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Almost abandoned my Model S for an ICE rental last night...

wk057

Senior Tinkerer
Feb 23, 2014
5,692
11,810
Hickory, NC, USA
So, for the first time since I bought my first Model S I actually had a situation where I came very close to needing to abandon my Model S for a vehicle with a longer range.

Long story short, and I'd prefer not to discuss details publicly, yesterday evening an emergency came up where I needed to drive ~125 miles to Virginia (in the mountains off of I-81), pick someone up, then drive ~90 miles to Winston-Salem, NC, then drive home (90 more miles) for a total round trip of just over 300 miles.

There are zero superchargers anywhere near this route. There are no CHAdeMO stations beside one at a Nissan dealer that was closed anyway. There are a few Nissan dealers with limited access J1772s, and a few Plugshare folks that I'm not going to try calling at 11PM. Not helpful for making good time regardless.

In any case, I had 2 critical way points: Pick up in VA, arrive in Winston-Salem. This portion of the trip was time critical, so there was no slowing below the pace of traffic possible, especially for the trip from VA to Winston.

As we know, driving 75-80 MPH through the mountains in the Model S is a surefire way to kill your range. So for that ~215 mile portion of the trip, even with 100% charge it was going to be tight, but I've driven in the area previously and I figured I could at least make it to Winston-Salem. Once there I'd be stuck until I could find somewhere to charge, probably in the morning. I had to be somewhere back near home around 10AM today (the next day at the time) so that wasn't really an option.

Last year I had installed a NEMA 14-50 on the outside of a friend's house about 30 miles west of Winston-Salem (towards my house) for both me and his RV. But making good time from my house through the VA way point and to Winston was going to probably leave me with insufficient power to make the 30 mile trek from there to the 50A outlet.

Basically, there was no way this could be done in my Model S, and I wouldn't even have either Model S charged to 100% for at least 50 minutes. So, reluctantly, I called up a rental company and was preparing to get an ICE rental for the night. As it turns out while I was doing that I found out that I had about 90 extra minutes before I could make the pickup in VA vs what the plan was when I got the initial call.

I had driven my P85D a bunch earlier in the day and it was still charging (was at ~75%) so no way I'd be able to take it. If I had only the P85D available then I definitely would have needed the ICE anyway since I was looking at over an hour to 90 minutes more to get to 100%. However, my wife's P85 was idle yesterday and I set to charge to 100% (from 90%) as soon as I got the call before I knew exactly where I was going (not knowing it was as far as it was at the time).

I figured if I waited until 99% or so, left and used the extra ~35 minutes I had to hypermile the first leg of the trip then I'd have enough power to make the second leg and still get to the NEMA 14-50 for a 2 hour nap before heading home.

So, I did this. 245 miles, including mountain passes on a charge, in half-decent time. Finally arrived with 9 rated miles and plugged into the 14-50 at about 11:45PMand took a ~2 hour nap while I got the range I needed to get home, got up, made it home with 10 miles on the dash, and slept. ~305 miles total.

Wasn't really thinking about taking trip meter pics at the time, however I did snap these as I worked to my friend's 14-50.

1.jpg

(LO without A/C on just to have the fan without the heat coming on since it was just over 60F outside)

2.jpg


Success this time, and only because I ended up with an extra 90 minutes. If I needed to go ~25 miles further, or didn't have extra time, this story would definitely be different.

This was definitely the first time since I got the Model S where I actually felt that I should have an ICE secondary vehicle... and I'm considering it... maybe a cheap used Volt to tinker with.

It's worth noting that there is at least one planned supercharger on Tesla's prediction maps that would have made this trip much less stressful, but that red push pin on a prediction map didn't help me yesterday. In fact, the closest superchargers to the route I took were about 50 miles away in the opposite direction of where I needed to go.

All together this kind of opened my eyes a bit to the fact that we're a long way away from any real mass adoption of EVs. While we can probably get by 99% of the time with what we have an maybe with what's coming in the near future as far as superchargers and such.... that other 1% is still pretty important.
 

Todd Burch

Voltage makes me tingle.
Nov 3, 2009
8,006
30,838
Smithfield, VA
Glad you made it--but I don't think this situation shows that we're a long way from mass EV adoption. Having to do something like this is pretty rare first of all (let me guess--drug runner?), and if you had a Supercharger on the route it would've been easy. The charging infrastructure needs just a few more years of development. The chargers will arrive before Tesla or anyone else even has the manufacturing capability to make a serious dent in the new car market.
 

andrewket

Well-Known Member
Dec 20, 2012
5,704
1,525
The Strasburg SC is off of 81. Probably too far north for that drive, but at least you could have recovered 50-60 miles on the way.
 

Gizmotoy

Active Member
Sep 16, 2013
3,669
871
Bay Area, CA
Glad you made it! Sounds like it was close.

