Taking a Road Trip In the Tesla Model S

February 18, 2013

On February 8th, a New York Times reporter published an article about a trip he was invited to take to document the usefulness of the Tesla Supercharging network.  According to the article, the Model S ran out of power and had to be towed to the Supercharge in Milford, CT.

This sparked quite a bit of controversy.  There are over 1,000 posts on this thread at TeslaMotorsClub forums that I participate in.  Elon (CEO at Tesla) Tweeted that it was fake — that there are logs that contradict many of the statements Broder makes and that he didn’t follow the instructions given to him.

As things heated up, a number of us on the east coast of the US (within easy reach of Broder’s route) started talking about recreating the trip together and proving it can be done, and easily.  We did exactly that on Saturday and Sunday (Feb 16-17) — including staying overnight at a hotel in Groton, CT like Broder did.

The trip came together at the last minute and the rally behind us was amazing.  The trip started off at Tesla’s service center in Rockville, MD.  30-some people showed up to send off 6 Model S cars.  Some people joined in on the spot.  The first stop would be 108 miles away at the Delaware Supercharger.  Late (as in, nearly midnight) Friday night, I decided I needed to participate despite the fact that I’m about 450 miles from Rockville.

Cars Ready to Go from DC

Given I’d be driving through the night, I didn’t have enough time to get all the way to Rockville and get at least some sleep in before the trip back started — so I made my way to the Delaware Supercharger, via the Milford, CT Supercharger.  The trip down was uneventful.  146 miles from home to Milford, CT followed by about an hour of charging and napping, followed by 198 miles to Delaware, and then another few hours of napping (while charging).  I arrived in Delaware at 7:30.  The rest of the team started showing up around 10:30-11.

We had up to 9 cars during part of the trip (some didn’t have time to do the whole trip) so we spent some time at the rest stop eating, chatting, and showing off the cars to the multitudes of people interested in the cars.  We even picked up a groupie who followed us in their car (not a Model S) for about 70 miles.  George Blankenship, VP of Sales & Ownership Experience at Tesla, even FaceTime’d with us before we got underway.

George Blankenship FaceTiming With Us

The trip started with something pretty amazing.  One the cars that joined us last minute was having trouble Supercharging in Delaware.  He wouldn’t be able to make it to Milford with us (but he’d have no problem using slower charging or just returning home).  So what did Tesla do?  They remotely diagnosed the situation (logging into his car and into the Superchargers), found that he had faulty hardware in his car, and pushed a custom software update to bypass the faulty hardware so he could charge and be on his way.  That’s not just world-class support — that’s unheard of.  Unprecedented.  Just awesome.

Charging in Delaware

We documented (both automated messages “from” the cars and the rest of us manually posting) via our Twitter account, YouTube, the TMC Forums and blog, and LiveStream.  The trip, in short, was uneventful.  We all made it to Milford, CT (where some people left the caravan to honor their previous commitments) without issue.  In fact, all but one of us had virtually identical range left in the car (the one who didn’t is consistently using more energy than the rest of us, which Tesla will investigate; despite that, he still made every leg of the trip).

Coffee Break on the Way to Milford

Charging in Milford

We all got charged up while eating dinner (and interviewing with a local reporter) and continued on our way to Groton, CT. where we turned in for the night (like Broder did).  Some of us plugged into standard 120v outlets, and some didn’t (so we could learn about the effects of being plugged in overnight vs. not — because Broder didn’t and lost some range to the cold temperatures).  Everyone had more than enough range to make it back to Milford the next morning.

Dinner in Milford and Talking to Local Reporter

Plugged in at Hotel in Groton

I continued back home to Boston — another uneventful trip despite the cold weather, high winds, heavy snow, and very poor highway conditions (often 30 MPH or less).  Everyone else made it home without incident as well (some drove all the way back through Delaware to get home to the DC area).

My Snowy Return Home

I drove over 700 miles for this trip.  The car performed as I’ve come to expect it to — perfectly.  I’ve had it over 4 months now and I now have about 6,000 miles on it.  It’s solid, comfortable, and a dream to drive.  I had the heat on the entire time — staying a comfortable 72-75 degrees.  We didn’t drive under the speed limit or “granny” the car around.  The most annoying part of the trip was driving through the snowflakes that come right at your face in the dark with the glare of the headlights reflecting back which is disorienting in any car 🙂

There’s a lot more detail I’m leaving out simply because I don’t have the time to write it all down.  I do want to thank everyone who participated (what a great group of people!) – I’m so glad I chose to participate.  And I want to thank Tesla for their on-the-spot support, for building such an awesome and inspiring car, and all the hard work to build the Supercharging network to enable road trips like these.

Gas Prices? Supercharging is FREE. Forever.

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