Plug-In NCW Treasurer and haL2 coordinator Jack Anderson and his wife Charlene are on a cross-country road trip in their Tesla Model S. Jack is keeping us all privy to their travels with this daily log.
DAY FIVE: We Made It: We arrived at the Carlisle House Bed and Breakfast at about 8:30 p.m. This establishment took advantage of the Tesla Destination Charging Program and has an 80A charger for guests. This feature is very slick, with the destination charging opportunity showing on the navigation system. When the icon is tapped, the option to phone or set as destination appears. We called, they had a room so we set the destination and drove though the Appalachian Mountains to a town style house built in 1826. This 2,541.3 mile trip has answered the “Big Question” for us. Yes, you can drive an electric car across the country without much more planning than you would if you drove an ICE. It takes a little more time, but it definitely is more enjoyable. We had the time to talk with people in towns and places we would have never stopped at and the opportunity to get out of the car every two or three hours is just the best. We are looking forward to the drive back to Washington.
DAY FOUR: A Long Day Tolling: Whoever came up with the scheme to charge a toll for using a highway should be condemned to employ half of their eternal afterlife to driving on one! In fact, they should have to do this with only a $20 bill to present the toll road worker, or are they trolls? In any event it took nearly 12 hours to make 580 miles because of the slower speed limits and the constant stop to throw varying combinations of coins and bills to the toll keepers. Using our onboard navigation has proven the wisdom of the Cold War adage – Trust but Verify. We have experienced three anomalies. The first can happen with any system, it tried to route us through Notre Dame University on a road that has been closed. Of course this is at night at the end of a long segment. Charlene’s map-savvy skills saved us as she saw an alternative that got us to the chargers. Second event was after leaving a Super Charger we drove as directed for about fifty miles only to be routed back to that charger for more charging. We did not take that advice as we had plenty of energy to make the next charging opportunity. Finally, after keying in our destination we started driving and at some point the system recalculated the route without the previously identified Super Chargers and promptly warned us that we did not have enough charge to drive the 420 miles needed! We cancelled the trip and selected the destination again and all was well. Looks like tomorrow is more Tolling!
DAY THREE: Warning-Warning-Warning: Driving an EV long distances can result in sore feet. “Oh, really?” you ask. Let me explain. Our travel pattern is set by the distances between Tesla Superchargers. On this trip we seem to drive for about two and a half hours, then charge for fifty minutes. Charlene and I can walk a long way and back in that time and because the weather has been so pleasant, walk is what we have been doing. I am estimating that today we covered about six miles, and my feet are claiming it was more. Talk about stopping to charge. I saw a replica of a 1950-era advertisement in a coffee shop today. Its purpose was to promote highway safety by informing the reader that a coffee break every two hours reduced the risk of accident by 80%. If this is true, then EV drivers should have really excellent safety records. It looks like eastern Wyoming and South Dakota got most of the rainfall Washington was supposed to get. For miles on either side of the freeway the grass is pale green and the water impounds are full. The cattle look very happy. We had to drive until nearly 9 p.m. because our “eat while charging” plan was derailed by the RV Park stay last night. This morning there was no place to eat breakfast as the office/store did not open until 8 a.m. No problem, we would just drive the 70 miles to the Rapid City, SD Super Charger and eat there. Catch #1 of the day – this Super Charger sits on the edge of a massively large parking lot that services an older shopping mall. There are three chain restaurants near but no breakfast places. Catch #2 – while charging we met the occupants of a westbound Model S who have been camping their way around the country. Turns out Walter has “blogged” their experiences at a site named “Tesla and the Tent.” Check it out here, pretty fun read. Catch #3 – when we finished charging we drove to the far side of this parking lot, honestly it was nearly half a mile, and there sits “America’s Diner” a Denny’s. We spent about an hour there…Thus, the later-than-usual stop for tonight.
DAY TWO: With temperatures in the high 70s, clear skies and little wind, it was a perfect day to face, “the Gap.” The Gap, as we have been calling it, is a 243-mile stretch between Sheridan, WY and Rapid City, SD that has very few published charging opportunities and no Tesla Super Chargers. We departed Butte, MT at about 7:45 a.m. with the intention of driving 520 miles. Our destination was the Mountain View RV Park in Sundance, WY which is about 70 miles short of Rapid City. We arrived at our reserved cabin at 6:50 p.m. with 528 miles on the trip odometer. Heading east from Butte we drove at the posted speed limit of 75 mph. The idea was to see how fast the battery would run down. We were stunned to see that our kW/mile was not much worse than our usual highway average of 311/mile. On the segment between Bozeman and Big Timber, MT we actually achieved 293/mile driving at 75 MPH. Topography and winds have a lot to do with this and I am sure we will end up using much more energy when driving this same segment westbound. At the Sheridan, WY Super Charger we bumped into the couple we met yesterday who are headed to Wisconsin. We talked with another driver from California who has going to Toronto and a local EV driver stopped by to say “Hi.” This really is an enjoyable way to travel. I will say the Tesla Super Chargers are so fast they may hurry your lunch time! We were only halfway through enjoying ours today when the APP indicated that the car was ready!
DAY ONE: We anticipated traveling about 500 miles a day, so ending the first day in Butte, Montana with 482 miles on the trip odometer is pretty satisfying. We traveled Highway 2 from our home in Orondo, WA to Spokane, stopping for breakfast at the Banks Lake Brew in Coulee City because they host an 80A charger. We discovered they serve a really tasty ham and cheese breakfast sandwich and excellent coffee. We rounded out our hour of charging by taking a walk along the lake side trail. From this point forward we would be using Tesla Super Chargers. Our navigation system pointed us to Couer d’Alene, ID. The Super Chargers are not far off the freeway. We were one of four Model S vehicles charging there. We walked for a while then had lunch. We will likely run into one couple we met, as they are on their way to Wisconsin. We talked about the “Gap” between Sheridan, WY and Rapid City, SD. We will work a solution for that when we stop for the day. We used the Superior, Missoula and Butte Super Chargers. It is interesting that at each charging stop we actually spent more time walking and talking than was needed for the charge. It is true - EV travelers actually spend time in the locations they find a charging opportunity. It is also true the faster you drive the faster you use charge. We have found our comfort zone at 65 MPH. Battery drain is not too bad and it strikes a good balance between driving time and charging time. We have only been charging to 80% so far. So, it has been an enjoyable first day for us. However, today we saw about twelve road kill skunks; my conclusion from this observation is that it was not a good day for skunks.
PREFACE: Charlene and I have been driving an EV since March 2013, accumulating more than 50,000 miles of smile-producing enjoyment. From this starting sentence you can determine that we are enthusiastic about EVs (Electric Vehicles) and therefore everything I write about should be considered somewhat biased! So, this disclaimer now exposed, let me get to the point. Every EV trip longer than 300 miles we have made has been proceeded by careful planning - how much energy used on a segment, where to charge, what capacity of chargers are available, how long to charge at each charging opportunity and what to do while charging were always evaluated and planned for. This is more like the Pre-Flight planning I learned to do at Fort Wolters, TX rather than planning a car trip.
In the last two years there has been an explosion of charging opportunities across America. The "BIG Question" now is, can you drive across the continent in an EV with no more pre-planning than the typical ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car trip. Charlene and I intend to get an "up-close and personal" answer. Starting Wednesday Sept. 9 we will head East. You are invited to learn the answer along with us, as we intend to post our experiences here each day.