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Model S vs. ICE idential 600 mile trip experience

deonb

Active Member
Mar 4, 2013
4,061
4,362
Redmond, WA
So I've had the rare opportunity to do a 600 mile road trip in a Model S, and follow that up a week later with an identical road trip in an ICE (GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali - Diesel). Model S trip was to go look at an RV trailer, ICE trip was to go get it.

The trip was from Seattle to Butte, MT on the I90. Both done in 1 day. With the Tesla it took 12 hours - with the GMC 11.


Charging vs. Re-fuelling stops
The Denali could do the 600 mile trip in one go, so no fuel stops for it. However, we stopped at highway rest areas, lookouts and state parks to let the dogs out. The Model S in turn got stops in Ellensburg, Ritzville, Coeur d'Alene, Missoula, Superior and Butte.

The stop frequency and time of the Model S wasn't bothersome at all. In fact, I got frustrated on the way back because my passengers wanted me to drive 6 hours straight (towing a 10'000lbs trailer!) without any breaks. Boy did I miss the Tesla at that point.

What is however bothersome is the very bleak and boring placement of Superchargers. I don't know who in Tesla thought there was a large overlap between people who drive $100k+ vehicles and people who like to frequent Golden Corral and Dollar Tree. Tesla doesn't seem to have formal restroom agreements with the establishments around the Superchargers, so going into a restroom of a establishment that you're not a customer in is not the greatest experience. (I did get called on this at the Golden Corral.)

Compare that to instead stopping at lookouts, state parks and even highway rest areas with the GMC. They generally have cleaner bathrooms (and you don't feel like you're intruding), picnic tables, free coffee in some places, dedicated pet locations (seriously, can someone please give Elon a puppy for Christmas) - and they're mostly directly off the highway. This is where I stop when given the choice. I drove by all those Supercharger locations on the I90, and not once did I think: "Oh wouldn't it be nice if we were there because then we could ...". They're just not in places I would ever stop. I think the strong ties between Superchargers and food establishments are too much and I hope when a next round of redundant rollouts start, they'd go for a different theme. State parks would be awesome - even highway rest areas would be a welcome change.

I think it's best summed up:

The Tesla is a luxury car, but yields a pedestrian trip.
The GMC is a pedestrian car, but yields a luxury trip.

Driving dynamics

Ok, obviously a no contest win to the Tesla. Suspension & performance makes a huge difference.

However, what I don't always appreciate is that Tesla doesn't treat me like a child that can't be trusted with his own safety. There are features that both cars have that impact safety, but on the GMC you're not allowed to use it:

a) I can turn the Tesla rear view camera on while driving on the highway. The GMC has horrible blind spots. The rear view camera would help eliminating it, but NO - not allowed.

b) On the Tesla my wife can use the Navigation system to enter an address while I'm driving. The GMC forces the driver to use voice commands. So instead of the passenger fiddling around with the Navigation screen for 5 minutes, you have the driver fiddling around with it over voice for 15 minutes. And you DO have to look down to look at the options on the console. And this is supposed to be safer than the passenger typing in an address??? (WTH).

c) The Tesla in-dash navigation provides a huge safety feature when going over the mountain passes at night and being able to know which direction the next curve is before you can see it. You can do that on the GMC as well, but NOT while you have navigation up. So you have to choose between being able to predict the curves, or knowing where you're going. Ugh. So I had to turn off navigation while going through the passes.


As for the reverse:

d) You can tether your iPhone/iPod/Laptop etc. to GMC's LTE WiFi (with excellent signal quality). Costs you $10 per month. You can't do that with the Tesla, no matter how much you're willing to pay. Boo Tesla.


Conclusion

In all honesty, I preferred the trip in the GMC. Those Supercharger spots drags down the experience of owing a Tesla and outweighs the driving dynamics. If just some of them were located in places worth visiting, it would make a world of difference.
 
Last edited:

cpa

Active Member
May 17, 2014
3,408
4,785
Central Valley
Deon's suggestion about placing SC at rest areas has been bantered about before. It seems like a good idea.

That said, here in California, the rest areas are generally in the middle of nowhere. There are zero amenities except for bathrooms of dubious cleanliness and vending machines. (There are pet areas, however!) Frequently a rest area is closed for renovations or repairs with zero notice unless you use an app to see if they are open. Today there are seven closed, including both rest areas on Interstate 15 between Barstow and the Nevada Line.

