Range anxiety in the real world

Range anxiety in the real world

I have had my Model S for exactly three months today, and today I also hit 5000 miles on the car. I have never driven a car at a rate of 20,000 miles per year, but I really like driving this car. Also, if my wife is going farther than I am, she gets the car that day. I wanted to share my experiences with mileage and range anxiety for people who are contemplating ownership, as this seems to be the biggest issue people have when considering actually buying me of these amazing cars.

Living with a battery does take some getting used to. Like when I first had a cell phone, I worried about the charge, but now I know that plugging it in at night will last me the next 24 hours. At first I worried a lot about the car running out of power, but with 5000 miles under my belt, I have a much better feeling for it now. We had one early day when we made it home with just 7 miles of range on the battery. I had a long (and fast) drive in the AM to play paintball with some buddies, and forgot about the long drive we had to a Christmas party that night. I had only a short time to charge some before heading out to the party. My wife was worried. I wished I had thought ahead and set it to max charge the night before. (To save battery life, the car charges to only 90% capacity by default, unless you specify a 100% charge). We watched the mileage the whole trip down and back, worrying about if we could recharge, and planning alternate routes to find a place if needed.

The car reports the "rated miles" on the battery, which is just an indicator of how much charge is in the battery. The display then also tells you your "projected miles" based on your power usage over the last 30 miles. The rated miles won't be how many you get, as it depends on many variables, and you may get more or less. A pie may be rated for 8 servings, but it could be more or less depending on how you slice it. Make small slices and your projected miles goes up.

When I drive around town, my projected miles is often only 2/3 of my rated miles, especially with how I drive. So if I have 180 miles left rated on the battery, it is telling me that based on current driving patterns, I might only expect to get another 120 miles. At first that concerned me a lot, but that's driving around town. When I go long distances, generally the highway, my projected is closer to my rated, and sometimes above the rated, depending on my speed. City mpg is always less than highway. Acceleration uses much more power than going a steady speed, and regeneration doesn't make up for that, just as doing a hill one mile up and down uses more energy than two miles flat. I don't go 200+ miles in the city however, only on the highway, so when I really need the range on the highway, it's there. I have learned that by keeping at 65 mph, I can exceed the rated miles, going 75 mph, I get less.

Today I drove a 165 mile loop across Southern California between my different offices. I have the big 85 kWh battery pack, and on a full charge began the day with 265 rated miles. My first 28 mile stretch, My speed was limited by traffic, and I arrived with 240 miles of rated range with my projected was exceeding the rated. My next leg of 70 miles I got to use an HOV lane with my California EV stickers and was buzzing down the freeway at 75+ mph. Now my projected dropped below my rated, but no worries. I arrived at my next office with 152 rated miles, and a projected of 129, but still more than enough for the 67 miles home.

In the end, I started with 265 on the battery, and arrived home with 73 left. So I used 192 miles of battery to get 165 actual miles. Therefore, I got 165/192 = 86% of what was rated. Less than predicted yes, but I did not modulate my driving. I know now I can do this trip reliably, without any adjustments or charging, and even without the max charge. I also know that, in a real pinch, I could slow down a little and squeeze out some extra miles, even exceeding the rated range.

Looking back, I have only ever charged at home. (Ok, I did once charge at the Hawthorne/Space X/Tesla Design Center supercharger, but I really didn't need to, I just wanted to see it.) I pass by all those Leafs rechargeing in parking lots. I just don't need to charge on the road. I will really only have to plan for charging when I do even longer trips, which hasn't happened yet, although I am looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas with a stop at the Barstow supercharger.

Some people are probably too lazy to have to think at all about their range and charging. Some people drive so much each day that even 85kWh will not be enough. But most people don't drive as much as I did today. With a little time, living with an EV is not intimidating and very doable. The benefits of the Model S such as great torque, repsonsiveness, and quiet, are well worth it. Range anxiety is fading, and I am so glad I bought this car!

Runar | 22 janvier 2013

Excellent posting.

Exactly my own experience also with our i-miev. You learn real quick (weeks-months) what the car can do, and how the battery behaves.. and the it become "second nature". No worries.:-)

With the 85kWh battery, I understand you really dont have to think about remaining range. Our i-miev has considerably less range, but even this is fine. We know how far it can tak us, when we need to recharge under way if on slightly longer trips.. etc.

If in advance, we know the distance might make it hard to get there, we can choose our old fossile car, or train/plane.. or we can do the extra planning, and go by EV. You shouldnt worry about beeing stuck on the road, empty of juice. That is just as "hard" as running out of gas, if you dont do it on purpose though.

lph | 22 janvier 2013

Excellent postings!
When the supercharger network is in place and hotel chains like Marriot get serious about getting the business of people with EVs and provide decent over night chargers (10 kw min) there won't even be an issue with taking a long vacation in the car.

GeirT | 22 janvier 2013

Great posting. Love this kind of experience sharing. Hope to see more. Can't wait to get my P85!
The key take away here is that we have to think a little bit differently. Very simple. Be a bit more conscious, measure out behaviour and distance (called multi-tasking I guess...) until there are charging points all over as there will be when thousands of EVs will roam the streets and highways.
More of this please. Very inspiring.

