Tesla roadtrip

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.

Charging our Model Y at the Tesla dealer in Paramus NJ.

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.

Supercharging on the morning of our second day of travel, in Laurel Maryland.

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.

Our final supercharging stop was right next to an excellent pizza restaurant. Dinner time!

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.)

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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