First Roadtrip with my Model S: Bay Area to Reno, NV

First Roadtrip with my Model S: Bay Area to Reno, NV

I took delivery of my S85 in March and put about 1500 miles on it exclusively driving locally in the Bay Area. Due to my daughter's volleyball tournament in Reno, I decided to try out the Tesla on a long roadtrip. I'm relaying my observations here in case others are interested.

There were a couple firsts for me on the outbound leg:
* First time using a supercharger (charged successfully - everything worked!)
* First time charging to Max Range (instead of standard)
* First time seeing the tire pressure warning indicator flash (briefly when driving over a bridge in Sacramento) then it went away and never came back. It was kind of alarming because it said to call Tesla service. However, it went away after 30 seconds and never came back.

According to Google Maps, a direct route to Reno is about 240 miles and should take 3:47 with no traffic. Of course, I used the SuperCharger in Folsom. With the need to route to Folsom instead of proceeding straight along I80 the whole way - I only added about 9 miles to the trip.

With the 85kWh battery, I had plenty of range to get to the Folsom SuperCharger and then to get from the SuperCharger to Reno. The first leg of the trip was primarily dealing with East Bay traffic during rush hour and I was able to go 132 miles averaging 322 Wh/mile. I had charged to 266 rated miles and ended up at the Folsom SuperCharger with 116 rated miles left. I had to circle around the outlet mall a few times trying to find the SuperCharger. I thought I could find it by locating a big obelisk with Tesla logo in the sky. Big disappointment. The Folsom SuperCharger looks like most other EV charging stations and its tucked away across from the Forever 21 store. I would advise others to look for the Mexican restaurant next to the Forever 21 store. The SuperCharger is on the far side of the parking lot across from these stores. I was really surprised at how easy it was to use a SuperCharger. Literally, I just plugged it in. It was even easier than using a regular EV charging station. Needless to say, the Tesla charged up to Max Range way way faster than it took for my daughter to finish shopping at the outlet mall.

The next leg of the outbound trip was interesting. Again, 85kWh offers plenty of range, but the incline on I80 going to Reno really forces the energy consumption to go way up. At one point on the climb, it took about 2 rated miles to go one physical mile. I was not babying the car. I drove it at the speed of traffic - we would pass trucks that were chugging along in the right lane. Occassionally, there would be these manics that would blow by the pack of cars I was drafting behind. Still, the Tesla was guzzling up the electrons. After crossing the summit, I got some efficiency back on the descent. In total, the trip from Folsom to Reno wound up being 130 miles with an average of 378 Wh/mi. After topping off in Folsom, my Tesla had 88 rated miles left when I pulled into the RV stall in Reno. The RV stall had a 50amp 240V plug and I was able to charge back up to Max Range overnight.

The net of it was that I didn't have to change my driving habits at all. Range anxiety was only an issue in that this was the first time I've ever gone on a roadtrip and observed much higher Wh/mi consumption. Having done this and removing much of the unknown, I would be really confident doing this trip again and not even thinking about changing my driving habits. Actually, to be specific, I would be confident doing this trip again in the summer. With cold weather, there may be a few more considerations that I will watch for.

I head back to the Bay Area soon and intend to post a followup comment regarding the return legs (back to Folsom and then to the Bay Area). Let me know if there are any questions I can answer. I learn a lot from the others who post on this board so I wanted to try and give back what I could.

hfcolvin | May 11, 2013

Thanks for the detailed post. I'm an East Coaster now but used to do the SF - Lake Tahoe trip quite a bit. You should get some good range coming back down Truckee to Sacto!

I'd be interested to hear reports of range effects of tire chains this winter. Do they still require chains at times over Donner Pass?

Tâm | May 12, 2013

Did you check your tire pressure to make sure?

I expect you would be able to get back with no problem at all.

It's a joy to read your adventure. Thanks so much!!!

ichong | May 14, 2013

I was reminded to post the followup in my work lunchroom from @coolinfadude with the P85.

Here are my observations:
* @hfcolvin is dead on. Definitely got the range efficiency back driving down from the Sierra's. From Reno to Folsom, I drove 132 miles using 35.2kWh and 257 wh/mi. There were actually stretches where the rated miles would increase as I was in constant regen braking down the mountain - that was fun. That was the opposite of range anxiety. I've done some basic calculations on distance and range efficiency and I think that if I were to drive back from North Tahoe (not Reno) to the Bay Area, I might actually be able to skip the supercharger in Folsom and go all the way home on a single max range charge.
* I hope Tesla puts a supercharger on I80. Going to South Tahoe on 50 works well with Folsom. Folsom adds some distance and time when roadtripping to North Tahoe/Reno.
* While we're on the topic of superchargers, I mentioned in the original post that the Folsom supercharger is modest - just 4 parking lot stalls. While this can make it tough to find, the positive side is that it seems quite reasonable to see lots of superchargers wherever there's a large parking lot in a mall.
* @Tam - Regarding the tire pressure. I called Tesla Service on Sunday and got through. The service rep told me that I should check my tire pressure, but that it is quite common when the temperature changes rapidly and the altitude changes dramatically that it takes time for the tire pressure sensors to adjust. On the way back, I lost altitude and the outside air temperature went from 90 degrees to 100 degrees (near Rocklin/Sacramento). Sure enough, the tire pressure warning indicator came on saying that the tires were over inflated. When I got to the East Bay, the temperature dropped 20 degress rapidly and the tire pressure warning indicator went away.
* On my return trip to the Folsom supercharger, I stayed 30 minutes and got about 98 rated miles on the charge. There were 2 other Teslas charging so I had to choose a charging stall that was coupled with one other car. That is likely the reason that the charging rate was slower than on the outbound trip.
* Because I'm a cheapskate (in spite of paying extra $$ for the Model S), I am tempted on the next trip not charge to max range to go from the Bay Area to the Folsom Supercharger. I could charge only to 150 rate miles so I can arrive in Folsom with only 20 rate miles and maximize the free charging from the supercharger there.
* I mentioned earlier that it was 100 degrees in Sacramento/Folsom. I heard the fan behind the center console working feverishly to cool down the unit. I could definitely see the extra drain on the battery as the wh/mi usage was much higher initially after the car had been sitting in the heat while supercharging.

shamsdeitrick | May 17, 2013

Any thoughts of making it from Alamo to Truckee on one max charge without stopping with a P85? It's 178 miles but obviously you have major elevation gain. I have a charger available to me in Truckee. I can handle driving 65 for the trip. Tesla has not been able to give me an indication of how much the elevation will lower my miles. I'm guessing I would be plus or minus about 20 miles. If I'm driving 65, I should make it to Auburn using fairly close to rated miles and then I would have 60 miles or so of energy hogging climbing. I figure if I can get to Auburn (110 actual miles) using 135 rated miles and then cover 60 actual miles of climbing using 110 rated then mostly regen from Donner summit to Truckee, that should get me there with maybe 20 miles to spare.

DouglasR | May 17, 2013

@shamsdeitrick - just use the EVTripPlanner:

Brian H | May 17, 2013

For each rise of 1000', guesstimate 7 miles loss. That applies to each individual rise. Regen recovery can be up to 80%, but varies with slope and speed, etc.

matt | August 8, 2013

Has anyone tried a Tahoe trip on a 60 kWh car? Is it cutting it too close?


KWTESLA | August 8, 2013

We went to Yosemite last week that was fun driving and a beautiful trip for Model S drivers. Coming home we got amazing range with one stretch down along the Merced River. I went what seemed like 20 miles and only used about 1 mile of rated range. I thought the range indicator was stuck on 167 miles! It is mostly down hill from Yosemite Village. My watts per miles were in the mid 200s after nearly 2 hours of driving .

sidney_wang | August 9, 2013

I'm also interested in hearing people's Tahoe trip experiences on a 60KWh. I'm heading to North Tahoe tomorrow from Pleasanton but still debating whether or not to take my 60KWh S or my ICE. There will be charging at the hotel where I'm staying but am concerned with making it from Folsom to North Tahoe. Is it doable?

NKYTA | August 9, 2013

@ sidney_wang
Folsom to Truckee shows ~88 miles on google maps. If you leave with a full charge from Folsom it is all uphill to the top of the pass, but from my experience, your rated miles at the top will drop very little by the time you hit Truckee. If you can get another full charge before you leave for home you should be fine.

Chunky Jr. | August 9, 2013

I have a few questions about the RV park... How did you know to stop there, and how did you get to/from your car after you left it there? Was it walking distance to where you spent the night? Do you need to call ahead to reserve a spot?

I'm thinking about making my first road trip from Silicon Valley down to LA along 101, but I'm not sure what to do while I'm down there. I suppose I could pop over to the Hawthorne supercharger while I'm down there, but wondering if there are other options, such as charging at a hotel.

dortor | August 10, 2013

@chunkyjr - depends on the hotel - and where in So. Cal you plan to visit

in general the best case you can hope for at a public/hotel charging is 18 miles per hour (standard J1772/30 AMP)…18 mph isn't going to get you very far. If you're going to spend time in So. and drive back you will most likely need to visit the Hawthorn supercharger…otherwise you just can't get 100's of miles of range in a reasonable amount of time…

when I've been down south it's even hard to find a hotel that has 110v outlet available…and even a 240v/40 amp circuit is several hours of charging to fill up a 85 kw Model S…

Brian H | January 12, 2015

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