Road Trips and SuperChargers

Road Trips and SuperChargers

Picked up the Model S from Fremont on Friday. The factory tour is quite worth it if you are local. You can see how they are working on scaling out production. It's definitely not an easy task. The folks there are cranking them out at about 200 to 250 cars a week.

What surprised me a bit were the number of folks from outside the Bay Area making the journey and driving back. Many of them were from places outside the charging network - Albuquerque, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Portland. They had plotted a route that included the superchargers and camping grounds (KOA) for the RV plugs and charging stations.

On my end, I decided to take the trip to LA same day. This run is normally a 5 hour or less trip going 90+ miles an hour in my ICE, I can tell you it takes some planning if you are going to go long.

The Supercharger network is a life saver, especially if you have my lead foot and this car. We hit 4 of supercharging stations - Gilroy, Harris Ranch, Tejon Ranch, and Hawthorne stations in that order. The faster you go, the lower the mileage. In this case, there are few life lines. On one route, we tried going 100+ and we barely got 120 per full charge. We limped into Harris Ranch with 2 miles to go. That was scary. The other approach was to do 75 and you do get about 220 on your 85kw battery. The challenge is really keeping from having a lead foot.. and that's not easy to do. At 160 w/h you are going 0 to 60 in 5 and that is exhilarating. You can basically pass anyone. We went head on w/ a 911 and that was easy. Sadly, on that long stretch of I-5, you'll be passed again while you wait to charge up.

The charging stations are the Achilles heal of this grand experiment in EV's. While in the Bay Area, we can easily find a charge and supply and demand for charging stations isn't too bad, I can imagine a day where there will be a line as folks go longer distances. At Harris Ranch, there was only one charging station, hidden in the back with a very small sign. At Tejon Ranch, they were putting in 6 bays. Those are key as crossing the pass into LA south bound takes up a lot of energy, even if you are going down hill the other way. If EV's are going to make it, this network will have to match demand or exceed it for awhile. Superchargers are a key technology and right now, there aren't enough of them for all the owners who will want to take their Tesla's beyond local driving. I'm hoping that day comes soon but for now, take the time to plan the route. It'll take at least 2X longer than you expect.

JohnQ | 15. Dezember 2012

Yes, for the four times a year I drive significant distances I will have to slow down (from 80 mph), plan my trip, and deal with it. Or take my 10 year old ICE (which I will likely do if I have to supercharge more than twice for a given trip). The rest of the year I will enjoy car that does everything I want it to do and eliminates my gas expense. That's a worthwhile tradeoff for me. For others it might be different.

DanD | 15. Dezember 2012

rwang, thanks for the report.

I'd originally planned to take delivery in Fremont and drive cross country, BUT

I'm getting the 60kWh battery (P2124) AND would have a family (wife and baby) in tow. While I might brave the uncertainty on my own and long waits at KOA campgrounds. It didn't seem a great family trip.

I'd gone as far as mapping routes, contacting KOA national and plotting hotels with chargers.

The Tesla will be our nicest car and I can't wait to feel confident about road trips.

Brian H | 15. Dezember 2012

Yes, Dept of Transportation figure show that almost 1/3 of people's mileage is in long distance travel.

But only about 1% of the trips! So there will be about 1% of the total MSes on the intercity roads at any one time, give or take. So more SC units will indeed be needed, but probably not as many as you think.

jjaeger | 15. Dezember 2012

DanD -- interested in what info you received from KOA national. Until the SCs get built out over the next few years, this seems one of the better options for longer distance routes.

rwang | 15. Dezember 2012

OTOH TESLA`s superchargernteam has been great despite e kinks

i got to tejon ranch and the breaker was out so they got soneone out there in 10 mins

i`m here at hawthorne and all the bays but one are blocked by a christmas party hopefully someonebgets me going soon

inhave tonsay this trip wil be done by ice until the supercharging stations are up

lph | 15. Dezember 2012

It must be a blast to so fast, however, I did not know you could legally go above 70 (or 75 depending on the state in the US you are in), maybe it is time to slow down anyway to avoid loosing your license. I almost never go above 65 out of fear of being pulled over in WA. although there are a few stretches that allow 70 (but I almost never get to go on them).
Since your car is fresh out of the factory I believe it won't go as far as it will later because the tires are not broken in. I would expect to see closer to 145 miles or more driving at 100+ mph particularly if you have 19" wheels.

