I’m now 2 years into ownership of my Tesla Model 3, and generally, I love the car. As anyone who reads CleanTechnica regularly knows, most of our writers are generally favorable in their viewpoint of Tesla, and I’m no exception. It is hands-down the best “car experience” I’ve ever had (it’s not just a car, in other words). I believe the company and its CEO have changed the game and given the world a boost in its fight against climate change that is unrivaled in terms of innovation, business model, and efficacy. I love Patagonia, Vestas, Ørsted, Wartsila, ABB, ChargePoint, Flo, Carbon Lighthouse, and many others, too, but in terms of shifting markets via widespread adoption of planet-saving tech, no one rivals Tesla, IMO.
There are some things, though, that absolutely drive me nuts about my car, and have me considering making the switch to Ford’s new F-150 Lightning, because, well, I have never had a pickup truck and I have no desire to drive an armadillo with wheels (ahem). Zach did an initial writeup on the things he didn’t like about his Tesla back in 2019, and later some of the things he’d found to highlight after a few more months of ownership, so I figured I’d pen my own such piece after a two-year review period.
Let me start with something that Zach and I both didn’t like:
1. Makes me competitive — As Zach pointed out, you’re tempted to race every gas guzzling muscle car off the line. It’s possible the car has made me a more aggressive driver, due to having that amazing power under my control. My back cracked in its usual spot when I floored it off the line one time. In a recent encounter, I pulled up next to a young couple with thumping base in a muffler-modified ICE Ford Mustang, made the “roll down the window” motion, and when the dude lowered the window, I said, “Wanna race?” To my surprise, he simply conceded, “You’ve got an electric — you’ll win.”
Here’s a few more things that drive me crazy, and where my expectations are perhaps too high.
2. Range dropping — The range drops fast after a charge, which is discouraging. I have many times gotten into my fully charged 3 and then driven a few miles only to see 10+ miles drop off of my estimated remaining range. At one point, I also lost 5 miles just from using AC on level 2 air flow at 74 degrees (ambient that day was 80 degrees) in the shade of a parking garage for 15–20 min. The car is anticipating a variety of factors influencing range, and that estimate is likely not quite accurate in its precipitous decline, but to watch that happen is discouraging, to say the least, and makes me less excited about the car. Overall, I’ve found that when I actually test out the range vs. what is shown on Google Maps for specific trips, more or less, it’s accurate, given the caveat that I don’t exactly drive like a grandpa (see above).
3. Changes to regenerative braking — This is hands-down my least favorite issue, as it happens frequently and doesn’t seem to have a pattern I can predict. My car decides, on its own, when to decrease the amount of braking the regen feature applies. The only warning I get is a small line of text on the screen that is apparently very easy to miss, since several times I’ve been driving, taken my foot off the accelerator, and expected the car to stop while it doesn’t. I poked around in the forums, and most mention that when the battery is either full or cold it’ll do this, but … I live in the tropics and this most recently happened this weekend, when temps were 85°+, and my battery had about 2/3 charge. Hmmm. …
4. Remember my phone! My Model 3 keeps forgetting my phone for music. It seems to reset back to a spinny wheel of death every time I get in. I have googled around but found nothing in the forums answering this challenge. It once even forgot my phone existed — couldn’t even find it — despite the fact that my phone was … driving the car. That time, I had to get a tech on the phone to walk me through re-finding my phone for music.
5. Roof glass heat gain — The heat coming through is overwhelming. I am sure (hopeful?) that there’s UV protection, but it does feel like my head and face are burning in the sun. I had to get an aftermarket roof shade from EV Annex to partially solve the problem, and it helps a lot, but the heat coming through was way too much before, and even with the shade, it is still present.
