From 2012 Model S Signature Performance to 2020 Model Y, A Tesla Early Adopter’s Perspective
With a depleting battery and several miles to go until a planned stop to Supercharge her Tesla, Sonja received a notification that the battery was beginning to precondition to optimize for charging, which caused her to slightly panic.
“I was like Oh no! It’s going to use more energy for pre-conditioning and I’m not gonna make it,” Sonja said she thought at the time.
While it may sound like a case of range anxiety for a new EV owner on one of their first road trips, Sonja was far from a newcomer to the world of electric vehicles: she’s driven a Tesla since a time before Elon Musk was a household name and the second-richest man in the world. In fact, Sonja was among the first Tesla customers to receive the Model S when it first began delivering in 2012, with hers being one of approximately 1,200 Model S Signature Performance editions ever made. She drove hers from the time she accepted delivery on it in November 2012 until recently, when she traded it in at Current Automotive for a 2020 Model Y Performance equipped with Full Self-Driving.
Back in the early EV days drivers often needed to be able to outsmart their cars, and it is feedback from early adopters like Sonja—along with the data from their vehicles—that helped pave the way for Tesla to expand its Supercharging network and update Trip Planner to the point where a vehicle now knows how much battery range will remain when it arrives at a Supercharger, how long it needs to charge to reach the next Supercharger, and so on until the vehicle reaches its final destination.
“I was so used to doing the math in my head about how fast or slow I needed to drive to make it to the next Supercharger,” Sonja said. “And then [the vehicle started] calculating all of that for me, including battery preconditioning in the winter before it gets to the Supercharger.”
When she ordered her 2012 Model S, she was regularly commuting from a suburb of Chicago into the city and back, and the new sedan from Tesla provided the vehicle size she was looking for and range she needed to make the roundtrip on one charge compared to other EVs that came in smaller packages and offered shorter ranges. She also wanted something she could take up to Wisconsin to visit family.
“When I first got my Model S it was hard to even find Superchargers,” Sonja said, referring to the six available globally when the Model S was launched—a number that has grown to more than 23,000 connectors (and counting) as of the end of 2020.
Despite making the switch from a gas-powered car to an EV nearly a decade ago when charging infrastructure on the road was extremely limited, Sonja said range anxiety is something she never really grappled with. Instead, she took the time to get to know her vehicle and how to use it—she plugged it in at home at night as intended and built charging time into trips when necessary. And with the expansion of Tesla’s Supercharging network and additional charging options available today, range anxiety is a non-issue to her. Not needing to stop at gas stations since 2012 other than to put air in her tires has been an added bonus.
“Part of what I liked about driving [the Model S] was understanding how it worked,” she said. “I absolutely would not go back to a gas car. I’ve had a lifelong interest in sustainability and EVs are just one major step to get there.”
While Sonja has enjoyed the benefits of over-the-air software updates to her Model S throughout her ownership of it, she’s now enjoying some of Tesla’s hardware updates that have come along between her 2012 Model S to her 2020 Model Y including big-ticket items like the introduction of Autopilot and Full Self-Driving to smaller, more incremental things like folding mirrors and parking sensors that help her navigate into her compact city garage.
After a couple months of owning the Model Y she bought at Current Automotive in early 2021, Sonja said she’s loving it, but she also misses her Model S on a daily basis—especially the sunroof.
“As long as it wasn’t raining or snowing, I had the sunroof open,” she said. “I didn’t realize just how much I used it until I didn’t have it. And the air suspension on that car makes it such a great ride. I just loved it. I miss all of that.”
We hope the next owner of this rare 2012 Model S Signature Performance knows how important of a role this vehicle played in helping get Tesla to where it is today, and that they enjoy the ride as much as Sonja did—especially with the sunroof wide open.