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First long road trip in our Model S

Discussion in 'Model S: Battery & Charging' started by David29, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. David29

    David29 Member

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    My spouse and I recently made a 9-day road trip from the Boston area to Washington, DC, and back. It was our first long road trip in the Model S. This post is to describe our experience with the charging aspects of the trip, for the benefit of anyone else who is new to this sort of thing, and to benefit others making a similar trip in this corridor.
    I am posting this in the Battery and Charging sub-forum because aside from charging, we had absolutely no issues with the car.

    In summary, the scenario was as follows:
    • Day 1, we left the Boston area and headed west on I-90 (Mass. Turnpike), then took I-84 to Hartford. Our first charging stop was at the Supercharger in West Hartford. Aside from a little confusion finding the correct “unnamed road” the charger site is on, this was a good site. Not crowded, good charging speed. The adjacent Red Robin Restaurant proved to be a nice place for a leisurely, tasty lunch on their outside patio.
    • We decided to take I-91 south towards New York City. I do not want to get into a debate about the best way to get through New York City, but I’d say we did not plan this part of our trip as well as we might. (I am not faulting the car’s navigation here.) We ended up crossing the Hudson on the George Washington Bridge and heading onto the New Jersey Turnpike.
    • Our next charging stop was at a Turnpike rest stop in Cranbury, NJ. Again, not busy, good charge rate. Site has the usual rest stop facilities – food, coffee, bathrooms. We stayed here long enough to get a good charge so that we could get to our next stop, Philadelphia, and then back onto I-95. (By the way, this was the first place we had seen signs in the rest area directing us to the charging area – nice touch.)
    • We stayed overnight in Philadelphia but did not use the car for local trips and did no charging there. I had made sure we had enough charge to get here and back to the highway and to the next logical charging stop.
    • Day 2, we left Philadelphia, re-joined I-95 and charged next at the Newark, DE rest area. This is a massive rest area in the median of I-95, serving both northbound and southbound traffic. Twelve supercharging stalls, busy, but we got a fast charge rate. Very large food court, but a good walk from the chargers.
    • Arrived at our destination in Gaithersburg, MD. We stayed here two nights for a wedding. The hotel (Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center) has a single Level 2 charger, but it was tied up by a BMW hybrid the entire time we were there so we did not use it. We also did not use the car, so I was not particularly concerned.
    • Day 3, wedding, no travel.
    • Day 4, we traveled from Gaithersburg down to Arlington, VA, where we were to stay for 4 days to visit the sites in and around Washington, DC. This was when we made our first tactical error, I think. We stopped at the "temporary" Supercharger at the Bethesda-Montgomery Mall. It has only one charging unit and two stalls. One was already busy so we suffered from a slow charge as the second car. We wandered around the mall awhile, had something to drink, but left before gaining very much charge. We arrived in Arlington with roughly 75 or 80 miles of range, as I recall. In retrospect, I wish we had waited a little longer to give us more margin for our stay in Arlington.
    • Days 4-7, touring in Washington area. The hotel we used does not have a destination charger, but I was not too concerned because we planned to use the DC Metro (subway) to get in and out of the city. As it turned out, we also used Uber a few times for destinations not convenient to the Metro. We used the Tesla relatively little, except for one side trip to dinner and another to have lunch with a friend. Because I wanted to have more margin in case we made other side trips, we did try one day to find level 2 chargers, but were not successful. We found a site at a shopping mall near our hotel listed on ChargePoint but it turned out to be a set of Blink chargers. I have no Blink account and was unable to get a one-time authorization to work using their web site, despite several attempts. So after wasting an hour or so looking for sites and trying to get this one activated, we gave up. As it turned out, we did not need any more charge. But if we had wanted to take any more side trips, say to Mount Vernon, we would have run short.
    • Day 8, we left Arlington and started the trip home. We charged at the new Supercharger in Laurel, MD, arriving with only a few miles of range. The place was virtually deserted so we got a very fast charge while getting some drinks and snacks at the nearby Harris Teeter supermarket. We headed back to I-95 and stopped next in Newark, DE, for another good charge. We stopped for a bathroom break at another rest area (East Brunswick, I think) on the NJ Turnpike late in the day, and made our second strategic charging error. We were taking a side trip to Queens, NY to visit family, and I was not careful enough to figure out how much charge I would need to reach Queens and then get to the next logical charging location on the way back to Massachusetts. So we did not use the opportunity to charge on the NJT when we could have. Consequently we reached Queens with roughly 30-40 miles of range.
    • Day 9 – The navigation system said we would not have enough charge to reach the next supercharger on our desired route home, in southern CT, unless we traveled at restricted speeds. My gut feeling was that we would be okay, but it was raining (which eats into range) and my spouse preferred to be cautious. So we detoured to the Supercharger at JFK Airport, we cost us about an hour of travel time (besides the time to charge). The Supercharger site was easy enough to reach, despite being in a major airport, and we got a reasonably fast charge, even though these are older superchargers. This was the one time we basically sat around with nothing to do while waiting for the car to charge. From there, we went up I-684 to I-84 to the West Hartford Supercharger again, and had another nice lunch at the Red Robin – this time inside because it was chilly and rainy, no patio. From there we went home via I-84, I-90 and I-95.

    The total distance traveled was 1017.7 miles. We sued 303 kWh, for an average of 297.7 wH/mi. I thought this was pretty reasonable, given the speeds we traveled and the rain on nearly the entire return trip.

