The Tesla Diaries: 8. Collision

(This post is part of a blog series. In case you haven’t read it, here’s the first post.)

We were running errands on a Saturday. I was in the passenger seat. One sharp, percussive “bam” changed the whole game.

I noticed a funny smell, which I later figured out was the propellant from the side-curtain airbag. As I realized we’d been hit, my dismay found its way out in a couple of keening cries of “Oh!” My first reaction, knowing I was unhurt and assuming my spouse was also unhurt, was distress because of the inevitable damage to Nikola from a collision that intense.

My spouse, in the driver’s seat, asked if I was all right. As we reassured each other, it became clear we were both uninjured. I was grateful for that—deeply grateful.

We had been hit in the driver door, hard. T-boned. Other drivers stopped; I rolled down my window and told them we were OK, even as I waited for 911 to answer my phone call.

Two paramedics who happened to be nearby had heard the collision. They rushed over and started asking questions about whether we were in pain, etc. Since the driver door wouldn’t open, they had to get me out and then bring Chris out through the passenger door.

One of them, working in the back seat, introduced himself as Ryan. His partner was also Ryan. The first Ryan remarked that he’d been considering getting a Tesla, and that we had just sold him on it.

There we were, in the middle of post-collision chaos, having a Tesla moment.

We talked with him about the car and its safety features. Although we were unhurt, we decided to go to a nearby hospital and get checked out just in case. We got a glimpse of the car that had hit us—an ICE car. Its front end was pretty badly messed up. Nikola’s driver door was crumpled, but it had protected Chris.

A neighbor’s kid happened to have been in the nearby parking lot, and recognized our car. The neighbor called me to find out if we were OK and offer us a ride home. Again, we were deeply grateful for the help. We had an ICE car at home, so we’d be able to get around.

Things we learned over the next few days: the driver of the other car had been (not badly) injured. That car was totaled. Our car probably wasn’t. We arranged for it to be taken to the one body shop in town that was authorized to work on Teslas. They would have to order parts; it could take a couple of months. But they assured us that a car as expensive as Nikola probably wouldn’t be totaled.

So we waited. Our insurance paid for a rental car, so we each still had a car. We were sad about the damage to Nikola, but grateful that he had protected us from harm.

We drove our ICE cars and tried to be philosophical. We were very, very lucky, overall. But we missed Nikola.

The Tesla app on our phones still worked. Now and then, we’d look at it. Sometimes Nikola wasn’t awake (the emergency responders had disconnected the small battery that powers the controls) so we couldn’t raise him with the app. Sometimes he was awake, and then we could see his location: sitting in the parking lot at the body shop, getting rained on. There was a tarp over the open sunroof, but we still had the sense that he’d never be the same.

About two months later, we got impatient enough to inquire about progress on the repairs. As it happened, the body shop had just then put Nikola up on a lift for the first time. They had discovered more extensive damage than they expected to see.

The steering column had sheared off, and the suspension was badly damaged. The body shop called in an insurance adjuster to look at it, and the adjuster agreed.

Nikola was totaled.

Chris went to collect the rest of our property from the car, and to retrieve the license plate. The saddest part was that Nikola could not be replaced by an identical car. Shortly after we got him, Tesla redesigned the Model S. The 85 kWh battery was no longer available. The sleek “yacht deck” had been replaced by a center console (plus and minus—the new console had more storage space, but we liked the minimalist look of the yacht deck). The frunk was now quite a bit smaller.

And Autopilot (AP1) had been replaced by Autopilot 2 (AP2). We’d heard mixed reports about AP2.

As soon as we knew Nikola was totaled, I went to the website and began designing his replacement. Faced by the choice of getting a smaller, 75 kWh battery or paying extra for the 100 kWh, I decided to upgrade. Nikola was our road-trip car, and with the distances we typically drove in the Southwest, a downgrade would be decidedly inconvenient.

The larger battery came bundled with some features that we probably wouldn’t have paid for had they been separate, like a heated steering wheel, and those sexy lighted door handles that we had coveted but not bought on Nikola. I decided not to get the sun roof. I did, of course, order Deep Blue Metallic.

I got a referral code from a Tesla-owning friend before placing my order, which saved us some money and guaranteed us free Supercharging as long as we owned the new car. Communicating about that took a couple of days, so it was two days after we learned Nikola was totaled that I placed the order for his replacement.

A few hours later I got a phone call from Tesla. They had a “prebuilt” car that matched my hardware specs exactly, and needed only one small change to the software specs. They would give me a nice discount for accepting it in place of my custom-ordered car.

I asked a couple of questions, and when I learned that “prebuilt” meant, in this case, that the car had rolled off the line two days before, I said yes.

The car had been finished on the day we learned Nikola was totaled.

It was delivered in just under two weeks.

Because we would both be in town on delivery day, we again arranged to meet the driver in Albuquerque. We didn’t have the waiting-for-Santa jitters that we’d felt the first time. Mostly what I felt was relief and gratitude that we didn’t have to wait any longer to get back in a Tesla.

Again, our car arrived in an enclosed truck. Different driver, equally competent, and our new car was in beautiful condition. Once again, we were very fortunate.

Nikola II had come home.

(On to part 9…)

Tesla has again updated their referral offer! If you use a referral code from an existing Tesla owner, like this one: (good for five referrals, after which it expires) to order a new Model S or Model X, you will be eligible for free Supercharging as long as you own your Tesla. The same code is also good for a 5-year extended limited warranty on a new solar energy system installation. This offer ends April 30, 2018.

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  1. Pingback: The Tesla Diaries: 7. Maintenance – Pati Nagle

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