Range Anxiety and Our Experience with a Tesla
By: Richard Clements
We are owners of a Model 3, dual motor, long range and since we’re snowbirds with our summer home in Western NY and a winter home in Melbourne FL, we make spring and autumn runs to and from Florida. Therefore, I often get questioned about how practical our Tesla is for such long distance trips; “What happens when your battery runs out of charge?” “How much time do you waste waiting for charging?” and “What does it really cost?” etc. Of course, the Tesla monitors your charge level and you are fully informed of nearby superchargers and destination chargers along your route so fully discharging your battery is simply a non issue.
As for the downtime question, I logged our most recent trip document the charging time issue.
We departed from our home in Buffalo NY at 8:15 AM, having disconnected, fully charged, from our home connection and with our destination entered into the navigation. The computer quickly planned our route including scheduled stops and estimated times at superchargers along the way.
We arrived at 10:45 AM at the Grove City PA supercharger, adjacent to the I-79 interchange, with approximately 185 miles left. (We could have gone further but enjoyed a washroom break, a snack and some fresh coffee). We were back on I-79 South with 279-miles of range showing on the computer screen at 11:29. Cost for charging $14.84
Next, at 2:31 PM and with 67 miles of range left, we stopped at the Weston WV supercharger. After a quick visit to the washroom, a lunch sandwich, we checked email and at 3:05, with 275 miles of range we were rolling again. Supercharge cost $13.25
That got us to Wytheville VA where we were spending the night in the hotel at 6:40 PM. While we enjoyed a takeout dinner in our hotel, the supercharger brought us from 44 miles to 265 at a cost of $15.25.
At about 8:00 AM, we continued on from Wytheville VA, through NC and arrived at 12:13 at the Columbia SC supercharger with 21 miles of range left. This was the closest I have ever come to being fully discharged but the computer was managing our route and charging stops very well. Due to a traffic accident I-77 had been blocked near Charlotte, necessitating a detour of about 15 miles. For convenience and with the assurance that there was adequate range left, I opted to bypass one of the superchargers and drive all the way to Columbia. After a short charge time of about 30 minutes, time for us to freshen up in the washroom of the adjacent Homewood Suites and grab a snack, we were back on the road. Supercharge cost was $7.98.
We took I-76 to I-95 and then South on I-95. Our next stop was the Hardeeville supercharger on the SC - GA border near Savannah where we made another short charge stop at 3:14 PM for a cost of $6.72.
With adequate range, we drove right on through Georgia to Florida and our final supercharge stop in Jacksonville, arriving at 6:21 PM and had time to grab light meal and catch up on our email. Then with about 270 miles of range, we departed at 7:12 for our snowbird home destination. Supercharge cost was $10.92.
We arrived at our place in West Melbourne FL at 9:15 PM with a remaining range of 104 miles and where I could connect to my garage 110V. (By next morning, Friday the 13th, the range was up to 169 miles, more than adequate for any local use).
All told, the entire trip of 1,248 miles cost me $69.96 for supercharging at an average cost of $0.25/kWh. (Our home cost per kWh is $0.13). So, our trip cost about half of the approximately $140 in gasoline our previous Jaguar would have consumed even at today’s lower gasoline prices.
But what about all that time required to charge? Our total time spent at superchargers was 207 minutes. This may sound like a lot of downtime, (and it might be significant if two or more drivers are making the entire trip, non-stop), but I am the only driver and this is a two day drive for me regardless. In fact, it actually took us almost exactly the same time as any of the previous trips we’ve taken in either our Jaguar or CRV. To make a valid time comparison though, our supercharging time in Wytheville VA was done right in the parking lot of the hotel where we were spending the night, so that charging time had no effect on our overall travel time. Deducting those 40 minutes makes the effective time 167 minutes. We also take advantage of the recharging times to use facilities, have something to eat and stretch our legs.
To make a valid comparison, there has to be some downtime on a trip like this. Any ICE vehicle still needs about 10 minutes to refuel at least 3 times on a trip of 1250 miles, so by my estimate that’s 30 minutes for refueling. Also, as a practical matter, we don’t generally last more than about 3 ½ hours without a need for plumbing or something to eat, so generally, we’d also be stopping for some meals. I wouldn’t include breakfasts or dinners since they are generally at home or the hotel, but assuming lunch and other miscellaneous other breaks on our Florida run, that would easily account for about another 2 hours of downtime. So adding those two hours to the gasoline refueling time, the total would be 160 minutes. That compares to the 167 minutes in our Tesla - only an insignificant 7 minute’s difference.
Clearly though, compared to any other EV, on a long trip the Tesla has the significant advantage due to the network of convenient superchargers and the technology that enables high speed recharging. Any other EV would be dependent on charging stations at destination that are considerably slower. That infrastructure is a game changer for any long distance traveling.
So at least for us, the Tesla Model 3 is not only just as practical as our previous car but with the navigation on autopilot, it is less tiring to drive as well as significantly less expensive to operate and maintain.