One family's experience: San Francisco to San Diego and back

One family's experience: San Francisco to San Diego and back

Made our first road trip this past weekend. One wife, two dogs, one Tesla Signature. About 1045 miles RT. First the facts, then what I think I learned. Not sure this will help anyone, but here goes anyway.

Left SF down Route 101 with the new chargers open. Topped off at Gilroy, much slower than the advertised speed (this was my first Supercharger experience) but didn't need too much.

Down to Atascadero, decided to stop there as both A. and Buellton were new, and you never know.... Atasc. chargers were roped off with yellow caution tape. Sign said "new asphalt." I walked on it and it seemed ok so I took the tape down and charged up. Also pretty slow (160 miles per hour, although no one else was there). Bays filled up and there were 6 cars at one point. Cool! Maybe that slowed things down more.

Stayed the night at Santa Barbara, at a nice Kimpton hotel called the Canary, right downtown off State Street, which had a bonus - a 14-50 charging station that looked just like my own outlet in my garage. The valets left the car connected all night long, right by the front door to the hotel.

That enabled us to make it easily to our friends near the airport, and then to Hawthorne's 4 charging bays, where we topped off but things were very slow. This was easily the most crowded of the bays, the only one in LA basin.

Got to San Diego late afternoon and went to our friends'. Had a charging station nearby at an upscale Pizza place on Harbor Drive, near the airport and where we were staying. 30 amp, charged at a modest 17 mph. Took too long so we plugged into the 110 at our friends' house, and after two nights with a couple of joy rides in between added plenty of charge.

On way back, stopped at Hawthorne, but the bays were full. My wife went to the airport restaurant, which was ok, but at midday food trucks come for the SpaceX employees -- much better food. We bought my granddaughter a red Tesla "onesie" at the store in the Tesla design center, where the bays are located.

We were planning to go straight to Harris Ranch, but we were running late and hit traffic and 95 degree whether and got really bad mileage, so chickened out and stopped at Tejon Ranch. Strange place, deserted, but decent charging, although not enough to get back to SF. So we charged up at Harris Ranch too.


1. Hawthorne will be very crowded compared to others and due to location. Some folks just popped over to top off. A spot to be avoided, which will be possible when San Juan Capistrano is ready.

2. I saw NOWHERE that got anything close to 200 miles a half-hour. The fastest was at Harris Ranch. With the other bays empty, I charged at 245 mph until it slowed down to top off.

3. The slowdown to top off is enormous, down at the end to maybe 75 mph even with no one else around.

4. The more cars charging, the lower your charge rate. And the bays appear to be paired, so if you drive into one, leave a space between you and the next car.

5. Heat and traffic have enormous effects on range. Traffic knocked us down considerably after LA, forcing us to stop before Harris. And the heat was hitting 100 on route 5, which meant if we had tried for Harris (it was a close call), we may not have made it.

6. Charging on a 110 overnight is better, even at 3.2 mph, than hanging out at a Blink station for 3 hours, which is the equivalent.

7. Hills kill mileage, but downhills (the northside downslope of the "Grapevine") give you tremendous regeneration that adds lots of mileage to your range.

8. I noticed no difference between cruise control on or off; A/C on vs. windows open; or range on or off. I felt any differences were negligible.

9. On a long trip with weather and/or traffic, it's nigh on impossible to do a rated range unless you want to drive no faster than 62, and even then it's hard. We did 338 wh/mi. going, when my wife was not used to the car, and 335 back, when we had lots of heat and traffic

Still and all, though my wife complained numerous times about all the time spent at charging stations, we made it up and back safely and got to drive a great car!

olanmills | July 18, 2013

The reason traffic is such a killer on range is because all of the accelerating you do after slowing and/or stopping.

stimeygee | July 18, 2013

I've gotten close to rates range on a few trips. Might be that the weather was more temperate than you had.

RedShift | July 18, 2013

I did this trip 2 weeks back in my 60. I always saw 226 mph about 5 mins after plugging in, when no one was present but me. Charged at Gilroy, Harris, Tejon and Hawthorne up and down. Next time, I will try the 101 route.

