What is it like to travel around the United States in an electric vehicle? John and Patti White tell us about their 8,182 trip to the Tesla Model 3 Long Range.
Authors: John and Patti White.
My wife and I enjoy traveling. We drove to all 50 states. On our last big trip in 2018, we left our home in San Marcos, California, drove to British Columbia and turned east until we arrived in Nova Scotia. Then we meandered south and west until we got home. It lasted 8 weeks in our Honda CRV. We decided it was small also long.
In 2022, we had a specific list of people, not places we really wanted to see and didn’t want to last 8 weeks. This meant that we would spend a lot of time on boring / frightening interstate roads that we usually avoid. Luckily for me, my wife doesn’t mind driving on highways most of the time. We just replaced our 2019 Standard 3 Range model with a long-range version (358 miles) with FSD (not Beta). So, we made a plan.
TRAVEL: I recently made contact with two friends I haven’t seen in over 50 (I’m 75), one in Maryland and one in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Along the way, we decided to see old friends in Houston (a side trip to see Tesla’s new factory in Austin) and South Carolina. And on the way back, we would see a family in West Virginia and an old friend of my wife’s in Colorado. And we put in a visit to Cape Hatteras just for us. Planning this, we set a goal of no more than 28 days and it seemed feasible as long as we were willing to invest many more than 500+ miles between visits. In the end we had 10 days of standing and 15 all day driving. We drove through 28 states.
AUTO: We replaced our 2019 Model 3 for two main reasons: greater range and better sound insulation – the two most important features for travel. But we also got a better sound system, a faster computer (AMD chip), more efficient heating (octovalve!), All-wheel drive, faster acceleration and – surprisingly – noticeably better handling. We didn’t think it could be better than what we had, but it’s SO safe. He did a great job the whole trip without any problems. The only maintenance was rotating the tires after we got back.
DRIVING: We would usually make about 2 to 4 stops on the Supercharger on a 500 mile day. Our longest non-stop charging stage was 199 miles. Obviously, we could still, but why? We loved the rhythm of traveling down Tesla Road, stopping every 2 or 3 hours to recharge 20-30 minutes, take a walk, find a bathroom, get something to eat, change drivers and maybe watch YouTube or Netflix. We are refreshed and ready for another 2-3 hours. We were on autopilot (FSD, but not Beta) 95% of the time on interstate roads. We are much more relaxed when we don’t have to manage and we just have to be aware of who is around us. The result was that at the end of the day we were much more relaxed than in our ICE car days. Another advantage of shorter legs is that we never charged the car over a range of 310 miles, about 86%, and we usually kept it at about 280 max. The battery charges faster and is healthier for the battery.
AUTOPILOT: The only features of the Autopilot we used were automatic steering and automatic lane change. People without FSD won’t have a lane change, which is a real convenience because you don’t have to take it off autopilot to change lanes. However, the autosteer is by far the most important feature. Of course, we are constantly monitoring the situation, but it is very relaxing when you don’t have to worry about staying in your lane or slowing down for the car in front. We often excluded him from autopilot, usually briefly. That’s so conservative! When the traffic is heavy and cars are crossing and turning off, we often switched to manual mode to change lanes more aggressively than Autopilot would. Also, I would really like it to move more in the lane when the truck is close to the line next to us, but it seems that it wants to stay right in the center until it really has to move. We often took it out of Autopilot and crossed it at the time. And phantom braking is still a problem once or twice a day. We were really good at reacting immediately by pressing the gas.
CHARGING COSTS: We stopped at 62 Superchargers, spending $ 740.21. That’s about $ 0.09 per mile, which is about half of what I would pay for gasoline in my ICE car. I pay 0.09 USD / kW for charging at home, which is a little more than 0.02 USD / mile. The cheapest price was $ 0.21 / kW in Philadelphia, while several western states charged $ 0.40 / kW. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia charge every minute. I heard about this, but I didn’t know how I was being charged until I later reviewed my bills on my Tesla account. That’s weird! For example, this is how Georgia charged me for Tesla:
1 min @ 0.12 $ / min
14 min @ 0.31 $ / min
10 min @ 0.58 $ / min
1 min @ 0.93 $ / min
Strange because they charged me the least for the period when I used the most kW. It was a 250 kW charger and will initially consume 4 kW / min, but after 15 minutes it consumes only 1-2 kW / min.
CHARGING PROBLEMS: We only had to wait once out of 62 times when we stopped at Supercharger, which I think is pretty amazing. And that time was in a small town in Louisiana with eight 150 kW chargers. Four were temporarily out of order, but Tesla was already working on them. They told us what was happening and in a few minutes they had 5th one works for us. While we were charging, they made the others work. I was impressed because I am sure that there were no Tesla people nearby in this small town. I wondered where they were driving from. Elsewhere in South Carolina, 4 of the 8 chargers were not working, but the other 4 were fine and one was available. We informed Tesla.
CHARGING EXPERIENCES: The longest distance between the Supercharger we saw was 140 miles. That was in West Texas. Finding a charger was simply not a problem. The farthest we had to deviate from our route to get to one was about 2 miles, but they were usually within a few blocks of the highway exit. All 62 locations had recommendations on Tesla’s toilet site, so that was no problem. Many chargers were at the Hilton Express, Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn. That was fine except they didn’t serve food. Our favorite chargers were in tourist centers where they serve food and have nice toilets. In the East, Sheetz and Wawa were common locations for chargers and have good food choices. Many were also in Targets, which have toilets and good food to buy. All in all, we have good memories of our charging times. On a 500-mile day, we usually spent an hour to an hour recharging.
EFFICIENCY: In my opinion, the most important thing to understand when planning and running a trip like this is efficiency – that is, mileage / mileage. For example, if your car shows a range of 200 miles and you drive 80 miles, your car can now show a range of 100 miles. So your efficiency was 80%. You may achieve 100% efficiency if you drive quietly at 50 mph, but you certainly won’t be on an interstate highway unless you have a backwind. We drove mostly at 70-75 mph and our average travel efficiency was around 85% (most of the numbers here come from TeslaFi, an extremely useful application). On one section of 105 miles in Utah with a headwind of 30 mph, we only got 56% efficiency! I don’t like to worry about charging disappearing, so I usually planned for the worst case and made sure I had twice the range from the distance to the next charger, then added more if I was planning to skip that charger. On that section in Utah, we planned to skip the first charger and go the next 64 miles further. But we routinely check the Energy Monitor, which gives an estimate of how much range you will have left when you arrive at your destination. So useful! We could see that the estimate was falling every time we checked (due to headwind) and it became obvious that it would be too risky to move on. No problem. We had enough charging to get closer. I usually planned to charge 40 or 50 miles when we arrived in case the superchargers broke down and we would have to look for a place to charge. Fortunately, that never happened. I’ve heard so many horror stories about charging for non-Tesla electric vehicles. I can’t imagine how different our experience could be in another electric vehicle or whether it would even be possible to go as fast and far as we do.
We didn’t go on this trip to prove anything. Our shorter trips in the Standard Range car were great except for the need to recharge more often. We had no doubt that the trip was feasible and would be enjoyable even with some haste. It was wonderful to have extra range, so we never felt the need to charge close to 100%. If Tesla really doubles the number of Superchargers in the next few years, it will be ridiculously easy to embark on a journey like this.
- Longest leg: 299.49 miles.
- Compressors: 62
- Billing Cost: $ 740.21
- Miles: 8,182
- Days: 25
- Travel efficiency: 81.77%
- Worst efficiency: 56.5% (59.42 actual miles, 105.13 nominal miles, 20-30 mph headwind).
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