2013 Tesla Model S Coast-to-Coast Road Trip

From Los Angeles to New York in World Record Time


  • 2013 Tesla Model S

    2013 Tesla Model S

    Redondo Beach, California: Our 2013 Tesla Model S is poised to begin its cross-country record attempt from the Portofino Inn. | July 16, 2014

184 Photos

The dim glow of a full moon prevents the desert from falling into complete darkness as the bright lights of Las Vegas gradually recede from the rearview mirror of our 2013 Tesla Model S sedan. It's 3:30 am on what barely registers as a Saturday morning, and we're heading northeast on an utterly deserted stretch of Interstate 15 that carries a posted speed limit of 75 mph. Up ahead, Utah awaits with long stretches where 80 mph is permissible.

All signs, pardon the pun, point to a swift journey on this leg to our third Supercharger stop at Beaver, Utah. Circumstances seem to be ideal in our bid to best Tesla's own electric vehicle L.A.-to-New York cross-country world record time of 76 hours, 5 minutes.

Reverse Cannonball
Co-conspirator Kurt Niebuhr and I are doing this according to Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash rules, which can be distilled into one sentence. Start at the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street in New York City and drive any route of your choosing to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.

2013 Tesla Model S

You may have noticed we've made one small modification. We're going the other way. There are two reasons for this: (1) We live on the Left Coast and; (2) this is the direction Tesla went. As for the route, we have little to choose from because we're bound to the current state of the ever-expanding Tesla Supercharger network.

In stark contrast to that brashly illegal 1970s competition, we've got no radar detector, no CB radio with which to monitor the location of Smokey Bear. For us, these measures are unnecessary. Extreme speed results in greater battery drain and extended time parked at Superchargers, and the charge rate drops considerably the longer you're plugged in.

Besides, the original Cannonball was a middle finger directed at the federally mandated 55-mph national speed limit. Today we can trot along some 20-25 mph faster than that without arousing Smokey from his Krispy Kreme-fueled slumber.

Going Fast by Driving Slow
And yet, here we are poking along at 52 mph in the slow lane some 7 hours after we paid the bill at the Portofino Inn's Baleen restaurant and crept out of the parking lot on a Friday night at 8:26 pm Pacific Daylight Time.

This 223-mile run from Las Vegas to Beaver will be the longest leg of the trip. Such a distance is routine with a full battery on flat ground, but Beaver sits at an elevation of 5,891 feet, nearly 4,000 feet higher than Vegas. Making matters worse, the road dips to a 1,500-foot low point and scales a 6,500-foot mountain pass in between.

Tesla doesn't think we'll make it. They're so concerned, in fact, that one of their operatives called me before we got under way after seeing my trip announcement. They don't yet consider this "corridor" viable. Their planned Supercharger at the midway point in St. George, Utah, hasn't yet received its construction permit.

2013 Tesla Model S

But I've run numbers of my own. I reckon we can squeak by if we run this leg at 50-55 mph. Kurt and I are on our own, you see. We don't have a support van, video truck and 15 or so Tesla staffers to help push.

Tesla's people remained unconvinced, and they reminded me of the Cedar City KOA Kampground that sits 50 miles shy of Beaver. "Pull off and plug in with your NEMA 14-50 RV adapter if you have less than 50 miles of range at the exit," they warned.

Crunch Time
The sun begins to peek over the horizon as we nick through a dog-eared corner of northwestern Arizona and cross into Utah near St. George, elevation 2,860 feet. The crucial 6,500-foot summit looms 95 miles ahead.

Early risers begin to flash past at 80-plus mph, but there aren't many on this Saturday morning. I continue the steady march up to Cedar City, elevation 5,846 feet, with one eye glued to the mirror.

After another tedious hour spent reliving 55-mph speed limit flashbacks, Kurt and I exchange nods as we trundle past the KOA. The range meter says we have 60 miles in the tank. The summit is one final climb and 43 miles distant.

The gap between projected range and distance-to-summit continues to narrow until, finally, some 4-plus hours after leaving Las Vegas, we cross the high point with just 9 miles remaining. The Beaver Supercharger is just 7.5 miles ahead, but it's also 609 feet below. We allow our speed to creep up to the posted 80-mph limit and exhale.

2013 Tesla Model S

Minutes later our Tesla sits plugged in with the same 9 miles of range showing on the meter. Kurt and I disappear into the nearby Timberline restaurant to fill our own bellies with some much-needed coffee and a full breakfast.

The Worst Is Over
Batteries take on miles more quickly at a Supercharger when they're empty. It's not unlike filling a glass of water with a pitcher: You can dump in a lot at first but must ease off near the end and resort to a trickle if you want to fill it to the brim.

