What is it like to take a trip across the United States in an electric vehicle? John and Patti White tell us about their journey 882 in Tesla Model 3 Long Range.
From John and Patti White.
My wife and I are enjoying the trips. We drove in all 50 states. On our last big trip in 2018, we left our home in San Marcos, California, drove to British Columbia and turned east until we reached Nova Scotia. Then we headed south and west until we got home. It took 8 weeks in our Honda CRV. We decided it was not enough also long.
In 2022, we had a specific list of people rather than places we really wanted to see and didn’t want to take 8 weeks. This meant that we spent a lot of time on boring / scary highways, which we usually avoid. Fortunately for me, my wife doesn’t mind driving most of the highways. We have just replaced our standard 2019 Model 3 series with a long range version (358 miles) with FSD (not Beta). So we made a plan.
TRIP: I recently contacted two friends I hadn’t seen in over 50 years (I’m 75), one in Maryland and the other in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Along the way, we decided to see old friends in Houston (with a side trip to see the new Tesla plant in Austin) and South Carolina. And on the way back, we saw my wife’s family in West Virginia and my wife’s old friend in Colorado. And just for us we threw a visit to Cape Hatteras. When rendering, we set a goal of no more than 28 days, and it seemed feasible if we were willing to put more than 500 million days in between visits. In the end, we had 10 stopovers and 15 all-day rides. We went through 28 states.
CAR: We replaced our Model 3 for 2019 for two main reasons: longer range and better sound insulation – the two most important features for travel. But we also got better sound, a faster computer (AMD chip), more efficient heating (octated!), All-wheel drive, faster acceleration and – surprisingly for us – noticeably better handling. We didn’t think it could be better than what we had, but it’s SO certain. It worked beautifully all the way without any problems. The only maintenance was the rotation of the tires after our return.
DRIVE: Typically we would make about 2 to 4 Supercharger stops a day for 500 miles. Our longest section without stopping and charging was 199 miles. Obviously we could go on, but why? We liked the rhythm of Tesla driving, stopping every 2 or 3 hours to charge for 20-30 minutes, go for a walk, find a bathroom, have something to eat, change drivers and maybe watch YouTube or Netflix. . We are refreshed and ready for the next 2 or 3 hours. We were on Autopilot (FSD, but not Beta) 95% of the time on the highways. We are much more relaxed when we don’t have to drive and we just have to realize who is around us. As a result, we were much more relaxed at the end of the day than during our ICE car days. Another advantage of shorter legs is that we have never charged a car over 310 miles, about 86%, and we usually keep it at a maximum of 280. The battery charges faster and it is healthier for the battery.
AUTOPILOT: The only Autopilot features we used were automatic steering and automatic lane changes. People without FSD will not be able to change lanes, which is a real convenience because you don’t have to remove the autopilot to change lanes. Nevertheless, automatic steering is by far the most important function. Of course, we constantly monitor the situation, but it’s much more pleasant when you don’t have to worry about staying in your lane or slowing down for the car in front of you. We often eliminated it from Autopilot, usually for a short time. It’s so conservative! When there is heavy traffic and cars are engaged and disengaged, we have often switched to manual shifting to change lanes more aggressively than autopilot. I would also really like him to move more in the lane when the truck is near the line next to us, but he seems to want to stay right in the middle until he really has to move. We often took it out of Autopilot at the time and moved on. And phantom braking continues to be a problem once or twice a day. We were able to react immediately by pressing the accelerator pedal.