6. Roof glass fragility — I’ve got two chips in my roof glass, neither of which do I know the origin of. Both just appeared one day and have spread across the glass. I called my local Tesla dealer to inquire and was initially told it wasn’t under my warranty. A few months later, someone from my local dealership called and asked if I still had it. He suggested I come in to have it looked at to determine whether it’s under warranty or not. I inquired as to what the determining factor would be, and he said they’d have to take a look at it. I took a deep breath and clarified my question, asking, “what would they be looking at?” Finally, he said that if there was an origin spot (a chip), it would not be under warranty. I have several chips — as shown below — and don’t recall anything in particular starting them.
7. Touchup paint — The last few vehicles I’ve owned, touchup paint was never great, but it usually costs a few bucks and sufficed for a quick fix. The results of past touchups I’ve done are hardly visible, if not 100% matched upon close inspection. Given my Model 3 is the first new car I’ve ever bought, I am doing my best to take good care of it, so I ponied up for the $55 official Tesla touchup paint kit.
Admittedly, I have no reference point for touchup paint in the last … decade (my last car being a biodiesel VW beater I just couldn’t have cared less about, style-wise), but this kit was not a simple matter of applying a small brushtip of paint to a chip or small scratch. There are two liquids, timing, chemical odors that could peel paint off the walls, and multiple tools (4, plus the two types of rags and the glove). I did my best, even watched a couple of YouTube videos, and tried two tiny scratches on my car before thinking about attempting the one slightly larger scratch. The results were … just bad.
Needless to say, there are now some scratches on my car that I am just living with, and I think that $55 was not well spent.
8. Phone key detection — Chime in if this is your experience, too. The number of times I get to my car with hands full (bags of groceries, work stuff, whatever) and manage to get two fingers free to work the door handle only to be stonewalled is beyond count. I have to put stuff down, reach into my pocket, pull out my phone, and voila, the door opens. I don’t even have to hit a button to activate my phone, it just has to be moved from my pocket to three inches away from my pocket, and then the car detects it.
I absolutely love the regenerative braking (when it works as I expect it to), the power, the handling, the beautiful interior, the large touchscreen, the efficiency, the fact that I can charge for free at a number of places near me, the design, and more. In 2 years and 15,000 miles, I have spent nothing besides the $55 for the paint kit, since I charge on excess solar power at home or at free stations around town. The car is a 9.6 out of 10.
But the thing that is 100% the most impactful thing for me is that it has allowed me to redefine for my community of friends what it means to be sustainable in my personal life. I’ve always been that guy who brings a reusable glass container of homemade hummus with homegrown dill to family and friend gatherings. I’ve been near vegan for almost 30 years. So much of sustainability is what I’d describe as a “softer” side of humanity … do-gooder type of stuff. And I’ve felt my masculinity questioned as I watch most “normal” dudes whip out a rack of ribs they just picked up from the grocery store wrapped in styrofoam and plastic for the BBQ and set it next to my organic homemade hummus with garden-grown ingredients. They get lots of pats on the back and guttural acknowledgments of awesomeness from the other dudes. The hummus doesn’t seem to elicit that response, somehow. My beat-up VW biodiesel, similarly, seemed “soft” when compared to the gas guzzling pickups my dude friends drove.
But now, showing up with that hummus in a sexy and powerful AF Model 3? Totally different ballgame. I feel no one wonders about my manliness anymore. And that, for a guy who understands better than most that not all men are going to be okay being the weird vegan with the hummus at BBQs, means the world. Not just for me — I’ve never had issues with lack of confidence (ahem) — but for the sake of humanity and the climate crisis. Many men need to feel like macho masculine men, first and foremost, before they can give a f**k about the world around them. And that, fundamentally, is one of the many, many reasons that Tesla is a game changer for the world. Sad, maybe, but I speak my truth, and I’ve watched this phenomenon unfold for 3 decades now. I know it’s a lot harder to fight human nature and hormones than to answer them with technology that requires no compromise and in fact makes people drool. So, I certainly appreciate my Model 3. But I’d also love to see these things that drive me nuts corrected or addressed. Then I could bump the score up above 9.6 out of 10.