Way back in 1989, Mazda introduced the MX-5 Miata, its take on the two-seat convertible sports car. To say the car has been successful would be an understatement; it's perennially well reviewed and still going strong 34 years later.
Over the years, we've been lucky enough to own a couple—the first was a 1999 version that we sold shortly before the kids came along. And the second is still ours, a 2020 model that we bought used last summer...
We bought it to have something fun and involving to drive around in—complete with manual transmission, just like in the good old days. But this post isn't about our car, it's about something amazing that Mazda has done—or rather hasn't done—to the Miata over the 34 years of the model's existence: It hasn't bloated it into some oversized imitation of the car it used to be.
Our family (four of us) flew on Alaska Airlines to Colorado for the holidays; we left on the 20th, and were set to come back on the 27th. We watched the news of the mass cancellations on Southwest and others, but as we were set to fly back after the worst of the weather, we thought "everything should be fine."
Oh how wrong we were.
I awoke Tuesday morning to an email from Alaska Airlines, sent late Monday night, telling us that our Tuesday evening flight had been canceled.
In the first part of this two-part series, I covered the planning and car prep required for our trip; today I'll cover the driving (briefly) and the charging (in lots of detail).
Driving the route
For a trip of 3,600+ miles, it's amazing how little trouble we had—or even saw—on the roads. We had no near miss-accidents, no flat tires, and no mechanical issues with the car. We didn't spot any drivers that looked like they were having trouble staying on the road, and we didn't even drive past any recent accidents. There was some road construction, but only on 50 or so of the 3,600+ miles we covered.
I did my best to ignore the bugs on the front (though I did scrub them off once, in Colorado), but the windshield was another matter—it's hard to drive when looking through a layer of bug detritus.
For that problem, we packed a can of foaming window cleaner and paper towels, because there aren't typically squeegees and water at Tesla Supercharger stations. This stuff works great, and is so much neater than the squeegee/water solution that we've switched to it in our other (gas powered) car as well.
Today's post covers the trip planning and preparing the car for the journey; tomorrow's post will cover the actual drive, the charging experience on the road, and summarize the good and the bad of undertaking such a journey in an electric car.
Our electric car is a 2016 Tesla Model S, which we purchased in early 2019. This is our second 2016 Model S; with the first car, I took a trip to Las Vegas and back, a round trip of about 1,700 miles. (You can read about that journey in Part Four of my series about the Model S.)
At 3,641 miles, though, this trip was over twice as long, and ventured further away from civilization—driving through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, there's a whole lot of nothing between the small towns along the interstates. This definitely led to some anxiety on my part as we planned the trip. As a reminder, this was our route:
So what was it like driving an average of 300ish miles a day (plus campus visits), 12 days in a row, in our electric car? Overall, it was a non-event, which is about the most positive outcome I could have hoped for. But that doesn't mean the trip was as simple as it would've been in a gasoline powered car.
Unlike gasoline-powered cars, my Tesla is rarely at a gas station. The chargers in Tesla's Supercharger network are occasionally located on or near gas stations, but they're more likely to be at a hotel or in an industrial area, meaning you're not going to find a squeegee and water bin for cleaning your windshield.
To solve this problem, I keep a roll of paper towels and a can of Zep Foaming Glass Cleaner in the back of my car. While the car is charging, I spray and wipe the front and side windows. I've found that bug residue easily wipes off; only the largest of bug stains require a bit of elbow grease.
A recent 3,500 mile road trip (more on that in a future post) really put this system to the test, and it worked quite well—each time we charged the car, we left with a nice clear view…which lasted for all of a few miles, of course.
The other advantage to this method is that it's way less messy than water and a squeegee; it's easy to keep the spray exactly where you need it. This works so much better than the old method that we've put another can in the back of our gasoline-powered car—no more squeegees and water (of questionable cleanliness) for us!
This won't work well if you've got a large SUV, though, as you need to be able to reach across at least half the width and the full height of the windshield…another reason to stick with sedans!
If you're a Tesla owner, perhaps you'll find these apps as useful as I have…
The first is a macOS app called Tesla Tunes that overcomes some limitations of Tesla's USB music player: It automatically converts Apple Lossless (which the Tesla can't play) into FLAC, which the Tesla can play, and it offers some rudimentary support for playlists, which aren't supported at all in Tesla's player.
It's quite old, having been last updated two years ago, but it still works well—I prefer USB to streaming over Bluetooth from my phone, which is the other option.
When we owned a boat, we used a 2008 Toyota Sequoia to pull it. The Sequoia is a great truck—it pulled the boat, had tons of room for stuff and people, and rode quite nicely. But it was also incredibly efficient at converting money into gasoline fumes—even when not towing, it only got around 12mpg in town. It's also huge.
With the boat gone, we wanted something smaller, with better mileage, yet with room for seven people and capable of some towing. After a lot of research and a few test drives, we chose to lease a 2019 Subaru Ascent.
Reviews for the Ascent have been positive, with Consumer Reports scoring it at 96. In general, we've been happy with the car…until we took it on its first car camping trip last weekend.
It was there that we learned that Subaru made an incredibly stupid design decision with a vehicle targeted at those who use their vehicles for camping and exploring:
If you weren't reading along this week, I spent the last four days—parts one, two, three, and four—talking about my Tesla Model S and how much I love it.
Today's surprise ending is this: I sold the car. What I'd replace it with? This…
Obviously that's another Tesla Model S—a used Model S. It is, in fact, a 2016 Models S 90D—yes, basically the exact car I had, but not really—more on that in a bit. My wife and I call it the unicorn car; read on to understand why, and why I made this trade. (As I was writing this, I learned that others had already used that phrase for this particular vintage of the Model S.)
Important note: We took delivery of our car in April of 2019…in July of 2019, Tesla removed free Supercharging on the used pre-2017 cars they sell. There are no more unicorns, at least through Tesla.
If you want free Supercharging, you'll need to find a pre-2017 car from a private party—staring with the 2017 cars, free Supercharging became non-transferrable.
You can read the rest of the article, but all the references to free Supercharging from Tesla are irrelevant…darn it.
(Credit to Chuck M. for our conversation that made me dig into this.)
This is Part Four of a four-part series on our 2016 Tesla Model S. In Part One, I covered why we chose the Model S, the cost of the car, and a bit about Tesla the company. In Part Two, I listed some of the things I love about the car. In Part Three, I listed more of the things I love, plus those things I hate. In today's Part Four, I'll discuss what it's like living with an electric car, cover a somewhat long road trip I took last fall, and offer a few thoughts on the future of auto electrification. Finally, tomorrow's Part Five will provide an unexpected ending (of sorts) to the series.
Living with an electric car
My two-plus years with an electric car have been basically a non-event. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that I work at home, and that we have non-electric vehicles, so the Tesla doesn't have to do everything. (But even if I commuted, with the car's range of 280 miles, I think it'd still be a non-event.)
This is Part Three of a five-part series on our Tesla Model S. In Part One, I covered why we chose the Model S, the cost of the car, and a bit about Tesla the company. In Part Two, I listed some of the things I love about the car; today's Part Three has more of the loves, as well as the not-so-loves. Part Four will discuss what it's like living with an electric car, and my thoughts on the future of auto electrification. Finally, Part Five will provide an unexpected ending (of sorts) to the series.
Continuing with the things I love about the car and its infrastructure, and then getting to the not-so-loved things…