San Francisco Road Trip, Part One - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test
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2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: San Francisco Road Trip, Part One

August 13, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

I think I'm getting better with road trips. Between the Grand National trip from Memphis and my L.A. to Napa and back in a day, these things are a less of a big deal. Of course, I'm always up for a challenge.

This time around, I was tasked to drive our Tesla Model S to San Francisco for a night with Edmunds Media Relations Manager Stephanie Mar in tow. The reason for heading up there was to have the Tesla on display at a Connected Car technology event that was co-hosted by one of our beloved former Edmunds colleagues, Doug Newcomb.

I was given the option of heading up to the Bay Area a day before the event so that battery range would be less of an issue. My schedule didn't allow this, though, so I opted to leave at 6:30 a.m. the day of the event. In hindsight, it would have been smarter to spend the extra night up there.

The night before, I made sure the Tesla was set to its extended range charge. In the morning, Stephanie and I set out right on schedule and headed north on the 5 Freeway out of Los Angeles with 257 miles in estimated range. My first stop would be the Tesla supercharger station at Tejon Ranch, a scant 83 miles away. It really wasn't all that necessary, since the Model S could probably make it to the second stop easily. But I didn't want to even tempt fate.

With a massive range buffer at my disposal, I drove the Tesla with a bit more verve than I would in conservation mode. Onramps were obliterated and passing slower cars was like buzzing a bi-plane with a jet fighter. The car's navigation smartly has the ability to guide you to supercharger stations with only a few taps on the screen. It doesn't get much easier.

2013 Tesla Model S

We arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule with 147 miles of range left. Subtract the 83 actual miles and that means I squandered about 27 miles in hard acceleration. Worth it. A scant 40 minutes later on the supercharger and the range was right back up to 252 miles of range. Getting the next 10 miles of range took an interminable 25 minutes as the charge rate slowed to protect battery life. I gave up at 262 miles and we were once again headed north.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 6,676 miles


Comments

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    You also "lost miles" because you were climbing. Bet you get some back on the way back down.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Google Maps has this trip at 382 miles. If you encountered some early-morning traffic leaving town and then averaged 70 mph, that would have been like 75 minutes, plus 65 minutes charging is 140 minutes. 140 minutes in a regular ICE car would have you about 160 miles down the road, with no need to refuel before your destination. Leaving the Supercharger at Tejon Ranch, you have almost exactly 300 miles ahead of you. The Supercharger in Gilroy, 227 miles down the road, is your probable next recharge point. Interesting that you say the fast driving was worth it, because at the rate you were using juice, your 257-mile initial range would work out to 194 miles. The Harris Ranch Supercharger is 196 miles away from your office, with SF 184 miles after that - you could have made the entire trip with only one stop to recharge if you drove slower. Again, an ICE car would make the trip on one tank, fast driving or not. This is actually a good illustration of the compromises inherent in driving an EV.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Of course in a comparable ICE 5-passenger luxury vehicle you'd get around 23mpg and those 382 miles would take 17 gallons of gas at I5 freeway prices of $4.80 per gallon (they all take super duper premium) meaning this one-way trip would cost you $81.60. Doubling that for the return would mean you spent $163 in gas alone. Now if you want to add the wear and tear on the brakes, engine, oil, etc. you'll see that the government says it will cost you $.53 per mile in an ICE. Now you're looking at a whopping $405 of wear and tear on your ICE for this trip. Even taking in the $163 gas-only cost, let's say that you spent an hour at each supercharger each time. And let's say you hit two superchargers up and two superchargers down. That's 4 hours. Of course you can use the restroom and get something to eat during that downtime as well, but let's not count that. So you're being paid $40.75 for each hour you spent supercharging. Is that worth your time? Only you can answer that question. You'd spend 15 minutes at the pumps going up and 15 minutes at the pump going back anyway so you're really talking about a 3.5 hour difference over the up and back. Now you're getting paid $47 an hour for your time. I've done this drive over 100 times throughout the years since my wife and I have families in NorCal and we live in SoCal. We always have to stop at least three times up and three times back. Every rest area she uses the restroom and walks around stretching her legs. This is in addition to the refueling stops. This car is a no-brainer for California drivers.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Good take on it, dunning15. But I'm sure there will be per-mile costs in a Tesla, too...we just don't know what those are yet. For this trip, you don't pay freeway prices for gas, because you are not refueling along the freeway...you refuel at a cheaper gas station before you get on the freeway. Right now in Santa Monica, 91 is going for $4.15 a gallon, not $4.80. There is no super-duper premium in CA. Pumping 17 gallons does not take 15 minutes. Are these all niggling things? Yeah - but they add up. You say you stop at least 3 times each way, not including refueling, for this trip? So you are stopping each 90 miles, let's say? You know, most people don't drive that way on a long trip - more like every 250. On Edmunds' Porsche 911 coast-to-coast trip, when they were doing like 900-1,000 miles per day, they were not stopping every 90 miles, I can tell you that. Now on the other side, Mark Takahashi was saying that the smart thing to do since he was taking the Tesla would have been to spend an extra night in SF. So there's $200-$250 extra the Tesla is costing him, and this will always be the case with any road trip in this car - more days on the road = more costs for lodging. Lots of ways to slice it.

