Closing the Mid Continental Gap

Closing the Mid Continental Gap

I / we, wife and I are the proud owners of a Chevy Volt. After owning this electric car for a year + and 23 thousand miles we will not go back to ICE autos. The people who haven't experienced one peddle driving, speed control of 1 mph at any speed (25-90) on any terrain with no shifting, and smooth acceleration and deceleration from any speed, don't realize they are driving derricks of the past. Not necessarily a bad thing, as I enjoy tube radios and steam engines but no longer state of the art or practicality.

At nearly 70 years of age and less then 50K income our Volt was a bit of a squeeze to afford, but by selling some property, we were able to pay cash and are very glad we did. My next quest would be to own a Tesla X as it seem to have the things the Volt lacks, ELECTRIC RANGE, AWD, room, unlimited power, except for ONE. Extended range. We live in the center of Montana and it is my assumption that there will never be enough Supercharge Stations in my lifetime to make the X work for us as a only car, the only way to afford one.

In order to make the Tesla X practical for those of us in the mid continental gap I think the car should be offered with a light trailer or bike carrier containing a Volt (or similar) motor generator. This would make the car practical to travel XC and vacations. When you want to travel distance you hook up your trailer. When you get to a Super Station string you drop your range extender and pick it up on the way home. Should you go several hundred miles down a Station String and your next destination would be beyond range you could rent a extender from the Station.

In our case the Tesla's range would be a big asset for us over what we have now 30 to 40 miles. We have our own electric oil well (photo cells and windmills) but our normal commute is 100 miles round trip, so we are still using some gas even when we are not going cross country. The good part is when we are on gas the Volt makes milage equal to the best milage ICE's at 35 to 42 mpg. Also the AWD would be a big asset as we have 10 miles of unimproved roads 20 miles round trip.

Brian H | 11. März 2013

Much easier than a charging trailer is a list of KOA campsites. They seem very Tesla-friendly, and have standard 50 amp RV chargers. You would never get a 6-8 hour 50A feed out of a trailer generator.

Without Superchargers, you'll have to budget some mid-trip charging time. But your trips would be feasible.

Solarwind | 12. März 2013

It appears you do not understand how range extender works. It does not run when you are stopped. It maintains your battery at a preset level while you are driving usually 30% . There is not enough power to zip you up hills, you use the battery reserve, when you get on level or down hill it catches the battery back up to 30%

Vawlkus | 12. März 2013

Trust me Brian does know. He also knows, as most others here do, that Tesla's vehicles have an inhibitor that prevents them from being charged via the outlet while in motion.

Take a look in the General Forums using, we've discussed range extension technology extensively there over the past few years.

Solarwind | 12. März 2013

I found the picture of the Tesla S pulling the R extender trailer somebody made up. That is awesome, very well done. To me that makes a lot of sense. There is no way I want to spend a $100K on a machine that is only 80% functional, but I would not have a problem spending $110k for a 100% functional world's best machine.
The inhibitor you talk about is most likely software and it is on all plugin EV's so you don't drive away plugged in. The biggest and only change to the car to make it work with range extender would be software, as the car must talk to the engine. In the case of the Volt when the engine runs the computer controls it 1500 to 4000 RPM depending on how much you are using from the battery in a effort to keep the battery at a constant level 25-30%. If you run the engine out of gas you have 6-10 miles to find help. If it were me I think in the case of a trailer I would run the engine at its most efficient speed and let the battery do more of the work.
The neat thing about the trailer concept, is it does not effect the cars original concept or function in any way. If you don't need it, you don't buy it. As more superstations are built the more it can be left behind. Should the trailer be built of aluminum using a Volt type engine generator, it would weight only about 300 lbs including gas. That is only one McDonald's fed passenger.

Vawlkus | 14. März 2013

Actually it's not solely software. Model S uses regenerative braking, right? What would happen if you're using the range extender and decide to take your foot off the go pedal? Battery pack goes BOOM.
It'd take a bitch of a lot of hardware to cover off that kind of situation, and that's more than likely not the only issue.

Where do you get 80% functional? For anything but a road trip, an S is all you need, so that a helluva lot closer to 95% functional, if not higher. An X will not be that different.

Solarwind | 15. März 2013

Yes the S has regenerative braking, so will the X, so does the Volt and Leaf. The Volt has a setting to allow single pedal driving, The regen braking comes on automatically as you lift your foot. I would guess the S also has this, I get to drive one next month.
No the battery will not go BOOM.
No or very little hardware but a lot of software. It is said the Volt has more lines of code then F16 fighter. I don't know.
About 35% of our mileage is travel so the 80 is a little high. The closest superstation is at least 750 miles over 350 miles of mountains. You can see driving habits, mileage extra of the Volt owners that gave permission at The cars computer reports directly to the website.