This was definitely the first time since I got the Model S where I actually felt that I should have an ICE secondary vehicle... and I'm considering it... maybe a cheap used Volt to tinker with.

Range-extended EVs sit in a pretty good part of the market for this transition period. The get a lot of (mostly deserved) flak for being compromised vehicles, but the reality is an EV can't cover 100% of many people's usages. I've had mine for two years and never been put in such a situation (even though I do have a backup ICE that doesn't get driven), but every once in awhile something unusual will happen.

Really glad everything worked out for you.
 

wk057

Senior Tinkerer
Feb 23, 2014
5,692
11,810
Hickory, NC, USA
Glad you made it--but I don't think this situation shows that we're a long way from mass EV adoption. Having to do something like this is pretty rare first of all (let me guess--drug runner?), and if you had a Supercharger on the route it would've been easy. The charging infrastructure needs just a few more years of development. The chargers will arrive before Tesla or anyone else even has the manufacturing capability to make a serious dent in the new car market.

If there is an instance where an ICE vehicle will get me where I need to be when I need to be there and the EV can not, then this is a problem. Many people, myself included, are willing to try to work around the charging infrastructure limitations but the fact is most people have no desire to do so. Even if Tesla's 2016 supercharger map were in existence today there are still plenty of trips that would not be simple.

The Strasburg SC is off of 81. Probably too far north for that drive, but at least you could have recovered 50-60 miles on the way.

Strasburg isn't done and is way further north than I went.

"almost abandoned my Model S" - a liitle over dramatic don't you think ?

Not in the slightest. If I would have had my Model S sitting at home while I drove an ICE rental on the trip I took, then it would have been abandoned.
 

Electroman

Supporting Member
Aug 18, 2012
6,260
6,413
TX
I wouldn't use the word, 'abandoned' for a one time use case you had to drive an ICE.

Abandoned is where you gave up on Tesla altogether.

Just me...
 

Panoz

Member
Nov 19, 2013
304
10
Colorado Springs, CO
This was definitely the situation where an ICE or extended range EV would be necessary. Had your original trip assumptions proven true, you couldn't have made it. I have a friend that has a Volt and a Model S, the perfect combination for emergencies like you had.

I'm glad you made it.
 

eloder

Active Member
Mar 12, 2015
1,214
1,378
Ohio, USA
There's nothing wrong with occasionally needing an ICE. ICEs are pretty ineffective if you have an urgent matter that requires going cross-country or overseas.

It's all relative though. For me, I can't think of an emergency that would exceed my Leaf's range on short notice. (Maybe a meteor destroys all hospitals downtown and disables my extended family's cars simultaneously in the middle of winter?). A Tesla can be a primary vehicle for most people, and in 5 years it'll be even more viable for a much larger majority.
 

ZachShahan

Active Member
Dec 3, 2014
1,051
5,349
Sarasota, FL / Wroclaw, Poland
Glad you were able to do it all. And kudos to Tesla for making it possible.

That said, this trip doesn't sound normal in the least. It's an interesting story, but I wouldn't extrapolate from it.

If we want to swap stories, I've lived car-free for 11 years, and I've never had to rent a car for such a trip. I have rented cars here and there for various purposes, but I've never been put in such a tight situation as you seem to have been in.

But yes, I think it does take some mental adjustment (perhaps) to acknowledge that if you go 100% electric you may need to rent or borrow an ICE once in a blue moon (well, probably less frequently than that). But is the 95% or 99% or 99.99% of the time that you're driving electric worth it? I can't really see how it wouldn't be.

The idea that a slight change in mindset and actions means EVs aren't ready for the masses is incorrect, imho. The idea that it's difficult to get people to change common assumptions and habits, however,... well, I agree with that.

And yeah, "abandoned" is technically not the word to use in this case, but it got our attention. ;)
 
Last edited:

kennybobby

Member
Sep 14, 2014
478
36
Heart o' Dixie
i like the title and it serves a good purpose.

My strategy in driving an EV has always included the option of renting a car for long trips. It's a good way to sell electric vehicles too.

When folks ask me about my car with the usual questions of range and speed, etc., i make the point that you can always rent a car for long trips especially with the money you saved by driving on electricity. It is amazing and fun to see the change in expression on a person's face when they reach that moment of EV truth and realize they could actually do it.
 

mikeash

Active Member
Oct 26, 2014
1,105
703
Fairfax, VA, USA
This is a good case study, but I think it's way too much to take it as proof that widespread adoption of EVs is far off. This is an extreme edge case that simply won't apply to most people. Yes, gas cars are better for covering the "I might need to spontaneously drive long distances to arbitrary places" angle, but how many people are actually in that situation?