    Observations:
    1. The real charging problem on this trip was not Supercharging on the long ride, it was the difficulty of locating local charging in our destination areas – Gaithersburg, Arlington, and Queens. Finding and using level 2 chargers in an unfamiliar area is time-consuming and, in our case, frustrating. I should have done more advance research before the trip to find where we could charge near our destinations, or should have made sure to get ample charging at the nearest Supercharger before arrival at the destinations.
    2. As a minor point, the navigation system does not always have good directions for Superchargers in Malls, especially inside garages. We wasted time making wrong turns and guessing wrong on garage levels at both Bethesda and Laurel. It would be helpful if the pop-up box in the Nav system would give a bit more detail on Supercharger location (as well as amenities nearby) to supplement the GPS.
    3. On the plus side, this was my spouse’s first time doing highway driving with the Model S, and she loved it! She also became a believer in the practicality of Superchargers for long-distance travel and said so in conversations with friends.
     
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  2. Ormond

    Ormond Member

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    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I don't have my X yet, but I'll be sure to use evtripplanner or a similar site in addition to the navigation system.
     
  3. No2DinosaurFuel

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    Nice trip. I had similar observations when I did my first road trip.

    1. I knew this ahead of time and have been keeping eye out for charging locations quite a bit on plugshare. Use Plugshare to locate something reasonable. However, what I usually do is fully charge or almost fully charge at a supercharging stations before heading to my final destination. This is where the 90D shines. I can pretty much do most of the trips inside the city with 100% charged at the closest supercharging station.

    2. Use plugshare. Sometime people post detail directions to help other EV users find chargers within malls.

    3. Yes, Tesla is really a road car. It makes the long trips a lot better compared to the old ICE I had before.
     
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  4. kirkbauer

    kirkbauer Member

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    I agree that they need some info on the location for some of the superchargers, that would be nice.

    So far (over a year now) I have only charged at home and at superchargers. Whenever I go on trips I just make sure I top off at a supercharger before I get to my destination, and again when I leave.
     
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  5. WannabeOwner

    WannabeOwner Member

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    I'm sure its not universally the case, but I've had good success based on the Lat/Long for the chargers being very accurate. I zoom in the map to MAX and change to Satellite, and that enables me to figure out whereabouts in the parking lot / etc. that the chargers are (in some cases they are in what appears to be/was a field on the Satellite image!)

    Photos on plugshare can also help, particular for L2 etc. chargers where maybe Lat/Long is not spot-on
     
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  6. Gwgan

    Gwgan Almost a wagon

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    Chargerville does a good job of highlighting nearby amenities
     
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  7. David29

    David29 Member

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  8. Skipdd

    Skipdd Member

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    #8 Skipdd, Oct 4, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
    Thanks for sharing. As noted by others, Plugshare shows where all the chargers are nearby and uses colors to distinguish charger types by category. The other thing I found useful is to post in the regional area forum where you plan to travel, prior to traveling. I got some useful tips from others when taking a similar length trip down to TN and back.

    If you travel back to the DC area, especially if you are going to be in the MD suburbs and in NW DC, EvGo has a number of locations by convenient spots (Starbucks, Coldstone, Harris Teeter,...) and they have both L2 and CHAdeMO chargers.
     
  9. carter_seattle

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    @David29 I might have missed it, but what kind of battery do you have?
     
  10. Azhagan

    Azhagan Member

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    Thank you so much for this excellent write up. I am doing the reserve trip this weekend (Gaithersburg to Braintree) and wanted to know about any difficult situations I may encounter along the way. Looks like we will be in good shape.
     
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  11. Bheuring

    Bheuring Member

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    That's sounds great I bought my s used at 16,000 miles I just hit 35,000 in about 4 months I have hit 20 super different chargers this weekend I plan on hitting 2 more this weekend it's a awesome car to travel in plug share and is a must also there's a app called super chargers that's nice
    The one thing that would off Been nice if they would have a social side to the os in v8.0 that wood let u and other tesla owners tell about places to go and eat around super chargers like a rating system (tesla that ideal is free on me)
     
  12. tnt1971

    tnt1971 Member

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    I agree completely with your assessment regarding destination charging. I have had my car 6 months now and that is the biggest issue when you go someplace. In a few weeks I am going someplace with a destination charger that has a 3 hour restriction (it is on a college campus). It is about 45 miles from a supercharger that I have to pass going to and fro. You want to hit the road with a full charge and not have to stop and wait at a charger less than an hour into your trip. It is worse if you have to drive around locally at the destination.
     
  13. jeffro01

    jeffro01 Active Member

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    I had the same destination charging concerns when we went to San Diego this summer so I stayed at a hotel that had Tesla HPWCs. All in all it worked out great.

    I also like the suggestion for additional SC routing information from the NAV system for SCs that are in parking garages.

    Jeff
     
  14. David29

    David29 Member

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    My car is a 70D. Sorry, I should have said that. (I blissfully assume everyone looks at my profile and obviously they do not!)
     
  15. paulkva

    paulkva Member

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    Thanks for the detailed trip report. It's always great to read about people's experiences road-tripping in a Tesla.

    One suggestion for future trips: don't forget about L1 / 120V charging (and bring your UMC of course), especially if you're spending more than one night in one location. Most hotels nowadays still don't have L2 charging, but many do have ordinary power outlets located near parking, either outdoors on the side of the building somewhere, or in a parking garage. Ask permission of course, and you can even consider offering to pay, though I've never been asked to pay for L1.

    At the end of the summer we took a 1400-mile road trip that's roughly the reverse of what you did (DC-Boston), plus a detour on the way north through central PA, upstate NY, and CT. We arrived in Boston with ~60 miles on the battery. We could have managed with local L2 charging and/or the nearby Dedham supercharger, with some inconvenience -- but we found a power outlet at our hotel, got permission to plug in, and ultimately left Boston 6 days later with a full battery. I also make a habit of adding any hotel where I charge successfully to PlugShare, e.g.:
    Hampton Inn Boston Cambridge | Cambridge, MA | Electric Car Charging Station | PlugShare
     
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