A while ago I wrote about planning for my first road trip and i’m happy to report that we made it to our destination and back, but not without a few learning experiences and I wanted to share them.
Adjusting the plan
In planning my first road trip I calculated the distance from my home to the first supercharger and then to my destination. What I neglected to think about was that I also needed to go to work that day. Thats an 80 mile round trip that I had to add into my calculations.
While I had a good safety buffer built into my plan, I didn’t have enough for an extra 80 miles. So I came up with 3 options:
- Take a different car to work – that would be no fun!
- Add an extra supercharger stop at East Greenwich, RI – this would add extra time with the family in the car and its in a traffic area I was going to avoid otherwise.
- Gain some extra range somewhere during the day before my trip.
I went went option #3 and used the free HPWC at the local Tesla Store at the Natick, MA mall. I plugged in after lunch and range charged to the full 265 rated mile limit. This recovered the miles I had used during my commute to work and added some extra with a 100% charge versus the 90% charge. It took me just under 2 hours to charge back up from 185 rated miles to 265 rated miles on the HPWC but other than the walk to/from the mall it didn’t disrupt any of my plans.
Lesson: Think about all the driving you’ll do the day of your trip, not just the trip itself.
Supercharging along the way
Before this trip my only Supercharger visit was to the East Greenwich, RI Supercharger shortly after I took delivery to make sure Supercharging worked and it was purely for the experience. With this trip Supercharging was required — I needed the range and it had to work.
We arrived at the Darien, CT Supercharger with 66 rated miles left after driving 188 miles from MA and after stopping at a nice Sushi place in CT. Of the 6 spots, only 1 was occupied — by an ICE car with a driver sitting in it. The spots were all premium spots right in front of the rest center. We backed in and plugged in.
Since I always charged to 90% at home, my instinct was to get back to 90% again and I was nervous about destination charging and didn’t think it would take too long.
Lesson: Charging all the way back up to 90% was painful and a mistake.
It took us 49 minutes to charge from 66 rated miles (25% charge) to 238 rated miles (90% charge). I only needed 102 rated miles to get to my destination plus a safety margin.
We all felt the pain of this wait which was made worse by the late hour, driving in the rain and crazy east coast traffic. The rest area was nice enough but it was only junk food and coffee shops. Nothing for a real sit down dinner.
Lesson: Not all SC stops have good food options.
After the charge stop, we headed on to our destination in NJ. There was a major accident on one of our highways forcing us to take a 12 mile detour. Thank goodness for extra range.
Lesson: Only charge for what you need plus buffer. Filling past 80% goes slowly.
I knew destination charging was going to be a challenge. We arrived late and it was raining — I was not going to hunt for outlets in the dark so I waited until the next day. But that also meant I would lose 12 precious hours of destination charging.
Lesson: If you have poor destination charging then plug in as soon and as often as you can.
A careful inspection of the property the next day revealed a dryer connection I couldn’t use — a quite dirty NEMA 10-30 which is also far from where you can park a car. I ended up with just the dreaded standard US outlet (NEMA 5-15) for charging. Fortunately I could reach the outlet without any extension cords.
Charging there was at a rate of 4 miles/hour and it was a delicate balance of being plugged in all the time while I was there and wanting to drive my own car when we went places. We did resort to taking a mini-van for a few local visits due to range concerns and questionable parking situation at a local county fair.
I added a net of about 100 miles of rated range while I was there using the NEMA 5-15 outlet. I’ll cover my plans for faster charging at that destination in a future post.
Supercharging on the way back
We arrived at the Darien, CT northbound supercharger with 72 rated miles left and charged up to 202 rated miles in 30 minutes. This felt much faster. We shaved 19 minutes off the charge time plus it was a reasonable time of day, etc. Both my girls commented that it was quick.
Darien North surprised me as it was my first Supercharger I had to pull into to charge. They also had an odd arrangement I hadnt expected — 4 SC stalls, 2 on the right of the building and 2 on the left. One of the left ones was ICE’d with nobody in the car, the other one was open and I used it.
While charging I walked around to find the other 2 and found them with cones in front. I learned that cones are to discourage ICE’ing, feel free to move the cones and charge if you’re in a Tesla but make sure you put the cone back in place when you’re done.
Lesson: Cones in SC spots don’t mean its out of order – move them and charge away!
After charging up to 202 rated miles, we had enough to get home. But it was also going to be dinner time. We decided for a quick dinner at Panera and I remembered that the East Greenwich, RI Supercharger had a Panera nearby. If we were going to stop and eat at a Panera, why not charge while we did so?
Lesson: Combine charging and eating for the win!
While Tesla advertises 170 miles of rated range added in as little as 30 minutes, if you’re not charging from near zero you’ll experience a slower rate. Each time I charged from about 70 miles of rated range to about 200 miles of rated range it took 30 minutes.
Lesson: Supercharger stops take about 30 minutes.
Thanks to this extra supercharger stop on the way home we arrived home with 165 miles of rated range left and plenty for the next day’s commute.
We drove 687 miles on our first Tesla road trip and while there were some lessons learnt along the way none of it was stressful or painful. In all those miles and through 5 states we only saw 2 other Teslas. One P85 at an ice cream store in NJ (when I was driving the embarrassing mini-van), and another S85 at the East Greenwich Supercharger.
While there weren’t many Tesla’s on the road we experienced ICE’ing of Supercharger spots at every Supercharger we visited. I believe a lot of this could be avoided if the spots weren’t premium spots right near the service center. I’d gladly park my car at the back of the lot and walk further if I could encounter less ICE’ing.
Lesson for Tesla: Choose less desirable spots in the lot for Supercharging!