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Holiday trip report

Discussion in 'Model S' started by mikeash, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. mikeash

    mikeash Active Member

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    Fairfax, VA, USA
    I just got back from my first long Tesla road trip and thought it might be worth sharing my experiences. I drove from the DC suburbs to southern Florida for Christmas, then back by way of Orlando and the Mouse. The car is a RWD 85 which I got in February 2015.

    All in all, it was a great trip. I knew from extensive reading that the Tesla is a great road trip car, and I've even done a few shorter road trips on the SC network, but never more than one station away from home. It all played out just like I thought it would, and confirmed that the Tesla is a superior road trip car. This is probably the #1 question people have for me about the car, and they're always surprised when I say that it's not only perfectly fine, but actually better than a normal car. But we all knew that.

    The trip planner was pretty terrible. I knew that going in, but it still surprised me a bit. I'm a programmer and whenever I see misbehaving software I like to try to figure out how the problem could have happened. Well, I had many hours to think about the trip planner on this trip and I still can't figure it out. What kind of broken code starts you out driving toward a supercharger with a 35% estimated arrival SoC, then tells you to turn around, go back to the previous SC, charge for zero minutes, and start out again with a lower estimated arrival SoC? It boggles the mind. Thankfully, just about the whole trip was along the I-95 corridor and SC planning is simple, so it didn't cause any actual problems for me. It just would have been nice to be able to let the car handle it, but I couldn't.

    On the other side of things, the estimated arrival SoC as listed in the Energy->Trip tab was awesome and always spot-on. I don't think I ever had it off by more than 1%. That gave me the peace of mind to cut my margins slimmer and speed up the trip as time went on and I started to really trust it. I also found that the Trip tab itself is somewhat unnecessary here, at least on the flat ground of I-95. I ended up just popping open the miniature charge estimator you get by tapping the miles/minutes/ETA indicator at the bottom of the directions and monitoring that. All that really matters is the arrival SoC, after all.

    The supercharger network is, of course, amazing. I had no problems with them at all. Every time, I plugged in, it started up and gave me full speed without issue. This is in stark contrast to various third-party chargers I've used with the car over the past ten months! They were pretty empty too, which surprised me at what I figured would be a busy Tesla travel period. I saw many other Teslas charging, but there were always plenty of open spots, and often we were the only ones there.

    Autopilot is amazing for a long trip. It's clearly far from perfect, but it helps a ton. The ability to just relax and even stretch out from time to time is huge. It makes the trip so much less tiring. I just hope they fix the tendency to dive for the exits, that was my biggest problem with it on the trip.

    I'm a big believer in L1 charging now. It's painfully slow but it gets the job done and is vastly superior to not charging at all! We stayed plugged in to an exterior outlet for most of our stay in South Florida, and it got the car from 90 miles of range when we arrived all the way up to 90% and then mostly kept it there while we drove around doing our stuff. We were not successful charging at the various hotels we stayed at while on the road, however. Out of three, two didn't have any accessible outlets at all, and one did but apparently it was on the same circuit as their breakfast area's waffle maker, and we ended up tripping the circuit breaker when they turned it on. Oops!

    And now, a quick review of the superchargers we hit, in order of first visit:

    • Glen Allen - I've been here before a couple of times. Pretty nice spot. Eight stalls and little utilization when I've been there. Not a lot of choices for food, but enough.
    • Rocky Mount - Not bad. Not too much around, but a couple of restaurants and hotels whose bathrooms you can abuse, and where you might be able to pick up a snack or drink.
    • Lumberton - Right off the highway, even closer than usual. This is at a diverging diamond interchange, the first one I've seen in person. Kind of cool, but weird. Only four stalls, but we only saw one other car there on the way south, and none on the way back. Nice grocery store across the way, and various other stuff.
    • Santee - Close to the highway, various stuff around. It's in the parking lot of a charming-looking motel we were tempted to stay at, but the timing wasn't quite right.
    • Savannah - OK, I'm not going to complain too hard about a valuable free (yeah, yeah, paid for as part of the price of the car) service. But just the same, who thought this site was a good idea? Why would you put a supercharger in a airport economy parking garage? The car's nav system is not much help in finding it, either. The first visit I ended up looking it up on PlugShare, and whoever wrote the description there was nice enough to give directions to it. It's a long hike to the terminal if you want to go to the bathroom, or get your parking validated so you don't have to pay for using the charger. It seems like there ought to be plenty of other, better places in the area to put a supercharger. I wanted to skip this one coming north, but it didn't quite work out.
    • Kingsland - Good, some stuff nearby, convenient to the highway, pretty fountain.
    • Port Orange - Nice site, lots of stuff nearby. We had lunch at a tasty Hibachi place on the way south. Coming back, we encountered a nice outdoor fruit market and picked up some snacks for the trip.
    • West Palm Beach - See above about not complaining too hard, but this location pretty much sucks. It's at a Tesla service center in a pretty industrial area with no amenities whatsoever. It's also pretty far from the highway. Thankfully, we didn't need it for very long going south (really, we didn't need it at all, but wanted some margin in case we couldn't find charging at our destination) and didn't need it at all going back north.
    • Fort Drum - Very convenient, in a Turnpike service area with bathrooms and food and such.
    • Woodbridge - We didn't really need this one, but the wife wanted to stop by Costco before we went home. Does it count as local charging abuse if it's local but you're coming back from a long trip but you don't really need it? Anyway, we were the only car charging so I don't feel bad. Lots of stuff around this one, but an unlimited supply of insane drivers accessing the parking lots.

    A few stray observations to close things out:
    • Can someone tell the Carolinas that you don't have to wait for old lane markings to wear away completely before you paint new ones?
    • What is up with the Georgia State Police? I saw more people pulled over in Georgia than I did in every other state combined, by a huge margin.
    • Why do so many people merge onto the highway at what seems like 23MPH, then gradually speed up, often right after I decide to pass them? Is there some epidemic of brain damage of which this is the main observable symptom?
    • I saw so many people staring at the car as they passed. Really funny to watch.
     
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  2. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    Great report!

    I've been there too. When we stayed in Orlando in June, they allowed me to park next to their golf cart receptacle. It reduced frequently to 9A instead of 12A, and would blow the circuit breaker once or twice during the day - it was obviously shared somewhere. The maintenance team told me of a Christmas light receptacle in the corner of the parking lot - that gave me 12A all day and night without worry. I usually gained enough overnight to avoid needing to make a run to Turkey Lake until we were leaving the area.

    I give them a smile as well. Usually they're trying to read the side-marker plate or they're looking back at the car as they pass. I'm more frustrated with people who are passing at a constant speed, then reach you and slow down so they can see the car, and meanwhile you're coming closer to a slower vehicle in front of you that will force you to reduce speeds (no TACC/AP on mine, so I have to kick cruise off and wait for them to pass).
     
  3. mikeash

    mikeash Active Member

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    This is a huge difference. With boring old cruise control this stuff can be unbelievably frustrating, at least for me. With the fancier cruise control, it becomes more a source of amusement. I think I would have gone mad on this trip without TACC. There was a ton of traffic, especially coming north, and I hardly ever would have been able to use old-fashioned cruise control for more than two minutes at a time.
     
  4. FlasherZ

    FlasherZ Sig Model S + Sig Model X + Model 3 Resv

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    I agree. :)

    That said, Model X is coming soon and that will be our road trip vehicle, so looking forward to joining the ranks of those who drive easier and less stressfully. :)
     
  5. mikeash

    mikeash Active Member

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    It really is great, I hope you enjoy it when it comes!
     
  6. mspohr

    mspohr Active Member

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    Good point about L1 charging. It can be very useful if you're staying somewhere for a while and not driving long distances.
    This last summer we stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge for a week. Only had a L1 outlet in front of the cabin. We plugged in every night and gained about 50 miles range each night which was sufficient to cover our daily driving around the park for hikes, etc. The town of Jackson has a few free L2 chargers which we used on our way out of town to top up and get us to Tremonton SC.
    Also, we've had good luck with hotel A/C units. These are 240v generally fused at 20 amps. I've made an adapter for the UMC which limits the draw to 12 amps (don't want to risk overloading the system) and these can charge at about 10 mph which gives 100+ miles overnight.
     
  7. BigAirHarper

    BigAirHarper Member

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    Hahaha that's GA for you. I've only had 2 speeding tickets and both came from GA state troopers. I think they are number 2 in the country for writing tickets, and their super speeder fine is ridiculous.

    Nice write up! Sounds like a great trip.
     
  8. Chargerville

    Chargerville Member

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    @mikeash, it was posts like yours and @Gizmo17, along with our own experiences, that prompted us to build a quick site for reviews of superchargers and stuff near them. It'd be great to get your reviews in it. Chargerville
     

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