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5000 Mile Road Trip Lessons Learned (Tesla Road Tripping for Dummies)

I just finished a 5000-mile road trip in the western US. I put a few posts on the Portland Tesla Owners Facebook group. I had lots of questions and feedback and I’ve combined my lessons learned into a single post.

TLDR: Rimetrix wheel covers have good range and an M3 AWD is a great road trip car. The Tesla nav app and the supercharger network are not ready for mainstream adoption. The physics of battery charging may also be confusing to mainstream users.

My car is a 2-year-old M3 dual motor. It is stock except that it has Rimetrix wheel covers. I prefer how they look and that they protect the wheels from curb rash.

Started last Tuesday morning heading out, from near Portland Oregon, across the northern tier with stops at Yellowstone and Mt Rushmore. I was nervous about going through Cody Wy. Charging infrastructure there is thin and has a history of unreliability. I was able to charge at a 110V wall plug at the hotel that would have been enough to get to Sheridan Supercharger. I was also able to charge at the Wild West L2 charger at the Cody Museum. Both L2 chargers had problems. I was able to get one to work and left at 90%.

From Mt Rushmore headed south, almost exclusively on back roads. heading for Oklahoma City to see family. There are lots of DC charging in OKC. Not so much for Tesla, compared to other similarly sized cities. Hotel had destination chargers, so all was good.

Headed home, from OKC, on I-40. Stopped in Albuquerque to visit friends and stopped in Sedona for sightseeing. Then stopped in LA area for more visits with family and then headed home on I5. Arrived home Thursday evening after 10 days of travel.

We generally drove between 75 and 85 mph where the limit was 70 or higher. It did become obvious that 85 had way higher consumption than 75. I would estimate 310 Wh/mi vs 270 Wh/mi. We came in under a total of 270 as about 20% of driving was < 65 mph because we were on slower roads or because of road work on interstates. We consistently came in with range upside relative to ABRP or Tesla nav app forecasts.

For the 20k miles I've done prior, the average Wh/mi was 271. The average speed was lower. I don't know the Rimetrix covers were better than the Tesla aero wheel covers. I am pretty sure they are not worse.

I had to find a lot of superchargers for the first time, over a short time. Way too many are in out of the way places, particularly behind hotels, with no other services nearby. For EVs to become mainstream, we need much more charging infrastructure. We also need the infrastructure to be obvious and near all the services people need to travel. We, as early adopters, will use web sites and apps, like Plugshare, to figure where to look. Mainstream car drivers don't want to do that. I also saw signs directing people to EV charging. These were typically L2 J1772 chargers. When it said "Fast", these were chargers other than Tesla. Tesla needs to work on this. Signs with directions would be nice. Signs before the exit saying “EV Charging” showing the brands and the charge rates would be great.

We averaged 500 miles a day, with 3 days over 700 miles. The car was comfortable. My wife and I are retired. With charging, we generally stopped about every 2 hours. If we had no need for fuel or charging, we would have stopped about every 3. I expect that driving our Tesla, extended our time to cover a distance by about 7%. This was fine. Except for Cody Wy, we always had superchargers where we needed them. Road tripping our Tesla was just fine. I don't know that I would find an ID4 or Mach E acceptable. While they have the range, they aren’t as efficient, so they take longer to charge per mile traveled.

For planning charging on the trip, in addition to the Tesla nav app, I used A Better Route Planner (ABRP) and Plugshare.

One thing new people may not realize is, when using DC chargers, the car charges much faster in the bottom half of the battery than in the top half. The fastest way to travel is usually to drive about 2 hours at freeway speed, arriving at a charger at a little over 10% state of charge (SOC). You charge for 10 to 15 minutes while using restrooms and grabbing quick food and drink and then drive 2 more hours. ABRP plans this well.

ABRP is a very customizable route planner. It lets you optimize your trip for maximum speed down the highway. The Tesla navigation app minimizes stops. I used ABRP to plan where I would charge when moving. The Tesla nav app is fairly good at determining when you have enough power to make it to your next planned stop. If you are going to charge at your next supercharger stop, always set the supercharger as your navigate to point. This lets you see how much SOC you will have when you get there, and it lets the car calculate when to precondition the battery for faster charging. The Tesla battery charges faster at around 39 C. I typically left the current charger when the app says I will have 15% SOC when I get to the next supercharger. I arrived at the next charger at 9 to 17 % with this technique. Most of the time at the high end of the band.

