COAL, Final Chapter (For Now): I Dream The Auto Electric

It’s now 2021.  Our 2017 Mercedes E300 has given us more-or-less good service over the past four years.  But, as experience had taught me with Mercedes, things like preventive maintenance, service, and repairs can get pretty expensive once the warranty and pre-paid service agreements expire.  I asked the dealer about buying an extended warranty, and the salesperson said they would only sell me one after the warranty had expired.  But once it did expire, another person at the same dealership said I had to renew BEFORE the old agreement expired.  No amount of foot stomping and “Let me speak to your manager!” would move them.

A month after the warranty expired the battery started losing charge, leaving me stuck with a car unable to start a couple of times. The dealer said a new one would be $400.  That was the tipping point for us, so Rick and I started looking around for a new vehicle.

We’d both been interested in a Tesla.  Rick liked the Model 3 and the Model Y.   I preferred the Model S, but since this was going to be Rick’s car I let him make the decision.  We got an excellent trade offer on the 2017 E300 from Tesla, so while the battery was being replaced on the Mercedes we walked across the street to the Tesla dealership.  A couple of test drives ensued, one each of a 3 and a Y.  Our preference was for an all-wheel-drive model Y, but the lead time to have one built was several months into the future.  As things turned out they had a demo Model 3 with two-wheel-drive, a version that was being phased out.  The sticker price was significantly cheaper that a new Model Y.  In addition, Washington State had a program that forgave the sales tax on new electric vehicles that cost less that $45,000.  The “cheap” Model Y came in just under that, so we signed the deal.  When we came back the next day to pick up the car we drove the old Mercedes over from the dealer and turned it in.

The Seth-Field’s have a thing for grey cars.


So Timmie Tesla became Rick’s car.  It was grey with a decent sound system, and did NOT have the much-ballyhooed self-driving capability (which neither of us wanted).  The acceleration is incredible:  Zero to over the speed limit in no time at all.  The 200 mile range was adequate for our needs, since we never drive very far.  At first we “trickle charged” it using an ordinary household plug in the garage, but that took forever.  So we plunked down some coin and had a Tesla fast charger put in the garage.  Fortunately we had enough oomph in the electrical panel from our recent home remodel, so we simply had the conduit added to put the charger in the right spot to charge Rick’s car.

Apparently Tesla thinks I’ve been run over by a semi.


On thing about Teslas (Teslae?) is that all interactions with the vehicle take place via a touch screen in the center of the dash.  One uses levers on the steering column for turn signals and changing gears, but everything else is managed by touching the screen.  I’m a techno geek (I have four computers at home devoted to various tasks), but Rick is baffled by anything more complicated than a flip phone or MS-DOS.  It took him awhile to figure out how to do mundane things like turn on the windshield wipers or change the interior temperature.  More than once he called me from somewhere asking me how to do something. But after awhile he got used to things, especially when I carefully configured his user profile to have just the right settings for mirrors, seat angle, etc.

“I’m a joy to drive, just don’t take me out in snow”


The only quibble we had with the Model 3 was that it wasn’t very good in snow.  That New Years we went to visit our friends on Camano Island north of Seattle for the holiday.  It had just snowed, but our host said “Don’t worry, the roads are OK!” By the time we got up there the roads were covered in packed snow, and the built-in traction control didn’t do us much good.  We parked the car on the road instead of going down our host’s driveway.  When we left to go home, we could barely get the car moving, even with “slip start” turned on.  The trip home was a nightmare – the car slipped and slid like a drunken sailor.

After a year of driving his Tesla I began to reconsider my decision to buy the C300 convertible.  It was fun to drive,  but I really didn’t put the top down all that often.   But it was getting on four years old, and the deadline of expiring warranty and prepaid service was beginning to weigh on my mind.  I think the final decision came in the winter of 2021 when we were driving to a COVID testing site after we had received notification that we had been near someone who had tested positive. (The tests came back negative, thank goodness)  We were in the C300, and the site was in an upper elevation of Seattle.  It had just snowed, and we got stuck going up a hill.  As I tried to gently back down the tires lost traction and we fishtailed down the hill and nearly went off into a ravine.

