PiVPN + Wireguard

When Chris at Crosstalk Solutions posted a video on how to setup a VPN on a Raspberry Pi, I knew what my unused Pi was going to be used for.

This post isn’t going into the details, Chris’ video covers that, but I did have a chance to use the VPN while traveling over the Easter holiday. We were visiting relatives in South Carolina and I took the opportunity to connect via my MBP with the Wireguard client installed. As expected, I was on my home network and able to access everything I had previously setup access to. The connection was fast, as well.

Tesla App Charging Stats

A little over a month ago(ish), Tesla released an update to their phone app that included accumulated charging statistics. More than just tracking the charging data, Tesla structured the metrics to also give you an idea of how much you are saving by not filling up with regular gas. There’s no way to set the price of the gas, and the help page states:

Tesla has assumed a fuel economy of 28 miles per gallon for Model 3 and Model Y…

You can set the energy cost that your home charger is using. Since Austin Energy uses a tiered pricing schedule, I looked up my historical billing and set my cost to $0.11 kWh.

Today marks 31 days of having this data:

Looking back, I’d say this was a pretty typical month for us. Total mileage was ~771 miles. The February 19th spike on the bar chart was charging up to 100% for a quick trip to San Antonio. Otherwise the max charge level I keep is at 80-90%.

Pulling up my TeslaMate dashboards, and the “Cost per 100 mi” stat is showing 4.10. Multiplying that with the mileage of 771 comes out to 3161, or $31.61, which is within a gnat’s hair of the Total Spent metric in the screenshot above. I’m betting the app does some rounding and/or the data cut-off was slightly different from TeslaMate.

All in all, the new Charge Stats screen is a nice update that surfaces more of the data that we know is out there to be sliced and diced. It’s nice to know that I can quickly call this up for a glance rather than needing to refer to the TeslaMate dashboards.

And right now, in March 2022, that Gas Savings metric has got to be a huge boon to any Tesla owner.

March 2022 EV Comparison Update

I went through and updated specs for these vehicles based on the model year 2022. I also updated the BMW offering from the i3 to the i4, and added the VW ID.4 to the list.

I wanted to also add pricing to the comparison, and then break that down by Price/mi. Not sure of the value there, but it can really show a wide difference. This is essentially saying “how expensive is it to drive this vehicle a mile”, excluding charging costs. (e.g. Tesla M3 is $156/mi, vs an Audi e-tron at $302/mi.)

Observations:

  • Tesla returns to the top in mi/kWh.
  • Given pricing, Chevy Bolt’s offer a compelling argument. (Recent issues notwithstanding…)
  • If you’ve been following the news, Rivian raised their pricing. Makes that already bottom-scraping mi/kWh metric even more hard to swallow.
  • Ranges are getting better when compared to last year, and technology is improving. Hopefully this will mean we’ll soon see more affordable models being offered in coming years.

Compiling and tracking these metrics is a fun pastime for me, but I can see that I need to start segmenting out this into vehicle class. Look for that to happen with the next post.

Any thoughts on what to change or improve on?

Tesla Solar Install (to be continued…)

Coming from a background of working at NASA and experiencing weather delays for launches, you’d think I’d have a Zen-like attitude towards such things, but I don’t.

In what can only be described as still suffering the domino effects of 2021’s Winter Storm Event, the Tesla Solar install scheduled for this Friday – 2/4/2022 – has been delayed. Why? Because of another Winter Storm Event.

I started this process with Tesla back in August 2021, only to learn that the soonest they could do the coordination with the Austin Energy utility was February 2022. Apparently AE has been slammed with solar and backup generator installs since the 2021 snow storm, and as of today, they are scheduling new customers as far out as 6 months.

When this week’s weather was shaping up to be a shitter, I bitterly succumbed to reality on Tuesday and called Tesla about rescheduling the Friday installation. But Tesla pushed to keep the scheduled install for 2/4, precisely because of the huge utility backup. Their reasoning was that even if the weather wouldn’t allow them to install the panels on the roof, they could still get the Tesla-to-Utility Meter hookup done – a process that took all of ~45 minutes – and then the utility scheduling was no longer an issue and we could reschedule the rest of the install within a couple of weeks. While I wasn’t thrilled about the power being shut off on a day where the high is supposed to be 34*F, it was going to be off for only a short amount of time. Okay, Tesla and I decided to stick with Feb 4th.

Today, Wednesday, Tesla just called me and said that Austin Energy cancelled their part for this Friday.

Tesla said they have me scheduled now for March 14th, but also said it remains to be seen if that is when Austin Energy can meet that schedule. I expressed concern that it would be a six month delay, to which the Tesla representative replied that since this was a utility request for reschedule, they should accommodate a faster schedule.

We shall see.

To be honest, I feel relieved that this isn’t happening this Friday. Not just for me, but for those installers involved. It’s not looking pretty for Texas this week.

Tesla Wall Connector (Gen 3) API Exploration

Over the winter break, I was surfing around online to see if there were any projects that allowed someone to pull metrics and perhaps even control the Tesla Generation 3 Wall Connector. A post on Tesla Motors Club forums showed that some preliminary API calls could be made, and at the end of the post someone commented that they have a dashboard setup using InfluxDB and Telegraf that queries the TWC. So I set about getting this setup and running.

After a deep-dive into learning about Telegraf, and a couple of false starts resolving issues, I finally got it working. The price/kWh is averaged out over my last three years of data to use $0.1085, given that my utility has a usage-based tiered pricing structure.