I used the Plugshare app for 2 things. First, I used it to look at what services are available at the supercharger. The Tesla Nav app and ABRP will also do this. But I like the Plugshare maps better and it helps to read the comments people have put in about the charger. In several cases, I've had the nav app send me the wrong way to find the supercharger. If you read Plugshare, this may tell you. Second, I use the Plugshare app to find other chargers near hotels or other places I may stop. Unless you have $500 adapters, you can't charge on CHADEMO or CCS chargers. I recommend you filter those out. The app will then show you the superchargers and AC chargers near your stop. If you have the adapter for J1772 and your charging cable, you can charge at any of the AC chargers on the map. I did this 4 times on my trip. 3 times overnight at hotels and once while in a museum.

In general, I tried to spend the night at a place with a supercharger nearby and used that. I didn't use hotel chargers as much as I could. I have high status with Bonvoy (Marriott) and get lots of benefits from using them. It seems that the overnight hotel chargers were much more common at Hampton Inns (Hilton). But I didn't use them because I tended to pick Bonvoy near superchargers.

Some new Tesla drivers may not know this. Tesla superchargers are either V2 or V3. V2 peak at 150kW. V3 peak at 250kW. The peak charge rate is far less important than the fact the V2 150kW peak is shared between 2 plugs. It only saves a few minutes to have peak charging at 250 kW over 150 kW as the charge rate is battery limited above about 35% for my M3. When you arrive at a V2 site, you see that the stalls are labeled with a number and a letter, e.g. 1A, 2B. If you find that someone is plugged into 1A, you don't want to plug into 1B if both 2A or 2B are open. Try to pick a unique numbered stall to avoid being throttled at low speed.

When I'm planning a stop and there is a V2 and V3 close together, I look in the nav app to see how busy they are. If neither are particularly busy, I chose to stop at the one where the services are closer. For example, I usually prefer Grants Pass to Medford Oregon. There are many close services in Grants Pass. The Medford charger is near a Kmart and it's a bit of a walk to the nearest fast food.

I hope this helps new owners on their first road trips.
 
Here's the route.
Road Trip Map.jpg
 
This doesn't cover the non-Tesla chargers I used. I charged at the hotel in Cody and near Mt Rushmore so I didn't have to limit speed between West Yellowstone and Sheridan and I didn't charge in Custer South Dakota.

