When first heard about Tesla one of the major factors that led me to my decision to purchase one was a graphic on their web site showing that it should be possible to get from my home in the Bay Area to Yosemite National Park. I later came to realize that it's not nearly as simple as that map makes it seem but taking my Roadster to Yosemite remained a major goal for me. My car was first delivered in the winter, not a good time for mountain driving and it took a while to get a mobile charging solution in place. But all the pieces finally came together this spring and so...
On Thursday May 14, I packed up my Roadster and headed for Yosemite. The short version is: there's no 240v available in Yosemite so I charged up in an RV park in Groveland (40 miles from the Valley); driving a Tesla Roadster in Yosemite is just about as good as it gets; getting from here to there isn't bad either but it could be better. AFAIK, my Tesla55 is the first one to visit Yosemite. Pictures at Tesla 55 Goes to Yosemite
The long version follows:
Thru the wonders of Google maps, I knew it would be 199 miles from my home in Redwood City to Yosemite Village. I've never gone that far on a single charge. And this would be uphill. So I decided to be conservative and plan some intermediate charging spots. Worse, I was unable to arrange for a suitable 240v recepticle in the Park. So my plan was to do most of my charging at an RV park in Groveland 40 miles from the Park. But Groveland is 150 miles from my home and I wasn't entirely confident of getting even that far. So I made a short detour to San Ramon where there's a Tesla 70A charger at the San Ramon Valley Conference Center (3301 Crow Canyon Rd). I have no idea why it's there or who made it happen but it worked perfectly for me. Someone deserves a big Thank You.
From San Ramon to Groveland is just 120 miles so that's easy. But I knew that every kWh that I used would mean many more minutes of waiting around so I drove pretty conservatively (read: agonizely, embarrassingly, ridiculously slowly: no more than the speed limit. The actual total distance/time came to 50mph including all the really slow spots in Oakdale, etc). It took 40.26 kWh (from Redwood City) or 254 Wh/mile which is roughly equivalent to a range of 209 miles. Groveland is at about 3000ft, about 1/2 way to the high point of the road into the Valley.
My recharge spot was Yosemite Pines RV Resort 20450 Old Highway 120 Groveland CA 95321 Yosemite area Lodging, Camping, Cabin Rentals, Campground near Yosemite National Park
I had called ahead to make sure it would be OK. They were very nice, though I think they were a little skeptical about this crazy guy with a car small enough to fit inside many of the other "vehicles" parked there But they had lots of room and were willing to give it a go. I happily paid them $20 for their trouble. (I ended up using about 40 kWh; $20 seems like a reasonably fair price all in all.) I sat in the shade and read my Amazon Kindle while my car ate electrons at 240v and 40A. And took a few loops around their "nature trail" to get in my daily quota of exercise. After one of the loops I returned to find that the circuit breaker had tripped. Resetting it worked fine but I lost a bit of time. After that I monitored the breaker more closely. It did get pretty hot but not dangerously so.
I don't have a Tesla MC240; I have Martin Eberhard's mobile charger system instead. It lets me hook up to a variety of different recepticles. And more importantly, it lets me use 40A with the NEMA 14-50 plug (the "50A RV connector" found at many RV parks). The MC240 only does 30A with correspondingly longer charge times.
After 4 1/2 hours my charge level was up to 88%. Conservatively, that's enough for at least 150 miles. That gave me enough energy to make the round trip to the valley and back (80 miles) plus a side trip to Galcier Point (50 miles) and still have enough to poke around in the valley a bit and a small margin for error.
The trip from Groveland into Yosemite Valley was pure joy. By then it was nearly 6pm, still plenty of light but not much traffic on a Thursday evening. I wasn't in a hurry and wanted to drive conservatively anyway to conserve energy but my car was straining at the bit. "This is what this car was born to do", I thought to myself. Though it was beginning to get cool, I had the top off; driving thru the pines with the evening light and the increasingly scenic landscape and the wonderful Roadster motor sounds was magic. Of course, even driving slowly, I caught up with a few slower cars. Ordinarily that's a source of considerable aggravation since passing can be difficult in an ordinary car. But the Tesla is almost motorcycle-like in it's passing ability; you just think "Go!" and it's done. There's no adrenlin rush, no worries, it's just effortless. Of course, you can't pass just anywhere, you have to wait for a spot where you can see. But knowing that it will be a short wait removes all the aggravation. It makes driving fun again!