We're having none of that. Our plan is to arrive as empty as we dare and add little more than what we figure is necessary to get to the next Supercharger. I monitor progress using the Tesla iPhone app while we eat. After 45 minutes we unplug and get under way with 208 miles in the bank. Green River, Utah, is 189 miles away and 1,800 feet below.

But I get too exuberant on the climb up a pass on Interstate 70 and have to rein it in a bit. Still, we're able to bypass the Supercharger at Richfield, Utah, and roll into Green River with 8 miles left after averaging 64 mph.

2013 Tesla Model S

Kurt and I swap places and I prepare to grab some shut-eye. But first I fiddle with the Tesla's stereo and discover Radio Le Mans buried deep in the Internet radio menu. It allows us to listen to exotic hybrid prototypes from Audi, Porsche and Toyota duke it out in France while we traverse the Rockies.

As I doze off, I realize we'll be at this nearly three times as long as the competitors in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In the Zone
Shadows are growing long as we descend the Rockies into the western Denver suburbs and head north toward Wyoming. Through the night we establish a routine where one of us drives while the other snoozes, the only interruption being the 40-minute Supercharger stops that come every two hours or so.

Morning breaks halfway across South Dakota, where we stop for a Supercharger/supermarket breakfast in a town called Mitchell. A local electrician pulls up and starts asking questions while we slurp coffee and munch on Fig Newtons and store-brand breakfast pastries. He apparently helped install this Supercharger some weeks ago but hadn't yet caught anyone using it.

2013 Tesla Model S

Minnesota turns into Wisconsin as Kurt and I debate the various flavors of Rockstar energy drink. Our collection of empty cans is getting quite diverse, but the overwhelming number of Lemonade ones suggests it's the clear favorite.

The Central Time Zone and the straight emptiness of Interstate 90 are very good to our overall pace. And we somehow miss the heavy rains that led to the flooded westbound lanes, violently churning freeway culverts and inundated roadside farms we see at one point as we sail past.

Taking a Toll
Illinois marks the beginning of a phenomenon I hadn't built into my time estimates: the toll booth. Every state from here on out has them, and we've got to pay manually because I didn't bring my FasTrak transponder from home.

Our average speed suffers as we stop to alternately take tickets and pay them. My wallet begins to bulge with receipts that will ultimately represent as much as one hour lost to this maddening process.

2013 Tesla Model S

We cross into Eastern Daylight Time late at night in Indiana almost exactly two days after we left the Portofino. Everything is locked up for the night as we plug in at the Mishiwaka Supercharger in a mall parking lot at 1:40 am near the campus of Notre Dame. We catch a few winks while the car charges for 37 minutes, a near exact match of our trip-average Supercharger dwell time of 38.3 minutes.

The sun comes up as we sit in a bank parking lot in Macedonia, Ohio, on Monday morning, the final day of our record attempt. We've got another 554 miles to go. Things are looking very good indeed as we unplug and roll out at 7:56 am EDT.

End Game
Construction zones slow our progress as we cross the hills of Pennsylvania, but the locals set a good pace for us to follow. After a stop in Hagerstown, Maryland, our route skirts north of Baltimore when traffic is light. Before we know it we're plugged in at the Newark, Delaware, travel plaza, our last stop before New York.

We chow down and allow ourselves 52 minutes of charge time so we have enough to get back out of New York, too. A local Tesla Club enthusiast chats us up after he sees our filthy, bug-encrusted Model S with California license plates. He snaps a few pictures before we part ways. The New Jersey Turnpike is dead ahead.

It's going on 6 pm and commuters are flooding out of The City. The dark red lines on the traffic map dictate which tunnel we'll take: Holland. Before we know it we reemerge into the sunshine in Lower Manhattan.

At this point the Tesla team turned south to City Hall, but our finish line lies 2 miles to the north at the Red Ball Garage on 31st Street. There's traffic, of course, but the seemingly random movements of the pedestrians are a bigger worry.

2013 Tesla Model S

Our reverse Cannonball Run ends unceremoniously as we pull up to the curb for a photograph at 6:47 pm local time, exactly 67 hours and 21 minutes after we left the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach. We've beaten them by 8 hours, 44 minutes.

We not only beat Tesla, we beat our target time of 69 hours, the interval between the approximate end of regulation in Stanley Cup Game Five in Los Angeles and the start of Game Six here at Madison Square Garden. Exactly 1 hour and 13 minutes remains before Game Six would have started, but the Kings clinched the Cup in double overtime as we left home.

