I've always wanted to drive a Tesla. Silent electric motors, instant torque and autonomous driving capabilities? Sign me up. As luck would have it, during my Christmas vacation spent at my partner's parent's home, I was able to drive their Tesla Model S for a week. The experience was, in a word, magical — primarily because of the differences between a Tesla and a traditional automobile.
Image credit: Charley Gallay/Getty
Sure, you can just get behind the wheel, adjust your seat, and be on your way, but you'll be missing out on the little things that make the gas-free driving experience a truly pleasurable experience. With a few tweaks to your driving style and an adherence to some best practices, you can greatly enhance your maiden voyage in what's ostensibly the most popular (and powerful) electric car around.
Create a Driver Profile
If you're going to be behind the wheel for more than a few trips, it pays to set up your own driver profile. That way, instead of adjusting the primary driver's profile every time you're behind the wheel, fiddling with their preset mirror and seat positions, you can simply choose your name and watch as the car's mirrors, steering wheel, seat and other settings change to match your saved preferences.
To create your driver profile, hit the user icon at the top of the touchscreen and select Create Driver Profile. Then, enter your name, adjust your seat, steering wheel, and mirror positions, and select Save. Every time you adjust those particular preferences you'll be asked to either save the new adjustments or revert to your profile's original position preferences, while other preference changes are saved automatically.
Adjust Your Driving Style
You'll definitely notice the difference when driving an electric car like a Tesla if you're used to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. For one, electric cars are lacking a traditional automatic transmission, the same transmission responsible for that forward creep you're used to when driving in a car with an idling engine. In a Tesla, you'll be at that stop sign until you decide to put your foot on the accelerator.
To bring the creep back, select the Controls option at the bottom left of the screen, hit Driving, and enable Creep. Problem solved.
Double-Check Those Sensors
When you're doing your customary once-over, be sure to check one more thing you won't find on your own car: the series of sensors and cameras. While you don't need to spit shine every camera to enjoy the enhanced safety features and autopilot capabilities, checking for any debris obscuring your camera and sensors will save you a headache if you find yourself unable to use Autopilot because of a bug or two.
Return it With Some Extra Juice
If you're borrowing someone's car, a car that runs on electricity and is changing the way people think about driving and transportation in general, the least you could do is return it with a full charge. Luckily, you can search for Tesla-compatible charging stations using the touchscreen's map, and charge up even faster at one of Tesla's supercharger stations.
Remember, Everything is Battery-Powered
Electric cars are great, but at a disadvantage in extreme heat or cold conditions. Hot air is readily available in a traditional automobile thanks to the heated coolant from the engine passing through the heater core, which warms the air in the cabin.
In an electric car, which doesn't produce much excess heat, you'll need to use the same battery power propelling the car to heat the cabin. Couple that with the cold weather's detrimental effect on battery life and driving range and you've got a recipe for a short trip.
Instead of heating the entire cabin, go the more efficient route and activate the heated seats or steering wheel instead, which uses much less energy compared to heating and moving air through the entire car cabin. If you've downloaded the Tesla smartphone app and registered it with the automobile, you can enable its battery pre-heating feature, which keeps the batteries warm when the car is plugged in to increase driving range.
Don't Trick Your Autopilot
If you're annoyed with having to pay attention to the road while your car drives you around, tough luck. Since Tesla requires drivers using its Autopilot to remain attentive while cruising, forcing drivers put their hands on the wheel periodically, some true geniuses have figured out how to trick the car's sensors, letting them operate in Autopilot mode while they proceed to do who knows what.
Unless you've got a death wish, don't do that.
Don't Drive While Intoxicated
Just because the future is almost here doesn't mean you can be drunk behind the wheel of a car, autonomous or otherwise. Unless you want to explain to law enforcement why you thought your Tesla's Autopilot feature would be an adequate replacement for driving with your wits intact, I suggest you avoid the temptation.
Don't Eat While Using Your Touchscreen
Do yourself (and everyone else in the car) a favour: avoid eating and operating that giant touchscreen. Not only does it get grubby from whatever's on your fingers, that giant screen is just like your phone, and is potentially covered in bacteria from every other time you got in your car after coming from work, the gym, or a restaurant.
Who knows where your hands have been?