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First Road Trip - Some Tips

Glenn90

Member
Aug 15, 2019
18
173
Marietta, GA
I finally took my first Tesla Model 3 road trip, driving 625 miles from Marietta, GA to Lake Worth, FL. I'd read a ton of posts beforehand for road trip tips & tricks, so thought I'd share my newbie impressions, including a few things I personally hadn't read or known before my trip.
  1. Supercharger stalls aren't always in sequential order! - I knew to avoid sharing a Supercharger numbered stall, in order to avoid sharing power with another user (say, avoid stall 1B if another car is already in 1A). I was surprised to realize at my first stop, in Tifton, GA, that the stalls are laid non-consecutively! This actually came into play at my second stop, in Lake City, FL. I arrived to find all six stalls empty, but soon another Tesla owner showed up to charge. They parked 3 stalls down from me... and sure enough, they'd managed to pick the stall that shared my power! My charging rate immediately dropped from around 570 miles/hour to around 280 miles/hour. I unplugged, moved my car one space over, and resumed charging at the higher rate.
  2. Supercharger stalls aren't all created equal! - upon arrival at the Turkey Lake, FL Supercharger station, I was the only car there, and parked at the first stall. I was surprised to see a charging rate of only around 280 miles per hour after a few minutes. I disconnected and moved one space over, and immediately saw nearly 600 miles per hour. It's as if that first station "thought" I was sharing power with another car. Lesson learned - keep an eye on the charging, especially for the first few minutes.
  3. Mental math - while Supercharging, the display shows your connection's wattage (say, 146 kW), along with your charging rate in miles per hour (say, 600 miles per hour). Each charging session started pretty close to the 150 kW maximum capacity of the Supercharger. The wattage steadily drops as your battery fills up, but I found the ratio of kW to mph stayed fairly constant, at around 4.1 mph per kW. (For example, towards the end of a charging session, I'd dropped to 35 kW, which also displayed as 144 mph.) Upon reflection, this makes perfect sense - the mph is just an estimate, similar to the "miles remaining" the car shows on its main display, which typically overstates actual miles remaining by about 20%. To break down the math a bit more - my Model 3 Long Range battery's capacity is 75 kWh, and the advertised (optimistic!) range is 310 miles, so in theory the car can drive 4.1 miles on a kWh of energy. This is the same 4.1 ratio used in the display of charging mph based on kW.
  4. How much charge to arrive with? - I never quite figured out the lowest charge the Trip Planner thinks you need to have when you arrive at your next Supercharger, but I think it's around 8-10% (or about 20-25 miles). When you start charging, the Trip Planner shows how much battery charge you'll have left if you departed right now. This figure starts at some dramatically low figure (say, -15%) and you can watch it gradually rise. At the same time, the car (and the Tesla mobile app) are telling you how much time you have left to charge. This time seems based on some combination of the minimum amount of additional charging time you'll need to arrive with at least 8-10%, while also factoring in the benefit of staying at a charging station for awhile longer if you're still getting a reasonably fast charging rate. I say the latter part because sometimes the recommended charging time left me with closer to 20% charge remaining at the next stop. I'd love to find some comprehensive explanation of the algorithms used by the Trip Planner. In any case, I learned to trust the Trip Planner, and it never led me astray, although I got nervous on the very last leg home. The final charge back north, in Tifton, GA, projected to get me home with 8% charge. Once underway, this estimate varied between 6-11%. I ended up home with 7% charge - no sweat, I guess, but I never hit any serious traffic, didn't need to stop for a bathroom break, etc. and I wonder how quickly that 7% could have bled away if things hadn't gone as expected. On the other hand, once your battery is already at, say, 95% charge, those last few % of charging take forever, so it's very tempting to leave when the car is saying it's okay to leave. In the end, my takeaway really is - trust the Trip Planner.
  5. The online Tesla trip planner doesn't match what the car tells you - not even close. I'd pre-planned my trip at Go Anywhere | Tesla, but found the car itself came up with a very different plan when it was time to depart - different times spent at each charger, fewer charging stops, shorter overall trip duration. The in-car Trip Planner proved to be extremely accurate. The web page is still good for a general overview of where the Superchargers are, but I wouldn't count on executing the trip according to the strategy it lays out for you. I'm aware there are 3rd party websites that also do EV trip planning, and I plan to try a few more of them before future road trips.
  6. Supercharger stations can be... barren - I ended up stopping at three Superchargers at Florida Turnpike service areas, and two regular Superchargers (Tifton, GA and Lake City, FL). Having Superchargers at the turnpike service areas is fantastic, but my overall wish list for all the stations would include -
    1. A few benches, to sit and get some fresh air. This would be a quick, cheap fix that would greatly enhance all the stations I visited.
    2. A nearby trash can.
    3. A tire air dispenser (I used the one at the Shell station at one of the turnpike stops - that was convenient).
    4. Obviously, restrooms. (Turnpike stops - already got 'em. Otherwise - I visited a Firehouse Subs, and a nearby gas station).
 