RedShift | July 18, 2013

Oh, even with 4 people and full luggage, we were doing mostly 320wh/mi with AC on and speed at 75-78 mph most of I-5. Grapevine did not affect the mileage a whole lot, actually. It was very hot, 108F at Tejon! My car is tinted, so it helped a lot.

RZitrin1 | July 18, 2013

Well, every car is different. Curious about other experiences.

jjaeger | July 18, 2013

Driven SJ to SD and SJ to LA - and both are two SC stops for us in our 85. On the SD trip, 362wh/m on the way down and 325 on the way back. Back was much more traffic so speeds were kept in check - hence the lower usage. Charge rates for the 4 stops were between 170 & 211 mph and averaged just over 200mph. Am getting better at charging for what we need and then getting on the road vs. spending extra time & getting more than my buffer (and watching the charge rate drop off). For the most part did not share the chargers, so getting all we could take - exception was the 168mph charge where there were 2 of us for part of the time. Coming North had a 74 mile buffer to Tejon at the base of the hill; 52 miles at the top and 70 when we got to the Tejon SC. Was impressed that we got that much back on the downhill. SC road trips are getting to almost be second nature now (may soon stop filling out my excel sheets tracking the results :-)

bradslee | July 18, 2013


Thanks for sharing your experience. Quite useful. I wonder if you always used Max charge instead of standard charge during the whole trip?

RZitrin1 | July 19, 2013

@jjaeger, your experience sounds a lot like mine, especially wh/mi usage. Recovery on the downhill part of the Grapevine was even greater for me. I too was surprised. I needed to get to Harris, though, b/c my endpoint was SF, not SJ.

Bradslee, I had it set at Max charge, but only fully charged it at Harris. That is, I set the toggle high for "trip" not "daily" with Software 4.5. Does that answer your question?

I'm definitely still learning the ropes.

GLO | July 19, 2013


Glad to hear about someone doing this in a 60. We are 202 miles to the Harris Ranch Supercharger from our home in Sacramento. I'm curious if anyone has done this in a 60 as I am wanting to try.

ChasF | July 19, 2013

To get 202 miles in a 60, you would need to max charge to about 210 and do no worse than 300 Wh/m. Depending on weather and traffic, you'll have to adjust your speed accordingly. Even then, it'll be close.

jjaeger | July 19, 2013

@rzitrin - yes, fairly similar with a couple of deltas (or differences in my view)

- I don't feel that strongly about what it takes to get Rated range; have done 5 legs that are at or within 5% of Rated (two of those better than Rated); while it's hard to do in a car that is so fun to run - just sitting back at 65 and flowing with traffic/trucks did it for me

- And secondly, my wife loves the SC stops; she says it makes a unpleasant journey nearly enjoyable having a break every 150 or so miles; and the stops are short enough that it's a break but does not add unnecessarily to the time (last LA-SJ run was 2 stops of 36 minutes each; and one was lunch)

rwang | July 19, 2013

wow. i must be getting a real inefficient battery. doing 85 mph and it's at about 425 wh/mi.

tobi_ger | July 19, 2013

Your battery is fine, it's your driving speed that takes the juice. :)

bradslee | July 20, 2013


Thanks for your info and you answered my question.

RZitrin1 | July 20, 2013

@jjaeger, could you have your wife talk to my wife? She loved driving the car, but was getting a little antsy with all those long-ish stops.

earlyretirement | July 20, 2013

Thanks for this great repot. I'm not really a "road trip" type of guy. (I prefer planes) but I will take a few of these trips to visit friends in the Bay area once I get the car. Thanks.

dougarcher26 | July 20, 2013

In my 60, I always do the LA to SF round-trip with max charge, and stop at both I-5 SCs, along with Gilroy. I add a 50 mile buffer to be safe. Never had a problem (just from Vegas to Barstow, barely pulled in with 7 miles, thanks to the headwinds and elevations). Hoping for the Primm SC station. Also looking forward to using the 101 stations next! :)

jjaeger | July 20, 2013

@earlyretirement - I hear you re: planes. My daughter went to SDSU for 4 years, and the ONLY time I drove down to see here was in May for her graduation (and we visited twice a year for 4 years). Reason was easy - to take the MS out and blow the soot out of the pipes - so to speak. Same goes for our trip to PHX - always a quick flight for spring training week - but yes, a first with our maiden road trip and that was a hoot. Will be interesting to see if things change for you as well once you get your car.

