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Top 11 Tesla Road Trip Tips
Posted on April 16, 2016 by Matt Pressman
Guest Blog Post: Steve Sasman* went on a 27,615 mile, 132 day Tesla Road Trip in the summer of 2015, hitting all lower 48 states and Canada and became the first person to visit 200 Tesla SuperChargers
As summer nears, dreams of the open road become palatable. That idea of a Tesla road trip adventure might intensify like the mid-day sun bearing down on a SolarCity panel. But Tesla road trip rookies can have lots of questions about traveling on the electric highway. Thus, we bring you the top 11 tips for a successful journey in your Tesla Model S, or for the lucky few, your new Tesla Model X.
Above: Banff Canada; like the Canadian Autobahn, driving fast through insane beauty
1) Changing the “Are We There Yet?” Road Trip Mentality
In a Tesla, you'll be better off embracing its unique style of travel rather than trying to fight it. It’s about the journey, not just getting there as fast as possible. I’m not sure why many who travel feel like it’s a life or death race to arrive at the destination as fast as possible? Why drive 7 hours straight, only to arrive completely fried and frazzled, with 2 hours of work emails to catch up on once you arrive? Instead, why not plan for a more relaxing 9-hour drive where you arrive refreshed, relaxed, fed and hydrated? Not to mention that 2 hours of work already completed since you handled those emails during your breaks? It’s the same 9 hours either way and one is much more enjoyable than the other.
Above: A fellow Tesla owner hooked me up with some yummy breakfast in Cincinnati
2) Don’t Over-Plan Your Route
If you're the type that loves planning everything down to the last detail, be my guest. However, please know that this is not needed... at least in terms of using the Tesla SuperCharger Network and getting from point A to point B. Your Tesla makes it almost impossible to run out of juice unless you really try. Yes, there are sites like EV Trip Planner if you really want to nerd out, but I just used Tesla's navigation and SuperCharge.info to map out my route. Just put in your end destination, and the car will guide you there, along with the needed stops to charge. Easy peasy! Part of the magic of a road trip is the unknown, the unplanned. After all, that’s also how many a great story begins…
Above: At the Tesla GigaFactory, behind me lies the future of transportation!
3) Don’t Worry About the Range of Your Tesla – But Learn it’s Boundaries
Get to know the boundaries of your range and how to manage it. Do you want to charge to almost full to give yourself the maximum amount of flexibility for speed and maybe allow yourself to take a detour? Or do you want the minimum charge just to get yourself to the next charger? Typically, I choose to charge more than I need so I can go faster. What I learned, especially on those occasions where range was a concern, was to drive more conservatively on the first part of the charge, then more aggressively on the back end. I knew I could end up at 10 miles of range or less when I arrived. I usually drove at 9 MPH over the speed limit if I had no range worries as that’s the fastest I could go without being at risk of a speeding ticket – but that was me, I wanted to spend more time out of the car vs. in it -- however, your style and strategy may vary.
Above: Take time to enjoy the sights
4) Use the PlugShare App
While the Tesla SuperCharger network is undeniably the first choice, and it’s built into the car's navigation, there are some other apps you should download. PlugShare is my favorite as it’s the most comprehensive I’ve found. Create an account and start using it around your town before you leave so you get a feel for how it works. Use the filters to weed out the non-Tesla compatible chargers. While you can use PlugShare directly on your Tesla, I just used the Smartphone App. Try both and decide which version you like best. PlugShare not only lists public EV chargers, but also the private chargers of other EV owners that are willing to share their home plug. I was able to meet a great guy in Albuquerque (before the SuperCharger was installed there) who saved the day for me. We had a great conversation about Tesla among other topics. I highly recommend trying this at least once if you need it.
Above: Sharing some juice from a generous PlugShare user
5) Patronize Hotels & Vacation Rentals that offer Destination Charging
There’s nothing like waking up with a full charge and being ready for the next leg of your adventure. That’s the beauty of using Tesla’s lesser known charging network: their Destination Chargers. Let’s vote with our wallets and let these establishments know the reason we stayed there was because they chose to support travelers like us.
6) If You Stay or Charge at an RV Campground, do THIS:
Pay for the 50 Amp service, but manually dial your Tesla down to 30 Amps especially if staying overnight. RV Campgrounds have notoriously bad wiring, and if you use it at full power, you risk blowing a breaker and getting no charge. I had this happen in Texarkana Arkansas, and had to wait around an extra 4 hours in the morning because the charge stopped in the middle of the night. As you can guess, this was not the highlight of my trip.
7) Get Out of the Car While SuperCharging
The longer the road trip, the more this applies. If you're like me, you love driving your Tesla, but after a couple of hours, it’s nice to get out and stretch the legs. Why sit in the car waiting while it charges? Its like staring at a pot of water, hoping it will boil faster. Painful. Use this time to walk around, see something new, clean the car, anything but waiting.
