The Badlands in South Dakota has caught my imagination for decades. In September of 2022 we made the trip from Ohio, and went as far out as Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, in a 2019 LR RWD Model 3 with 18” tires and aero caps. This is the third long trip we’ve made in our Model 3. It’s our weekend/trip car. For bopping around town (I’ve been working from home since the pandemic) I have a Nissan Leaf I purchased for a pittance and my wife has driven a Chevy Bolt now for 60,000 miles. Our Model 3 is now around 24,500 miles.
The Tesla has exceeded my expectations on road trips. Between auto pilot and Supercharging I can’t imagine driving anything else. The car was driven on AP or FSD Beta for 94% of the trip. I have Tesla insurance allowing me to track those miles driven. We ended the trip with a 99 safety score. Today that would be impossible since we did a fair amount of driving past 10 pm, which now dings your safety score.
Using TeslaMate I was able to gather a lot of date about this trip. Typically we drove the speed limit or 5 miles over. On 80 mph stretches I normally drove the speed limit. The highlights:
- Miles driven: 3,197
- Avg miles between SuC stops: 70
- Most miles between SuC stops: 112
- Avg SuC session time (mins): 15
- Avg SOC charging start: 37%
- Avg SOC charging end: 62%
- Lowest SOC: 16%
- Highest SOC: 86%
- kWh energy total: 890
- Efficiency Wh/mi: 278
- Efficiency Mi/kWh 3.59
- Total SuC cost: $375.74
- Avg cost Per session $8.35
- Avg KWH SuC cost $0.42
- Sedan @ 35mpg
- Gas/gallon 3.85
- Gallons gas for 3.197 miles: 91.34
- Gas cost: $351.67
- Throw in the cost of oil and we're at gas parity.
I plotted two routes from Ohio and back. I-90 was the northern route and I-80 was the southern route. My goal was to take each of them to see something different. We wound up taking 90 outbound and 80 back to Ohio with Sioux Falls being the southern pivot point. Both 80 and 90 were well maintained for the majority of the drive. A nice surprise.
I’m very conservative with how I treat the battery. The 3 is operated between 70 and 30% state of charge most of the time. My back was not feeling the greatest before this trip, a side effect of a knee surgery. Combining these two things led me to plan for the shortest distance between chargers. The Supercharger network is so well populated along these routes accounting for the ability to only go 70 miles between stops. Being able to get out of the car after around an hour and 15 minutes wound up being perfect for my back. These quick stops felt perfect to stretch, recharge and use the bathroom. It’s my preferred way to travel rather than sit in the car for two plus hours.
I also run ScanMyTesla. Our 3 at 24,500 miles has been Supercharged 37% of the time and L2 charged the other 63%. My car is still showing an average rated range of 312 miles. It was 325 when new. The nominal full pack average capacity is currently 73 kWh. That’s been the average number for the past two years, starting around 13k miles. It’s 77.8 when new. I’ve seen it as high as 73.5 and as low as 72.5 over the last year.
The charging graph for the trip out of TeslaMate.
We never once waited to charge. The only stop that got a little crowded was in Murdo, South Dakota. It’s only a four stall site, but situated at a lovely little motel with a picnic area.
In Sherburn, Minnesota five of the eight charger heads had the pins pulled out of them. This had to be vandalism. At this site, we were also attacked by aggressive gnats.
At Custer, South Dakota seven of the eight charger heads had the pins pulled out of them. We were the only person charging and took the charger with the pins. Another Tesla finally arrived. I chatted with the owner to tell him I would not be long and he could use my stall in a few minutes as I assumed with the pins missing the chargers would work. As a test we plugged in his car, expecting perhaps an error message. We were shocked to discover the chargers still worked at full speed with the pins missing.
We L2 charged twice on the trip. First on the way to Devil’s Tower. We stopped for lunch in Sundance, Wyoming and charged for free courtesy of the Power River Energy Company on their ClipperCreek. We didn’t need the range to return to Spearfish, WY from Devil’s Tower. It was a nice bonus to keep the car in the middle of my pack. Our second L2 charging session was at Mount Rushmore on a Tesla destination charger.
We slept in the car twice, on the first night and the last night, both at Supercharger stops with rest rooms available. I fashioned window blinds out of foam core. We also left the back seat at home.
Planning for the worst
Coming up at three years of ownership, and knowing my 12V battery was possibly nearing the end of its life, I contemplated swapping it out at my cost before the trip. I decided to live dangerously. However, I did purchase a 12V jumper, stowed an A23 battery in the tow hook in case the battery died during our trip and I needed to access the 12V battery by popping the frunk. The 12V battery warning appeared a month after we returned home and it was replaced under warranty.
I’ve also put together a flat repair kit to at least deal with nails and screws. The centerpiece of my kit is the Really Tire Repair Kit. This video details it well. It’s incredibly easy to use and I’ve actually patched tires with them mounted on the car. Add in a razor blade, vampire pliers, a cordless screwdriver with drill bit, a small bottle of soapy water and an air compressor complete my kit. I also carry a few microfiber towels, glass cleaner and a few pairs of disposable gloves.
In addition to the Tesla Mobile charger I also carry a plug for RV outlets.
We ate lunch out of the car each day from a cooler we stashed in the sub trunk. It’s amazing how much a Model 3 can hold. We still were able to make space to clear out he back to lie down for those two nights we slept in the car.
I’ve never once wanted a truck in my life. Well, that was before the Cybertruck. It’s going to be the ultimate road trip vehicle and retire the 3 from those duties.
The time I decided to trust Tesla navigation...