@rzitrin - happy to have my wife touch base w/ yours :-) What I've found on the I5 routes is that we avoid Gilroy (not needed for us and too crowded) and while we hit Hawthorne once to see where it was - that is also on our "do not visit" list (unless needed) - as it also is fairly busy. So nice that we can do SJ to SD with just HR & TJ SCs and we are usually at those alone.

Mitchell Waite | July 20, 2013

Thank you for such a detailed road trip report. It took me a while to unravel all the acronyms but all in all it was very sobering to me. Please someone correct me if I am wrong here but all this stopping to get the Tesla S charged isn't it anxiety producing? I mean just reading it made me nervous. I haven't bought a Tesla yet, I have my eye on a pearl white 85 Kw, but I am asking myself these questions:

1. Do I really want to buy a car that requires so much caution about running out of juice?
2. Do I want to buy a car that has only one repair shop that is at least an hour plus from my home?
3. Do I want to buy a car that is likely to have new and better technology next year.

Of all those questions #3 is pretty absurd, its like the old waiting to buy a Mac because next year model will be such a better deal.

But #1 and #2 are really serious issues for a car that will be my main means of transportation.


cfOH | July 20, 2013

Mitch: How often do you need to drive more than 250 miles per day?

SamO | July 20, 2013


Most people here are excited but don't want to make a stupid error and Broder their car. Since the old paradigm with and ICE car is drive until the red light turns on, then pull off at the next filling station and spend 60-$100, this is going to take some getting used to.

But it seems that people are happy to plan their stops if the fill-ups are free.

fuellss | July 20, 2013

Help. Planning a trip from Folsom to north SD (Pacific Beach).
85 kw MS at reasonable speeds. Can I make it from TJ (Lebec) to Pacific Beach without stopping at Hawthorn? Also, full charge from Pacific Beach to TJ? How much will the pass affect mileage heading N -> S or S -> N?

jjaeger | July 20, 2013

@calover - that leg is just under 200 miles, so very doable with your 85. I was a bit south of PB and made the S-N trip to TJ with no issue. Now both SD and LA traffic was very bad so that kept speeds down considerably (203 miles took 4 hrs :-(. The buffer to TJ #'s I reported above were for that leg, so arrived with 70 miles in the tank with the pass only taking 4 off my range.

fuellss | July 20, 2013

jjaeger - Thank you. Very helpful. I don't want to stop at Hawthorn if not needed.

RZitrin1 | July 20, 2013

@jjaeger - Think you're right re Gilroy and especially Hawthorne. When they do San Juan Capistrano, Hawthorne will be unnecessarily.

@mitch - I felt no anxiety about range, because i stopped often enough. You can't go as fast door to door, but part of the full (occasional) road experience. That's not a good reason to pass on the car, IMO.

As for service, it's a work in progress, and there are different views on the service plan, but they do have one that comes and fixes your car at home or drives it to the service center.

negarholger | July 20, 2013

"Hawthorne will be unnecessarily" - I think Hawthorne will disappear from the SC list in not too distant future ( couple of years ).

SamO | July 21, 2013

Hawthorne isn't going anywhere as it provides charging for Space X, Tesla showroom and Elon, personally.

Perhaps they'll add HPWCs but Hawthorne is the Tesla Supercharger SHOWROOM equivalent.

RZitrin1 | July 21, 2013

I think SamoSam has that right. Hawthorne abuts the Tesla design center, with about 100 Tesla employees, and is across the driveway from SpaceX.

