A self-proclaimed geek engineer who cares about the environment, Napa resident Jerry Medlin recently purchased a Tesla—and he’s never been happier. Owning an electric vehicle helps reduce his carbon footprint and improves the environment. And because he powers it with electricity generated by solar panels on his home’s roof, he takes zero emission transportation a step further using clean, renewable solar energy.
When Jerry raised the idea of buying an electric vehicle to his wife Kim, she told him she wanted a Tesla, end of story. They ordered the car last October and picked it up in mid-December, the day before their 44th wedding anniversary and just in time for Christmas. When they took possession at the Tesla factory in Fremont, they were treated to a tour of the former New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) automobile manufacturing plant. Tesla purchased the facility in 2010 but only occupies a small portion of the vast warehouse.
“It’s really phenomenal what they’ve done,” Jerry said. “As an industrial engineer by training, I was impressed with the level of automation—robots were making my car—and thrilled to have the opportunity to see how our car was made and how it works.” Unlike the internal combustion engine with its hundreds of moving pieces, the Tesla motor has just one moving piece: the rotor. As a result, Model S acceleration is instantaneous, like flipping a switch.
An early adopter by nature, Jerry bought his first computer in the 1970s, when Radio Shack began offering them. No software was available in those early days, so he taught himself programming and wrote a series of accounting programs for his own use, then made the software available to other accountants in the area. In 1984, he read an article about shareware, and decided to try it. Now, 30 years later, Jerry Is the world’s oldest shareware author—he’s been doing it longer than anyone else in the world—and has a thriving business, Payroll Software by Medlin Accounting
Jerry is excited by the technology of his new car and is delighted with “all the bells and whistles.” When he reviews the car’s energy consumption, he is like a little boy showing off his favorite toy. “For each kilowatt (1000 watts) you get three miles,” he says. “We’re averaging 316 watts per mile.”
Although Jerry is active in the Tesla forums, he does not know any of the other Tesla owners in Napa. Chances are, he’d have a lot in common with them. At a recent lunch in Arkansas with a group of his engineering fraternity brothers, he discovered that three of them at the table owned a Tesla—proof of the car’s appeal to those who understand and admire its engineering. But Jerry says he appreciates the car for far more than that—it answers his environmental concerns as well.
Electric vehicles use a battery that is charged by plugging the car into an electric power supply. Although the electricity production itself may produce some emissions, depending on the source of the energy, all-electric cars are considered zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) because their motors produce no exhaust or emissions.
“When I drive down the hill in an ICE (internal combustion engine), car, I’m coasting, the idle is high, it’s a total waste,” Jerry says. “Now, with the Tesla, by the time I’m at the bottom of the hill, I’ve actually used negative several hundred watts of electricity. When I let my foot off the accelerator in the Tesla, it slows down because it’s regenerating.”
Electric cars do require a power source, and Jerry found their PG&E bill increased significantly during the first month of owning the Tesla. He and Kim had wanted to get solar panels for a long time but could not justify the expense until they moved into a higher tier as a result of charging their new electric vehicle. He did the math and installed solar panels on their home’s roof—and this month, their PG& E bill is zero. They’re generating more power than they need and selling the rest back to PG&E.
The Tesla can go some 265 miles on a charge, so they generally only need to recharge it a couple times a week. When it is plugged in, the car is programmed to turn itself on at 2 am and begin charging. To make longer trips more convenient, Tesla has built a series of superchargers around the country that are free and will charge the car in 30 minutes. During a recent road trip to Seattle, they drove 1,800 miles round trip without spending a penny on gas or electricity.
Jerry admits the car was “outrageously expensive” but points out that service and maintenance requirements are virtually eliminated, other than a recommended annual inspection. “And once you get the capital costs out of the way, it’s really cheap to operate,” he said, approximately three cents a mile for the electricity.
When asked if there are any disadvantages to having a Tesla, Jerry acknowledged one: “It doesn’t make the vroom, vroom sound.” But he doesn’t care. “It is the most fun I have ever had,” he said. “We don’t hot rod, but going from 20 to 50 mph in two and a half seconds just never gets old.”