Robert Lipe had many reasons for purchasing a Tesla, with safety being one of the most important features. With so many benefits, driving a Tesla became the best choice for him.
Q: What kind of electric vehicle do you drive?
A: A black 2019 Tesla Model 3 LRAWD with FSD. That alphabet soup means that it has Long Range (~320 miles), All Wheel Drive – separate DC motors for the front and back, each geared for a different velocity band and has the Full Self Driving capability. That’s a bit misleading because it doesn’t drive fully on its own yet, but it will make lane changes to keep a safe speed and will take interstate exits on its own. It recognizes and acts on stop signs and stoplights.
Q: Why did you buy this particular EV?
- Safety. Two of our three most recent vehicle purchases were totaled when other drivers rammed the side. One of these accidents rolled the RAV4 on the side and pinned Linda in the vehicle until she could be cut out. The Model 3’s low center of balance helps with side-impact, but the number of safety awards earned helps relieve our minds that we’re in a safe car.
- Tesla’s supercharging network finally grew to fill in the dots needed for every road trip to visit far-away family, making road trips practical.
- Range. Leaf and Bolt were just breaking 120 miles on a charge when we looked at the Model 3. Having over 300 miles reduces stops needed for road trips. We were facing (involuntary) retirement and planning for road trips factored in heavily.
Q: What was the year you started noticing EVs?
A: In 2012, when we bought our Prius V (semi-EV!), the Tesla Roadster was on my distant radar. The combination of price, range and charging network wasn’t right for me at that time, but that’s when I recognized modern EVs as a tech product.
As a tech guy, I knew that betting against price and performance improving over time (given a judicious application of money…) was unwise so it was inevitable that EVs would conquer the earth. At some level, the issue of the online comic The Oatmeal describing “What it’s like to own a Tesla Model S” surely imprinted on me; I wanted a “magical space car” of my own.
Q: Why did you buy an EV?
A: Safety. We each have medical issues that impact our comfort of driving on trips. An earlier Tesla scoring a 103 out of 100 at Consumer Reports made a lasting impression.
Technology. Buckets of virtual ink have been spilled on how much of a promise/hoax is realized by Tesla’s Full Self Driving features, but it’s been amazing for us on road trips. It’s a huge load off our minds that the car knows when it’s safe to change lanes. (I have titanium in my neck; swiveling heads for blind-spot checks is a drag.) The car maintains a safe distance on all sides from 3 obstacles. The car can (mostly) get itself from the parking lot and to the door to pick us up. Best of all is that the car is constantly getting updates that make it better all the time on its own. Our Prius never learned a single new trick after we drove it off the lot.
Environmental Impact. We can’t drill or mine icky stuff from our earth, burn it, then throw the results into our atmosphere forever. We know that getting one oil burner off the road might not make a huge difference, but maybe we can be an example and influencer for others. Maybe a reader here will be influenced slightly.
Q: Why did you take a leap from owning an ICE to an EV?
A: The cost of ownership. Fuel savings are nice, but I don’t miss the $1500 invoices for a radiator flush, transmission flush, timing belts and other routine maintenance.
Q: What is your favorite EV characteristic?
A: Tesla makes driving fun again. It’s always attentive to drivers wandering into our lane or us missing a stoplight in the setting sun. Long-distance drives really became fun again once the car shares the responsibility for safety.
Q: Is this EV your personal vehicle or a company car?
A: It’s a personal car, which is a bit funny since my previous employer offered free employee charging (via plentiful CA rooftop solar) for years before it was fashionable. When I interviewed in 2007, Google were tearing up the garage to put in solar roofs. I just didn’t want to make the daily commute to California, so I worked from home where that perk, like the gourmet lunch, wasn’t available.
Q: Does your car have a nickname? Why that name?
A: Serenity. It’s a dual play on the quiet drive afforded by the simpler electric powertrain and Malcolm Reynold’s ship on the short-lived sci-fi western show “Firefly.” Like the namesake ship, it doesn’t rely on weapons; it favors ingenuity.
Q: What was the biggest and most exciting surprise about owning an EV?
A: Yes, they actually DO accelerate that quickly!
Q: What is your biggest challenge of owning an EV?
A: When traveling, especially in the more rural areas, planning around charging can be tough. If fast charging were plentiful, it would really make EV ownership easier.
Q: Have you ever made a long road trip in your EV?
A: Within our first few weeks, we road-tripped to Sandusky, OH. It really gave us a chance to learn the realities – and limitations – of the Full Self Driving features.
Q: What is the most frequent, or outrageous comment you’ve been asked about owning an EV?
A: “How do you charge it?” Because Tesla almost hides their supercharging network and most people haven’t noticed the infrequent chargers in TN, the charging network isn’t well recognized by the masses. We mostly power ours from a plain 120V outlet. Gas stations have been reality forever, but EV charging stations just don’t have mindshare yet.
Q: Are you a member of an EV club?
A: Yes, I am a central member of the Tesla TN owners club.
Q: Do you attend EV events in your area?
A: In 2019, early in ownership, the event in Bowling Green at the race track was an interesting way to meet with other owners from many states away. It was very cool to be in someone else’s Tesla doing way over the interstate speed limit on the race track. Because I am often the one that plans the events locally, they’re often to my liking. Drinks and dinners (“Teslas and Tacos!”) are always favorites, but COVID has squashed those. We organized a group drive/hike to Jackson Falls on the Natchez Trace which gave us some socially responsible Tesla Time.
Q: Did you have a unique experience with your EV that you can share?
A: In the fall of 2019, the Tesla Owners Club of Chattanooga hosted a weekend event that included a group rally-style ride around much of that beautiful area. By some quirk of traffic, our parade adopted a white beater of a truck in the middle. At one railroad crossing, the driver asked if he could join us. We explained we were doing a sunset loop around the Racoon Mountain reserve. When we got to the top nearly 40 miles later, the driver pulled in and peppered us with questions. He was clearly a Tesla fan but hadn’t seen one, let alone fifteen. I let him drive ours around a bit. That’s how I gave Kenny Rogers a test drive. Not THAT Kenny, but still a fun memory.