They have a lot of space there, including a grassy area, a reflecting pool -- plenty of room to add 5 or even 10 or more additional SCs, which I think may happen down the road.

Mitchell Waite | July 21, 2013

@SamoSam said
"Most people here are excited but don't want to make a stupid error and Broder their car."

Is "Broder" a typo and you meant Border, or is it a new word in the Electric car lingo? said
"@mitch - I felt no anxiety about range, because i stopped often enough. You can't go as fast door to door, but part of the full (occasional) road experience. That's not a good reason to pass on the car, IMO.

As for service, it's a work in progress, and there are different views on the service plan, but they do have one that comes and fixes your car at home or drives it to the service center.

So are you saying that a long drive in a Tesla is a kind of game of how well you can plan ahead? It almost sounds like everyone is performing an experiment each time they go on the road where any serious > 200 mi distance is involved.

Re service I didn't know they have a plan to come to your house or drive the car to the SC and give you a loaner. Is that expensive?

I think what I will do is post a question like "Are there any Tesla owners here who would admit they now have buyer's remorse"? Given human nature to not admit they made a mistake making a 6 figure purchase I would not expect I'll get much objectivity in the responses but maybe some brave person will have the stones to step up?

tobi_ger | July 21, 2013

See Elon's blog from Februare wrt to journalist Broder of NYT (now used as a verb here: to "broder" an EV) :)

As to your "kind of game" sentence:
Anyone buying an all-electric vehicle should be already aware that the infrastructure for charging equipment (not only Teslas superchargers) is in its early years (in most countries).
Most EV owners are happy to charge at home overnight and have no issue for their daily commute. They know what their range is, just as you'd know how long your gastank will let you drive. For longer range drives there is a little planning-ahead to be done, but that should get better over time whilst infrastructure is improving.

jjaeger | July 21, 2013

@Mitchell - guess you have to put me in the camp of 'no stones'. As i noted above, it took 3 road trips to get comfortable with long range driving with my MS - and expect that soon they will be second nature (especially as TM adds more in-car aids to nav etc to help in this regard). Guess now I can enjoy the next 15 years of travel in the car.

negarholger | July 21, 2013

@SamoSam - I should have been more specific... public access will go away. Just my guess.

RZitrin1 | July 21, 2013

@Mitchell - here's the reality: This is the beginning of the EV revolution. The best EV, at a very high performance level, is the Tesla. We all recognized that we wouldn't be able to "fill up" at many places outside of our homes.

My longest drive is usually 100 miles to a house I have upstate. That means leaving on a full charge, plugging into a 110 in my lake home garage, driving as needed up there, and having plenty of juice to get back to San Francisco.

I for one have No buyers remorse, and will take a lie detector test to prove it.

Shesmyne2 | July 21, 2013

@rzitrin. "upstate" in CA?
You must be a NY transplant. ;-)
Like me!

Still grinning! :-) :-)

RZitrin1 | July 21, 2013

Born in Brooklyn, proud of it. But a San Franciscan for 40 years.

Brian H | July 22, 2013

Can the natives still tell you're from Nu Yawk?

RZitrin1 | July 22, 2013

Sure, because I don't try to hide it. But I never had a strong accent. I do say "ah'ringe" instead of "oh'ringe" and sometimes "stand on line." Of course, "ah'ringe" should be correct. But my kids and wife laugh at me.

(They probably would anyway.)

AmpedRealtor | July 22, 2013

@ Mitchell,

Driving an EV is not like driving an ICE vehicle in that you can't just go until you hit 1/4 tank and then stop at a station to fill-up. The longer range of ICE along with ubiquitous filling stations on every street corner make it a no-brainer to get in your car and go. However, EVs do not currently enjoy that luxury. The Model S has the longest range yet, but even at 265 miles it is right on the cusp of what many people find comfortable. I'm sure EVs will be an easier sell when we have 400 or 500 mile batteries, but in the meantime those of us who jump into the revolution will need to engage in a bit of advance planning before heading out on a road trip.

Driving 300 miles in your Model S can be an adventure.