Many people ask us how we plan our long distance trips. I guess it is time to take the mystery out of long range electric car travel. We have been all the way from Victoria BC to Red Deer Alberta & back, and to San Francisco CA & back. But the longest road trip so far was our over 15,000 km (9,000 miles) trip from Victoria BC to Florida and back. We also have friends with Teslas that have gone from Victoria to Arizona, or, just recently, one friend and family went from Victoria to Virginia and back, in 10 days, travelling about 1,000 km each day!During our trips, we meet fellow Tesla owners at the Superchargers and we start chatting. Many owners told us about their long trip adventures. One elderly couple was just returning from their second cross-continent trip after receiving their Model S70 only 6 months earlier. Everybody we talked to never did these kind of long-distance road trips in their gasoline cars. Everybody told us that they are now enjoying long distance driving a lot more than ever before. It seems Tesla puts a long-distance-travel-bug into their cars… 😉
When we started out travelling with our Model S, we did all kinds of planning, mostly with the help of online tools. Because we had a mild form of reange anxiety. However, we quickly realized that along the Supercharger routes we just need the car to tell us where to go, how long to charge and when it has enough charge to reach the next Supercharger.This is what it looks like when you sit in your Model S in Victoria BC and you speak to the car “Navigate To Miami!”: A few seconds late all Superchargers along the route are listed with the charge times required to reach the next Supercharger. It could not be any simpler! Yet, it does get even simpler! Once you open the Trip Planner window, you get a nice graph showing the predicted consumption along the route. The trip planner even shows you how mountain passes affect the consumption. At about the 85km mark on the image below, you see the consumption curve getting steeper downwards (going up hill) and after that going horizontal for almost 10 km (going down hill and therefore recharging the battery). You just put in the destination and check out the trip energy chart. You are good to go when it tells you that you have at least 15% energy when you reach the next stop. That’s it. No planning, no thinking, no worrying. Once you start driving, the trip planner updates the graph depending on how “lead-footed” you drive or on the current weather conditions – hence the recommended ‘15% energy left at destination’ you should aim for.
In the graph below, the gray line is the car’s initial prediction of the energy usage. The green line shows the actual consumption until the 51% spot on the screen (our then actual location). Further to the right of the 51% spot (in green) is the prediction based on the previous driving up to that spot. You can see how “lead-footed” driving (or maybe battery heating or cooling) in the first few miles of this trip has caused higher consumption than anticipated by the computer, but later on, as the driver calms down a bit ;-), the green consumption curve runs nicely parallel to the grey prediction curve. So, anytime you change your speed or the weather changes (head wind, water on the road), the screen will show an updated prediction. Very quickly, you get to trust the prediction and range anxiety is a thing of the past.Going back to the Supercharger map above, you can see that you can travel most of North America without much planning or thinking. By the end of 2017, Tesla plans to double the number of Superchargers in preparation for the Model 3. The Model 3, with a $US35,000 base price, will be built to the tune of about 400,000 cars per year by 2018. So, every year, travelling long distances in an electric car will become easier and it will be just as convenient as travelling in a traditional gas car. Actually, we find it more convenient travelling in a Tesla already, as the autopilot takes on a lot of the boring tasks of our long distance travel. We just supervise the car for about 90% of the travel distance and drive the rest manually. As a result, we arrive at our destination a lot more relaxed!
One more thing: As we travel along Supercharger routes, all your ‘fill-ups’ are free-of-charge forever for our car. That means that every day, our meals and hotels are basically paid for by the savings in gas.
Find out more about our solar panels set up and our charging plans for our cross Canada trip in our next blog posts. We’re planning a sequence of three blog posts on that particular topic. Yes, there’s lots of information to share!
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