The Total Energy Cost is since August 2020, and as of this writing (1/1/2022), we have exactly 12,000 miles on the Model Y. Note that we haven’t only used our TWC to charge, as we’ve taken a couple of trips and charged on the road.

I think the next step is to setup this dashboard using the Grafana interface I have running locally for TeslaMate. The Cloud InfluxDB offering is slick, but I like keeping my data local/private.

December 2021 Tech Projects/Gadgets

A quick rundown of my current personal projects and gadgets I’ve been toying around with.

  1. Reolink – These cameras are surprisingly good quality for low prices. I’ve got a RLC-520 (Amazon, $50) mounted viewing the back drive, and a RLC-410W (Amazon, $68) temporarily positioned viewing the side patio and yard. The app integrates all of the cameras and presents the feeds in a nicely done UI/UX. My cousin setup a Reolink GO on the site that their new lake house is being built on, and even on a 4G cellular connection the stream is really good. Incidentally, the Synology has an NVR application that supports the Reolink cameras, which made for a bonus feature of the system. If Reolink came out with a doorbell, I’d be very tempted to ditch the Ring and consolidate on the Reolink platform altogether. Sample pics at the end of this post.
  2. TeslaUSB – This open source project uses the Raspberry Pi Zero platform, and Tesla’s open API, to connect your Tesla vehicle to a network and easily transfer any Sentry Cam videos off the car, and sync music files to the car. On Tesla’s, you can mount an SSD and have video automatically recorded and stored from the various cameras mounted around the car. Unfortunately, there’s no real easy way to move those videos off the car short of unplugging the SSD and using sneakernet to transfer them to another location. In place of the SSD, you plug the Raspberry Pi Zero in and when you pull into the garage the Pi connects to your home network and offloads any new videos. It also will sync .mp3’s from a configured location to the car, for accessing and playing from the entertainment system. The only downside I’ve experienced with this is that it renders the in-car Sentry Cam viewer useless, as accessing the stored videos while in the car painfully slow. (I’ve just purchased the newer model Rasperry Pi Zero 2 W to see if this downside is remedied.) And yes, the videos are automatically syncing to the Synology NAS.
  3. Apple 2021 MacBook Pro M1 Max – After many years of wandering in the desert of bad features, Apply finally released a great update to their MBP’s, so I jumped at the chance to upgrade my mid-2015 MBP. I’ve had the laptop for about a week now, and it’s great. This screen is amazing. Do I need all of this horsepower? Not really, but I opted for the lower config of the M1 Max as a way of future-proofing. I was really surprised at how the old laptop held up, so I think I’m going to try and do the same with this model and keep it for 5+ years. I missed out on the Touchbar era, and I can’t say if that was a feature I’d be negative or positive on, but missing out on the butterfly keyboard is a good thing. I had heard reviews that the speakers and sound on this laptop was really good, but I was shocked at how good. Sure they’re still laptop speakers, but the bass and fidelity are really surprising. Already I can see how great the battery life is, but I’m also coming from a laptop where the battery was in dire need of replacing. All in all I’m very happy with this laptop.

Reolink RLC-520:

Reolink RLC-410W:

Acquiring a Tesla Solar Panel System

As of: 11/27/2021

I’m going to post a more detailed write-up after the system is up and running, but for now here’s a quick timeline of the process so far on ordering a Tesla solar panel system.

  • 8/15/2021 – Began the ordering process. Website config was 12kWh and 2 Powerwalls.
  • 8/16-18/2021 – Took photos and uploaded as part of the Home Assessment step.
  • 8/25/2021 – Tesla solar design available for review. Design group calculated 9kWh and 2 Powerwalls.
  • 8/30/2021 – Credit check, Approval to Install, and Permits filed.
  • 8/31-9/14/2021 – Kept checking the Austin Permit website for status change.
  • 9/14/2021 – Email to Tesla about permit issue. Tesla promptly replied it was forwarded to the Permit Coordinator.
  • 9/15/2021 – Tesla update that permits were approved.
  • 9/30/2021 – Tesla portal shows install date of 1/5/2022, confirmed with Tesla.
  • 10/1/2021 – Called Austin Energy to confirm the installation date. AE claims I wasn’t on the schedule, but confirmed the backlog due to massive solar and generator installs in the area. I emailed Tesla this information.
  • 10/2/2021 – Tesla portal now shows an installation date of 2/4/2021.

Going into this, I knew that working with Tesla for a solar panel system was likely to be problematic, as the online reviews and posts state Tesla’s very poor customer service. The one bit of advice I kept seeing was the customer (me) needed to act as if they are the project manager, as the PM’s with Tesla are either inept, overworked, or both.

I get the impression that Tesla Energy is experiencing massive growth and are playing it fast and loose. In Texas alone there has been >1 gigawatts of solar installed since the February 2021 “winter event”, compare that to the South Texas Nuclear Project’s annual production of 1.28 gigawatts. Many posts online show that it’s a bumpy ride to install day, but once the day arrives, it’s a swift install and the crews are really great to interface with.

There have been two main issues so far that I’ve had to be proactive with Tesla on: the permitting and the installation scheduling. I’m confident if I hadn’t been checking on the permit status or the scheduling with Austin Energy, my install date would be further out in 2022.

The system design process was quick and I have to say I’m impressed. I was sent the engineering drawings, and was able to confirm that the Powerwalls will be installed inside the garage. Tesla is defaulting PW installs to outside, but given that my natural gas meter was close to my electrical meter, Tesla had to put them inside.

…to be continued.