2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Chickening Out

August 15, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The Monterey Bay Historics weekend is fast approaching and I've been on the fence on what car to take. Scott's already called the SLS AMG which would, obviously, be my first pick. It's a great drive and the SLS is perfect for those roads. Most everything else we have will hold all of my luggage, get more than 11 mpg and just be too easy.

"What about the Tesla?" I thought.

The drive isn't terribly long; 300 miles or so. But it's full of hills, traffic and relatively quick highways. There's just no way I'd ever get the claimed 265-mile range on this drive. 200 if I'm lucky. 180 seems more reasonable.

But that's not much of a problem either. There are Superchargers in Buellton, Atascadero and, close to Monterey, Gilroy. It takes some planning (As you can see by the clutter on my desk and the 95 intertube tabs all with maps. The whiteboard maths on my partition are not shown.), but getting there isn't a problem.

What is a problem is getting back to Gilroy. The drive from Gilroy to my hotel — which does not have an EV charger beyond a simple wall plug — is about 50 miles and over the weekend I'll have a good deal of driving to do. And then there's the fact that the Tesla loses a bit of range just for hanging out parked. We've seen 20 miles go by overnight.

So let's estimate 100 miles back and forth to the Supercharger, 80 miles of heavy-traffic during the four days I'll be gone and then, to be safe, 20 miles of depleted range per night (80 more miles total). That's 260 if I've done my math right which only gives me a buffer of 5 miles based on ideal conditions.

I've never gotten close to ideal conditions or 265 miles of range.

I took our Tesla for a quick test the other day. I did some similar highway driving as I'd be doing over the big weekend, I did some similar city driving and I did a bunch of searching around for parking spots like I'll certainly be doing up in Monterey. The result? I drove 47.8 miles and lost 95 miles of EV range. That is well, well beyond my 5-mile buffer zone.

This trip would be doable if my hotel had a way to charge our Tesla that didn't involve unplugging a toaster. It doesn't. They have two 110v plugs and are expecting multiple Teslas and promised to "rotate the cars through the chargers as often as is necessary. Considering a drained Model S takes like 3 days to fill up, and that there will be at least a few others, I'm not expecting much plug time.

So I'm chickening out. I'm going to find something much more boring to take that offers much better range and refueling possibilities. I'll take the Tesla sometime when I have more flexibility, or when I stay somewhere with an EV outlet.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 7,722 miles

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Most Recommended Comments

By fordson1
on 08/16/13
7:05 AM PST

The wild-west aspect to all this is the claimed 265-mile range. From what various Edmunds staffers have found out, reliable road-trip range is 180 to 200 miles, not 265. Regardless of the regenerative brakes, stop-and-go driving range is looking like maybe 60% of that, or 108 to 130 miles. How is this OK with owners, or with the EPA? As much fault as people find with EPA mpg estimates for ICE vehicles, they at least have three different profiles they publish - city, highway and combined, and they are at least fairly realistic. And ICE vehicle range is fairly unaffected by HVAC and accessory use, and ambient temps, while EVs are proportionally more affected by those factors. There is already a statistical probability shortfall with EVs - on a road trip in my ICE, theoretically, I will be able to refuel when I need to, wherever I'm going - and that's probably true in reality also. Theoretically, I will be able to refuel in a timeframe that is reasonable to me, when I arrive at the facility - and again, that's probably true in reality (maybe there's one guy ahead of me at the pump - big deal - that's 5 extra minutes). Theoretically, I will get 31 mpg - and that's probably what I will actually get. With the Tesla, the gap between theory and reality with regard to refueling availability is huge - it all depends upon the direction you're headed. The gap between theory and reality in charging time is huge - you think you can recharge in an hour, but there's a guy ahead of you at the SC. So now that's an extra what...hour? Even if you have a free charger, if there's another car at the adjoining one, the charge rate for you both is cut in half. If you're talking a slower charger, forget it - if it's occupied, the theory/reality disparity is off the scale. And now with the car itself, the gap between theory (265 mile range) and reality is huge. When those tolerances all stack up, that's a...problem. And Tesla added to it - if there were another luxury EV out there claiming 200 mile range, then claiming 265 might make sense, but to me this was an unforced marketing error and just compounds the unpredictability of the whole experience.

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