Just as well. We didn't have tickets anyway.

The Alex Brothers
Our deed done, we have one more stop in mind: Tesla's New York City showroom. They close at 7 pm and it's 1.6 miles away. We have no time to dawdle.

Two guys named Alex are just locking up as we roll up to the front door at 7:02 pm. They have no idea who we are and have a hard time believing our cross-country claim at first.

2013 Tesla Model S

But they come around quickly as they examine the car, the pile of Rockstar cans and our general lack of hygiene. The trip odometer has some outrageous numbers on it, and it's pretty obvious that Kurt and I are spent. We can barely muster smiles as they snap pictures of us in front of the showroom.

As we say good-bye they direct us to a nearby parking garage near the Hudson. Kurt and I walk to the nearby quay wall to watch the sun set over New Jersey.

And then it dawns on us: We have to drive back.

But not before we get a good night's sleep. And before that we have an appointment with a couple pints of Guinness that should pair quite nicely with our new world record.

Trip Stats
Total Time: *67 hours, 21 minutes (Tesla: 76 hours, 5 minutes)

Total Distance: 3,331.9 miles (Tesla: 3,427 miles)

Driving Time: 52 hours, 41 minutes (Tesla: 60 hours, 8 minutes)

Average Driving Speed: 63.2 mph (Tesla: 57.0 mph)

Average Trip Speed: 49.5 mph (Tesla 45.0 mph)

Average Distance Covered in 24 hours: **1,187.3 miles

Supercharger Plug-In Time: 14 hours, 40 minutes (Tesla: 15 hours, 57 minutes)

Number of Supercharger Stops: 23

Average Supercharger Plug-in Time: 38.3 minutes

Number of Other Stops: 0

Average Consumption Rate: 317 Watt-hours/mile

Total Consumption: 1.06 Megawatt-hours

Total Fuel Cost: $0

Extra Distance and Time Due To Cannonball Start/End Instead of City Hall-to-City Hall: 21 miles, approximately 45 to 50 minutes.

And, lest we forget:

Total L.A.-N.Y.-L.A. Round Trip Time: **6 days, 23 hours, 4 minutes (less than a week!)

*L.A.-N.Y. World Record and Cannonball Record for an Electric Vehicle
**Possible EV World Record

These will most likely remain "unofficial" records as the Guinness paperwork is fairly exhaustive. Fingers crossed.

Comments

  • zoomzoomn zoomzoomn Posts:

    Nice trip, but I'm not buying the $0 fuel cost. I assume that you have to pay at the Superchargers? Based on your consumption at average rate per kwh your trip would cost about $160-$170. Posting this story without that information seems pointless. As pointless as all of our tax dollars subsidizing Tesla in every way imaginable including building the Supercharger network. Just saying.

  • s1gins s1gins Posts:

    ZoomZoomn - Tesla's superchargers are free. Any Tesla owner can use any Tesla supercharger at no cost. It is quite nice!

  • Congrats! A hell of an achievement, with no support team. I'm sure you were sweating bullets with "Range anxiety" a couple of times.

  • adantium adantium Posts:

    > @zoomzoomn said: > Nice trip, but I'm not buying the $0 fuel cost. I assume that you have to pay at the Superchargers? Based on your consumption at average rate per kwh your trip would cost about $160-$170. Posting this story without that information seems pointless. As pointless as all of our tax dollars subsidizing Tesla in every way imaginable including building the Supercharger network. Just saying. The Superchargers are FREE if you've ever read the blogs you'd know that.

  • morey000 morey000 Posts:

    @zoomzoomn; I presume you are equally as annoyed by our tax dollars subsidizing fossil fuels? To the tune of about $50B annually, not including military, health, climate, or local pollution costs.

  • zoomzoomn zoomzoomn Posts:

    ^^^ I have not read "the blogs". Consider that question asked and answered. Thanks. To add to my above comment, then, nothing is FREE. Somebody is paying for it. In this case WE all are paying for the Supercharger Stations AND for people to charge their Teslas...and, no, I'm not OK with that!!! And, morey000, if they paid for my gas at the pump then it would be the same thing!

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    What was the best part of the trip? Zero dollars for fuel cost is a very nice perk.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    @zoomzoomn Right. Nothing is free. But your're not paying for it. The cost associated with Supercharger use is built into the price of the car itself. Supercharger use is "free" (built into the sticker price) of the P85, but it's a $2,000 option on the P60. That price covers the necessary software upgrade and the $ value of the juice you're likely to consume on cross-country trips away from home. So get out there an use them, Model S owners. Take a trip. You're not getting your money's worth if you don't!

