Roadtrippin’ with our Tesla

We’ve owned a Tesla Model S for just over a year. We spent months researching the best all-electric plug-in vehicle and finally decided to spend our hard earned money on a car aligned with our values. Our biggest concern during all those weeks of research? ROAD TRIPS! How much extra time would we have to spend charging our car? Could we even drive all the places we wanted to go?

 

I should start by telling you that our daily life is not designed around a car, not any car. I bike my 1.6 mile commute to work, every single day (yes, even in winter… just for fun, I’ve included a photo of my winter bike below). And Robbie stays home with the kids so he doesn’t have a daily commute to work. Our oldest daughter walks to school. Robbie and our youngest daughter have designed their daily life around walkable and bikeable destinations. I’m forever grateful for the fantastic walkability and bikeability of our sweet little town of Rockford, MI. We drive 20 minutes for groceries (not more than once per week) and about an hour to visit close family + friends (again, not more than once per week). So our routine car use is pretty much a perfect fit for an electric vehicle.

 

 

Let’s pivot to our Big Concern. Road trips. Full disclosure: I’m the worst roadtripper. Ever. More than a few hours and I turn into a whiny puddle of jelly in the front seat, asking “are we there yet?” more often than the children! So while this was our biggest concern, it still wasn’t that big of a deal because we usually fly somewhere far away or focus on finding adventure relatively close to home. Fast forward a few months after we bought the car… and here we are in the middle of a global pandemic and nobody’s flying, nowhere fast.

 

So, Spring Break 2021 was a family road trip to the Smoky Mountains National Park. We had a few major goals for this road trip:

  1. Drive the approximately 700 miles to our spring break destination
  2. HAVE FUN! (if you’re new to Carbon Free Family, you’ll quickly learn that this is always our top priority. We firmly believe that a more sustainable life can be fun!)
  3. Become more comfortable with charging our car while driving longer distances
  4. Arrive at our destination at or near the perfect check-in time at our AirBnB

 

We planned to take 2 days to drive the 700 miles from Rockford, Michigan to Hot Springs, NC and this trip went remarkably according to plan. The only planning I did ahead of time was to book our overnight hotel in Cincinnati. I picked the hotel specifically because they had two Tesla destination charging stations (I explain the difference between a supercharger and a destination charger in this FAQ blog). I was very pleased to learn that Marriott hotels lists electric charging stations in the “parking and transit” section of their hotel descriptions. I wish the brand would go one step further and include this in the “filters” so I can search specifically for hotels with charging stations (nudge, nudge @Marriott).

 

 

Away we go! Here’s what our first day looked like:
(you can follow along as if this were in real time in the “tesla EV” highlight on my Instagram)

2:15pm: Rockford, MI

We left the house at around 2:15pm with an 80% charge (237 miles). We weren’t at 100% because my daughter and I drove to our horse barn in the morning to sneak in a quick lesson before leaving for vacation. Ideally, we would leave the house with a full charge for a road trip like this, but life is all about compromise, right?

 

3:45pm:

We stopped for a potty break at 3:45pm. We didn’t need to charge yet, but… little bladders couldn’t hold it for 30 minutes to make it to the supercharger. Someday soon I’m certain there will be a EV charging station at every rest area and even our 15 minute potty break would recharge our battery a smidge.

 

4:30pm: Angola, MI

We stopped for our first charge of the trip in Angola, IN. We had about 55 miles of range left, so it was a pretty long charge. This was not my favorite charging station of the trip… slow speeds (only about 190 mi/hr or 55kW) and almost no amenities. Especially since we needed a big charge, I would have preferred a faster speed charger (you’ll see that sometimes we can get up to 400 miles/hour… this measurement is telling you the number of miles of charge gained by the battery per hour of charging). We stayed for about 45 minutes and left with 182 miles of range.

We like to plan our meals around charging stops, either popping into a grocery store to buy picnic supplies or ordering takeout from a nearby restaurant. In Angola, the charging station (a bank of 6 units) was located in an isolated strip mall with a motel and really small diner style restaurant. Maybe another time we’ll try the food, but this time we opted for soccer in the beautiful green space nearby. I would rate this stop 1/10 on speed and amenities, but 10/10 on green space. Check out the beautiful trail and field to play in!

 

 

7:30pm: Lima, OH

We arrived with about 60 miles of range and were excited to find 8 spaces, only one other car, and fast charging speeds (between 320 and 350 mi/hr). This station was located in a very commercial area, with several hotels, restaurants, and not much green space. We walked through parking lots (no sidewalks… I should probably save it for another time, but I think there’s a real opportunity for areas near a charging station to be better designed for walkability) to a Panera Bread for snacks (for the kids) and a {decaf} cappuccino (for me) and to stretch our legs. Robbie played soccer with the kids in the hotel parking lot as the sun began to set. It was really a lovely scene. We stayed just long enough to gain enough charge to complete the remaining 135 miles to the hotel, around 40 minutes.