WaypointArrival SoCDepart SoCCostCharge durationDistanceDrive durationArrivalDeparture
Newberg, Yamhill, Oregon
100%​
107 mi1 h 47 min03:20 PM
The Dalles, OR [Tesla]
57%​
74%​
$38 min133 mi1 h 51 min05:07 PM05:15 PM
Pendleton, OR [Tesla]
10%​
56%​
$914 min89 mi1 h 17 min07:06 PM07:21 PM
Baker City, OR [Tesla]
10%​
66%​
$1119 min124 mi1 h 45 min08:38 PM08:57 PM
Boise, ID [Tesla]
10%​
89%​
$1535 min159 mi2 h 6 min11:42 PM12:17 AM (+1)
Burley, ID [Tesla]
10%​
69%​
$1219 min123 mi1 h 41 min02:24 AM02:43 AM
Idaho Falls, ID [Tesla]
10%​
61%​
$1017 min109 mi1 h 41 min04:24 AM04:41 AM
West Yellowstone, MT [Tesla]
10%​
31%​
$26 min31 mi42 min06:22 AM06:28 AM
Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Inn Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
20%​
20%​
31 mi47 min07:10 AM07:10 AM
West Yellowstone, MT [Tesla]
12%​
100%​
$1048 min132 mi2 h 48 min07:57 AM08:46 AM
Cody, Park, Wyoming
60%​
60%​
132 mi2 h 49 min11:34 AM11:34 AM
West Yellowstone, MT [Tesla]
12%​
100%​
$1049 min279 mi5 h 42 min02:24 PM03:12 PM
Sheridan, WY [Tesla]
13%​
62%​
$416 min103 mi1 h 24 min08:55 PM09:11 PM
Gillette, WY [Tesla]
10%​
79%​
$727 min135 mi2 h 3 min10:36 PM11:03 PM
Mt Rushmore National Memorial (Mt. Rushmore), Keystone, SD 57751
20%​
20%​
20 mi30 min01:06 AM01:06 AM
Custer, SD [Tesla]
12%​
100%​
$1048 min216 mi3 h 13 min01:37 AM02:25 AM
Sidney, NE [Tesla]
11%​
79%​
$726 min153 mi2 h 2 min05:39 AM06:05 AM
Gothenburg, NE [Tesla]
10%​
83%​
$730 min173 mi2 h 35 min09:08 AM09:38 AM
Hays, KS [Tesla]
10%​
54%​
$414 min94 mi1 h 17 min12:13 PM12:27 PM
Salina, KS [Tesla]
10%​
56%​
$415 min99 mi1 h 24 min01:45 PM01:59 PM
Wichita, KS [Tesla]
10%​
88%​
$834 min154 mi2 h 2 min03:23 PM03:57 PM
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
15%​
15%​
9 mi17 min05:59 PM05:59 PM
Oklahoma City, OK [Tesla]
12%​
83%​
$729 min157 mi2 h 17 min06:16 PM06:45 PM
Shamrock, TX [Tesla]
10%​
59%​
$416 min98 mi1 h 21 min09:02 PM09:18 PM
Amarillo, TX [Tesla]
10%​
62%​
$417 min107 mi1 h 26 min10:40 PM10:57 PM
Tucumcari, NM [Tesla]
10%​
38%​
$29 min56 mi49 min11:24 PM11:33 PM
Santa Rosa, NM [Tesla]
10%​
67%​
$520 min117 mi1 h 36 min12:21 AM12:41 AM
Albuquerque, NM [Tesla]
10%​
82%​
$729 min145 mi1 h 57 min02:17 AM02:46 AM
Gallup, NM [Tesla]
10%​
50%​
$310 min88 mi1 h 13 min04:44 AM04:54 AM
Holbrook, AZ [Tesla]
10%​
75%​
$622 min140 mi1 h 53 min05:08 AM05:30 AM
Sedona, AZ [Tesla]
10%​
39%​
$518 min49 mi45 min07:23 AM07:41 AM
Flagstaff, AZ [Tesla]
10%​
76%​
$624 min2 mi5 min08:26 AM08:51 AM
Flagstaff, Coconino, Arizona
75%​
75%​
147 mi1 h 58 min08:56 AM08:56 AM
Kingman, AZ [Tesla]
11%​
34%​
$29 min63 mi54 min10:54 AM11:03 AM
Needles, CA [Tesla]
10%​
83%​
$1429 min147 mi2 h 1 min11:57 AM12:27 PM
Barstow, CA [Tesla]
10%​
73%​
$1223 min120 mi1 h 44 min02:29 PM02:51 PM
Huntington Beach, Orange, California
25%​
25%​
30 mi36 min04:36 PM04:36 PM
Commerce, CA [Tesla]
13%​
55%​
$812 min100 mi1 h 30 min05:11 PM05:23 PM
Bakersfield - Copus Rd, CA [Tesla]
10%​
58%​
$914 min106 mi1 h 28 min06:53 PM07:07 PM
Harris Ranch, CA [Tesla]
10%​
56%​
$915 min101 mi1 h 24 min08:36 PM08:50 PM
Patterson - Speno Dr, CA [Tesla]
10%​
48%​
$710 min87 mi1 h 16 min10:15 PM10:25 PM
Sacramento - J St, CA [Tesla]
10%​
69%​
$1219 min131 mi1 h 49 min11:41 PM12:00 AM (+1)
Red Bluff, CA [Tesla]
10%​
57%​
$913 min91 mi1 h 22 min01:50 AM02:03 AM
Mt. Shasta - 134 Morgan Way, CA [Tesla]
10%​
45%​
$711 min89 mi1 h 22 min03:25 AM03:35 AM
Medford, OR [Tesla]
10%​
79%​
$1325 min166 mi2 h 27 min04:58 AM05:22 AM
Springfield, OR [Tesla]
10%​
45%​
$711 min90 mi1 h 22 min07:50 AM08:00 AM
Newberg, Yamhill, Oregon
10%​
09:23 AM
 

TomServo

Active Member
Apr 10, 2014
2,672
2,021
Belleville IL
Awesome overview of long distance travel planning in a Tesla. I had a an odd experience today returning home from a road trip. We stopped at the Lexington Ky SCer and reset my nav so when we were departing I selected the HOME button. We live in southern IL and knew we would stop in Louisville to make that 199 mile leg to Mt Vernon IL, I didn’t pay any attention and set sail. It routed us to the old V2 SCer that has a spotty record. Sure enough I could only get about 70 kWH and I needed to charge to 97%. So I unplugged and headed to the V3 SCer which was about miles away. BTW I tried 2 other stalls and a M3 driver sitting there said they were all “SLOW” today.

If there are multiple SCer’s in a city, the Tesla Nav should display all,of them and allow the user to select the Charger, not the car. That added another 30 minutes to what was already going to be a long stop.
 