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    > @evandersmart said: > I'm sure you were sweating bullets with "Range anxiety" a couple of times. I knew we were going to cut it close on the run to Beaver, but I was pretty confident. And it was worth it. Even at 50 mph we saved a couple of hours compared to Tesla's longer route through the Navajo Reservation. The big oops happened on the way home driving into very strong headwinds in South Dakota. We were talking and not paying attention to the meter, which had gone to over 500 Wh/mile. Had to slow way down in order to make it, and the meter went to "---" miles about 3 miles before we got to the station.

  • rock2155 rock2155 Posts:

    Very nice story! Really enjoying reading it and all those pics. It must be an incredible amount of good memories for the rest of your life! I hope to do such a crazy trip in my life. Being an engineer, I wish I could get a copy if that Excel spreadsheet on your laptop that was used to calculate the charging time for each stations ;)

  • gslippy gslippy Posts:

    > @zoomzoomn said: > As pointless as all of our tax dollars subsidizing Tesla in every way imaginable including building the Supercharger network. Use of the Supercharger network is free, but you should also know that Tesla paid off its government loans quite some time ago. So no, you're not subsidizing Tesla. Repeating it often won't make it true.

  • schen72 schen72 Posts:

    > @gslippy said: > Use of the Supercharger network is free, but you should also know that Tesla paid off its government loans quite some time ago. So no, you're not subsidizing Tesla. Repeating it often won't make it true. I think @zoomzoomn is just jealous he doesn't have a Tesla.

  • Amazing accomplishment - my wife and I are planning a more sedate trip from Irvine via Arizona to attend the People's Climate March Sept 20-12 in New York City. Ignore the inane comments from fossil-fueler's!

  • joetesla joetesla Posts:

    Must have been an awesome trip! Great planning and reporting. How was the comfort level on a long run like that? The seats don't seem too cushy, but it's by far the most awesome car I've ever driven. I'm planning to journey all over the US and Canada spreading the Tesla love - but will spend most of a year doing it and won't be able to depend solely on the Superchargers.

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    How are "we" all paying for the Supercharger stations? If you mean we as in all Tesla owners, then yes "we" are all paying for the "free" charging. Tesla includes the cost of free Supercharging in every call they sell. So every owner (like myself) is paying for the free networking of Superchargers. Tesla gets no government money to build the Superchargers or federal money to pay for the free electricity. So unless you "zoomzoomn" have a Tesla, you aren't paying a penny for the Supercharger network or the electricity used.

  • henrycurbus henrycurbus Posts:

    @zoomzoomn paying for your gas is EXACTLY what the rest of us are doing. Do you think the natural market price of gas is really only $4 a gallon? EV incentives are microscopic by comparison and necessary to level the playing field.

  • > @zoomzoomn said: > ^^^ I have not read "the blogs". Consider that question asked and answered. Thanks. To add to my above comment, then, nothing is FREE. Somebody is paying for it. In this case WE all are paying for the Supercharger Stations AND for people to charge their Teslas...and, no, I'm not OK with that!!! And, morey000, if they paid for my gas at the pump then it would be the same thing! I think you missed the comment pointing out that the government DOES pay for part of your fuel costs. Without the billions in existing subsidies (as old or older than your or I probably are) you would pay considerably more. See Europe as an example. You don't hear about it because the policy is essentially grandfathered in, whereas tax breaks for EVs are new and open to debate. You also play into the hands of the largest corporations by shooting down Tesla's efforts, by supporting these old and bloated oil companies that area already treated as royalty by Washington. So, good luck keeping your government out of it.

  • How much time do you think you'd save once the St. George, UT supercharger is up?

  • teslafan teslafan Posts:

    Nice trip. Definitely not for the faint of heart, or people with high blood pressure. Your trip shows how impractical this Tesla cross country trip is. You have to take it up as a challenge, a major project. Not as a given. You also got really lucky. What if some super charger malfunctioned or there was a power outage and the previous car sucked up all the charge that was there before power shutdown? Edmunds must be paying you tons of money to go through this pain and anxiety. PS: With 7 days of food. lodging and time spent, it must be way cheaper to just fly there, even if we assume the superchargers were free, which isn't, as it is built into the P85 price tag.

  • banhugh banhugh Posts:

    > @henrycurbus said: > zoomzoomn paying for your gas is EXACTLY what the rest of us are doing. Do you think the natural market price of gas is really only $4 a gallon? HIS gas? What about the gas of the UPS, Fedex etc that got YOUR packages to YOUR house? What about YOUR groceries?

