A Response to: Stalled on the E.V. Highway

Mr. Broder,

My name is Peter, and I recently very successfully completed a very long, cross country trip from Portland OR -> LA -> NOLA -> Atlanta -> NYC in my Model S. I am only a Tesla customer, and have no other affiliation with the company.

It was great disappointment that I read your article today. It showed quite a number of missteps that could have been easily avoided, had Tesla done a better job teaching you about the car beforehand, and not repeatedly given you advice that was not only incorrect, but sometimes counterproductive. There is a learning curve to taking long road trips in an EV, especially in the cold, and it is a shame that Tesla did not better prepare you for this. Your article includes a bit of a postmortem on your trip, but that seems like Tesla again dropped the ball on giving you valuable advice on how you could have made the trip an easy success. Almost all the mistakes I have outlined below, individually, would have eliminated your troubles. If I may, here is my postmortem. Continue reading A Response to: Stalled on the E.V. Highway

Day 10 NOLA 1-2-13

We readied to head out from Lake Charles with a decent charge, but not the full range charge we would have liked. Unfortunately, we have discovered that charging on most public EV chargers doesn’t quite fit our time line. If we get into a hotel at 10PM (a very early night for us), and get the car on the charger by 10:30PM, then charge at the standard 30A (200V typically), by the time morning comes and you pull the car off the charger at about 8am, you have just under 200 miles in the tank. This varies a bit, as some chargers are 240V (and by 8am you would then by just about full), but there isn’t any good way to know this ahead of time right now, and we found very few of these… Anyway, back to the story:

We headed out knowing that we would need just a quick stop on the way to New Orleans and charge for just an hour or so rather than wait the multiple hours the EV charger would take. After a quick stop over at the McDonald’s to make sure to purchase something as a small thank you for having the EV charger, we where on our way!

Tina was at the helm, and the day was overcast turning to rain. The automatic wipers started wiping as the rain started to fall, and immediately we noticed that there was something a bit strange. Something was under the wiper blade that made it’s way across the windshield with each swipe. First though was we had picked up a parking ticket somewhere along the way, and it was now literally flapping in the breeze. Then just as the next swipe came and a gust of wind lifted it away we noticed the McDonald’s logo! A couple of calls and we were able to find out that it was the owner of the McDonald’s who had left his card with us and wanted to find out a little more about the S!

While had we been able to pick up a full charge overnight we would have simply had a strait drive over to New Orleans, having only a bit under 200 along with a desire to enjoy the power the S has to offer meant a quick stop by an RV park. As we have now begun flying by the seat of our pants a bit when it comes to charging our steed, we pulled up our RV park finding app RV Park Finder we saw we where only a few miles from Frenchmen’s Wilderness Camp with highly rated bathrooms and 50 amp hookups. Minutes later we were pulling in, explaining that we where looking to plug in for less than an hour, and we where charging away. And yes, their bathrooms fully deserved their rating.

The trip into the city was easy, and we where quickly downtown and to The Saint Hotel. As with most places we have been, no-one at the hotel had seen an S before, but they where very happy to work with me to find the best way to charge. I spent about 30 minutes with hotel staff looking including the building engineer looking for the best and most accessible plug to charge from. Unfortunately, all of the 240V plugs where located in underground areas that where unacceptable, and we ended up with only a 120V plug that supplied us 4 miles of charge per hour. We probably should have looked for a better place to charge, but the 120V would get us well outside the city the next day, and we where excited to get out into the city exploring! Off we went to explore Bourbon street, Cafe Du Monde, and amazing live music :)

Continue reading Day 10 NOLA 1-2-13

Day 9 1/1/13

The first day of 2013 caught us oversleeping, but who can blame us, we did revisit our 20s last night. Although it was already later than we would have liked, we couldn’t leave Austin without having some BBQ. So our gracious hosts, Sarah and Chris, took us to Rudy’s. I’m not a huge meat eater, but that place was awesome! First they let us sample all their meats, from brisket to jalapeno sausage. When they give you our order it comes in a plastic basket with plastic silverware and top it all off on wax paper instead of plates. It was the best meal we had so far on this trip! And lunch for the three of us only cost around $20. With what little time we had left, we went up to Mount Bonnell for a great view an some pictures.