Then I got to Yosemite itself. It was almost sensory overload: I was loving the feel of the car in my hands, hearing the motor purr, watching the trees and the waterfalls (and the road and thinking how cool it was that I was doing it all without a drop of stinky gasoline. And the sounds of the birds and the waterfalls. And the clean mountain air. And whether this is the best place to stop for another photograph or to try around the next corner. Life doesn't get much better than this.
I checked in at the Ahwahnee and asked again if they could come up with a way to charge the car. They tried. But the best they could do was 110v. That's still better than nothing; I got about 7kWh overnight. Someone with better people skills than mine should try go get a Tesla charger installed there. I would be happy to chip in a significant fraction of the cost.
In the morning, I made my loop to Glacier Point. Going up from the Valley, I couldn't keep the Roadster in check any longer. It just had to show off its Lotus DNA and its Tesla power. We ate up a couple slowpokes but mostly had the road to ourselves. The electric drive is such a joy on a road like that! No shifting, no dancing on the pedals while trying desperately to keep the engine in its powerband, just think "clear ahead" and the scenery starts to zoom, think "corner ahead" and it all slows down. If one were racing the brakes would be needed, of course, but at cruising speed one pedal driving is perfect. (OTOH, an AWD EV with stronger regen could go at race speed with one pedal, a significant advantage, it seems to me.) And of course, there's no worries about power loss at high altitudes with an EV
Alas, I had to get home. Another 4 hours at Yosemite Pine RV Resort got me enough juice to make it all the way home without the stop in San Ramon. This time I was more confident in my range calculations. When the traffic started getting ugly around Altamont Pass I gave up on the 60-65 mph nonsense and drove the rest of the way home with the normal traffic flow.
The trip out took 54.5 kWh (as reported by the Trip screen); the trip home took 48 (plus 17 for the loop to Glacier Point). So in theory, I could make it without an intermediate charge if there was a charger in Yosemite itself. But that would be cutting it awfully close. But the stop in San Ramon is a pretty good solution. Now what do we have to do to get a charger in Yosemite Valley?
BTW, there's an important factor to remember when doing battery charging computations. The ESS's total capactiy is 55 kWh (at least when it's new; sometime in the future Tesla will need to give us a way to determine the actual number). But charging the ESS is only about 80% efficient (at 220v; at 110v it's much lower). So it takes 68 kWh from the utility to get 55 kWh into the ESS. (So for example, if you're charging at 240 volts and 40 amps you're drawing 9.6 kW from the utility but only putting 7.68 kW into your ESS.)
You know your way around a camera as well, exceptional photo set and a great accomplishment. I hope you'll share your photos and story with Tesla Motors if you have not already done so.
What a great job you did accomplishing that and making a wonderful travel log. And I'm not one to gush over photos very often, being a bit of a photo snob, but your shots are exceptional and a pleasure to view.
I enjoyed the writeup. The pictures are beautiful. I second the motion for a Tesla pinup calendar.
I most probably will never own a Tesla roadster. I almost certainly won't make the SF to Yosemite drive in one. I feel a little like a school kid proposing to collect dimes for some project. However, if the TMC collectively wants to sponsor a few charging stations, within reason, in carefully selected spots, I would be happy to contribute.
Bill - It's been 20 years since my wife and I stayed in Yosemite, but your pictures certainly brought it all back. Living in Arizona now, I've taken many friends and relatives up to the Grand Canyon and have been looking forward to getting my roadster to make the trek again, but I must say, it will never be as beautiful as the trip down memory lane that you just provided me. Thanks for sharing your pictures and your thoughts.