Saturday, July 23, 2016

Final Thoughts on the Drive to CO

Now that the crew is settled in to CO, and I'm already back from a quick jaunt to Toronto and London, I figured it made sense to come up with some conclusions, at least until Sam and I drive back to Long Island at the end of August.

Everything that all the glowing reviews say about the car is true - it's smooth, quiet, fast (too fast - but happily I moved to cruise control mode after my first speeding ticket in PA) and very fun to drive.  No need to repeat all the accolades that many have already given it.

More interesting though is how driving an electric car, that needs to be charged fairly frequently, across the country really is.  A few important observations:

1. Unlike a normal gas car, driving faster doesn't necessarily get you to your ultimate destination sooner.  In a gas car, if you don't care about MPG, safety and speeding tickets, the best way to get to where you are going on a long trip as soon as possible is to drive as fast as possible.  This is not a complicated concept.

But in a Tesla that's not true.  Since there are still not that many Superchargers along the way you need to optimize your range between them.

I'll give a simple example: assume that the Superchargers are located 100 miles apart along the highway.  With a car that can do >200 miles on a full charge you would assume that you would have to stop at every other station.  But, remember, the 200 mile range is an estimate based on a number of assumptions, including how fast you are going.  If you are driving too fast your range will decrease and if you are driving fast enough that the car no longer thinks it can get 200 miles on a charge, but let's say 180, when you get to the charger at the 100 mile point that you were planning on skipping, the car will urge you to stop there to charge, since it knows that you only have 80 miles left in the tank and have 100 miles to get to the next charger.  Making more stops at 20-50 mins each will slow you down a lot.

Contrast this with a gas car.  Of course driving faster in a gas car will yield you lower MPG, but since there are so many gas station along the way, it doesn't really matter which one you stop at - who cares if you have to stop 10 miles earlier than you had planned - you probably hadn't even planned at all where you were going to stop.  Furthermore, since the gas stops are much quicker than the charging stops, it really doesn't matter all that much.

Based solely on our observations, Sam and I felt that 70 MPH was probably optimal based on the locations of the chargers.  In other words, at that speed you would make it to the charger that the car expected you to make it to, and going slower almost certainly wouldn't allow you to make it to the next charger.  75 is probably still OK - 80 and above it a no-go.  For a while we were coasting along at 85 (in a 75 MPH zone in Kansas) and this was definitely too fast and caused us to have to make an extra stop, which more than negated our faster speed.

2. The Superchargers are really nice in numerous ways.  Firstly, they are fast, really fast.  At home we went to the trouble and expense to install a 100A line to the wall charger and purchased the dual charging option for the Tesla to improve charging speeds.  This got us up to speeds of around 45 MPH (yes - it sounds like a driving speed but it's also the charging speed - the car adds 45 miles of range per hour of charging).  The Superchargers get up to 300MPH - that is insanely fast!  You immediately notice the difference when you realize how thick and heavy the cable is to the car, and how Tesla was required to make the cable short, and therefore why you have to back-in to the spots to charge.  Its interesting to note that the whole technology around the Supercharger is different - it is a DC rather than AC system - if you are interested in this you can read more about it here.

Another thing about the chargers is that they are almost always empty.  Generally speaking the stations we found were either 6 or 8 stalls.  Most of them were empty when we arrived and we didn't see anyone else using them (remember this was the weekend at some weird hours and some remote locations).  In a few cases we saw one other Tesla, and I think there was only one or two cases where we saw two.  This is good since the disaster scenario is that you arrive at one of these and they are full.  I'm guessing that driving around the San Francisco area is a different experience.

But the nicest surprise about the Superchargers was the locations.  The only ones I had seen in the past were either at the Syosset dealer on Long Island or the Superchargers along I-95 in CT, which were at rest stops right off the highway.  Interestingly, most the chargers we ran into were a bit off the highway - not far, maybe 0.5 to 2 miles from the highway.  This might not sound like a good thing but it was.  It allowed us to get a small taste of the place we were at, rather than just another highway rest stop.  Now don't get me wrong, these places weren't quaint towns - most of them had the same Holiday Inn Express, McDonalds and Applebee's, but it was still nice to get slightly off the beaten path to charge.

The last thing I'll mention here is how it has been now that we've gotten to our destination and lived with it for a week outside of our home, where there is a charger in the garage.  The short answer is that it's been easy and great - but the longer answer may be that this is not necessarily conclusive.  We are staying in a condo in Vail Village with a parking lot outside.  The facility doesn't have an EV charger (despite that fact that we offered to buy one for them, but that's another story), so we have to count on charging at other locations.  Luckily, the Vail Parking Structure has free EV charging available via the Chargepoint system.  Its slow (17 MPH or so) but you can park there for free 24/7, so every few days we drive the X over to the garage and park there for the night.  Luckily the garage is very close to the condo and this is no big deal.  Now, if the closest charging wasn't walking distance and/or they charged for it, this would be a very different story and would seriously put a crimp in the whole experience.  But since we knew these chargers existed we were relaxed about being able to use them.

I'm sure there is more to write about - as I think of other things I will add to the blog.  And of course, keep an eye on this at the end of August when Sam and I drive back to LI!

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment