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Ultimate EV Road Trip - Circumnavigating North America

In response to a recent question on Quora about the inconvenience of charging on a roadtrip, I posted this response. As it seemed to elicit a favourable response I thought I would share it here, particularly as prior to my trip TMC members provided some very supportive and reassuring advice.

Having never previously driven a Tesla, like the Quora poster I had some reservations about its practicality for a long trip. So a year ago, when the world was a different and much less scary place, we flew into the US from Australia, bought a used Tesla S 85D from Tesla in Los Angeles and the following morning set out to drive around North America. 178 days, 24 states, 11 provinces and territories and 32,000km later we returned to Los Angeles, sold the car and returned home just before our visas expired. During the trip the car consumed 5,700kWh of energy sourced from 62 superchargers and 98 other chargers. The total cost for all fuel and repairs and maintenance for the entire trip was $5.75, including $1 for air for a front tyre.

Keeping mainly to scenic roads and following the coast as far as possible, we drove up the west coast, through the San Juan Islands of WA to BC and the Yukon to Alaska, across Canada (where last year there were no superchargers for 3000km across the electron desert between Calgary and Sudbury and none north of Whistler or west of Halifax, although a lot more have been added since then) to Cape Spear on the easternmost tip of Newfoundland, southwards via Cape Cod, through New York city and along the Outer Banks of North Carolina before heading inland through Nashville and Memphis to New Orleans, across Texas and via New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Joshua Tree NPs to San Diego and back to LA.


At no stage did we run short of fuel or struggle to find a place to charge. Sure it took some planning; in the remoter parts of Canada beyond the supercharger network it meant limiting travel to about 400kms a day, selecting overnight stays with or close to charging points and on a few occasions running a cable out of a motel window to get a few extra kms but the car itself provides far more accurate info about remaining range and refuelling options than an ICE car. It also meant that on occasion on particularly long days, we would drive more slowly than we otherwise would, keeping to 80-100km/h or reducing the a/c to conserve energy.

The only nerve-wracking time was a Bonfire of the Vanities moment leaving New York when en route to the Kearny supercharger I missed an exit ramp, resulting in a lengthy detour through the industrial wastelands of New Jersey, reaching the charger with only 2mi of range. However, we found apps such as Plugshare to be indispensable and very reliable. We only once unexpectedly found a charger out of order or unavailable, (at Gitanmaax off the Yellowhead Highway in northern BC, where the manager of the gas station had gone fishing and taken the key to the charger). Once, in Regina we had to share a hotel charger, where the other driver v kindly unplugged his car and connecting ours when theirs had finished at 2am, and once we did have to queue about 30mins to charge, at the 20 stall supercharger near San Clemente, CA. Otherwise, leaving aside the cost savings and the lack of emissions, and having to stay at one or two motels we wouldn’t otherwise have chosen, it was no more inconvenient and an awful lot more relaxing than driving an ICE.

Of course charging an EV takes longer than filling a tank, but on a road trip where time is not of the essence it can provide some unexpected benefits, such as
  • Not having to worry about whether to fill up now or wait to see if it will be cheaper at the next gas station/town/state
  • The opportunity for serendipitous conversations with other drivers when charging, although not so much in California where the EV novelty has worn off. We would frequently get tips on routes, places to visit, restaurants and bars etc, as well as an invitation to join the NC Tesla club in a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • No worries as a foreigner about not having a zip code linked to our credit card, which with an ICE can mean at best the need to go into the gas station office prior to filling, or at worst not being able to get any gas, as happened to us late at night in Alaska on a previous trip
  • The opportunity to visit interesting places whilst charging, which we might otherwise have passed by. I don’t mean just shopping malls and outlet centres where many superchargers are located but places such as the Russian fort at Fort Ross, CA, the Museum of Western Film History at Lone Pine, CA, the Acadian Historic Village in New Brunswick, the Yukon Transport Museum at Whitehorse, the curiously named Sober Island Brewery in Nova Scotia or even the amazing Fogo Island Inn somewhere off Newfoundland
  • Priority parking, in EV only spaces such as at the Wright Bros National Park in Kitty Hawk NC and at a metro station in Montreal
In short, within the supercharger network, we would give no more thought to charging than we would to getting petrol. The car itself takes care of that. However venturing beyond the supercharger network does require more planning, checking the proposed distance on google maps, sometimes ringing ahead to ask a hotel to make sure its charger is working and isn’t ICEd, checking the latest feedback from users on PlugShare, and occasionally moderating our driving style to conserve energy.