The CHP is charged with patrolling the rest areas. Some rest areas even provide the officers with a small office. But I could easily see these locations being vandalized due to the remote locations along the highways. I would also presume that to repair a Supercharger that is in a more populated area would be faster than one that is 60-70 miles out in the desert.
 

AudubonB

One can NOT induce accuracy with precision!
Moderator
Mar 24, 2013
8,816
36,831
What a great review - nicely done that you had the opportunity to take the identical trip in two vehicles.

However, I very strongly suspect that your conclusion is going always to be a function of the particular stretch of road. That portion of I-90 yields, for you and your desiderata, a win for the GMC. This will vary as a function of the route.

Now...about that trip between the lesser-48 and Alaska..... :cursing:
 
Studebaker got it right.

IMG_2057.JPG
 

BerTX

Active Member
Supporting Member
May 2, 2014
3,508
3,657
Texas/Washington
Yeah, that bugs me too that the SpC aren't all along the highways. It takes time to get on and off the highway. And I'd much rather use the highway rest areas instead of asking some random restaurant if I can use the restroom.

Rest areas don't have nearly enough power to host a Supercharger. The additional cost would be immense.
 

David99

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jan 31, 2014
4,910
7,358
Nomad (mostly US)
You experience matches mine mostly. Although when it comes to Supercharger placement, there are differences. Out of the 35 I visited, many had bathrooms available at nearby places. But yes, some had nothing whatsoever or they are not available at night. Some Superchargers are in places where I would really never want to go. Tesla clearly opted for a low cost location. Although all the recent SC that come online seem to be in decent spots. Looks like Tesla already changed it's concept.

In terms of frequency and duration of stops, I'd say there are two types of trips. The recreational road trips, and the ones where you just want to get from A to B. On recreational trips, you have time, you want to stop and see things, you want to make it relaxed and stop. That's all good with the Model S. But on trips where you just want to get to your destination, any stop makes the trip longer.
 

TexasEV

Well-Known Member
Jun 5, 2013
7,652
8,918
Austin, TX
You experience matches mine mostly. Although when it comes to Supercharger placement, there are differences. Out of the 35 I visited, many had bathrooms available at nearby places. But yes, some had nothing whatsoever or they are not available at night. Some Superchargers are in places where I would really never want to go. Tesla clearly opted for a low cost location. Although all the recent SC that come online seem to be in decent spots. Looks like Tesla already changed it's concept.
I don't think Tesla changed its concept at all, rather that different types of locations are available in different parts of the country.
 

Max*

Charging
Apr 8, 2015
6,672
3,835
NoVa
Rest areas don't have nearly enough power to host a Supercharger. The additional cost would be immense.

That generalization is not true, as there are several rest areas from DC to MA that do have SpC installed.

- - - Updated - - -

I hereby change my comment to "most rest areas". Thanks, and looking forward to visiting some!


Missed this in my previous reply.
 

jaguar36

Active Member
Apr 10, 2014
2,148
1,961
NJ
Sounds like the conclusion was highly route dependent based on the location of the superchargers. I think right now Tesla is trying to put superchargers where ever its easiest/cheapest/quickest to get them placed without worrying so much about ideal locations. On my last road trip on the east coast most of the superchargers were in great locations, right off the highway, with a ton of options about where to hang out/eat/bathroom while waiting. As others have mentioned some are at rest stops, some are in shopping centers. One was behind a Wendies, which may not be the most expensive place to eat, but I think its perfectly fine.

Seems like as the supercharger network expands your preference will switch towards the Tesla.
 

mknox

Well-Known Member
Aug 7, 2012
10,103
1,894
Toronto, ON
I often make the 560 mile trip between the Toronto area and the Chicago area and have done so in both ICE cars and the Model S. With the ICE, it is an easy 1-day trip and you are not constrained to a particular route nor are you constrained as to when you have to stop to charge/eat.

Before Superchargers came to Canada, it was an overnight trip for me in the Tesla. I would leave after work in the afternoon and make it as far as Windsor/Detroit where I would stay overnight while the car charged at a Level 2 station. Now with Superchargers along Hwy. 401 in Ontario, I can do it all in one day like I would in the ICE. It is not along my preferred route, but there is not much I can do about where the Superchargers are. In the ICE, I would cross in to the US at Sarnia/Port Huron, not Detroit.