  • jim_in_nj jim_in_nj Posts:

    I'm curious if you have any stats on the return trip, especially the run from Beaver to Vegas. I imagine you could increase your speed on that leg considerably, vs from Las Vegas to Beaver.

  • kdawgg kdawgg Posts:

    @teslafan. Driving across the country in any vehicle is impractical depending on how you define it. But you missed the point. It's the experience. Regarding the "what if's", you can do that for any scenario in life, but not a life I would want to live.

  • As coal is the number one source of energy for the world, you can't differentiate btw Tesla and any gasoline or diesel powered car as we're all "fossil fuelers."

  • explorerx4 explorerx4 Posts:

    Too bad someone didn't spring for an ezpass to cut down on the toll stops and save some range. It must be embarrassing to pull up to a toll booth in a Tesla and fork over the cash. There are plenty of places to buy an ezpass on the route. 23 stops seems like more than would be made with most other vehicles. Congrats for making it left to right and back.

  • jim_in_nj jim_in_nj Posts:

    > @teslafan said: > With 7 days of food. lodging and time spent, it must be way cheaper to just fly there, even if we assume the superchargers were free, which isn't, as it is built into the P85 price tag. > Uhm, perhaps you didn't read this post? Dan and Kurt's total time from LA to NYC was 67 hours, 21 minutes. That's less than 3 days, and no where near '7 days of food, lodging and time spent'. The only expense was a lot of energy drinks and food. I suspect there is no LA-NYC flight as cheap for two people. That being said, I've driven coast-to-coast many times with my brother, and we would usually have at least one hotel stop along the way in our 3-day trips. I can't imagine doing this type of trip without any real rest. Flying is definitely the more humane and time effective way to go,

  • ehchan ehchan Posts:

    RE: Tolls... I don't think your FasTrak would work outside of California -- Just sayin'... Nice run though... If I had a week of and agreeable family I'd do this trip as well :)

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    > @archibaldcrane said: > How much time do you think you'd save once the St. George, UT supercharger is up? Probably an hour. The Vegas charge would have been 40 minutes instead of 83 and the St. George charge would be 40 minutes. So total charge time would stay the same, but we'd get to drive 75 mph instead of 50-55 for those 223 miles.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    > @jim_in_nj said: > I'm curious if you have any stats on the return trip, especially the run from Beaver to Vegas. I imagine you could increase your speed on that leg considerably, vs from Las Vegas to Beaver. I plan to release a few extra tidbits in the long-term blog. This is one of them. Vegas to Beaver compared to Beaver to Vegas. Obviously, the downhill run had no drama whatsoever.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    > @dadasracecar said: > As coal is the number one source of energy for the world, you can't differentiate btw Tesla and any gasoline or diesel powered car as we're all "fossil fuelers." Excellent point. Electric vehicles aren't always cleaner because the electricity generation method varies wildly. The late Dave Hermance (Toyota's Prius guru) once showed me data that demonstrated how an EV could be cleaner in Cali due to the way we generate power, but a gas-powered Prius might have less of a well-to-wheels carbon footprint in states where coal is used to generate electricity. But that's no reason to pooh-pooh EV technology. Tesla's envelope-pushing business strategy can only help spur new improvements and demand as they show the concept to be viable. And I think the powerplant issue will take care of itself in the same timeframe. Cleaner electricity is a prime goal of current pollution-control efforts. And no one needs to worry about EVs taking over, even if they don't ever plan on buying one. They will not be forced down anyone's throat. Hybrids have been around for a long time and they barely represent 5% of the market.

  • actualsize actualsize Posts:

    > @ehchan said: > RE: Tolls... I don't think your FasTrak would work outside of California -- Just sayin'... Nice run though... If I had a week of and agreeable family I'd do this trip as well :) That's what I kept telling myself each time we had to stop at a cash lane. But I've talked to folks who have lived in both places and they think it might have worked. I know it works in NorCal where the FasTrak logo isn't on the toll lanes. I think they call them EZ Pay up there, too. I'm sure I could have asked an east coast friend to mail me their transponder and let me borrow it for a few days. Anyway, there's another hour of potential savings for those that have an eye on breaking our record.

Leave a Comment
ADVERTISEMENT

Featured Video

ADVERTISEMENT

Marketplace

up2drive

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan


Car.com

Credit Problems?
We can help you get Financing!

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Have a question? We're here to help!
Chat*
Chat online with us
Email
Email us at help@edmunds.com
*Available daily 8AM-5PM Pacific
Phone*
Call us at 855-782-4711
SMS*
Text us at ED411