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This doesn't cover the non-Tesla chargers I used. I charged at the hotel in Cody and near Mt Rushmore so I didn't have to limit speed between West Yellowstone and Sheridan and I didn't charge in Custer South Dakota.
Thank you for the Superchargers detailled information.
I recently did a 3,000 miles trip from San Francisco to the Yellowstone area, so I recognise some of the superchargers that you used.
I had passengers, so it was important to find superchargers with nice amenities and restrooms.

I also used ABRP, but I always set an arrival to any destination with a minimal of at least of 25% of SoC, as I realised that:
- in many areas the speed limit is 80 miles/hours so my consumption was way much than what I anticipated,
- also I experienced having to make detours because some freways were closed as a result of an accident,
- and in some areas you don't have too many Superchargers to choose from so you'd better not skipping any Supercharger. even if you think that you don't need to make a stop,
- the extra time for topping the battery, often over 90%, was not really an issue or even prevented to get penalized, when there was time to spend in a restaurant or in a grocery store.


Note: Looking at your itinerary, I noticed a West Yellowstone, Cody, West Yellowstone, Sheridan. I found the second West Yellowstone not clear to me.
One think I would have done was to go from Idaho Fall to Jackson, to pass through the Grand Teton National Park and then reach Old Faithful Inn and West National Park.
 
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Thank you for the Superchargers detailled information.
I recently did a 3,000 miles trip from San Francisco to the Yellowstone area, so I recognise some of the superchargers that you used.
I had passengers, so it was important to find superchargers with nice amenities and restrooms.

I also used ABRP, but I always set an arrival to any destination with a minimal of at least of 25% of SoC, as I realised that:
- in many areas the speed limit is 80 miles/hours so my consumption was way much than what I anticipated,
- also I experienced having to make detours because some freways were closed as a result of an accident,
- and in some areas you don't have too many Superchargers to choose from so you'd better not skipping any Supercharger. even if you think that you don't need to make a stop,
- the extra time for topping the battery, often over 90%, was not really an issue or even prevented to get penalized, when there was time to spend in a restaurant or in a grocery store.


Note: Looking at your itinerary, I noticed a West Yellowstone, Cody, West Yellowstone, Sheridan. I found the second West Yellowstone not clear to me.
One think I would have done was to go from Idaho Fall to Jackson, to pass through the Grand Teton National Park and then reach Old Faithful Inn and West National Park.
When going via Old Faithful, I think West Yellowstone to Cody is shorter than Jackson to Cody.
 

bmah

Moderator, Supercharger Hunter
Global Moderator
Mar 17, 2015
5,209
11,402
Lafayette, CA, USA
Nice trip report!

One other source of information for amenities and other information about a Supercharger site is the forums here on TMC. They can be a little difficult to navigate sometimes, but the map on supercharge.info contains a link to the TMC thread for each Supercharger. I never let the nav system pick out chargers for me.

If you road trip your Tesla a lot (or even if you don't), consider the (ahem) little competition in this thread:


Bruce.
 
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Here's the route. <I SNIPPED THE MAP FOR BREVTY - DOC>
You guys are my heroes. Everything you said is spot on. I'm awaiting delivery of my M3 LR AWD, to replace the SR+. We've made several trips in both the M3 LR+, with only a little "range anxiety". With a little thought and planning, you get along just fine. I think that with the added capacity of the new car, we'll probably stop after a couple of hours anyway - for the obvious old folks reasons <g>. But having more range will just make the decision making easier, IMHO.

We're conflicted, alas - We are both AMTRAK addicted, so we look at each trip like I look at my Mother in Law going over the cliff in my new Tesla. Mixed Emotions. Which do we do?

We've got a trip planned, DFW to LaPlata, Mo. The Depot Inn has chargers and a really cool owner. Then AMTRAK to LA, then to Emeryville (Oakland), AMTRAK to Galesbug, IL, Amtrak to LaPlata, then we will drive back to Dallas via new Orleans.
The best of two worlds.

Maybe in the Spring we will do the AutoTrain
 
I did a 5000-ish mile road trip back in April. I agree that some of the supercharger locations were less than ideal - one was behind a hotel, with nothing within reasonable walking distance (except across a very busy 4-lane road with no crosswalks), and the hotel even had a sign saying no restrooms for non-guests. But most stations were at least within a brief walk to something.

