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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Book Review: "Getting Ready for Model 3"

When 200,000 people reserved a Model 3 in the first day, you could bet a lot of those were enthusiasts or current Tesla owners.  As reservations continued their rocket-ride through day 2, totaling over 250,000, the bandwagon was officially rolling.  Blasting through 300,000 just as easily, they’re widely speculated to be hovering somewhere in the atmosphere above 400,000 and that bandwagon is promised to get several more hard shoves leading up the first deliveries.

So who are all these people?  What was, at first, a largely insider-driven reservation avalanche became a global marketing phenomenon so daunting even to Tesla that they had to rethink how they could meet a level of demand that is nothing short of crushing.  Simple math says that most Model 3 reservation holders are new to the company-- and many are new to electric vehicles in general.  With at least another year’s worth of wait time, now is a great time for those people to get their EV house in order; what they really need is an EV primer to keep the excitement going and help them prepare for the future.  
Roger Pressman has decided to tilt his lance at Elon’s tweeting windmill and try to nail down some facts on the Model 3.  It’s a gutsy ploy to pin Tesla down on a vehicle still in development, but Pressman is uniquely qualified to educate the masses that are trembling with anticipation and ticking off days until Tesla says they can configure their Model 3.  
Before the Model S was even in production, Pressman made his own eagerly anticipated Tesla reservation for one of the first Model S builds, a “Signature.”  Before he took delivery, he was already prototyping and planning a line of accessories to help other Model S owners customize and enhance their cars.  The company he ultimately launched, EVAnnex, has become one of the largest sellers of aftermarket products designed for Tesla-- many of which are original and exclusive designs.  It has grown alongside the automaker and is now a substantial family business with a large footprint in the ownership community.
Having “accidentally” built a business now vital to the Tesla eco-system, Pressman is positioning himself to be at the vanguard of his next wave of customers: Model 3 owners.  Certainly, there’s a strong business motivation to be an ambassador to the torrent of new EV owners coming online in the next few years.  But Pressman’s book “Getting Ready for Model 3” is an instructive foray into the engineering behind the car and the company’s technology, not just a sales pitch to the newly converted.  
The underrated "hammock mode," standard on "Classic" big frunk cars
Like Pressman, I’ve rather “accidentally” found myself with a voice in the Tesla community and we’ve both gotten pretty good at rattling off the stock answers when the uninitiated stroll up wanting to know about how these cars work in the real world.  While I can change and update my answers on the fly with a few mouse clicks on my blog, Pressman’s decision to publish a book-- setting his words on the permanent record-- is nothing short of audacious.  
My wife and I were swept away in the reservation madness of March 31, and are also eagerly hoping to get another Tesla in late 2017.  I’ve followed Tesla quite closely in recent years and thought there would be little new to learn about the Model 3 from such an antique technology as a book, but I knew Pressman’s credentials and knew he’d already ridden in a Model 3.  When the book arrived, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the work.  It’s a thorough guide with full-color printing throughout and enough information to satisfy the faithful and the rookies.
I’ve diligently read every word and taken my copy to three different states as I snatched a few minutes here and there to digest it.  Fall is always a scramble in our household, made even more complicated with injuries, surgeries and drama with the dwelling itself and our other cars-- not to mention holiday trips and family visits.  “Getting Ready for Model 3” is great for that kind of schedule though, equally a quick read or a reference guide, you can easily read chapters or just a page and find it understandable in whatever dosage your spare time allows.  
Tesla veterans will find a lot of entertaining and informed speculation about the Model 3.  There’s some clever reasoning that Pressman combines with his intimate knowledge of Tesla’s engineering style to extrapolate design details that may ultimately be more spot-on than even he could hope for.  Considering that the book was written before Autopilot 2.0 and the release of the “competing” Chevrolet Bolt, the varying degrees of likelihood that accompany his speculation have thus far been proven accurate.  For instance, Pressman correctly predicted that Tesla would skip LIDAR and instead use a “system of relatively low cost sensors, coupled with very sophisticated image recognition and control software” for Autopilot 2.0-- and this was months before the new sensor suite was unveiled and despite test mules with LIDAR appearing on social media!  
If none of that made sense to you, then you might be one of Tesla’s more recent converts.  No worries!  Despite the inherent complexity of all the interconnected rabbit holes that come from discussing a company that is making everything under the sun from batteries to roofs, Pressman breaks down the information into digestible chunks.  It will easily catch you newbies up on where Tesla has been, where they’re going and what the heck you need to do, now that you’ve plunked some money on the line for this… this... new electric car thing that you’re just realizing you’re not ready for.   
How does it work?  How does it charge?  Can I own one if I have an apartment?  Will it be reliable?  All those questions are covered in enough reassuring detail that you’ll be able to set down that paper bag you’ve been breathing into ever since putting $1000 on your Visa card and wait out the next year with confidence.  After all, we’re just talking about a car here, not a mission to Mars.  Rest easy! 
Demonstration of the little known "hatch-umbrella desk-mode"
The writing style is very personal and conversational, with Pressman guiding you systematically through the development process for the Model 3.  Given the potential organizational disaster, he does a good job of keeping things on the rails and out of the weeds.  Though I do feel that he’s a bit too thorough in looking forward and backward within the book itself, to tease or remind the reader of all the information contained between the glossy outer bits.   Also, I’m secure enough in my youth and vigor to admit that the quotations and some of the labels on graphs and charts had my aging eyes squinting and reaching for my “cheater” glasses.  
These charts, graphs, statistics and illustrations are used to explain nearly everything.  He’s not stingy with the visual aids, using them to illustrate both technical topics and those where mere words don’t convey the idea effectively.  The presentation is thorough, with lots of references and footnotes to spur further reading for those wanting an even deeper dive.  You’re also unlikely to find a more comprehensive selection of Model 3 images until the final design is revealed next year.
Pressman is also smartly inoculating himself from becoming outdated by keeping the blogging fingers limber over at EVAnnex and updating the book’s material with regular updates, many written by his son Matt.  Though every casual quote or tweet from Elon could prompt a new revision, the book is a valuable reference guide and keepsake for every potential new Model 3 owner.  There’s plenty of meat here for both long-time owners and the students in the Electric Vehicles 101 class.  In a category of one-- so far-- he’s set the bar high for a definitive Model 3 guide.  Best part?  It's only about $10.
Finally, let me leave you with one of the real gems I found hidden in this book.  I’ve had a Tesla for several years now and logged a lot of miles… but I never-- NEVER thought that I’d find the Holy Grail hidden in this book.  Let me tell you where it is: page 65.  Ever wondered if all those acceleration numbers were just for the hooligans?  Couldn’t find a way to justify treating every on-ramp as a take-off runway?  Were you-- like me-- feeling guilty about the devastatingly fast tire wear that multiple launches a day can cause?  Does your wife roll her eyes while instinctively pressing her head into the head rest just before every green light?  Well, there’s hope for us.  The grins we indulge in have a legitimate excuse and I’m going to finish with this morsel of the Pressman Gospel: Fast acceleration is more efficient, so save the planet by stomping on the whoosh pedal!
In the old days, you'd do this with a foldout map and lots of gesturing

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