100 Days & 20,000 Miles in a Tesla Model 3: Part 1, The Good
Guest Contributor: Jonathan David Harris aka @aPowerTrip
Above: Valley of the Gods (Instagram: @aPowerTrip)
In April of 2019, I sat in a Model 3 for the first time. After seeing how many Tesla Superchargers were available throughout the United States, I immediately decided I would spend the summer traveling gas-free around the country with my dog Indiana.
Our Mission: To travel fully electric around the country while visiting National Parks and crossing off bucket list items during the Summer of 2019.
In only 100 days, we put 20,000 miles on a brand new 2019 Tesla Model 3, visited 41 out of the 48 states in the continental US, never backtracked to a previously used charger (we hit just over 100 superchargers), never ran out of juice (although we came close) received zero speeding tickets (but we were pulled over once because a cop wanted to talk about the Tesla) and we had zero accidents.
Above: Mt. Washington State Park (Instagram: @aPowerTrip)
And it only cost us one hundred seventy four dollars and fifty cents in charging fees. Yes, you read that correctly: $174.50.
The trip wasn’t all freshly paved highways though — there were lots of bumps along the way; a health scare with Indy, loss of GPS and navigation, discovering my car went missing in NYC, arriving to one destination with only 8 miles left on the battery and a few storms that nearly washed us away. But don’t tell my mom that — if she asks, it was sunny and beautiful ever day!
For a frame of reference: I’m more of a tech geek than a car enthusiast. In the past, I’ve driven a 1991 Jeep Wrangler, 1966 convertible Ford Mustang, 1990 Ford Taurus (with manual windows and no AC), a Ford Explorer, 2008 Prius and a 2012 Plug-in Prius. So the Tesla is a HUGE leap forward for me.
In this two-part series, I’ll focus on my Tesla and its performance over the summer-long adventure. Here it is... The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful after spending 100 days & 20,000 miles in a Model 3. For the first article, Part 1, let's talk about the good...
The Overall Experience
When I first sat in the Model 3 as a new owner back in May 2019, I was NERVOUS. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in MY car and I didn’t want ANYTHING to happen to this high-tech computer on wheels. I was scared to engage Autopilot, I didn’t want to go too fast, use any of the summon or self-parking features — I didn’t even want to smudge the center console with my fingers.
Above: Niagara Falls (Instagram: @aPowerTrip)
Now, 20,000 miles later, I'm practically more comfortable using Autopilot than driving myself. And I love watching it drive through a parking lot to ‘come find me’ when using the Summon feature. There's nothing better than an open road and having electric power — I know I will NEVER drive a gas-powered car again.
I never woke up during the trip and thought, ‘I don’t really want to drive today’ —every morning I felt at home behind the wheel, with my dog Indy right at my side and Autopilot guiding us to the next destination on the road ahead.
The first thousand miles I played with all the drive features and customized the car’s performance for my own taste. I love Sport steering mode and learned to love Tesla's single pedal driving. It took me awhile to get used to since you rarely use the brakes on the car, but I can’t imagine going back. I’d tell people, before taking a turn behind the wheel, that it’s like an advanced Golf Cart - “You let go of the gas and the car will quickly slow down. And if you tap the gas - it will take off like a rocket.” The car’s performance isn’t just better then any gas-powered car I’ve been in — it’s light years ahead.
This made me VERY nervous at first, but after cruising through Yellowstone at 25MPH using Autopilot — I was hooked. I was able to take in the scenery, while still paying attention to the road, but without all the stress.
Above: Roswell, NM (Instagram: @aPowerTrip)
Is it perfect? NO. There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to recognizing construction signs and road barriers as well as random objects on the road. I encountered way more deer on the side of the road than I’d ever care to see and the car didn't react the way it should to avoid situations like this or debris (e.g. tires, garbage, etc.) that's often littered on most US freeways. Of course, I recognize that Autopilot is still a work-in-progress and continues to improve in all these areas.
In addition, Tesla's lane assist feature is fantastic. We’ve all had those moments on the road when you naturally drift out of your lane whether on a freeway or on a single lane road. My Tesla Model 3 did an amazing job keeping me honest while in manual mode. While in Autopilot it quickly maneuvered to avoid the many-many-many horrible drivers out there. Its reaction time, slowing down or even switching lanes to avoid these bad drivers, was astounding.
Most often the first question a stranger would ask me was, “How far can you go on a charge?” And after a look at Indy, the second question was, “Can I pet your dog.” During the trip, my Model 3 got about 325 miles with its long range battery. Most people I spoke with felt this wasn’t nearly enough to travel the country. Then we talked about how far they got on a tank of gas in their SUV. And yes... it was about the same.
Could the Model 3 use a software update bumping it closer to 500 miles? Yes, that would be amazing. But is 325 miles of range enough to travel the country? Absolutely. Just head over to @aPowerTrip on Instagram and witness the proof.
Above: Harvard, MA (Instagram: @aPowerTrip)
I know people with electric cars that get less then 200 miles and there is NO WAY they could have easily made this trip. Those cars are far more limited to the city while the Model 3 provides pure freedom to roam.
I loved having all of my ‘buttons’ on the center screen. No ugly knobs, dials, vent flaps, and other junk clutter the interior of this car. Everything is controlled from the center screen and I really love this interface. Could it use a HUD projected in the windshield with basic information — yeah, that would be nice, but I didn’t miss having big, ugly gauges behind the steering wheel.
In addition, the center console provides plenty of storage space making it easy to access a lot of things needed throughout the day on a long car ride — including much-needed snacks! The two USB ports facing the back seats came in VERY handy as I had them charging camera batteries and other electronic devices without having to take up a port in the front or installing an additional hub.
For a long road trip hauling winter and summer gear, camping gear, camera gear, dog supplies, cooler, computer bag, dry food bag and on and on... this car offers a LOT OF STORAGE. The frunk isn’t as roomy as the Model S or X, but it’s a perfect spot for the car’s charger, adapters, emergency kit, blanket, sleeping bag and other odds and ends. The back seats recline and we were even able to car camp a few nights. The trunk is very spacious and has the bonus of additional storage under a large panel. My biggest mistake was using all the space given. I probably over packed by about 40%.
Above: Grand Canyon (Instagram: @aPowerTrip)
Okay, so after all of this one might assume I was brainwashed by the Tesla Cult and couldn’t possibly have anything critical to say about this car. Well, before you jump to conclusions, stay tuned for the second part of this two-part series.
Written by: Jonathan David Harris aka @aPowerTrip; Editor's Note: @aPowerTrip follows the author and his dog, Indy, as they travel in his Model 3 across the USA. Harris was determined to stay off the main freeways and explore the country gas-free using Tesla's Superchargers, Destination Charging and plugging into outlets at parks and hotels across the country. Check out JDH's video for more.