Today is a bright, beautiful, California Saturday. And what better way to launch it than with a trip to Big Sur in the electric car. The Tesla Model S P85 is charged up and awaiting in our garage.
Some thoughts on what Saturdays are like now that the Model S is here:
1. We can go anywhere northbound from Mountain View within a 100 mile circle without addition charging from the Tesla Supercharger network. I have a rule about maintaining a 30 mile buffer in case we run into difficulties. That is enough mileage to get us back to Gilroy, or to San Francisco to park at the Symphony and recharge for free. Within the 100 miles are many wonderful sites. Point Reyes National Seashore, San Francisco, Sacramento, and other points north are no problem. In fact they are less of a problem, since we are guaranteed to hit traffic in and out of SF, but the electric car conserves energy in stop and go traffic. It's one of the great joys of the car - knowing that we are not idling and wasting energy or pumping soot into the atmosphere while we don't move. Oh - and the stereo. Stop and go traffic actually forces a pause, and if the music is right, it just doesn't matter.
2. We can go anywhere southbound from Mountain View withing a 150 mile circle. After topping off at Gilroy, we can proceed within a 100 mile radius (using the principle from #1) and then top off again at Gilroy on our way home. We are becoming very familiar with the Outlet Mall where the Tesla Supercharger is located. Someday we may buy something there. I don't know. Luggage, maybe. Suffice to say, it is now a regular stop on our travels. The southbound Saturday trips may include Monterey / Pebble Beach, Pinnacles National Park, Big Sur, the Salinas Valley, and small towns along the 101.
3. We still can't make it to Santa Barbara or the Wine Country along the 101 using the Supercharger Network. The math doesn't add up, and we don't see enough public charging stations in towns like Solvang, Buellton and Los Olivos to give us confidence. A day trip is definitely off the list for now. An overnight trip would require advance calls to whatever lodging we selected. In fact, our selection of lodging would be dictated by the availability of charging. If we were relegated to Type 1 (the same as standard 110V household plug) the charge rate would not be fast enough to get filled up without parking the car at our destination, and not using the car until it was time to return north. So this is a work in progress. We are watching carefully - one of my unspoken goals was to take the Sideways Tour in our Model S. We will await the expansion of the SuperCharger network down the length of US 101.
4. I have a theory about the lack of a rumbling ICE during long distance trips. My wife and I have noticed that we are less fatigued after a lengthy excursion. This has been consistent since we took delivery. The most dramatic example was the first day of our Christmas trip to Southern California. In spite of inching traffic on the 5, rain, and delays at the Harris Ranch Super Charger (they only have one port, and we experienced the first-ever waiting line with six other Model S's), we arrived in Anaheim ready to drive some more. It was strange. And now that we have driven the car more and more, with over 2500 miles on the odometer, I can say that this effect is consistent. I think the evidence supports the notion that the lack of a gasoline engine contributes to a decrease in fatigue. Not having low frequency vibration keeps you fresh and alert. Think about airlines - the big factors are dry air, white noise, and low frequency vibration. We have none of those in the Model S. We arrive at our destination...rested? Is that fair to say? Maybe. It is definitely true that we arrive at our destinations with more energy than I can ever remember.
Those are some general observations, but we are still learning. This is a new experience. People who are living this cannot possibly comprehend the feeling, the stark difference in getting from point A to B. I think it is the duty of those of us who have these cars to attempt to describe it. But ultimately, folks have to get into one and experience it for themselves. They will not be disappointed. And I bet most of them will begin plotting to ditch their gasoline vehicles as soon as they can....