me at dizzying speeds, other motorists have been generally cranky as I obey traffic signs and speed limits. It’s funny because I drive along and think “there but for the grace of God, go I”. As of today, my fuel gauge is reading half empty and my odometer says I’ve gone 153 miles. Pretty good, but as a friend pointed out to me, my car’s fuel tank is not symmetrical so the lower half of the tank probably holds less than the upper. This means we’ll have to wait for the experiment’s conclusion to see just how I did. I’ll be sure to do an update when I have the final results.

When this trial is over, I’ll probably go back to my lead-footed ways, but if I can get 10-20 more miles out of a tank of gas simply by obeying posted speed limits, I may take up permanent residence in my driving “happy place”. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Well the results of my experiment are in. After running all the way past “E”, with no extra highway driving, I managed to get a full 278 miles out of my fill-up. That means that simply by obeying speed limits and curbing my aggressive driving, I managed to get a full 20 more miles from my car than normal. I increased my average miles per gallon from 21 to 23 which just about equaled an extra gallon of gas. Hooray for science!


Waiting for the 2009 Honda Fit

So the lease on my 2005 Honda CRV was up this past July and like millions of other Americans who are dealing with high gas prices, I started looking for a smaller car this time around. Enter the Honda Fit. One of the best selling cars in its class, the Fit seemed just like what I was looking for both in gas mileage and price. I set up an appointment to test drive a Fit and found that I really did like it. Surprisingly it drives much more like my CRV than I expected. I thought I would feel very low to the ground, but I didn’t. And when Honda says the Fit is one of the roomiest cars for its size, they are not kidding. I didn’t feel cramped at all. There’s only one problem – a new model is coming in just a few months.

After a quick bit of research, I’m glad the sales person at Crown Honda didn’t manage to pressure me into walking off the lot with the current model. The 2009 Honda Fit has improvements in almost every area that make waiting worth it. Here’s a list of just some of those improvements:

• Tire pressure monitoring system

• Voice activated GPS

• Apple iPod adapter now standard

• Two new engines: a 1.3 liter i-VTEC or a 1.5 liter i-VTEC

• Overall length, width and wheelbase have been increased

• Windshield moved forward, A-pillar is smaller for better visibility

• More storage space

With all of the focus on gas mileage these days, I was really happy to see that the Fit includes a built-in tire pressure sensor. That small addition should help owners immensely when it comes to getting the most miles from each fill up. The Fit also forgoes the standard addition of a spare tire and includes a tire patch kit instead. By doing so, the car frees up space for other things like those wonderful “magic seats” while also lightening the load, again increasing gas mileage. You gotta give Honda credit, in today’s world every bit helps.

I’ve also noticed some nice things about the new Fit that Honda doesn’t tout, but are none-the-less important to a CRV driver like myself. One of these features is the ability to control the sound system from the steering wheel. I’ve really grown to love this feature in my CRV and every time I climb into my wife’s Civic, I instantly miss it. These controls are absent on the current Fit, but you can see in close-ups of the 2009’s dash, that they are there. Another is the modified gauges including a non-recessed speedometer. I really don’t like the current “sports” look of today’s gauges with deep wells that hold the instrumentation. While the 2009 Fit doesn’t totally remove these recessed gauges, the primary one is once again flat and easy to read which is a big help. Lastly, there is an extra storage well on on the passenger’s side above the glove box and a swing down storage tray between the front seats. Both are obviously lifted from the design of the CRV which is just fantastic.

if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Honda had designed the new 2009 Fit just for me. Of course, there are always downsides to any car and advanced reviews suggest that the car’s pick-up isn’t as good as the current model. This, combined with higher levels of noise at highway speeds seem to dictate an informative test drive is in order before I make my final decision. For now, I’m happy going month-to-month on my current lease and biding my time. Of course, when the new models arrive, they’ll probably be in short supply, so that “autumn” release may eventually turn into a winter purchase. If the 2009 Fit turns out to be 1/2 as good as it looks however, I think I’ll have made the right decision. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, Honda decided to release the new Fit a month early. It’s being released to dealers on August 26th so if you’re in the market, prick up your ears people!