Winter Road Trip: Nine days and 2,000 miles in a Tesla
Guest Post: EVMatch
Following up on my account of our family odyssey this past summer (Part 1 + Part 2), I thought I would offer a coda on traveling in the colder months…not to mention with a third child now outside the womb! This go-round, we headed southeast, with our farthest point out being Scottsdale, AZ. The total distance traveled was right around 2,000 miles, over nine days.
Above: Driving north on Arizona State Route 64 toward Grand Canyon Village (Source: EVMatch)
Since the lines at the Supercharger stations became somewhat of a media sensation over the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ll focus specifically on the all-important aspect of charging. I’m happy to report that we mercifully avoided lines on this jaunt (which was also the case on a shorter one we did over Thanksgiving), but there was still a reasonable degree of fancy footwork required.
While Harris Ranch holds a special place in the heart of every Tesla acolyte for being one of the very first Superchargers, I do wish there were at least a token few destination (Level 2, i.e.) chargers there. For overnight guests such as ourselves, this would allow for more complete charging, less stressing over unplugging before being charged for time overages, and the benefit of one fewer fast-charging cycle.
Above: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale, AZ (Source: EVMatch)
If only dryers like the one in my in-laws’ place in Palm Springs had the same plug types as RV parking spots, which the standard Tesla-provided 220V plug fits, we would have saved at least a half hour after leaving their place. Incidentally, while at Yellowstone this past summer, there was yet another type of outdoor, high-voltage outlet for which Tesla doesn’t provide an adapter, which was even more flummoxing.
We went to our first V3 Supercharger – Tesla’s new, faster standard, only recently released – in Ehrenburg, AZ! While the surroundings were straight out of Mad Max, and it quickly dawns on one that the time savings is not all that extensive due to the tapering off of charge rate no matter what the charging protocol, every minute counts, and I dug the thinner charging cable! Perhaps most importantly, the rate of charge isn’t diminished by the presence of another car in the shared bay. (It must be noted that we dodged a bullet as the last car into this Supercharger, too.)
Above: Kettleman City, CA Supercharger (Source: EVMatch)
Shout-out to the hard-working hotel valets out there who have had to do a lot more rotating of cars onto and off of chargers as EVs have become more popular. Leaving with a full charge in the morning is a huge boost compared to the (comparatively rare) bummer of not having gotten plugged in overnight.
The Buckeye, AZ Supercharger showed zero availability for an hour straight upon approach, which is a near-impossibility. Finally, we called Tesla Roadside Assistance and got through to a very helpful person within less than five minutes. He told us that there was a problem sending the info to the cars but that he could see on his Big Brother computer that it was working and there were a few open. It was good to find out for future reference that Tesla provides legitimate, human-based phone help.
Above: Flagstaff, AZ Supercharger (Source: EVMatch)
Tucked away in a quiet overflow hotel parking lot, the Supercharger in Flagstaff, AZ was a great place for a snowball fight!
The Supercharger in Tusayan, AZ, just outside of Grand Canyon National Park, has to be my favorite-located Supercharger I’ve ever been to. How cool is it to be able to Supercharge at the doorstep of a fairly remote national park?!?! That said, it was the first of two consecutive Superchargers to top out at a low rate of charge speed for some indiscernible reason…
Above: View from Kolb Studio, south rim of Grand Canyon (Source: EVMatch)
…the second of those being the Supercharger in Kingman, AZ. This ended up being the worst charging experience of the trip, although we still escaped disaster more than some of our fellow Teslaites attempting to charge there. First, another driver was trailing behind us but knew of a closer entrance to the parking lot in question and gunned it to beat us to the chargers. Thankfully, there was another spot, or I would have gone ballistic, but it was terrible etiquette nonetheless. It got worse, though – the chargers wouldn’t charge at more than 40kW, and not only did that double or triple everyone’s individual charging time, including ours, it caused the domino effect of a line of 3-4 cars. Sure enough, there was a near fight when a 60kWh had gotten towed to the Supercharger and another car tried to cut in line before the poor tow truck driver could back over a tree planter box to get the right angle into the spot. This actually benefited us, though, because the fought-over charger was actually the sister bay to ours, meaning that we got to charge at twice the speed we had been for the five to ten minutes of the debacle.
Neither cold, nor snow, nor new baby boy could hamper this Tesla road trip
Our new baby boy, Granger, was a real trooper on the trip. Yes, we had to make an unscheduled stop or two due to his proclivities, but in most instances, he toughed it out (aka slept) to within 30 miles or so of our planned destination, leaving us to suffer through no more than a half hour of a sound evolved over millennia literally to induce distress in parents.
Above: High Roller, "World's Tallest Observation Wheel," Las Vegas, NV (Source: EVMatch)
If there’s a second major point I’d like for people to take away from this piece, it’s the viability of EV roadtripping in the cold. Yes, I realize Teslas have longer ranges than almost all EVs, but on a relative basis, we did not find it particularly more onerous than traveling in the same vehicle on the same charging network during the summer.
In fact, the Model X’s insanely high weight can make one feel better anchored to the ground while driving in slick conditions – though the flip side of that heaviness is manifested in a much longer stopping distance on ice. I did have to monitor the tire pressures carefully, but that would be just as true in an ICE vehicle – and the “Car Status” dashlet makes it very easy to do so.
Lest it seem as if we may have been fortunate temperature-wise, traveling throughout the Southwest U.S., I am hoping the accompanying pictures serve as convincing documentary evidence to the contrary. Let’s just say that the rim of the Grand Canyon was not exactly balmy on Christmas night!
Whether I’ve succeeded in busting any myths around charging and/or cold making long-distance EV travel too annoying, I hope my unvarnished take on the realities of the electrified family lifestyle at least shows what can be done by non-superhumans.
Be you superhuman, or merely human like us, I hope to cross paths at a far-flung charging station one of these days!
Source: EVMatch; Author Bio: Jeff Pickett is a passionate advocate for clean energy and transportation. By day, he works as Director of Marketing for ACTenviro, a fast-growing environmental services firm. By night, he is a devoted husband and father of two or three - depending on when you're reading this - and is involved in multiple entrepreneurial ventures. Born and raised in Portland, OR, Jeff earned his undergraduate degree from Yale, an MFA in film production from USC, and, most recently, an MBA at Wharton's San Francisco campus, earning the rank of Palmer Scholar. He has been a resident of California for nearly 20 years and is a lover of art, cycling and tennis, all of which can be enjoyed in abundance in the state.