Above: Day 69, SuperCharger #92
8) Be Social
One of the best parts of any Tesla Road Trip is meeting all the interesting Tesla owners you will meet at a SuperCharger. Most have entertaining backgrounds and have some good stories to swap. In addition to other owners, you’ll meet lots of locals interested in your Tesla. Have fun and chat them up. Often, they can give you super-helpful advice on good restaurants, and the inside scoop on where to go and what to do.
Above: Making Friends at a NYFD Fire Station
9) Give People Rides
If you want to be a true evangelist for Tesla, there is no better way than picking up shady looking hitchhikers and…wait! No, don’t do that. You will, however, meet some nice people obviously interested in your Tesla. Give them a ride or even let them drive if you're feeling up for it. I did it many times all over the country and it was a great experience!
Above: Giving some Air Force servicemen a ride in a real rocket ship
10) Don’t Drive at Night Unless You Are A Vampire
There are two main reasons why I highly recommend driving during the daytime. One is that you will get to witness the incredible beauty of our planet. If you drive at night you miss out on all this. Secondly, it’s much safer to drive during the day. At night you risk falling asleep at the wheel. You also increase the chances of running into an animal. I had a VERY close call on one of the rare occasions I drove at night. Had I swerved left instead of right – which was pure luck - I would have ended up with a full sized deer carcass coming through my windshield at 75 MPH. While Tesla’s are the safest car on the road, you don’t stand a chance in that scenario.
Above: Waking up with some Dunkin Donuts in Salisbury, Maryland en route to D.C.
11) Take The Road Less Traveled - Get Off The Highways
Some of the most beautiful scenery you will see is on the back roads. By comparison, most highways are awfully boring. Yes, it may take a bit longer, but try it a few times and it’s guaranteed to make your trip more interesting.
Above: Heading to the Periscope Summit
BONUS TIPS - What To Bring
Airbed – Who wants to go camping?
If you really want to test the Tesla and try something unique, grab a Coleman twin size airbed, some sheets and a pillow to pack in the extra storage area under the back hatch.
Above: Coleman Airbed
A Tesla is really the best vehicle to camp in as you can run the A/C or heat all night and only use up 10-20 miles of range, with no toxic fumes ruining your experience. The trick is putting the car in neutral so the car stays on all night. I wouldn’t plan on using this exclusively however, as there are downsides. One is the feeling of safety. I slept great from a comfort standpoint, but depending on where you park, the fact that anyone can walk up to your car while you are asleep can be a little unsettling. Someone could break into your hotel room as well, but you get the idea. I did feel safer at an RV campground where others were doing the same versus just parking in a random spot. My Tesla Hotel was a great back-up if better lodging options were not available. I ended up using this method about 20 times out of 132 nights on the road. It also comes in handy if you stay at a friend’s place that doesn’t have an extra bed, but has some floor space for your airbed. Well worth the $40.
Center Console – On any road trip, the more organized you are the better. That’s where a console like the one EVANNEX offers can be a handy addition to your Tesla. It allows you to stow away your small items and have an extra cup holder for your beverage of choice.
Above: My Center Console in action
EcoSmart Waterless Car Wash – Just spray it on and wipe it off. Use this, along with a window cleaner and microfiber towels to use your charging time to keep the car clean. The side benefit, aside from always driving a clean car, is the light exercise of wiping down the car gets the blood flowing and you arrive in a much better state of mind. At a minimum, keeping your windshield clean provides a much better driving experience than peering through all the bugs that met their early demise with a splat on your windshield.
GoPro/Dash Cam – If you want a fun way to remember your trip, get a dash cam or GoPro so you can record the whole trip. You will be glad you did. The added bonus is being able to catch anyone doing criminal activity to your Tesla during or after your trip.
Toll Road Pass – Not having this will be a big pain since the Tesla Navigation system doesn’t tell you what is a Toll Road vs. a regular highway. If you're a local, you know this, but when you’ve never been to a state before it’s nice to know you can take any road without having to slow down and get out cash to pay. The EZ-Pass system is the largest one that covers most states that have tolls, but check the states you will travel through first to see if it’s needed or not. Depending on the age of your Tesla, you may need to install it in the nose cone to work. Check TMC or Tesla forums for full details.
Your Mobile Connector Charging Cable & J1772 Adapter that comes with the car. Hopefully, this one is obvious, but this will allow you to plug into an RV campground, a friends house, or any other plug you come across.
Still debating whether it’s a good idea to road trip in a Tesla?
DO IT. Live the Adventure. Don’t let life pass you by like a Tesla smoking a Porsche off the line.
Above: Best road trip car ever
*To find out more about Steve Sasman's journey, check out: MillionDollarTeslaTrip.com.