smatthew

Active Member
Jun 9, 2018
1,237
2,040
CA Bay Area
If someone shows up to a supercharger and picks the slot paired with me, I will politely let them know BEFORE they plug in IF there are better spots to take. New owners never know what's going on, and are usually super appreciative.

Occasionally you'll get someone who thinks you are crazy. And that's fine. Because they'll move just so they don't have to deal with you.

One other thing. Don't worry about hitting traffic. Air resistance is the nemesis of this car. If you had the patience to drive at like 30-35mph, you could go almost 600 miles! So, traffic generally helps reduce your overall power usage!
 
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PNWLeccy

Member
Jul 11, 2019
874
702
Seattle
I watched a bunch of Out of Spec Motoring roadtrip videos on YT before going on my >1300 mi trip and learned a lot of Supercharging including your (1) and (2).

I REALLY wish that your screen would either:
  • Prompt you with the best stall to use as you approach the supercharger
  • Inform you when you plug-in if/when you will not be charging at the highest speeds due to sharing power and then suggest empty/non-shared stall to move to
Tesla should have enough info to provide these suggestions (to the less informed) but I know that in a post V3 world this will not matter as much since they won't share power with other stalls.
 
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smatthew

Active Member
Jun 9, 2018
1,237
2,040
CA Bay Area
I watched a bunch of Out of Spec Motoring roadtrip videos on YT before going on my >1300 mi trip and learned a lot of Supercharging including your (1) and (2).

I REALLY wish that your screen would either:
  • Prompt you with the best stall to use as you approach the supercharger
  • Inform you when you plug-in if/when you will not be charging at the highest speeds due to sharing power and then suggest empty/non-shared stall to move to
Tesla should have enough info to provide these suggestions (to the less informed) but I know that in a post V3 world this will not matter as much since they won't share power with other stalls.
I wonder if the Supercharger communicates what it's stall number is when you connect.
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
6,123
7,123
Boise, ID
I arrived to find all six stalls empty, but soon another Tesla owner showed up to charge. They parked 3 stalls down from me... and sure enough, they'd managed to pick the stall that shared my power! My charging rate immediately dropped from around 570 miles/hour to around 280 miles/hour. I unplugged, moved my car one space over, and resumed charging at the higher rate.
This does seem to confirm that the pairing/sharing behavior is permanently changed.
It used to be that the first car had a Primary, favored role, and would always keep a solid majority of the power if it could take it. The Secondary car would get 30 kW minimum, but sometimes not much more than that if the Primary car was still heavily pulling a lot of power, and the Primary car would generally be unaffected.

But I saw a thread about a year(?) ago that had a few people reporting a seeming programming change to this, where if a second car plugged in, it would automatically flip to a half & half split. I guess this is The Way (TM).
 

smatthew

Active Member
Jun 9, 2018
1,237
2,040
CA Bay Area
This does seem to confirm that the pairing/sharing behavior is permanently changed.
It used to be that the first car had a Primary, favored role, and would always keep a solid majority of the power if it could take it. The Secondary car would get 30 kW minimum, but sometimes not much more than that if the Primary car was still heavily pulling a lot of power, and the Primary car would generally be unaffected.

