Right after taking delivery of my Model S I had a few challenges to face:

  1. License plate placement
  2. EZ Pass placement
  3. Vehicle Inspection

All three are unique challenges for the Model S for different reasons.

License plate placement

Tesla, being a California-based company, seems to have considered a front license plate as an afterthought and didn’t build a license plate mount into the Model S. Their official solution is to provide a plastic bracket and drill into the front “nose cone” of the car to mount the bracket. Many people find the act of drilling into an otherwise-attractive piece of the car offensive and a number of third party solutions have been invented. Before delivery I wanted to understand what people had done and put a poll on the TMC Forum to collect the data. As usual this is from a small set of data but here is what people answered:

Screen Shot 2014-05-02 at 5.37.23 PM

IMG_2642The point of the poll was for those that live in states where a front license plate is legally required and they own a Model S, what did they end up doing? 48% of them are going without the plate and taking a chance. The next most popular choice is the standard mount, but at only 19% of respondents.

There are definitely other answers possible too, and in retrospect I think there’s a category for “undecided” which is essentially “I’m skipping it until I am given a reason to mount the plate.” I fall into that latter category — I really don’t want to drill into the front cone and the other solutions have various issues for me. My current preference should I be given a reason to mount the plate would be the wire tie approach since its cheap, completely reversible and easy to do myself. But I think i’ll remain undecided on this one for a long time. 

EZ Pass placement

Plate TagEZ Pass is an electronic toll-collection system thats prevalent in the north east. I drive toll roads daily for my commute and without the toll tag i’d be in even longer lines to get on or off the highway. They have two transponder types: window mounted and license plate mounted. Given the discussion above the license plate mounted option wasn’t going to fly. I also think that the license plate mount is even uglier than a license plate alone.

So that left me with the window mount option. Normally i’d mount the tag somewhere near the rear view mirror but in a place where I don’t see it every day with them mirror blocking my angle of view. My passengers would see it and so would people outside the car but I wouldn’t have to see it. In the Model S that is not an option. The windshield in the Model S is specially coated with an with infrared-blocking glass that helps to keep the cabin cool but the byproduct is it also blocks the EZ Pass signals. In early cars you were completely out of luck as the entire windshield was coated this way. On newer production cars (like mine) there are designated locations for EZ Pass tags to the right or left of the rear view mirror in the black shaded area. I’m not overly happy that I can see the tag but at least it has worked 100% of the time. Other solutions like hiding the pass in the nose cone have had mixed reviews in terms of reliability and its a pain to chase the EZ Pass people for credits.Windshield Tag

Vehicle Inspection

Car TrackingThe next and related issue was a motor vehicle inspection. In Massachusetts all new vehicles have to be inspected within 7 days of purchase. Unlike a front plate, the inspection sticker is a bigger deal in MA and it’s definitely something you want to take care of. The problem is that to become a state certified inspection station there is a 4 year wait list so the Tesla delivery center is not yet approved (they have 2 years left). I went to a local huge Ford dealer with a really nice facility to have mine inspected. They wouldn’t let me pull it into the inspection bay myself (policy and all that) and there were several “Tesla moments” where I had to show them how to drive the car, open the doors etc. I watched the car closely on the iOS app and they behaved the entire time. They brought it back shortly explaining they couldn’t inspect a car without a front plate. I explained that I had just gotten the car and the plate and bracket were in the car but I couldn’t drill the holes myself etc. They stood firm and sent me on my way.

I then tried a local Nissan dealer figuring someone selling electric cars would be more understanding but they also didn’t have their state inspection license yet. I finally found a local Shell station that was more than willing to give me a sticker. They actually didn’t inspect anything, we just had a chat about the Tesla, they stuck the sticker on and I paid my $29. The said they had done 3 other Tesla’s in the last week which is amazing given how run down that Shell station is and that it’s in the middle of nowhere.

I wonder when/if Tesla gets their inspection permit if they’ll let the cars pass inspection without a front plate.


I could have avoided much of this by asking the Tesla delivery center to install the front plate bracket and plate at delivery and getting an external plate tag for EZ Pass. But Tesla interestingly didn’t offer to install my front plate (I had provided both to them), most people surveyed don’t install one when they should, and I didn’t like the look.

I hope not to be writing a “How I mounted my front plate and made it look good” post, but you never know 🙂

Portions of this post first appeared on Teslarati.