As the car came with a 4 year/80,000km warranty, R&M was free and included a replacement 12v battery fitted in Vancouver and a door handle repair by a roving Tesla service guy at the NC Telsa meetup in Asheville (fixed in the best Microsoft tradition by powering the car off and on again)

Apart from superchargers, overnight/destination charging at hotels, restaurants/museums etc was free except once in Montreal (where paying $1.50 to charge at a metro station car park was cheaper than paying to park in a non EV space) and $3.25 in New Brunswick.

FWIW although for the most part we avoided freeways and interstates, I would estimate about 65% of the journey was on autopilot (HW1) which made driving quite relaxing allowing us to watch the scenery and spot wildlife. Also looking at electricity generation in the various states and provinces we guesstimate that around ⅔rd of the energy we consumed was from renewable sources making us less concerned about the possible harmful impacts of a frivolous journey.

It’s also worth noting that the experience of driving a Tesla back in Australia, now a M3 LR without free supercharging, is a little different. The supercharging network is currently more limited covering only a few of the major highways in southeastern Australia and, like Canada last year, there are large swathes of electron deserts making our next continental circumnavigation more of a challenge. Fortunately the local motoring associations are rolling out a more extensive fast charging network in some states so once covid restrictions ease and state borders reopen we are keen to see how far we can get.

For anyone who is interested but doesn't have six months to spare, here's the entire trip at hyperspeed, https://photos.app.goo.gl/wd2j216xojhszfi16 (Play LOUD!)
Amazing trip!!! And don’t feel bad about the costly air—only CA and CT have free air laws.

Your trip will be of special interest to our supercharger competition contestants, though visiting superchargers was decidedly not one of your goals. To not have experienced range anxiety making your way across rural Canada requires a fortitude rare in most Americans! Bravo!

Superchargers Visited
Awesome trip and thank you for the report and video! I am curious what your total Tesla cost was (and then per mile which I can calculate), delta between what you paid (with tax) and sold for? I've considered doing something similar in the past. I rented a X100D for a 5,500 mile trip last year, cost was $0.50 per mile all-in, free supercharging. I don't think buying and selling would have been cheaper, but likely for your 25,000 mile trip, typical cost on Turo would be easily $10-15,000 for 174 days. So glad you did the trip! Epic.
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As others have stated... awesome trip and even better documentation/vlog! Great photos as well. Must’ve taken a long time to compile and condense into the finished vid. Hats off to you and your wife for a trip of a lifetime. Too bad Tesla no longer has a PR dept. This would’ve been a great piece for them to use/bring more awareness to the SuC network advantage.

ps your trip reminds me of the Taycan owner last year that was the first to chronicle his trans-Canadian trip that ended in Florida IIRC, complete with all the bugs and charging mishaps that came along with a truly new/“untested” car
Amazing trip!!! And don’t feel bad about the costly air—only CA and CT have free air laws.

Your trip will be of special interest to our supercharger competition contestants, though visiting superchargers was decidedly not one of your goals. To not have experienced range anxiety making your way across rural Canada requires a fortitude rare in most Americans! Bravo!

Superchargers Visited
LOL Or you could have bought a Fortem (or other brand) digital tire inflator. Plug it into your 12v input, turn it on, and stop it when you've hit the PSI for your tires. BOOM! Best $35 bucks I ever spent.

Epic video and trip! My wanderlust is now in full swing. I've done the cross-Canada in an Ice and am dying to do it again in my M3. Thanks for coming to Canada. We are very proud of our country's natural beauty and love to share it. Some people say the drive through the prairies is boring (It's so flat you can watch your dog run away for days!) but I think they are awesome in their own way. Was that a stop in Dildo, Newfoundland I spotted??
Wow, that's quite the trip! I have a 2015 Model S 85D and I've taken it on many long road trips such as this one to Florida from Utah
and I agree with your assessment. I have autopilot 1.0 and road trips in this vehicle are awesome! I really look forward to my 500+ mile Cybertruck as that'll enable remote destinations I can't currently get to for lack of charging infrastructure.
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Reactions: Tezzie and SO16
Great road trip but you missed about 40% of North America. Maybe the title should read “the US and Canada” instead of North America.

I don’t want to hijack the thread but I’ve done extensive research on driving from Ushuaia, Argentina at the southern tip of South America to Fairbanks, Alaska or beyond in my Model 3 and it’s totally doable assuming you have the time. The only problem is the Darien gap between Panama and Colombia. It’s an impassable jungle by car and the only option is to load your car in a container ship from Colombia to Panama. Again, totally doable but then you’re not really driving the entire way so the claims would be at best “almost” drove the entire American continent.

Anyway, that’s near the top of my bucket list.