mika_ | 15. Dezember 2012

75-80 is pretty much par for I-5 between northern/southern cal, any slower and you're gonna feel like a snail as people blast by you. There are very few police, or really much of anything except farmland, and people keep a pretty brisk pace. That said, averaging 90+ is getting a little dangerous, and if you're really killing your battery in 120 miles then you're actually not getting to your destination faster anymore, so what's the point? I'd rather stick to 75 and only have to hit one supercharger than go 90+ and have to stop twice. Oh yea, and that's legal. :P

riceuguy | 16. Dezember 2012

And here in Austin we have a toll road with a posted speed limit of 85! Woo hoo! Of course, given how far it is from my house, and the draw at 85 mph, and the fact that I'm getting a 60kwh battery, I doubt I'll ever take advantage... :-(

rwang | 16. Dezember 2012

It seems that you get about 60% of your charge miles at 85 mph. just something to think about. Been posting a series for super charger reviews on

We'll need more superchargers soon.

jinglehyme | 16. Dezember 2012

Repost -

Rolled into Hawthorne yesterday on my way back to Pasadena from San Diego - I needed to top off to get home so I detoured to the Hawthorne supercharger station. They were setting up for a SpaceX holiday party and all of the bays were blocked by fake x-mas trees and a giant red plastic tunnel-of-love. Where's the love here? I had to move ramps, very heavy flocked plastic trees etc. To get the vital juice needed to power me home.

Another owner was also there struggling with the mess too. And another came as I was leaving. This is very bad planning on the part of Tesla/SpaceX. Owners rely on the charging network and need to be assured that these stations will be available along a planned route. If I had come a few hours later, I would have been turned away. And stranded.

jinglehyme | 16. Dezember 2012


If you drive in Southern California on certain stretches below 75 mph, cars will be whizzing past you in all directions. Especially on the I5, 10,210, 405, and 15.

Maybe you should stick to surface street and not be a menace to the locals.

jat | 16. Dezember 2012

Yeah, in ATL if you drive 65 (which I did one day just to see what impact that made to range in my LEAF) you are like a rock in the stream with cars flying by on both sides. Plus, driving 80 I know I have an extra 20 miles range or so by just driving slower if I have unexpected trips.

rwang | 16. Dezember 2012


that was you then as I'm still covered with fake white snow =)
agreed. bad planning. did you see the red sig come up into the lot afterwards?

mcptwo | 16. Dezember 2012

Where did the information about a possible Supercharger in Ridgecrest, CA come from? How likely and about when?

Getting Amped Again | 16. Dezember 2012

I was in my current ICE and low on gas and ran into an unexpected traffic jam on the highway. It looked like a many-mile backup to get past a wreck and we were slowed to about 20 mph. I immediately thought about running out of gas. Then it dawned on me that in my Model S this would INCREASE my chances of reaching my destination without "running out of gas". Counterintuitive!

Docrob | 16. Dezember 2012

Indeed GAS, those who regularly commute in slow city gridlock should regularly get ~350 miles of commuting out of a charge

portia | 18. Dezember 2012

Having done the 5 and hitting the SC along the way, I can concur that it is HARD to drive 65 or even 75 (I think the speed limit on some stretch is actually 75), because everyone else is going 80+, besides, the model S is such a fast car, it's a shame to let all those priuses pass you (and there were a lot of them). So a tradeoff between time to charge, even if there are more superchargers, I would probably still stick to 75 and just laugh and know that I can PASS any car I want if I want to!

rwang | 19. Dezember 2012

Flipside - local driving is a charm. I barely use up any miles. I think this car was designed for city driving.

Timo | 19. Dezember 2012

Pretty much any BEV is "designed for city driving". It just shows the physical fact that slower speeds and no using any power when not moving does not consume as much energy as moving at highway speeds.

In fact making car lighter (with advances in battery tech) moves the range sweet spot even slower speeds. Model S is about as far from city car as BEV can be (very aerodynamic = low resistance when in high speed and heavy = high resistance when slow).

jchangyy | 13. Januar 2013

I wish they would put SC stations along Hwy-101.

One in San Luis Obispo and another in Santa Barbara.

jat | 13. Januar 2013

@GAS - only if you aren't running HVAC and other accessories. Last night it took 30 minutes to travel 3 miles, and I averaged about 600 Wh/mi for those 3 miles because I was running the AC, headlights, and radio.