 

I think we all wished that we could stay in Austin, but alas the road beckoned and so did Houston. After a top off at a scenic RV park with plenty of deer around, our plan was to charge up at the Tesla store and we arrived to what we thought was near the location right around 6:30 (the store was closing at 7pm). And what followed then was one of the more annoying and looking back, kind of funny parts of the trip. The Tesla store was the Houston Galleria, a fancy shopping mall. We couldn’t find the Tesla store. Peter had called the store and was told that it was in the Green garage we kept circling around and seeing orange, yellow, but no green. Time kept ticking, the mileage kept decreasing and we still couldn’t find Green. We got our phones out in an effort to find a map of the mall but all the links seemed to be broken. I finally found one that showed that the Green garage is right next to Orange. So Peter thought that maybe the Tesla employee meant orange instead of red. But alas, orange was just another maze with no way out. By that point the situation was not looking good because it was past 7pm and mileage was down to about 6. I didn’t really want to be blogging about how after driving from Oregon to Houston in an electric car we ran out juice in a parking garage at at a mall, somewhere less than a mile from the Tesla charge. So I made Peter do the unthinkable, call the store and ask for directions.

 

The Tesla employee walked us through the directions (and yes there really was a Green garage) and we finally arrived at the charger. But alas it was past 7pm and the store was about to close and the employees were worried about leaving the charging cable overnight. But Peter did his magic and we were allowed to charge as long as we wanted (Thanks, Tesla!). We ate dinner at the sushi place at the mall, it was kind of nice to spend a couple of hours in civilization actually, even though it was between Forever 21 and the Gap.

 

The next leg of our journey took us to a magical McDonald’s in Lake Charles, LA. It’s not just magical because their McMuffin is only 300 calories and they have pretty good coffee but because this one had the only public EV charger in all of Lake Charles. The McDonald’s employee were actually excited to see up pull up and plug in, apparently they have never seen anyone use the charger before. Peter happily told them all about the car, like he already had many times on this trip and they said that they would keep an eye on it for us. And they did! We were ready to go the next day.

Luba

Day 8 12/31/12 — Race to the Party!

Day 8 started easy enough with a simple goal, make it to a friends New Years Eve Party in Austin.

 

By day 8, we have really started to relax our charging planning. After getting nearly a full charge over night at the local RV park in Clovis NM, we headed out with a simple plan; Drive until we have only 30 or so miles left of range, find an RV park, and charge once more. That would take us to the mid-point of our drive, from there it’s just one more leg to Austin and we should just make it into town with time to freshen up, and start the party with everyone at about 10pm.

 

Everything was perfectly on plan, we drove we where down to 10′s of miles, found an RV Park, where we started charging up. We watched everything for some time, and with everything looking perfect we decided to take the three quarter mile walk to the local rest stop and sit down for a good meal while we waited for the car to charge. We checked what time the car would be finished, and timed our meal to finish just before the car was done. Of course you know what happened; About an hour and a half before we returned to the car, the circuit breaker on the outlet at the RV park had tripped (well below it’s rated current limit). Because of the use and exposure of these circuit breakers, this seems to be a semi-normal occurrence. Quick calculations were done and it looked like it would be close, but we might still be able to make it to the party before the stroke of midnight. The circuit was reset, and we watched the miles slowly add on. We carefully calculated out the amount of margin miles we wanted for the trip, and triple checked the distance and we concluded just what we originally had, we would need a full range charge for this leg. Finally the charge current slowed as we reached full, we disconnected, collected all of our cables, and we were off.

 

For those that have not driven and EV, and speak of “range anxiety”, I want to be clear that there never has been a point that we have been driving that any of us were concerned about getting stranded. Everywhere I go there are thousands of outlets everywhere, any of which I can plug into. Some are great, such as a 240V 14-50R at campgrounds, and some are slow like the lamp socket in your house, but all of them will work. Another thing that takes some getting use to when driving an EV, it’s generally very easy to stretch your mileage and go further than the “Rated Range” you have left, all you have to do is SLOW DOWN. This was clearly shown when another Tesla Model S was driven a good bit past 400 miles on a single charge, through not at highway speeds http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1081000_how-far-will-a-tesla-model-s-go-one-owner-did-405-miles.

 

What was left for us was an optimization problem (perfect for me!), go slow enough that our single charge would take us all the way to Austin without needing to stop and recharge, yet go fast enough to make it there before midnight.

 

As we rode along we closely watched out energy usage screens, the number of “Rated Miles” left in the battery (similar to a gas gauge on a car but much more precise), and the number of miles left till Austin. Every few minutes adjustments where made depending on terrain, rain, and time. Every time we we hit a patch of rain that slowed us down we began to doubt we would make it in time but then the shower would pass and then suddenly a large downhill would come where we made back the time and energy that the rain had taken from us. As the miles ticked down things really started looking up, we were going to make it! Makeup was applied, comments were made about the visors not being up to the task, and even though in the last few miles the rain really began to pour down, we had the margin to spare and we pushed on. 20 miles, 10 miles, 5 miles… Finally we cheered our own arrival just as the sky really opened up on us, with 15 minutes to spare, and 11 “Rated Miles” still in the tank we walked into the party and the Electric Road Trip S team celebrated the New Year with friends like we hadn’t done in almost a decade :)