Cattledog | 22 janvier 2013

TMS Doc - I'm only two weeks in and echo your thoughts. It has been an EASY mind shift. Plug in every night. Wash, rinse, repeat. Smile as you drive by gas stations. Depending on your driving, save maybe 60 minutes/month by not stopping at gas stations. I'll take it.

Sudre_ | 22 janvier 2013

Thanks for the post. I love these examples. There are so many post out in the internet world about range anxiety and so few actual driver accounts with a real range BEV. The Leaf stories I have read typically describe panic because a charger was broke or something. Generally I haven't been concerned about the 20-40 mile work round trip drive at all. It's the approximate 150ish drive through the country side trips which this post gives me a good feel for.

I am happy to see that I won't have to switch to a gas car for a drive that will burn the most gas.... kind of ruins the whole point of owning the BEV. I am getting the 60kWh and looking at your examples I can expect about 170 miles. This is great and about what I was hoping for since my longest once a year round trip is 160 miles. I will have to remember to range charge for them or plug in at the other end.

jat | 22 janvier 2013

I was the same way in my LEAF - a couple of weeks figuring out what the car will do, and then I don't worry about it. Sure, if I am making a longer trip than usual I have to plan to make sure it won't be a problem, but I also have a margin just by driving slower.

It is already the same in my Model S - I have plenty of range for my normal use, so the only time it comes up is out-of-town trips. This past weekend when I went on a trip, I charged to max-range and drove conservatively on the way there, and then after I was able to successfully charge at the hotel I didn't worry about it any more and just drove how I wanted.

This summer when I drive to NC I will have to plan where to charge (I'm like Sammy Hagar and can't drive the 55mph it would take to make it without charging), but otherwise I won't worry about it. Once the Supercharger network gets built out around here I won't even have to worry about that.

Tâm | 22 janvier 2013

Hi TMS Doc. Thanks for a very comprehensive posting on Model S range.

By the way, where do you plan to charge once you arrive to Las Vegas?

BYT | 22 janvier 2013

I have almost hit the 3 month mark myself and can relate to most of what you wrote. I hope there is a 500 mile pack in the future as I think that would be perfect for me and my driving. Even though I didn't drive an ICE that much, this is NOT AN ICE and I also for the first time drove my Rav4 since getting my Model S and it SUUUUUCKED!! I never want to drive another ICE again, EVER!!!

BYT | 22 janvier 2013

DISCLAIMER: I probably drive my Model S harder then anyone here, I am an EXTREMELY aggressive driver... :)

Soccer Dad | 22 janvier 2013

What is ICE?

cb9 | 22 janvier 2013

@ Soccer Dad
I think ICE = internal combustion engine, and yes, it seems that term is acquiring derogatory connotations, at least on this forum :)

cb9 | 22 janvier 2013

In terms of range anxiety, I can only relate to the gas version of it: if I am down to a quarter tank and my next 3 days are going to be hellish, when is the best time to fill up? Should I just get 2 or 3 gallons from this convenient but overpriced station and then fill up when I can get to the cheaper station? I am always figuring this out with gas-buddy app, so substituting plugshare for longer road trips doesn't really seem like a problem to me. So thanks for posting everyone, it is reassuring to know your experiences validate my "logic"

nickjhowe | 22 janvier 2013

The acceleration in the S is like crack cocaine. I REALLY struggle not to stamp on it on so many occasions....calm...calm...enjoy the serenity...

d.bijl | 22 janvier 2013

Does somebody has information on the projected milage at 85 to 95 mph? (my average highway cruising speed on my 65m daily commute; not in US...)

h2onu | 22 janvier 2013

Will be hitting my 1 month anniversary tomorrow and have loved it (other than a few little software glitches). I have a 90 mi r/t commute, and always charge it up every day. My commute involves the the Santa Cruz Mountains (an 1800' climb) which results in me getting about 70% of rated (doing 65-70 once I'm in Silicon Valley).

The one day I forgot to top off was the second day back to work after the New Year. Came out to the car in the morning and it only showed 90 rated miles. So I plugged it in, hopped into the old ICE and went to Starbucks for an hour. Came back to 125 mi rated and made it to work and back with 25 rated miles left. Like you said, you get used to doing the planning.

nickjhowe | 22 janvier 2013

Here's a graph I extrapolated from the official TM graph - remember this is under ideal conditions:

nickjhowe | 22 janvier 2013

Oops - try again:

krogers | 22 janvier 2013

Download the free "recargo" app for your smart phone. You will find a few of the casinos on the strip offer charging stations in their covered parking garages. If my memory is correct they are offered to the public (dont't have to be a registered guest). When/if you use them be sure to thank guest services (or a quick follow-up note) -- this can go a long way to remind them of the value of the charging stations. Clearly the casinos are willing to trade a little electricity for you to drop in at one of their tables ;-)

queni | 22 janvier 2013

We charged to the max (267 miles)for the first time this past weekend......drove from Stockton,CA to Pacifica and had 150 left. We drove 47 miles @ 55 w/cruse on stepped it up to 65 for the last 53 miles. Spent the day and drove 70 miles @ 65 w/cruse (mostly) then for the last 30 miles the onlookers enjoyed our taillight's......;-)
Arrived home with 33 miles. We lost 17 miles going over and 20 on the way home. Not to bad. Range anxiety is driving our Leaf.........Driving our S is pure pleasure!

queni | 22 janvier 2013

nickjhowe | JANUARY 22, 2013
The acceleration in the S is like crack cocaine. I REALLY struggle not to stamp on it on so many occasions....calm...calm...enjoy the serenity...