The parking garage in Chicago we used had courtesy L2 charging; 4 hours a day. I just had to remember to go move the car when the time was up. I think the only other L2 charger we used was in Ashville, NC, where we stopped to have lunch with a friend.
road-trip-2021.png
 
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I ended up buying a CHAdeMO adapter right before they took them off the store, but I don't think I really need it unless I embark on a road trip like yours! So far I've used it one time because there was a free CCS/CHAdeMO charging station near a hotel I recently stayed at, but realisitcally I should have returned it to Tesla and saved the $400ish I spent on it. Especially with the CCS adapter about to be released.

Many people in my local MN tesla facebook group are happy to lend out their CHAdeMO adapters to others - maybe check with a local FB tesla group before your next road trip to see if you can borrow (or rent) one for added peace of mind.
 
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Here's my 5,009 mile trip in August/September 2020. I found the supercharger network had quite comprehensive coverage with the exception of our time around Lake Superior. I needed to use the destination charger at the Bayfield Inn twice on the Wisconsin shore. This would be the analogy to Smitty79's need for an overnight charge in Cody, WY. I see no need for Tesla drivers to use CCS or Chademo chargers. I've been aware of the sweet spot of supercharging from 10-60% since my first Tesla back in 2016. However, long distance travel is so much better with Model 3/Y or Raven Model S/X where charge stops are half as long as with my 2016 Model S. I have never used third party apps like ABRP or Plugshare. I can calculate in advance my estimated charge requirements based upon speed, elevation change, temperature. While driving I have the energy screen up, which shows my projected range based upon the past 30 miles of real world driving, which can be compared to the miles to destination in the nav system.
 

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I had to find a lot of superchargers for the first time, over a short time. Way too many are in out of the way places, particularly behind hotels, with no other services nearby. For EVs to become mainstream, we need much more charging infrastructure. We also need the infrastructure to be obvious and near all the services people need to travel. We, as early adopters, will use web sites and apps, like Plugshare, to figure where to look. Mainstream car drivers don't want to do that.
So true. The only way to kill range anxiety is for charging stations to be as ubiquitous as gas stations. Would also be great to actually run through all 250-300 miles before charging if you so desire instead of being forced to stop at 150.
 
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Using the last 30 minute data can be misleading. Coming down, out of the mountains, into Cody, I had a 1000 mile range estimate with50% SOC.
You are correct. The graph is pretty accurate, and the info from the Navigation system as well as ABRP include the elevation (hill and dale) information in the planning. I've never been able to pin down whether the Navigation system takes ongoing weather conditions into immediate calculations.

The displays are for guidance, they are not absolute. As much as I trust the car and the computers, I still rely on the good old Mk I Mod I grey matter between my ears, and the input from the seat of my pants.

I have found, however, that the Tesla predictions tend to be on the pessimistic side. A good thing, IMHO.

But it is kinda neat to fantasize when you see a display like that...:)
 
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So true. The only way to kill range anxiety is for charging stations to be as ubiquitous as gas stations. Would also be great to actually run through all 250-300 miles before charging if you so desire instead of being forced to stop at 150.
I'm currently awaiting a new LR+ Model 3. Stated "range" is now 358. JFTHOI, what is the stated "range" of yours today, and what is your practical range?
 
I'm currently awaiting a new LR+ Model 3. Stated "range" is now 358. JFTHOI, what is the stated "range" of yours today, and what is your practical range?
2018 M3 LR+ with 60,000 miles and 19" wheels. 100% SoC shows range of 285 miles. If I did 55mph on the freeway (like I had to before I had supercharging set up), I can get close to one actual mile per one stated mile. 80mph on the highway, I might get 180 miles from 100 to 0 SoC.

Since most superchargers are 100-150 miles apart, I'd have to stop anyway. So, it's not a big bother, usually. Stretches like Springfield, MO to Little Rock, AR is a danger zone with the highway range I have and I would have to go from 100 to 0 SoC. (TESLA, PLEASE GET A SUPERCHARGER IN BRANSON, MO or northern AR!) But it'd definitely be nice if:

  1. Superchargers or fast charging in general was as common as gas stations so we can run down all the stated miles if we wanted. I think this is the best answer for all involved. Or...
  2. Get closer to the stated miles so we might have the option to skip some chargers if we want to. I heard that the Porsche Taycan displays the worst case highway miles, and as you drive in mixed conditions, it just gets better as you gain range (or don't lose it). That's why their reported mpge is so low. That's pretty neat. Or...
  3. Larger, more efficient batteries. If Tesla's new batteries are cheaper, denser, and more efficient, perhaps we can get closer to the 400 miles range mix so we can get 300 miles of highway range. Unnecessary 99% of the time but would be nice.
 
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