I have found as long as you time it right, such that you can make your charging stops when it's time for lunch or a coffee break, it really isn't that much more inconvenient. I'm not particularly fussy, so the amenities at the Superchargers are generally good enough for me. Not so for my wife. She complains about "having to eat when the car is hungry" and not always liking what facilities are available. Right now, I plan the trip from Supercharger to Supercharger, but if they ever become more abundant, like gas stations, having more choices about where to stop would likely alleviate this concern.

My only other concern with taking the Tesla is that I only have 120 volt charging at my destination (daughter and son-in-law's house). They are planning on moving so it is not even worth talking about having a 240 volt outlet installed there. If I want to be doing any driving around while I'm there, I have to be careful to ensure I have enough to get to the first Supercharger on the way home. For some reason, there are precious few Level 2 stations in their neck of the woods.

All things considered, my preference is to take the Model S on these trips. There are some limitations, but with a bit of planning, it can be done in roughly the same time I would take in the ICE. It's not like I'd be doing marathon non-stop driving in the ICE anyway. I'm still going to want to stop for meals and breaks.
 
I have been to far fewer Superchargers than many of you, but the overwhelming majority of the ones I've visited have been close to decent restaurants and/or restrooms. I imagine it varies considerably depending on what is available when they do the build-out. The newest one in Virginia is probably the worst, with pretty much just a Denny's and a 7-11 in walking distance. In addition to the northeast corridor, there are lots of them in rest stops in Florida as well.
 

Cyclone

Cyclonic Member ((.oO))
Jan 12, 2015
5,058
1,153
Charlotte, NC
My only other concern with taking the Tesla is that I only have 120 volt charging at my destination (daughter and son-in-law's house). They are planning on moving so it is not even worth talking about having a 240 volt outlet installed there. If I want to be doing any driving around while I'm there, I have to be careful to ensure I have enough to get to the first Supercharger on the way home. For some reason, there are precious few Level 2 stations in their neck of the woods.

All things considered, my preference is to take the Model S on these trips. There are some limitations, but with a bit of planning, it can be done in roughly the same time I would take in the ICE. It's not like I'd be doing marathon non-stop driving in the ICE anyway. I'm still going to want to stop for meals and breaks.

I'm in Chicago right now and flew instead of driving my S because of the same charging (and also parking) concern. Turns out the Service Center in downtown has a 24/7 Supercharger. Had I known that before, I probably would have driven. Depending on where your daughter moves to, you may be able to swing by that location to top off during your stay.
 
The newest one in Virginia is probably the worst, with pretty much just a Denny's and a 7-11 in walking distance. In addition to the northeast corridor, there are lots of them in rest stops in Florida as well.
At what point does the potential of Tesla owners showing up drive a change with improved amenities targeted at owners who can buy a Tesla? I'm not aware of any new businesses opening up at the Superchargers I frequent in the past 2.5 years.

- - - Updated - - -

I have found as long as you time it right, such that you can make your charging stops when it's time for lunch or a coffee break, it really isn't that much more inconvenient. I'm not particularly fussy, so the amenities at the Superchargers are generally good enough for me. Not so for my wife. She complains about "having to eat when the car is hungry" and not always liking what facilities are available. Right now, I plan the trip from Supercharger to Supercharger, but if they ever become more abundant, like gas stations, having more choices about where to stop would likely alleviate this concern.

Agree, passengers (spouse, kids etc) seem more annoyed by being forced to stop at a given location where the food options or other diversions are less attractive. I am still happy to have this "problem" compared to the early days of road trips via campgrounds and Level 2 chargers.
 

BerTX

Active Member
Supporting Member
May 2, 2014
3,508
3,657
Texas/Washington
That generalization is not true, as there are several rest areas from DC to MA that do have SpC installed.

- - - Updated - - -




Missed this in my previous reply.

Yes, those are nice.

Here is a typical rest area out west:

images.jpg


There would almost always be a separate rest area on each side of the Interstate with no way to cross between, so a Supercharger would have to be located on each side (2 superchargers). These have restrooms and perhaps 2 vending machines. If a volunteer organization happens to be manning the rest area, there might be coffee. Probably not more than 110V service at any of these, and they are the vast majority of rest areas.

There are a few nice ones, usually located as the highway crosses into a different state (i.e. every 500-1000 miles).
 

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