There is a lot of misconception about how Range Extender engines work. The Volt used a 1300CC 80hp 4 cylinder connected to a motor generator. There is no starter, the generator has enough power to spin to motor to operation speed. The engine is totally computer controlled, operator has no input except to choose the level you wish to maintain the battery. The computer sets the engine rpm by the load of the generator, most of the time the throttle is operated wide open. When you are driving slow or stop the engine never runs. In normal mode the engine starts automatically when the battery is depleted to about 30%, you may not know it is running unless you see the indication on the dash. The battery in the Volt is water cooled and heated, it is a 16kwh battery but only 10kwh is useable, never depleted below about 15% or charged above 80% . Normal light driving your engine is operating at about 1800 RPM if you accelerate or climb a hill and the battery drain is increased the computer allows the engine to speed up, can be as much as 4000 RPM, (then you will know it is running) If you are going up a long hill say at 90MPH and have not put the car in mountain mode a flag will pop up and say Reduced Power. In my case the car slowed from 90 to 65 near the crest of the hill. You have the option of putting the car in mountain mode before the hill, this will cost you a little gas as it runs the engine harder and brings the battery up to about 50%. Now it takes a very long hill and heavy foot the get reduced power. When we go anymore we usually alway use MM when leaving home. The engine start at 50% with no loss of gas mileage, then switch to normal mode in town using the electric miles where they are more efficient.

pilotSteve | 27. März 2013

@Solarwind - thanks for the detailed owner's perspective on the Volt. I think GM engineering has done a good job given their constraints. I too have an -X on order for my wife and have been driving my -S for over 4500 all-electric miles.

I've been able to make my 150-200 mile (each way) trips around the north west comfortably just by charging at public or friends (240V/30A welding outlet) overnight, waking up the next morning to a full 270-ish mile charge.

My brother lives in Montana and I've visited him. I get you point of view! Perhaps the -X will have a larger capacity battery option (fingers crossed) when available in 2014. A true 300-325 miles EPA (rated) range vehicle would probably get you most places with overnight charging.

Appreciate your thoughts and viewpoint.

lets hope the -X can meet your needs!

Solarwind | 31. März 2013

@pilotSteve thanks for the positive outlook and the insight on your XC travels with the S. I am hoping that by the time the x is available many of the problems have been solved, maybe charge stations will show up every 200 miles or so. When we travel we usually like to cover about 600 miles or so a day. Our stops have gotten longer and more frequent with age, so one hour every 3-4 hours is ideal.

Are you a Pilot? if so I will trade a drive in your S for a drive in my 1946 Luscombe. We are located about 35 miles north west of Great Falls, MT.


Tiebreaker | 01. April 2013

@Solarwind, those are two very different philosophies and products. You may want to ask GM to make a Volt-based SUV, and have better chances of them making one than Tesla doing a Model "Any" with a range extender.

Solarwind | 01. April 2013

I think GM is planning a Volt - based SUV with 24 KWH battery for 2015. No mention of AWD and 24KWH is still a little small. I still like the Tesla Idea better, no gas at all. The trailer idea is just a stop gap until electric gas stations are available nation wide.

Brian H | 01. April 2013

Is the Volt profitable, or even break-even? I have my doubts.

Solarwind | 01. April 2013

GM says it is! Faux News says it is not. I don't think they would be investing so heavily if it wasn't.

RDoc | 28. April 2013

I like the trailer mounted range extender idea.

Perhaps Tesla should have these available for rent as well as for sale. For us, the battery range is enough except for maybe 6 - 10 trips per year. Rather than renting an ICE, perhaps renting the range extender would make more sense. Our other car, while an ICE, isn't really practical for long trips so we're going to have to do something other then use the X. Low powered public charging except for overnight stops isn't really very useful, and there aren't a lot of overnight charging spots available either.

While more superchargers is a nicer answer, that's not very likely to cover the trips we take for many years if ever.

Brian H | 28. April 2013

Use to search for trailer. The idea has been beaten to death. EXTREMELY unlikely. Electric integration and air drag are just 2 of the issues.

Joel N. Weber II | 29. April 2013

The entire Interstate Highway system should need less than 500 charging stations if they're spaced at 100 mile intervals, as a rough estimate based on there being a bit less than 50,000 route miles of Interstate Highway.

We sometimes see prices quoted for Superchargers that include the solar panels, but a Supercharger bay that is used an average of an hour a day is going to require a much smaller solar array than a Supercharger bay that gets 10 hours a day of use, since the goal is simply to have the total electricity produced by all of the solar panels over a year exceed the total electricity used by all of the Superchargers over a year.

If you figure that a Supercharger station without solar panels might cost something like $35,000, then 5000 of them ought to be $175 million. There's a single bridge between Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts which is about to be rehabilitated for more like $250 million. I don't understand why people seem to keep acting like spending $175 million on getting Superchargers everywhere would be unfathomly expensive when that's less than cost of fixing one single bridge in one single place.

carlgo | 09. Juni 2013

Couch change, especially if you monetize them by charging other brand vehicles to use the facilities.

In another thread I proposed the idea that having thousands of Supercharging stations serving all electrical vehicles might be the goal for Tesla. More lucrative than selling cars and advancing the cause, which seems to be Musk's real goal.

Brian H | 10. Juni 2013

The cost per SC station was originally given as $250K, now $150K w/o solar, $300K with. Not $35K. Still not big bucks.