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Driving from SF to Tahoe: How far can you make it without charging?


Last tank of gas: March 2009
Jul 16, 2009
Redmond, WA
The below question is from Felix Kramer, who just got a Volt:

My question: how far can people get from the San Francisco Bay Area
to Tahoe via Route 80 and over Donner Pass? Truckee? Squaw Valley?
Northstar? Kings Beach? Incline Village?

I'll explain why I'm wondering how easy it is. Starting in 2006, the
friendly people at Hyatt Incline Village let me plug in my Prius
conversion in the front driveway, and around that time they installed
a station for Teslas, but I was never able to hear who used it. (It's
not still there according to EVChargerNews.)

You may know me as a plug-in hybrid advocate, but if you've heard me
talk you'll know I'm a huge fan of pure EVs. The sooner and the more
of them we get the more we all win. And I go back all the way to
"talks in restaurant" days with Tesla's founders. I know lots of
people at the company; I thought of waiting for the S, but instead
will be replacing our other ICE vehicle, a Camry Hybrid, with a LEAF.

That said, I'm really happy tonight I drove my new Chevy Volt the 225
miles from Redwood City to Northstar-at-Tahoe without refueling the
car -- just myself, at the venerable Ikeda's if you know Route 80.

For nine and a half years, I've wanted to be able to drive a plug-in
car to Tahoe. I'll be writing about it and showing photos and data; I
want to know if I can say that the Roadster can make this uphill
trip. Given the nominal 244-mile range, I imagine most people make
the trip easily with a short mealtime charge along the way, but I'd
love to hear any stories about maximum non-stop miles and perhaps a
"slower than 65 MPH" strategy. I didn't find anything at
teslamotorsclub.com. If there's a public archive with some of that
info, I'd like the URL; otherwise, I'd appreciate if you respond here and copy me.

Many thanks, Felix

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Felix Kramer [email protected]
Founder California Cars Initiative

Chad's comments: 225 miles sounds easy enough if it's flat; but apparently there's significant elevation here--7000 feet! And you get less than half of that going downhill on the other side. Sounds to me like that would cost about 30 miles, so you'd have to go well under the speed limit to make it without charging. Given that there are charging stations along the way, I doubt anybody's tried it...


Aug 20, 2006
Last edited:


Jul 24, 2008
You can't make it from Redwood City to Incline Village without recharging. Yes, going 55 and drafting trucks will help tremendeously. But there is (Tesla) charging in Davis and Rocklin to help you make it; both at 70A (!) :)


Jul 24, 2008
Would it be cheating to stop in Emeryville or Marina Bay to top off in Range Mode and go from there? One variation of the question is "Bay area" to Tahoe, so that should count.
Still VERY unlikely you'll make it from Marina Bay, unless you very strictly follow a 50mph self-imposed limit and do not encounter unfavorable conditions (wind, weather). Marina Bay to Incline Village is 191 miles. AND you have to climb to 7,000 feet, which alone will take another 9+kWh. Even in Range Mode (max 53kWh) that only leaves you 44kWh (BEST CASE) for the 191 miles = 230 Wh/mile. That's do-able, but keep in mine the energy needed for the 7,000 feet ascent is a theoretical calculation ... and it's not a straight up kind of drive. Sure you get "most" of it back in the other side (for each equivalent 1,000 foot descent), but the "real world" has other surprises.

Would be fun to try though ! :smile: As a Plan B, there are Avcons in Truckee and Tahoe City. :redface:

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