So true....a BMW came up along side of us on the way back from Pacifica and my husband did 90 to show him his I guess we could have saved a few miles there. Good thing it was on the way home.

cmlaff | 22 janvier 2013

Check this very well written eval of range anxiety factors in different EV's v. an ICE for a 360 mile trip and a cross country trip. Also has some optimistic views of Tesla stock and BlueStar (Tesla's next project after Model X).

Brian H | 22 janvier 2013

"TMS Doc | January 22, 2013
Also, if my wife is going farther than I am, she gets the car that day.

So, does that mean you plan extra long trips to make sure you always get it? \9-/

Peter Spirgel | 24 janvier 2013

We are having our first really cold weather in N.J. and I'm noticing several things about the car. First, even though the car is plugged in, it takes a while for the battery to warm up and there is a warning message that informs you that the car's performance will be reduced until the battery heats up. Second, the car's range in cold weather is substantially reduced - in my case by almost 50%. This is for local stop and go driving and admittedly most of my 15 minute commute home is done with the battery trying to warm up and the heat on. Last, when it is really cold, in the teens (Farenheit), there is no regen and another warning appears.

People in cold climates should take the reduced range in cold temperatures into consideration when deciding what battery option to choose!

mcollester | 24 janvier 2013

I am seeing the same thing in the Philly area. It seems to be more pronounced since I did the 4.2 upgrade.

tork | 24 janvier 2013

Peter, it's been reiterated many times here by Tesla and other members that when the battery is cold, its output is reduced which is interpreted by the car as low battery/less miles. Once the battery warms up, your "lost" miles will be regained as the output is returned to normal.

Captain_Zap | 24 janvier 2013

I have a tip for getting a few extra miles on a range charge.

If you plan to do a long trip, do a normal charge the night before. About 2 hours before your departure the next day, set the car for a range charge to top off the battery. That way you will not have any loss of range from the car sleeping half the night and keeping itself cozy.

It isn't a huge difference but it is a useful tidbit to keep in mind.

hanstremblay | 24 janvier 2013

What a great post, tanks for sharing your real life experience. At this time I hesitate between 60 and 85, calculating my daily drive and this type of post is very helpful. Thank you

Brian H | 24 janvier 2013

Avoid the morning chills by setting your overnight charge rate (amperage) low enough that it's still charging when you get in. The battery will be warm, full power and regen.

Car-El | 24 janvier 2013

Excellent posting.

But now I am being skeptic. Because we bought a Tesla for it is a EV whit range. 300miles/480km and fast charge of battery. So we, my wife and I, tough that we can use a Tesla to drive longer journeys. But we can drive trough parts of our country whit temperature as fare down as -31F/-35C (probably lower also.) And if only charging on the road is 230V/16A/1f (Norway)... we will get nearly 12miles/19km an hour, it will take us 24 hour to charge from 0 to 100%.

I am curios if Tesla Model S will manage a trip at 345miles/550km in temperature as fare down as -40F/-40C. Of course we have to charge in summer time, but only 4-6 hours (230V/16A/1f) How will it be in winter time?

jat | 24 janvier 2013

When you are doing short trips in the cold, the heater is running full blast for the entire time. When I was doing that on a trip, I was averaging over 600Wh/mi. If you drive longer distances, the cabin reaches the requested temperature and then the current drawn by the heater drops off substantially.

@Julius - you will not get 345mi unless you drive very slow even with the heater off, so you shouldn't expect to do it in -40F.

dahtye | 25 janvier 2013

Great posts. I just returned from a 1,025 mile trip and posted my experience on another thread on this forum.

I did not experience range anxiety at all. I drove very aggressively and kept the HVAC system running. But I also used the superchargers in California. The lowest range reading on my dash during the entire trip was 69 miles. I only charged once above the standard charge and it was only to 260 miles charge.

It was a great trip with my family. The Model S was very comfortable and easy to drive.

WildWex | 13 février 2013

Great post! Almost read as if I wrote it myself, given the time-frames, miles on the card, wife driving the car when she's driving longer distances, experience with hills vs flat road - and yes - paintball! LOL

bradslee | 13 février 2013

Very informative post. My driving experience tells me that in California, you should assume and plan a trip in normal city/freeway combined driving condition with this range formular: 0.8 X rated range miles =maximum actual mileage of a trip.

Brian H | 13 février 2013

Some people's wives do way better than that.