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Tesla West Coast Road Trip (2,000+ miles, 3 ferry rides, $0 in gas) & Pictures

Dear Tesla Community (including those to-be!),

We just returned from our first all-electric West Coast road trip. We covered over 2,000 miles of road over 8 days. It even included 3 ferry rides ... with the Tesla! I'm from the SF Bay Area, and we drove to Portland, Seattle, Victoria (hence ferries), Vancouver, and back via overnight in Eugene.

I thought a lot about how to write up this trip, including documenting each charge leg with stats on a spreadsheet. That's how I usually am-- data driven and analytical. But as I came home from this trip, I realized, this was a really easy trip and the charging planning was quite unremarkable. In fact, it was more pleasant and just as fast as with a gas car (see trip cadence below). So instead, I'm going to give you a couple bullet points, and these glorious pictures.

Noteworthy things about road tripping with a Model S85D:

  • Charging is super easy-- just drive 2 hours, take a 10-minute break at Starbucks for coffee/snack/bathrooms, drive another 2 hours, take a 30-minute lunch break. With this cadence, there is no way you can actually run out of charge.
  • Book hotels with HPWCs or L2 charging to save you any hassle and give you the ability to skip SCs if you wish.
  • Portland is really cool. Perfect juxtaposition of industrial brick with modern glass. Apparently Californians are disliked for driving up real estate prices. It's true, we are tempted to move there after seeing Portland again from a 2015 perspective.
  • Teslas are not very common outside the Bay Area ... people ask you about them extensively. In the Bay Area, it's more common than a Toyota Camry.
  • TACC isn't optional ... it's so stress-relieving to free up your feet and your mind from that monotonous task of keeping distance. It's really a safety feature in my opinion for long trips.
  • 3G and the in-car browser works in Canada; great for using Yelp to find good eats.
  • 21" wheels with ContiSilent tires were perfectly awesome to drive on for 40 hours.
  • There is free charging everywhere in Canada.

Here are some pictures. I had a hard time filtering it down from hundreds because there was so much beauty in the Pacific Northwest (I am originally from there so yea, I'm biased). I also am not posting anything you can find on Google, e.g., beautiful pictures of the Vancouver skyline.

The Westin Portland with HPWCs. The blue Tesla is not mine, but a co-guest:
Westin Upright.PNG

Portland mixes old and new:
Portland Skyline.jpg

Multnomah Whiskey Library, Portland:
Portland Whiskey Library.jpg

Bainbridge Island Ferry from Seattle:
Bainbridge Ferry.jpg

Cloudy Seattle morning:
Cloudy Seattle.jpg

Sitka and Spruce (restaurant) teaser plate in Seattle:
Sitka and Spruce.jpg

The best car ever made (until 1 month after it came out ... damn), waiting at Port Angeles for the ferry:
Port Angeles Waiting.jpg

The Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Victoria (with HPWCs):
Oak Bay Beach Hotel Front.jpg

Our room at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel (Victoria):
Oak Bay Beach Hotel Bed Bear.jpg

View from our room in Victoria:
Oak Bay Beach Hotel View.jpg

The Empress, Victoria:
Empress Victoria.jpg

Craigdarroch Castle (it looks prettier with a Tesla in front, don't it?), Victoria:
Castle Upright.PNG

View from Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver (after hiking the Grouse Grind in 1h23m):
Grouse View.jpg

But ... in the interests of moderate bandwidth brevity, that's all I'll post for now.

And finally, ok, I lied. I'll give you a little charging/supercharger data.

- The trip from the SF Bay Area to Portland takes 10.5 hours according to Google if you drive straight without breaks. We did it in 12.0 hours door-to-door with a maximum speed of limit +10mph.
- It is possible to go from San Mateo --> Corning SC without stopping in Vacaville in an 85D.
- It is possible to go from Shasta SC --> Vacaville SC in the summer in an 85D without stopping at Corning SC because it's downhill; 15 RM on arrival.
- The whole trip, I averaged 328 Wh/mi. The electricity was free, but if I had to pay PG&E prices at home, this 2,000-mile trip would have cost about $70 in fuel. Amazing.
- All SCs we used (we did use every single one on I-5 at some point) were the 120kW variety and there was never waiting for a spot.
- Range mode saves about 3%.
- Bathrooms at any business near an SC is far superior to the best gas station.

I hope you enjoyed this write-up and you go take an all-electric road trip too. Gasoline is dead.

- K

PS: I don't know how to get rid of these attached pictures below with the wrong orientation.


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I'm still saving for my Tesla. I'm one of those evil Californians they talk about, though I moved to Washington straight out of school. I took my good state funded California education and went to Seattle. I live near Portland now. Real estate prices were driven up by people moving into the area, but it wasn't cash rich Californians cashing out in the Bay Area and LA as much as just a lot of people want to live in this region. I love the climate and culture here 1000% more than anywhere I lived in California.