So: I decided it was time to look at a car with four-wheel or all-wheel drive.  I really, REALLY wanted a Tesla Model S, but that was far too much money for us.  So when the dealer came into possession of a nice 2018 Model 3 with dual motors I went to take a look at it.  It was my birthday, and the car suited me just fine, so I said goodbye to my carefree top down days in favor of a more practical Model 3 sedan.  I named him “Torrance”. He was white, which wasn’t my favorite color.  My white SLC convertible was forever dirty because I had to keep it outside – we didn’t have room for two cars because of all the suburban stuff we stored there: Lawn and garden equipment, large packs of toilet paper and sodas from Costco, etc. But: just before we bought the second Tesla we’d built a shed for the lawn and garden stuff and emptied the garage.  We now had room for two cars.


Rick parks his car on the left to be near the charger.  I had to park mine on the right and drag the charging cable over his car.  The driveway curves, and it’s awkward to back out of the right-hand spot.  Wouldn’t you know it, the second day I had the Model 3 I misjudged things and put a dent in the right front wheel well when it hit the track of the garage door backing out.


It took six months and $3,000 to get this fixed.



When I contacted various places about repairs, the earliest I could get was AUGUST.  This was just as the pandemic was easing, and supply chain issues were wreaking havoc with things like parts and stuff for cars.  Eventually I got the repair done, and my insurance covered part of the cost.

Unless we buy a bigger garage, no room for my dream car.


So what has been our experience with two electric vehicles? So far, so good.  We don’t drive very far.  The longest trip we take is to holiday with our friends on Camano Island, a 100 mile round trip that is well within range.  The only time we had “range anxiety” is when we had to take our schnauzer Nash Metropolitan to Bellingham WA (90 miles away) for a specialist visit.  We got home with 33 miles left.  In two years we’ve had no major problems with either car, save for a couple of times when the Model Y failed a software update.  (Telsa fixed the issue remotely).  We had a couple of minor issues that were handled under warranty with a service visit at our home, which is much more convenient than taking a car in for repair. One time coming back from Camano Rick got a chip in Timmie’s windshield from a stone hurled by a semi.  The Tesla service guy brought out a replacement windshield to our home, installed it, took away the old windshield, and recalibrated the cameras.   We keep our cars charged, and our electric bill hasn’t been that bad – it’s certainly much less than if we’d paid for gas.  According to the Tesla App, in the past year we’ve spent $163 for electricity to charge both cars and saved  $650 on gas we didn’t use.  So, for now, our COAL series ends with us seeing an all-electric future.

Will there be more cars in my lifetime? I don’t know.  We need to have both cars in the garage for charging, so that kind of rules out buying a collector car.  I’d love to have a 1962 Imperial  or a 1958 Continental or even my first car: a 1965 Buick Sportwagon.  But Rick says “Nuh-uh!” when I broach the subject.  So for now I’m content to read about all the classic cars I love here on Curbside Classic.


Previous chapters:

  1. Buicks Aplenty; a Fiat, and a Pontiac • The Early Years.
  2. 1958 Plymouth Custom Suburban • Dad’s Biggest regret.
  3. 1965 Buick Sportwagon • My first car.
  4. 1967 Datsun 1600 • The first car that was legally mine.
  5. A Pair of Pintos.
  6. 1983 & ’87 Toyota Celica • What’s the Plural of ‘Celica’?
  7. 1987 Ford Taurus MT-5 • Tragedy, An Unexpected New Car, And Two Midlife Crises
  8. 1987 Jeep Cherokee and ’96 Grand Cherokee • Entering the SUV Era
  9. The BMW Era
  10. The Mercedes Years