  • exnevadan_ exnevadan_ Posts:

    I think dunning15 nailed it - you're paying one way or the other. for me "free" time spent on one end or the other of a trip/vacation is usually more important than the cost of getting there, hence the desire to often travel by airplane versus automobile. road trips are fun in and of themselves, but having the maximum time at the destination end is usually the primary goal of our family trips. having, versus choosing, to add several hours to a trip would be a non-starter for my family. also, if you own a good restaurant you might start looking for real estate adjacent to these supercharger stations, seems there'd be a captive audience at your doorstep.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    "I was tasked to drive our Tesla Model S to San Francisco for a night with Edmunds Media Relations Manager Stephanie Mar" OK then.

  • greenpony greenpony Posts:

    dunning15, unless there is reason to believe that the Model S's wear-and-tear would be significantly less or more than any other vehicle's, it's not even worth discussing. Focusing on fuel costs, the price difference could be pretty significant if you rely heavily on free charging stations such as the SuperChargers. You could potentially realize a savings of $100-150 per trip vs your $163 estimate. Making this trip once a month, or every weekend, and your savings vs a conventional luxury car are greatly multiplied. Now I understand why hardly a day goes by when I *don't* see a Model S on the road.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    I'm not sure how you can look at Tesla's maintenance program costs for this car and try to make comparisons to a regular ICE car's "wear and tear" with a straight face. The car should be significantly cheaper to service, but Tesla is still charging you as if you owned a Porsche. The car isn't exactly cheap in the first place so I'm not sure why we're talking about a cost-basis for this trip when the Passat Diesel can almost make the entire trip back and forth on one tank of gas, without costing nearly 6 figures.

  • Total trip cost savings using a Tesla Model S: hard to calculate ------ being able to flip the bird to the people in oil rich countries that hate us: Priceless --------- yes, I know much of our oil comes from slightly more friendly countries but when you reduce demand it affects every producer.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @zimtheinvader: "yes, I know much of our oil comes from slightly more friendly countries" I certainly hope you feel that Canadians are at least slightly more friendly than oil-rich countries!

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Greenpony - Are you serious? Do you understand what the Tesla Model S is all about? There is no exhaust system. There are no spark plugs. There is no engine - only a motor that has a 30-year service life with only a single moving part. The brakes last 5 years because regenerative braking slows the car instead of the brakes. There is no creep so you don't need to hit the brakes for every stop and keep your foot on the pedal. There is no starter. No timing belt. No alternator. No oil changes. No air filter. There is no transmission. There are no gears. No pistons. No valves. What do you think? Do you think operating costs might be a little lower? I'm a betting man and I bet they will. And Fordson1, if time is of the essence I'm flying. Southwest is $240 roundtrip and takes 45 minutes from LA to San Jose. The drive is always around 6 hours. I don't drive 900 miles at a time. I'm married. I have a wife. I have two kids. They aren't going anywhere for six hours straight. They are the weak link in this chain. If they need to stop every 90 minutes guess what? I'm stopping every ninety minutes. Have you made this drive in the article? I have. Over 100 times in the past 20 years. I go at least once every three months - sometimes more often. The Model S is a perfect fit for my family's needs. If I didn't live in California, often made 1000 mile trips, didn't have a spare 70K laying around, etc. I would have to think long and hard about it.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Calm down, man. 250 miles is 3.5 hours, not 6. I have a wife and kid - we make 3.5 hours OK without any meltdown. I have made that drive a couple of times. A Tesla has fewer things to go wrong in the drivetrain, but it still has brakes, needs brake fluid flushes, rotors still warp, there are still suspension bushings, shocks that wear out, tie rod ends, stabilizer bar end links, ball joints, tires, wheels and bearings, the electric HVAC, controls, instruments, cabin air filter, etc. Still gets into collisions, door dings, paint chips, front air dam still gets banged up on parking blocks, outside mirrors still get bashed against ATM machine, still needs wash, wax, detail, so on, so forth. It's still a complex machine and not a claw hammer.