OVERFLOW COSTS: We stopped at 62 Superchargers and spent $ 740.21. That’s about $ 0.09 / mile, which is about half of what I’d pay for gasoline in my ICE car. I pay $ 0.09 / kW for charging at home, which is just over $ 0.02 / mile. The cheapest rate was $ 0.21 / kW in Philadelphia, while several Western states charged $ 0.40 / kW. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia are charged by the minute. I heard about it, but I wasn’t aware of how I was charged until later, when I checked my fees in my Tesla account. That’s weird! For example, this is how Georgia charged me according to Tesla:
1 min @ 0.12 $ / min
14 min @ $ 0.31 / min
10 min @ $ 0.58 / min
1 min @ $ 0.93 / min
It’s weird because they charged me the least for the period when I used the most kW. It was a charger with an output of 250 kW and will initially consume 4 kW / min, but after 15 minutes only 1-2 kW / min.
OVERFLOW PROBLEMS: We only had to wait for one of the 62 cases where we stopped at the Superchargers, which I think is quite unbelievable. And that time he was in a small town in Louisiana with eight 150 kW chargers. Four were temporarily out of order, but Tesla was already working on them. They told us what was going on and in a few minutes they had 5thu one works for us. While we were charging, the others worked. I was amazed because I was sure there were no people from Tesla standing in this town. I wondered where they were coming from. At one other location in South Carolina, 4 of the 8 chargers didn’t work, but the other 4 were fine and one was available. We informed Tesla.
CHARGING EXPERIENCE: The longest distance between the Superchargers we saw was 140 miles. That was in West Texas. Finding a charger was simply not a problem. The farthest distance we had to reach from our route was about 2 miles, but they were usually within a few blocks of the freeway exit. All 62 places had recommendations for toilets on Tesla’s website, so it wasn’t a problem at all. Many chargers were at the Hilton Express, Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn. That was fine, except they didn’t serve food. Our favorite chargers were in travel centers, where they serve food and have nice toilets. In the east, Sheetz and Wawa were common places for chargers and have a good selection of food. Many were also in the Targets, which have restrooms and good food to buy. Overall, we have good memories of our overcharging times. In a 500-mile day, we usually charged an hour to an hour and a half.
EFFICIENCY: In my opinion, the most important thing that needs to be understood when planning and implementing such a trip is efficiency – that is, miles traveled / miles used. For example, if your car shows a range of 200 miles and you drive 80 miles, your car may now show a range of 100 miles. So your efficiency was 80%. You can achieve 100% efficiency if you drive quietly at 50 mph, but you certainly won’t do it on the highway unless you have a tailwind. We drove mostly at 70-75 mph and our average efficiency per trip was about 85% (most of the numbers here come from TeslaFi, an extremely useful application). On one 105-mile stretch in Utah with a 30 mph headwind, we achieved only 56% efficiency! I don’t like to take care of the discharge, so I usually planned for the worst case scenario and made sure I had twice the range of the next charger, and then I added another if I planned to skip this charger. On this section in Utah, we planned to skip the first charger and move on to the next 64 miles. But we routinely check the Energy Monitor, which provides an estimate of how much distance you have left when you reach your destination. So useful! At each inspection, we saw that the estimate was declining (due to the headwind) and it turned out that it would be too risky to continue. No problem. We had a lot of charge to get closer. I usually planned to charge 40 or 50 miles when we arrived, in case the Superchargers were out of order and we had to look for a place to charge. Fortunately, it never happened. I’ve heard so many horror stories about charging electric cars from manufacturers other than Tesla. I can’t imagine how different our experience with another electric vehicle could have been or whether it would have been possible to go as fast and far as we could.
We didn’t take this trip to do anything. Our shorter road trips in the Standard Range were great, except for the need to charge more often. We had no doubt that the trip was feasible and that it would be comfortable even with a somewhat hectic timeline. It was great to have an extra range, so we never felt the need to charge almost 100%. If Tesla actually doubles the number of Superchargers in the next few years, it will be ridiculously easy to take such a trip.
- The longest section: 199.49 mil.
- Compressors: 62
- Charging costs: $ 740.21
- Miles: 8 182
- Days: 25
- Switch-off efficiency: 81.77%
- Worst efficiency: 56.5% (59.42 actual miles, 105.13 rated miles, headwind 20-30 mph).
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