 

10:30pm: Cincinnati, OH

We arrived at our hotel happy and ready for bed. It took us just over 8 hours to drive 385 miles on the first day of our road trip. This is probably about an hour and a half longer than if we were death marching (meaning nascar style pee breaks with no time for play) in a gas-powered car. We don’t travel that way anyways, so for us this feels like slightly longer than it would have taken us in our old {gas-powered} car, but not noticeably longer.

We stayed at a Marriott and they had two Tesla charging stations + another non-tesla charger. The charging speed was slow (about 25 miles per hour), but slower speeds are fine for an overnight stop. We left in the morning around 9am with a full charge (251 miles… even more than when we left our house the previous day!).

 

 

And we’re off again! Day 2 of our road trip:

9am: Cincinnati, OH

We only had 295 miles to go today and planned on making just one charging stop. We couldn’t check into our AirBnB until 3pm, so we took out time leaving the hotel.

 

11am: London, KY

This was the best charging stop of our trip! We knew we wanted to eat an early lunch, so I went online on my phone (from the highway) to look for a restaurant. There was a Cracker Barrel nearby so I placed an order online. Once we arrived, I took a nice little walk (again, no sidewalks though) to pick up our lunch while Robbie and the girls played soccer + set up a beautiful picnic space. This charging station had it all… green space to play, easily accessible bathrooms (in a tourist information center) and lots of restaurants to choose from. We took our time here and stayed about an hour, plenty of time for our car to completely charge up again.

 

3pm: Hot Springs, NC

We arrived! Happy, healthy, relaxed, with plenty of charge left, and ready for a wonderful week in the North Carolina mountains!

 

But what about during vacation… I’ll admit that I didn’t really think about this when booking my family vacation in a tiny little town in the North Carolina mountains. We didn’t even ponder how we were going to recharge during the week until it magically popped into Robbie’s head a couple of days before we left. Thankfully, there was a charger in downtown Hot Springs, less than a half mile walk (on the Appalachian Trail, no less) from our rented home. Twice during the week, we used these charging stations at the Hot Springs Resort and Spa (and campground). These were destination chargers (again, see this FAQ blog for a full explanation of what this means) so they charged slowly, but we parked there overnight and it worked out just fine.

 

 

So what were my key takeaways from this first road trip in my new Tesla?

  1. It doesn’t take that much longer. In fact, pausing to recharge my car supports my intention to live a slower life. It encourages me to enjoy the little moments along the journey rather than racing to the destination.
  2. Plan ahead for food. Ordering on the road and having snacks in cases where food options are limited are both helpful strategies.
  3. Make sure there’s a charger at/near your vacation destination

 

Are you driving an electric car yet? If so, tell me about your charging adventures in the comments! If not, whats your biggest concern… what’s holding you back?

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2 Comments

  1. Kathy Ossmann

    Today was the first time I took our new Tesla Model Y on a longish trip – to Ann Arbor for a doctor’s appointment. To and from Paw Paw should have been just under the max capacity. So we got it all charged up to 100% last night. When I got to the doctor’s office it was down to 55% so I felt pretty confident that I could make it home without needing a charging station. I knew there was one in Marshall but didn’t know exactly where and hadn’t learned how to look them up on the Tesla info screen yet. As the gauge went lower and lower I started to get worried. But I calculated what percentage it should go down each 1/2 hour of the trip if the rate of discharge remained the same as it was during the outbound part of my travel. That proved to be true so I figured I would still have 10% when I pulled into our garage. Turned out it was 9% and I was getting a message to charge immediately or I might not be able to start it next time. I guess that might have been cutting it a bit close! At any rate, it’s out there charging now and my app tells me its up to 92%. It will be ready for tomorrow’s adventure!

    • Erin Augustine

      Kathy! What an adventure! Robbie and I were talking about this the other day… the difference between the range listed on the dash and the range listed on the map. I couldn’t understand why they would be different?!?! But then Robbie said something that helped it click into place for me… the range on the dash is fixed; it’s NOT dynamic. It assumes some sort of average driving conditions. Whereas the range on the map IS dynamic, constantly adjusting to driving speed, temperature, wind/drag, etc. For example, Robbie routinely drafts behind a semi if he knows he’s going to be tight on range 🙂

      Have you ventured back out to the Marshall charging station yet? I highly recommend a “practice run” at the charger sometime when you don’t need it and have plenty of time to figure out the details of connecting. It’s pretty intuitive though… hopefully it will be a piece of cake for you to get the hang of it!

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