The New Family Member – Tesla Model Y

Besides all the negatives that 2020 brought, there were some positives – one being that we purchased a Tesla Model Y, and took delivery at the end of June. (Okay, so not really all that new…)

All of the factors just lined up for us. We liked the small-SUV/crossover size. I had reserved a place in the queue for the CyberTruck, but wasn’t fully committed on getting one. 2020 also meant no international traveling, of which we had been planning to see Japan. A friend from college had already owned a Model S for a while, and I credit him for helping overcome my main concern with getting a Tesla, which was range anxiety. The Tesla Super Charger network has been growing over the years, and there really isn’t a reason anymore to be concerned about running out of charge when traveling. When orders started shipping for the MY, we decided to forgo the CyberTruck and grab a Y.

Specs are:

  • Long Range All-Wheel Drive
  • All Black Premium Interior
  • Midnight Silver Metallic Exterior
  • 19″ Gemini Wheels
  • Autopilot
  • Full Self-Driving Capability

There are a range of reasons why one buys a Tesla. I’d categorize ours into: 50% technology and design enthusiasm / 30% driving fun / 20% environmental reasons.

The Tech/Design

Getting into a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y is such a huge shift in reality, especially if you are used to automobiles and driving. The main difference is the front “dashboard” area – one large screen in the center. And while the driver’s seat has a steering wheel and pedals, that’s about the only similarity with traditional vehicles.

Tesla Model Y interior

I likened it to one of those concept cars at auto shows. You know — the cars that look so awesome, but you know that they will never be produced, so don’t bother getting your hopes up…

I won’t review everything about it, there are a ton of walkthroughs online already. Just take my word when I say that as many videos you watch, or articles you read, won’t ever give you a full picture of what it looks and feels like when sitting in one in person. (More later on about the tech.)

Which brings me to…

Driving Fun

When we ordered the Model Y, we didn’t opt for the Performance model. I didn’t think it was a necessary add-on for what we wanted out of a car. Once it was delivered, that choice was justified. These cars are crazy fast off the line. The torque from the motors is just nuts, and it’s fun to really take off when showing someone the car for the first time. I don’t understand how Tesla offers even faster versions, it’s already scary fast in the base trim level.

Environmental

While concern for the environment is something everyone should have, Tesla and Elon Musk have nailed the strategy by not making that the thrust of the argument for owning an EV. The pure performance and lack of any serious maintenance are the real attractions for people buying these cars. But I have to say, to never have to pull into a dirty gas station again to fill up is a huge plus. It seems so antiquated now, and this really struck home with me recently when I had to rent a car and fill up.

Are we saving money with the shift of fuel from gas to electric? Not much. Where we live, Austin’s energy is structured that the more you use, the more you pay. We’re roughly landing about even with the increase in our energy consumption delta and the cost of gas we used to buy. This was a big unknown going into the purchase, so it wasn’t something we had banked on. If we moved to a location that had time-based cost savings on energy use, we could schedule our Tesla to charge during those times.


Tesla was more than just an combustion-vs-electric disruptor to the automobile industry, it was also a disruptor with regards to the technology experience. For example, if you own a car that was built within the last five years, how many times have you had an upgrade to the software/entertainment system in your car? Since owning the Model Y for six months, we’ve had 22 updates pushed, for an average of one update per week. Each update brought UI/UX improvements, added efficiency, new features and more. Rear backup camera was nice, but now the side rear-facing cameras were added to the screen. Autopilot improvements like adjusting the rate of automatic lane changes were applied. Sound system equalizer added. Sentry Mode enhancements… the list goes on. Going into this, I had an idea of this ability, I just didn’t realize the rate of speed and scope of changes involved. Full disclosure – I opted into getting updates quicker via a little flip of a button in the settings for the car. However, there still would have been three major updates over six months were I to decide to only take the major ones.

To get these updates, the Model Y is on our Wi-Fi network at home. It was the push I needed for putting an access point in the garage, as it was already needed for the sprinkler system control panel. The Wall Connector is also on the network, though it seems only for the occasional firmware update, as far as I can tell.

But the “Tesla Way” for using technology is a massive leap forward for the auto industry. As most know, you can already gain access and control the car via the Tesla app for smartphones. Pretty neat as it is, but it implies the ability to communicate with the vehicle. There are many apps for viewing any detailed data you could want to see about your car, because there’s an API. I don’t know if this was something shared by Tesla, or figured out by the tech community, but Tesla has been fine with owners accessing the information via this API.

As cool as it is that you can access this data, I wasn’t keen on any of these 3rd party apps having access to my data. If you’ve been following the blog, you’d know that I’ve been running Docker for various projects. One project I discovered is TeslaMate, so I was able to deploy that to my Docker instance. Since owning the car I’ve been able to track and archive all of my data. This is purely unnecessary to be a happy owner of a Tesla, but right in line with being a data geek/nerd/tech aficionado. It’s also allowed me to stay current with tech such as Grafana, Docker, and MQTT; as well as integrated with HomeAssistant (among other integrations).

TeslaMate Overview Grafana dashboard of the last 6 months for the Model Y.

On a side note, one project I have in the works is building a MagicMirror2, in which I can display the SoC (State of Charge) for the Tesla. This is one example of why access to this data is so awesome.

Home status display of the Tesla SoC, mileage, security, and Wi-Fi status.

This post is already getting long, and I have much more to say. I’ll end here, and work on posts addressing the technology and what it’s like to own an EV.

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