I telecommute to Morgan Hill and have to go down there sometimes. I think fuel for the last trip was in the $70-$100 range, I forget at the moment. I think we refueled twice on the way down, once down there, and once on the way back. I'm looking forward to using the superchargers!

The pictures of your trip make me want to go back to Victoria. It's been 14 years since I've been there. Looks like you had gorgeous weather.

Seattle was OK, but I like Portland better. Portland and Seattle have always been regional rivals. In the 70s and 80s Seattle really grew into a major city, but Portland decided it was going to stay smaller scale. This was largely because of where the rich people lived. The wealthiest people in Portland were mostly in the hills west of downtown and they had gorgeous views of the Cascades. When the first tall building was built, they threw a fit because their view was obstructed and they got a building height law through that limited buildings to something like 12 stories. So while Seattle competed with who had the biggest skyscraper, Portland stayed smaller and humbler. It has led to a huge demand for space because there is also an urban growth boundary that limits where people can build, so there is now a lot of pressure for property and property values have gone pretty high. To try and relieve the pressure the city of Portland has encouraged people to turn their houses into duplexes and there are a lot of older houses turned into duplexes.

We live out in the outer suburbs. The urban growth boundary for the county is at the top of our street. It's very quiet and calm here, which I love. It's about 40 minutes into downtown Portland which is reasonable on an occasional basis.

Electricity is also a lot cheaper here, only 8 cents a Kwh. It makes sense to have an electric vehicle.
Great post and definitely inspires me to try a road trip to Vancouver! Question - how are the lane markings on the highways you took? Wondering if (once it's finally released) I could autopilot most of the way up and down.
Thank you for this report Khatsalano. Great trip !

Makes me even more impatient for my upcoming roadtrip in 2 weeks. In anticipation for my Model X delivery in 2016 ... I guess (#767 in Canada - Reservation made Sept 2014) we are renting an MS85D for a 3 day roadtrip from Montreal, QC to Virginia Beach, VA to test the Supercharger system. Can't wait... I'll do my best to report my trip as well as you Sir.
I lived in Seattle for a couple of years, when you could spot Tesla Roadsters here and there. Loved living there (I lived on the east side), and miss it every day. Big fan of Portland as well. The PNW in general is one of my favorite parts of the country.

Always love reports like this, because it demonstrates how you don't have to overthink the driving part in a Tesla.
@Jay M, welcome to the TMC forums. I also joined here because the discussion is moderated and there is a much more nerdy-enthusiast feel than the gen. pop. forums at Teslamotors.com. You should also check out TMC Connect, the real-life annual Tesla Conference organized by this site.

@Wdolson, thanks for the review on Portland. I will send this thread to my wife with your advice about the area. :)

@Commasign, the lane markings on I-5 all the way up are spectacular. Even my phone camera with bad software should be able to lane-keep properly. I would be concerned, however, at night or in low-angle light situations. Besides, we all know autopilot with the current sensor suite will be very limited (don't forget to start your wager in the autopilot thread!).

I think I'll post some other pictures when I have a chance, but I thought of some other things about driving the Tesla that non-owners may be curious to know:

- Range anxiety only exists until you own a Tesla and you practice a little with it. I used to get range anxiety when I had 30% of battery left. The bar turns yellow at about 50 RM, or just under 20%. I was talking with my friend who owns a BMW i3 about this and he just put me in my place. He said, "You know, 50 miles is almost my entire usable range on a good day, right?" I don't worry anymore. I sure didn't when my gas car started blinking at the empty bar, so why would I worry now when I have much more accurate instrumentation? The remaining miles/energy instrumentation is very accurate.

- The frunk was very useful on a road trip. I never use it in my day-to-day, but on a road trip, that extra space meant we could keep the cabin clear of all luggage and things, which made for a super quiet/clutter-free ride inside the car.

- TuneIn Radio is pretty awesome on a road trip for BBC shows, talk radio, or, even listening to the destination local station before we arrived! This was useful, for example, when driving south from Canada and we had the Seattle radio on, mostly for music, but they reported a nasty I-5 accident that helped us choose to lounge out at the SC longer and charge less at the next SC.

- The lack of engine noise and vibration is actually very stress reducing. You don't realize how much more stressed out your brain gets from that constant noise and rumble when on a long road trip until it's not there anymore!

