Ever since I received my Tesla Model Y at the end of September, I’ve been curious about how it would perform on a long road trip. So when we started planning a visit to family in South Carolina, I decided to drive – the first time we’ve ever made this 1,000-mile road trip.
Overall, it was a great experience. The car is a comfortable ride, and the auto-steer and traffic-aware cruise control make long highway driving less tiring. But I was most interested in the experience of re-charging an electric vehicle – after all, there is a gas station at nearly every interstate exit but EV charging is still far less common. In short: it’s easy, for a trip along major routes like I95.
We use two tools to plan our route: the Tesla in-car navigation system and the ABetterRoutePlanner website. The in-car system has an advantage in that it knows your car’s capabilities and current state, and fetches real-time information about traffic and the occupancy of Tesla Supercharger stations. The third-party website has an advantage in that you can request a route with intermediate waypoints, search for amenities around the charging stations, and include non-Tesla charging stations as well. We found the website good for coarse-grain planning (at the beginning of a day), then used the in-car system to plot a specific route (and charging stops) for our next destination.
On the first day we drove to Paramus,NJ to visit the Tesla dealer (more on that in a future blog post), then to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where I met some friends for a boat trip around the harbor, then to stay overnight with family outside of Baltimore. My phone measured the day, as shown in the above map: 835km, 12 hours and 41 minutes including stops.
We charged the batteries to 100% before leaving home, then stopped briefly at roadside Superchargers: beside a Dunkin Donuts in Connecticut, in the lot at Tesla NJ, and at a service area on the NJ turnpike. On the morning of the second day we drove a few miles to a shopping mall in Laurel,MD, then on to a mini-mall in Smithfield,NC, then a mall in Florence,SC, and finally to the only Supercharger in the Charleston area, beside a pizza restaurant outside a mall in North Charleston. As this was near our destination, we went inside for an excellent pizza dinner and allowed the car to charge to 100%. This second day was about 12.5 hours, including stops.
Charging is extremely fast, at least at first. The above photo of the Tesla screen shows the car adding charge at a rage of 563 miles per hour while pulling 48A of DC current from the Supercharger in Laurel,MD. If we’d needed (or wanted) to let it reach 100% it would take 55 minutes… but we rarely did. As the batteries fill, the recharge rate slows; packing in the final 20% of charge takes much longer than the first 20%. So the planning tools generally suggest driving until the car is under 20%, then filling the car to somewhere between 40-70%, which only requires a stop of 15-30 minutes. Just enough time to visit the restroom, stretch your legs, grab a snack or a fresh drink, and get back in the car for another 2-3 hours. Pretty good, really.
Apple Maps estimates the pure drive time from end to end would be about 15.5 hours; we spent a total of about 25 hours on the trip, but that includes side trips into Baltimore (including a boat tour) and out into its suburbs. Any realistic road-trip would involve stops to refill and refuel. With a gas car it may have been a bit shorter – we made more stops, and longer stops, than absolutely necessary in a gas car – but they were never very long nor inconvenient.
(BTW, if you decide to buy a Tesla, please use my referral link.)