1700 Mile Round Trip in the Tesla Model S

I’ve owned the Tesla Model since since 10/11/12 (easy date to remember!) — so it’s been over a year now.  I’ve been meaning to post something about having owned it for a year, but I decided to take an 850-mile trip to see my parents for Thanksgiving and write about that instead.  It has nothing to do with procrastination.  And gullible isn’t in the dictionary.

SC-listMy route, essentially Boston, MA to Charlotte, NC, was directly in the path of Tesla’s Superchargers.  I’d been waiting for the two I knew were coming – Virginia and North Carolina – as we already have Superchargers in Connecticut and Delaware.  Once I saw VA and NC were up and running, I took the week off so I could drive down Saturday and return the following Saturday.  All I have to do is pull up the list in the car and select which one I want to go to and the GPS will route me there.

At 3:30 AM Saturday, I left the Boston areapreheat.  I pre-heated the car using the iPhone app (left).  Pretty useful that I can set the temperature and then check to see if the temperature has been reached.  The first leg to CT was only 140 miles and 46F — no problem for the Model S.  I’d been to the CT Supercharger a few times at this point so it was rather uneventful.  And way too early in the morning.  Fortunately I spent the short time charging checking on traffic as I-95 was *closed* due to a major accident.  Fortunately I rerouted and lost maybe 30 minutes of time.  I arrived in Delaware – 183 miles away – and was charging by 9:40 AM.  I had about 26 miles of range left.  16 minutes later I had 105 miles of range!

I left Delaware at 10:50 — a little later than I’d hoped both because my next trip leg was 196 miles and I needed a fuller charge and due to “Tesla Time” — the time spent talking to the people who inevitably stop over and start asking questions (which is great!).  Charging slows down as the battery gets full, so getting to 90% or higher takes quite a bit longer.  While that’s being worked on, it’s important to remember you’ll need an hour to go from empty to near-full in a best-case scenario.

While in Delaware, a motorcyclist approached me — pushing his motorcycle.  He complained about how his day wasn’t going well at all so I inquired and offered to help.  He said he’d ran out of gas a mile back on the highway and had just arrived, pushing his motorcycle the whole way!  Range anxiety in an EV?  Hah!

I arrived in Virginia around 2pm and stopped in to Panera Bread for some lunch and coffee as well as make use of the wifi for some web surfing and whatnot.  My next leg was 197 miles so similarly I needed to charge for about an hour.  I also needed to restock my ice for the cooler.  All still pretty uneventful — no traffic and no Model S’s to keep me company.

I made it to Burlington, NC around 6:30pm .  This time, my next leg was only 130 miles so I didn’t wait for a full charge; this was a relatively quick stop.  I made it to my final destination around 9:15.  Total trip time was about 18 hours.  A trip in a gasoline car might have taken about 15 hours given the same traffic and conversations.  Not bad — especially since the “fuel” is free!  My trip only cost me toll money.

SC-burlington

Charging in Burlington

The return trip was pretty much the same — including I-95 closing (in Delaware)!  That was much worse traffic-wise (Saturday after Thanksgiving being one of the heaviest I-95 travel days) so my trip took 21 hours.  And range wasn’t an issue despite the traffic.  Why?  EV’s are actually more efficient at lower speeds.  The only other difference was that there were other Model S’s around and charging and I spent a lot of time talking to various owners — very cool!  Some of them even “followed” me to the next stop and we talked some more there.

So what stuck out to me about the trip?

  1. The I-95 road closures both times had me worried about my ability to reach the supercharger (was it on a closed portion of the road?) — there’s no “backups” at the present time, so be prepared.
  2. When more than half of the Superchargers are in use, you’re going to get a slower charge rate.  So 1 hour could turn into 2.  I’m sure this will change as time goes on — we’re still Early Adopters and in the early phases of the infrastructure buildout.
  3. There’s a sizeable difference in range when it’s below freezing (some of this is because I’m still running summer tires).  Just because your destination is 200 miles away doesn’t mean you only need 200 miles of charge.  Plan in a bigger buffer and keep an eye on your energy usage.  Fortunately you can watch your projected range vs. what the GPS says you have left to go.  Weather (cold, rain, slush in the road, wind) and elevation can affect your range.  Right now, you still need to be mindful of these things.  Assuming your energy usage is normal, if the car says you have 5 miles of range left, you really do have 5 miles.
  4. Tesla answers the phone at all hours of the day.  I called them several times to inform them about some Supercharging inefficiencies and I not only got a live person, but they were able to “log in” to my car and the superchargers and check various statistics.
  5. The car is comfortable for me to ride in.  The last time I did a road trip of this magnitude was 20 years ago when I was still a teenager.  I’m amazed how comfortable I was and that it wasn’t bordering on impossible to do, especially in an EV.
  6. Cat-napping in the back seat with your coat as a pillow actually works.  🙂  You can turn the heat and music on and let the highway drone put you to sleep.
  7. 20-25 miles remaining at arrival “feels” good, though I’ve arrived with less than 10 on several occasions.  And while I’ve not worried whether I’d make it, I do pay attention if my projected range and distance to go is that close and start adjusting appropriately.  Fortunately it’s easy — just slow down.  It’s more efficient to go slower.  In fact you can go over 400 miles on a charge if you drive slowly enough.

So the real question is, would I do it again?  Definitely — though fewer miles per day as that was just a long day!  In fact, I’m probably joining a number of east-coasters who’ll be making a trek to the west coast as soon as the Supercharger network is ready.  Check out Tesla’s interactive map and other information here: http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

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