But I saw a thread about a year(?) ago that had a few people reporting a seeming programming change to this, where if a second car plugged in, it would automatically flip to a half & half split. I guess this is The Way (TM).

I've heard it wasn't a programming change, but a failure mode. I think the equipment that combines the charger units will fail back to 50/50 split once the second car is plugged in if it encounters errors.
 

danarcha

Member
Feb 9, 2020
76
109
South Bend, IN
If someone shows up to a supercharger and picks the slot paired with me, I will politely let them know BEFORE they plug in IF there are better spots to take. New owners never know what's going on, and are usually super appreciative.

Occasionally you'll get someone who thinks you are crazy. And that's fine. Because they'll move just so they don't have to deal with you.

One other thing. Don't worry about hitting traffic. Air resistance is the nemesis of this car. If you had the patience to drive at like 30-35mph, you could go almost 600 miles! So, traffic generally helps reduce your overall power usage!

I have only had my M3 for three months, I charge at home and have never used a supercharger. When I do use one, how do I avoid being paired with another car? Do I just leave a space between other cars and avoid being right next to someone else?
 

PNWLeccy

Member
Jul 11, 2019
874
702
Seattle
V3 (250kw and thinner cable) superchargers do not split power. V2 chargers will have a number on each stall (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, etc.). Most of the time they are sequential and you should skip a spot but not always as they are sometimes arranged (1A, 2A, 3A, 1B, 2B, 3C) so you should just find the corresponding stall and see if it's occupied.
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
6,123
7,123
Boise, ID
I've heard it wasn't a programming change, but a failure mode. I think the equipment that combines the charger units will fail back to 50/50 split once the second car is plugged in if it encounters errors.
It's not a bug; it's a feature! I dunno--seems like all Supercharges are in "fail mode" now.
they are sometimes arranged (1A, 2A, 3A, 1B, 2B, 3C)
Sometimes the subconscious brain just takes over. ;)

When I do use one, how do I avoid being paired with another car? Do I just leave a space between other cars and avoid being right next to someone else?
@PNWLeccy explained that the layouts are sometimes different but forgot to mention what the system is. Each number corresponds to one of those cabinets of the charging hardware, and it's the A and B that can be splitting power. So if you see someone on an A, don't go for B on the same number; that will be sharing. Find a number where both A and B are empty and get on one of those.
 

smatthew

Active Member
Jun 9, 2018
1,237
2,040
CA Bay Area
I love grants pass. 1A, 2A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B
What? They changed numbering schemes halfway through the lot?

Either the contractor was drinking, or they upgraded from 4 spaces at some point.
 

Rocky_H

Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2015
6,123
7,123
Boise, ID
Either the contractor was drinking, or they upgraded from 4 spaces at some point.
I couldn't name the locations offhand, but I knew there were at least a couple that did that, where they had only 4 or 6 or 8 to begin with, and so they accidentally switched placement schemes in the addition of extra stalls.
 

camalaio

Active Member
May 28, 2019
1,483
2,087
Vernon, BC, Canada
Supercharger stalls aren't always in sequential order!

Oh gosh! My trip to Colorado I had the worst experience with this! One I stopped at had a weird half gap too, I just couldn't visually figure out the placement and pairing of chargers. I still don't get it today. But I unplugged and moved twice before deciding to just stay in my third spot and paired with someone even though I could move. The embarrassment was immense. I even paired with a guy we had been "following" through a couple Superchargers and accidentally paired once with already for the same reason. I have genuinely never felt so inept at counting.

I found the ratio of kW to mph stayed fairly constant, at around 4.1 mph per kW. (For example, towards the end of a charging session, I'd dropped to 35 kW, which also displayed as 144 mph.) Upon reflection, this makes perfect sense - the mph is just an estimate, similar to the "miles remaining" the car shows on its main display, which typically overstates actual miles remaining by about 20%. To break down the math a bit more - my Model 3 Long Range battery's capacity is 75 kWh, and the advertised (optimistic!) range is 310 miles, so in theory the car can drive 4.1 miles on a kWh of energy. This is the same 4.1 ratio used in the display of charging mph based on kW.

