Posted on April 15, 2018 by Charles Morris
Last year, EV driver Jay Lucas of Alexandria, Virginia, contributed an account of a road trip in a Chevy Bolt to Green Car Reports. However, he’s now driving a used Tesla Model S, and he wrote a follow-up piece for GCR, explaining why he finds the Tesla to be a superior choice for long-distance driving.
Above: Giving up a Chevy Bolt for a used Tesla Model S (Image:
Lucas still loves the Bolt. “I think it is Chevy’s supreme creation, and it carried me with spirit and verve all around Northern Virginia,” he writes. “But now I have a Tesla, and my son has the Bolt. I have given up some things, but boy, have I gained others.”
“Last summer, my buddy Stewart accompanied me on a 600-mile trek in the 2017 Bolt EV - I’ve just completed that same journey in the Tesla with my wife,” Lucas writes. “The two cars provided very different experiences: in the Bolt EV, we felt like pioneers, whereas in the Tesla, the level of worry and unknowns was far lower. That’s why I switched to Tesla - for a better long-distance trip experience.”
Lucas calls the Bolt “a really good car if you’re not doing long-distance trips,” but listed a number of reasons why he prefers the Tesla for long hauls. If your driving pattern includes frequent road trips, his new article is worth reading in its entirety.
Above: GM's Chevy Bolt (Flickr: Dave Pinter)
The main reasons the Tesla excels on the highway have to do with the company’s Supercharger network. First, charging at a Supercharger is much faster than using a CCS fast charger. “The half hour to 45 minutes at a Supercharger is much more satisfying than the typical hour or 90 minutes required at any 50-kilowatt (non-Tesla) fast-charging site,” Lucas writes. Also, “Many of those commercial sites stop after 30 minutes of charging, requiring a restart of the charging process, which I’ve always found infuriating.”
Tesla started building Superchargers years ago, before other EV-makers were even thinking about the need for fast charging - observers of the charging scene have noted that Tesla’s head start allowed it to grab much of the best real estate, and Lucas confirms this advantage: “Superchargers are sited better, with a greater selection of nearby restaurants and other facilities. They’re also closer to the highway. While some CCS charging stations were well-located, and more and more are appearing in highway rest stops and travel plazas, that’s still the exception rather than the rule.”
“The on-road charging process is automatic and hassle-free for a Tesla,” Lucas continues. “While some commercial charging networks are better than others, most require some type of interactive card, credit card, or phone app to be used. With the Tesla Supercharger, I just grab the charger cord and bring it close to the Model S, the port springs open, and in goes the plug.”
Above: Accessing Tesla's Supercharger network makes road trips easier (Flickr: David van der Mark)
Everyone knows that Tesla makes the fastest, most powerful EVs on the market. However, many may not realize that this gives them a practical advantage on the highway (not just bragging rights at the drag strip). “My Bolt EV was spunky off the line, but on a recent trip in the Tesla, I had to pass some fully loaded gravel trucks on a winding two-lane mountain road with a very limited passing zone,” writes Lucas. “The Tesla shot me past the trucks well before the dotted line became solid, far faster than I had imagined.”
Lucas also finds that high-speed driving doesn’t seem to drain the Tesla’s battery as much. “In the Bolt EV, 70 mph seemed to be a bright red line. Above that speed, my energy use per mile skyrocketed and range dropped noticeably. The Tesla seems to slip through the air more gracefully, and while I don’t use a heavy foot, I can be freer with the accelerator.”
When it comes to the navigation system, Lucas notes that finding a route that includes charging sites is easier in the Tesla, but that the Bolt’s nav system is more flexible. “Once it decides on a route, it takes heaven and earth - or devious trickery - to change the Tesla’s mind. Using Apple CarPlay in the Bolt EV as my navigation system (it also uses Android Auto), I had access to far more information about slowdowns and accidents ahead, and the system would offer to reroute me to save time.”
Above: On the road in a Tesla Model S (Flickr: Paul Sableman)
Lucas also praises the Model S’s cold-weather performance, and Tesla’s live technical support. Overall, his account makes a pretty convincing case for the Californian car. However, all these goodies come at a price: Lucas bought his CPO Model S for around $70,000 (original price: $100,000). The smaller and less luxurious Bolt EV cost $43,000 brand new (and qualified for the $7,500 federal tax credit).
So, you get what you pay for - no news there. The big question we’re left with: How does Tesla’s more affordable Model 3 measure up on long road trips?