  • dunning15 dunning15 Posts:

    Wow, you can go from LA to San Jose in 3.5 hours driving? That's a pretty cool trick. With LA traffic, the Grapevine, San Jose traffic, the 5, the 152 you can still do it in 3.5? Amazing. It's always taken us 6 hours but that's probably all those stops we do. I'll try it alone some time and shoot for that magical 3.5 hour time. Forget about the hyperloop traveling 800 mph. Fordson1 can get you there in his Impala in just another couple hours. Sure it's a car. Sure it has other systems. But that's like saying a grasshopper is as complex as a human. It's got a head. Legs. A brain. A mouth. Stomach. Etc etc etc. But if you look at all the things that can go wrong with a grasshopper versus all the things that can go wrong with a human there is a huge difference. Rotors warp when brakes are used. Brakes are rarely used in the Model S. They can last 100K miles. Tires? Paint chips? Mirror and ATM machines? Well you got me there. I never added all of that into my cost analysis before I purchased my Model S.

  • jim_in_nj_ jim_in_nj_ Posts:

    I guess every family is different. When we travel long distances with my wife and daughter, the first leg is sometimes 3 hours (about 200 miles). My favorite phrase as we're leaving: "Go now, or forever hold you p!ss!". But after the first leg we're lucky to get 2 hours (140-150 miles) before someone needs to stop. I've actually timed our stops, and it's at least 15 minutes before we all get back in the car and moving again (and much longer if someone wants to stop for a sit-down meal, which usually happens once during a 400+ mile trip). A 450 mile trip a Model S would add less than 10 minutes to the day, and save over $50 in fuel. Seems like a no-brainer to me, and I think we're a typical family. I suppose fordson1's family must have bladders the size of watermelons. I'm jealous! :)

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    dunning15, in an earlier post, I said that most people stop every 250 miles or so, not 90. Then you said your family was not going to sit for 6 hours. In this most recent post, referring to that, I said that 250 miles was not six hours - more like 3.5. I never said it only took 3.5 hours from LA to San Jose - go back and read it like you should have read it the first time. Actually, I think your choice of the Tesla S was great - you have a family that you say can't go very far without stopping for awhile, and you went and bought the perfect car for them. Congrats. @jim_in_nj: the saying is "LEAK now or forever hold your piss," I think. Funnier that way.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Why are we calling the Tesla reliable? It is a new model with no history and reliability statistics. Oh but let's just call it reliable because it has less moving parts, because that's the only important aspect of that equation. Just to be clear, I'm not saying that it isn't reliable (or that part count plays no part in reliability and durability), but you can't just declare it so... As for serious road tripping, nothing electric is up to the task right now since the two most important things to do so, range and refueling time, are the main drawbacks of electric powertrains. For example, less than a month ago an Audi A6 diesel wagon took me from Belgium to the Cote D'Azure on less than two tanks. Don't tell me that I would have been happier on the side of the road recharging. You know, I do like the Tesla. It is however, just a car with strengths and weaknesses, not the savior reincarnate. I don't understand why there is such a resistance to admitting that it sometimes isn't the best answer to a question.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @dunning15: Tesla charges you $600 for the first service, at 12,500 miles. This has been debated before on Edmunds but it's hard to justify why they charge this much, and regardless it's significantly more expensive than your average car.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @dunning: My wife and I travel with a small kid and its about 50/50 whether she gives out first or we do, but it is nowhere close to 90 minutes. I'd say we average 3 hours between stops. We travel a few times a year from far east outside of LA to Sacramen

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