- Supercharger cadence traveling is much safer. If you could, wouldn't you love to be able to drive 120 minutes, then take a 10 minute stretch/coffee/bathroom break to stay alert and safe, before hitting the road again? The SCs are spaced so you can do that while charging up. Just remember, you don't need to wait until 0% to charge, nor do you need to charge to 100% ... those are gas-tank habits. Charge when you can, up to the amount you need for the next stop and that's it. Enjoy your clean bathrooms at the Starbucks, the nice mall, or the swanky hotel lobby.
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- Supercharger cadence traveling is much safer. If you could, wouldn't you love to be able to drive 120 minutes, then take a 10 minute stretch/coffee/bathroom break to stay alert and safe, before hitting the road again? The SCs are spaced so you can do that while charging up. Just remember, you don't need to wait until 0% to charge, nor do you need to charge to 100% ... those are gas-tank habits. Charge when you can, up to the amount you need for the next stop and that's it. Enjoy your clean bathrooms at the Starbucks, the nice mall, or the swanky hotel lobby.

That was my big take away from your post. That makes perfect sense. That frequency would match well to my drink vs need to pee timing. Also, there would be no need to drive slow to try to extend maximum range, I can just drive like I normally do.

Thanks also for the warm welcome. I can't wait to get my Tesla. Next week I'll be taking a 600 mile road trip in my Viper-- Talk about noise, vibration, heat, and general discomfort! But I'll love every minute of it ;) The Model S will give a great sense of balance when it finally arrives.

There is no real need to drive slowly on a road trip unless you're trying to either skip an SC or go off-grid, like the jump between Winnemucca, NV, and Boise, ID. The optimal highway speed that balances travel time and charging time is about 75mph. Of course, I'm part of the camp that advocates driving safely, irrespective of battery optimization and travel times; if the speed limit is 55, I'll go 65 and not 75. :) But here are the calcs behind why most of the time, 75 mph is the sweet spot:

Optimal speed | Forums | Tesla Motors

Optimum Supercharger driving speed

- K
@MikeC, well, it worked, but there was a different behavior than when here in the U.S. Every time I turned on the car, it would go into non-data mode/Edge mode. After a couple minutes, it would log onto the 3G network. It seemed like it was negotiating with the local server or something, but it was a consistent behavior for the four days I was there.

More pictures by popular request coming up in a sec. :)

- K
I'll post some more pictures with some trip tips. These were some of our favorite spots in each city. Keep in mind though, we are a weird combination of travelers. I love outdoorsy active things. My wife is a foodie and loves book stores (Powell's City of Books in Portland was amazing).

Even with bugs in the face, still beautiful. We found a great detailer in Victoria, BC, that will do hand-washes. We got this cleaned up forthwith at Diamond Detail (about 30 mins walk from downtown area), or just take any of the bus lines down the main thoroughfare.

Blue Star Donuts, Portland. Stumptown Coffee was mind-blowing.
Blue Star Donuts.jpg

Pike Place Market ... still iconic, but it's become the de facto Seattle tourist trap. Food was horrible. Sitka and Spruce though in Capitol Hill is worth visiting. Reservations are hard to get, so just show up and get a seat in the casual section.
Pike Street Market UR.PNG

View of the Space Needle from the South Lake Union district in Seattle. Makes for a good evening walk.
South Lake Union UR.PNG

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC.
Butchart Garden  Backside.jpg

More Butchart Gardens.
Butchart Garden Sunken.jpg

Random sighting on the streets of Victoria, BC.
Victoria Street.jpg

Vij's, the hottest awesomenest Indian restaurant in Vancouver, BC. Just look it up on Yelp ... it's creative Indian fusion cuisine.

Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver, BC.

Whytecliffe Cove.jpg

Free charging at Granville Island in Vancouver. We went kayaking here (rentals from Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres - | Kayaking | Stand Up Paddleboarding | Vancouver BC) and along the skyline in False Creek.

The Grouse Grind. 2,800+ vertical climb on nature's thigh-burning stairmaster. Our time was 1h23m. Canadians do this kind of thing for fun as you can see.
Grouse Grind UR.PNG

Yea, I would highly recommend this road trip to Tesla owners with the current state of I-5 SCs. By 2016, we may be able to do this with a US-101 route. :)

- K

- - - Updated - - -

I found another good write-up of a Summer 2015 road trip here that talks a lot more about charging than I do for those who are interested. Seems like ICE'ing never occurs on the West Coast, but not so in other areas.


- K


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Powells is an institution here. If you like to read, it's a must stop in Portland.

The Californians that get hated around here are the ones who sell their falling down shack in San Jose for 1/2 a mil, then buy a mansion in the best part of town and brag about it ad nauseum. I've had little problem, but I know when to keep my mouth shut.
The well kept secret is the Northwest US and coastal BC are like that in the summer. It did rain last weekend, but it was notable that it did. The joke in Seattle is the rain stops July 5 and returns Oct 1. I have seen the last rain on July 4.

Vancouver, being the rainiest of those cities, actually has perfect July and August summers. 70-80F, sunny with some blue sky clouds, and just perfectness. It's great timing for a road trip. Then it rains 2 out of 3 days a year after that ... which means, go back for ski season at Whistler in January!

- K

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