For a lot of people who own gas cars, they wouldn't be able to make such a trip for reasons like "I have to work." Does that mean jobs aren't ready for mass adoption? Heck, a lot of people wouldn't be able to make such a trip for reasons like "I can't afford the money for gas."
 

wk057

Senior Tinkerer
Feb 23, 2014
5,692
11,810
Hickory, NC, USA
This is an extreme edge case that simply won't apply to most people.

Well, if it applied to me in this instance then I'm more than certain others have been in similar or worse situations.

Until you can just hop in an EV and drive to anywhere there are roads that connect to where you are without needing to worry about range or finding somewhere to charge quickly ICE is going to prevail because this is how most people treat driving.

If I have an ICE and I decide I'm going to drive from my house to California at no time do I need to question whether or not I will be able to make it or not. No matter what route I take it will be doable. I don't need a map that routes me through gas stations between here and LA.

EVs are superior to ICE in nearly every way EXCEPT refueling.

While I personally have the means to rent an ICE if I need to I don't think that's going to float for the masses who are going to expect to be able to get where they need to go when they need to there with their vehicles.

I'm admittedly a bit irritated about this today, so I'll point out that I don't really have plans to give up on EVs, but I'm not your average Joe either.

- - - Updated - - -

For a lot of people who own gas cars, they wouldn't be able to make such a trip for reasons like "I have to work." Does that mean jobs aren't ready for mass adoption? Heck, a lot of people wouldn't be able to make such a trip for reasons like "I can't afford the money for gas."

This doesn't really apply as this was an after-normal-work-hours same day trip anyway, and an emergency worthy of leaving work anyway, IMO. As for not affording money for gas for a 300 mile emergency trip... that's like $30 in gas? $50 tops in a crappy SUV or something? Pretty cheap emergency.
 

mikeash

Active Member
Oct 26, 2014
1,105
703
Fairfax, VA, USA
Well, if it applied to me in this instance then I'm more than certain others have been in similar or worse situations.

No doubt, but the question is, how many? I don't think there are many people who are in a situation where they even could potentially have a zero-notice 300-mile emergency drive come up. Among those who potentially could, I'd wager that few are buying their car with that in mind.

This is a problem for EVs, no dispute there. But I don't see this particular scenario as an important one for determining what kind of cars get bought.
 

wk057

Senior Tinkerer
Feb 23, 2014
5,692
11,810
Hickory, NC, USA
No doubt, but the question is, how many? I don't think there are many people who are in a situation where they even could potentially have a zero-notice 300-mile emergency drive come up. Among those who potentially could, I'd wager that few are buying their car with that in mind.

This is a problem for EVs, no dispute there. But I don't see this particular scenario as an important one for determining what kind of cars get bought.

While you may not think it's important, it most certainly is to the person needing to make the trip.

Imagine if were someone who had just finished a 100 mile daily commute, got home, and found out I needed to make even a 200 mile round trip?

Model S Owner: Well, the Model S is perfectly capable of the 100 mile commute. If I charge to 90% daily, that 100 mile round trip commute will get me home with ~130 miles if I'm lucky. Even if I have a HPWC @ 20kW I'm delayed at least a couple of hours while the car gets enough range. If the trip is 300 miles then I'm delayed a couple of hours, plus need to figure out where I'm charging if it's even possible for the trip, etc etc. Likely just screwed and have to find an ICE to use.

Leaf Owner: Screwed. They had to charge at work to make it home in the first place.

ICE Owner: Get in car and go. Worst case scenario within 5 miles of leaving home in the direction of the destination there will be a gas station. Spend 5 minutes for a fill and likely have 300+ miles of range.

I'm not against EVs, but anyone who tries to write situations like this off as not an actual problem is just in denial.

- - - Updated - - -

In times like this though, I feel the need to rub it in ... a little: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wBTdfAkqGU

I could *never* live in California. Honestly, I don't even really like visiting there.

Everything is too expensive, too many people, packed in too tiny of areas. Driving anywhere near LA, SF, etc is stressful and annoying. I'll take my EV desert over CA any day. Reminds me of NJ, only worse, and I made it a point to get out of there.
 

JohnSnowNW

Active Member
Feb 13, 2015
2,644
2,769
Minnesota
All together this kind of opened my eyes a bit to the fact that we're a long way away from any real mass adoption of EVs. While we can probably get by 99% of the time with what we have an maybe with what's coming in the near future as far as superchargers and such.... that other 1% is still pretty important.

Kinda seems like all you needed was a Supercharger. So, I assume we're talking a couple years as being the measure of a "long way away"...?
 

mikeash

Active Member
Oct 26, 2014
1,105
703
Fairfax, VA, USA
I'm not against EVs, but anyone who tries to write situations like this off as not an actual problem is just in denial.

I'm not saying it's not an actual problem. In fact I explicitly said it is an actual problem. What I'm saying is that it's not one that applies to the vast majority of car buyers. There's a big difference!
 

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