This constant you observed is actually slightly different from the one used for your battery capacity. I have NFI why. It's not to give a bigger number for marketing, because they actually end up reporting a lower number than if they used the same constant as the battery gauge.

Take a look here: 2020, 2019, 2018 Model 3 Battery Capacities & Charging Constants
The Wh/mi used for the MPH calculation while charging is the "charge constant" column. The Wh/mi used for the range display by the speedometer (if not set to percentage) is the "Endpoint BMS constant". I get how these are calculated now, but that still doesn't tell me why they do it this way.

my overall wish list for all the stations would include -
  1. A few benches, to sit and get some fresh air. This would be a quick, cheap fix that would greatly enhance all the stations I visited.
  2. A nearby trash can.
  3. A tire air dispenser (I used the one at the Shell station at one of the turnpike stops - that was convenient).
  4. Obviously, restrooms. (Turnpike stops - already got 'em. Otherwise - I visited a Firehouse Subs, and a nearby gas station).

This will always be my biggest gripe. Trash cans and window wash thingies. Two of the biggest things we're missing out from gas stations.

I've smeared many half-damp paper towels trying to clean the windshield with whatever moisture I can find. I've carried a lot of garbage around. The garbage I'm sorta OK with, but not seeing well is a real problem.

I really wish Superchargers (or all DCFC stations really) adopted the gas station model with convenience sales attached (drinks etc.). It provides convenience factors and the profits needed to pay people to tend to these. Probably even works better due to the time spent there.
 
Jul 29, 2020
51
25
San Francisco
Tesla should add current details to all supercharger location info about RESTROOMS. Like for example, how far of a walk is it?? A minute or 15 minutes?? Makes a BIG difference on a road trip. So you are pretty much on your own to find where it is located, or do research on google in advance, even on Tesla website list, it does not say if the "In mall" restroom is within walking distance, or not. Also the ones at Tesla shops seem to be CLOSED now due to Covid. We got a rude awakening about this, when going to the Tesla supercharger in Rocklin,CA specifically went there because Tesla said the restroom was in the nearby Tesla shop, only to be told at the entrance, restroom CLOSED due to covid and you'll need to drive to the Target a few minutes away. But we were supercharging.......My wife wasn't happy!!
If somebody knows a good online source to help, and thanks in advance!!
 

smatthew

Active Member
Jun 9, 2018
1,237
2,040
CA Bay Area
Tesla should add current details to all supercharger location info about RESTROOMS. Like for example, how far of a walk is it?? A minute or 15 minutes?? Makes a BIG difference on a road trip. So you are pretty much on your own to find where it is located, or do research on google in advance, even on Tesla website list, it does not say if the "In mall" restroom is within walking distance, or not. Also the ones at Tesla shops seem to be CLOSED now due to Covid. We got a rude awakening about this, when going to the Tesla supercharger in Rocklin,CA specifically went there because Tesla said the restroom was in the nearby Tesla shop, only to be told at the entrance, restroom CLOSED due to covid and you'll need to drive to the Target a few minutes away. But we were supercharging.......My wife wasn't happy!!
If somebody knows a good online source to help, and thanks in advance!!
I agree! Don't just show me a WiFi symbol. Tell me what the network name is, and what password I need!
 

pjensen

Member
Jul 24, 2020
155
92
Highland Village, Texas
Tesla should add current details to all supercharger location info about RESTROOMS. Like for example, how far of a walk is it?? A minute or 15 minutes?? Makes a BIG difference on a road trip. So you are pretty much on your own to find where it is located, or do research on google in advance, even on Tesla website list, it does not say if the "In mall" restroom is within walking distance, or not.

I had been following a Tesla M3 on the freeway (he zoomed around me). He then made the same exit I was taking. Then he pulled into a QT gas station. And I was thinking - what the heck?

Now it all makes sense.
 
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