Weekend Road Trip to Monterey, Return Trip - 2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

2013 Tesla Model S Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Tesla Model S: Weekend Road Trip to Monterey, Return Trip

October 2, 2013

2013 Tesla Model S

The reason Tracy and I went to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was simple: We had tickets to the Grand Am race weekend. It's a great event. The racing is excellent and the crowds aren't nearly as intense as they are on a MotoGP weekend. It's easier to get around in town on Cannery Row, too.

Our hotel's Level 2 charger was a decided advantage, a necessity in fact. We needed the extra juice to make it to the track each day. And we needed to replace some of the miles we used getting to the track so we could get far enough down the road to reach the Supercharger network.

2013 Tesla Model S

Each round trip to the track was 23 miles, and we made that journey twice. The first night's full charge would have been enough to cover both track days and the first leg back to the Atascadero Supercharger with a couple dozen miles to spare. And we could have saved a couple dozen additional miles by leaving for home straight from the track on Sunday afternoon.

But we had a room Sunday night, so we were able to top up at the hotel one last time. We'd be heading out Monday morning with a full battery.

2013 Tesla Model S

I'd put the Tesla back into extended range charge mode, so we awoke to find 261 miles of battery to work with.

2013 Tesla Model S

That meant we could do something unexpected. We drove past the Atascadero Supercharger and continued on to the next one in Buellton, which was 80 miles farther down Highway 101. It's nice to have options.

2013 Tesla Model S

Buellton is another of Tesla's newest Supercharger stations. It's been open about a month and it's in the side parking lot of the Marriott hotel, which has a restaurant a few dozen steps away. There's a McDonald's and a movie theater right next door. The famous Pea Soup Andersen's is a half-mile walk on the other side of the freeway. We ate at the Marriott's cafe.

From this point we knew this was going to be a one-stop return trip. My car was in Santa Monica, my original starting point. We were only 134 miles from the end as far as the Model S was concerned.

For me, the exciting part of this trip was that it wasn't exciting at all. Except for the need to secure a hotel with an EV charger, the electric car issues people usually imagine were simply nonexistent thanks to the availability of Superchargers. We pretty much drove the Tesla Model S like any other car, and our stops were about as numerous and as time-consuming as they would have been otherwise.

In fact, our stops were even more relaxing. The typical roadside break is a two-parter: gas, then food. The temptation to drive through and eat on the road is great because you spent so much time at the pump. Here the plug and unplug task is little more than a footnote to the usual parking ritual. It doesn't really feel like you're stopping for fuel at all. Especially since Superchargers don't charge.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 9,406 miles


  • kirkhilles_ kirkhilles_ Posts:

    "Especially since Superchargers don't charge." This is definitely a concern of mine. If Tesla becomes big and fulfills the destiny the stock price currently represents, how long before they DO start starting? They use proprietary connectors and chargers (as far as I'm aware) and I'm sure the technology is patented to the teeth. If Teslas become commonplace, will $40-$50 charges become the norm? Not like you'll really have a choice or competition...

  • jeepsrt jeepsrt Posts:

    I saw a Tesla Model S with Nebraska plates up in Breckenridge,CO a few months ago. I was pretty impressed he drove that far as I didn't think there were any Superchargers around Colorado.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Yeah, it is nice to have options. For most people, though, a race weekend is just that - a weekend. They have to be back at work Monday; they can't be spending half of Monday driving home. They have to leave the track at the end of racing Sunday afternoon and drive the 311 miles back home. The race started at 2 and took 2:45, so it was over at about 5. Bake in some time leaving with all the race traffic, and you're going to be getting home at about 10-10:30 at night, if you leave with a full tank of gas. But you have the Tesla, so you have to also bake in another hour at the supercharger, when all you want to do is get home and get to bed. None of this is a crippling flaw, but this weekend worked for you only because of all the supercharger locations there and because you could take Monday too, because really driving these LT cars IS PART of your job. I want to take in a race weekend at Watkins Glen - can you direct me to the supercharger I would use en route...from anywhere?

  • @kirkhilles For 85kwh cars, it's baked into the cost of the car. For 60kwh cars, you have to pay a $2000 option to enable supercharging. It is "free" as in "free healthcare".

  • ryster ryster Posts:

    Is there any security at these charging stations? It just seems odd to me that you plug the car in and walk away for an hour. The opportunity for vandalism seems high. Either that, or some joker walks by, unplugs the car, and walks off. You come back an hour later to find the car hasn't charged. Now you have to plug in and wait another hour. If these Teslas really take off, imagine having to wait in line to use the charging station. You wait 30 minutes to use the charger, and then another hour to charge the car. Your recharge turns into a 90 minute affair, versus less than 10 minutes at a conventional gas station. I like the Tesla, and the future it represents for electric cars, but it doesn't quite seem like it represents worry-free driving at this point. I can drive 500 miles in my Hyundai Sonata, stop for a 10 minute fill up, and then drive another 500 miles. My trip is done in 16 hours. In the Tesla, I would have to stop every 250 miles and spend 1 hour recharging. The 16hr trip becomes a 19-20hr trip.

  • farvy_ farvy_ Posts:

    No such thing as a free lunch. This car starts at $60,000, & Edmunds car cost $105,000. What part of the Supercharger network & the electricity itself is "free"? Same thing for those people that say "I get free maintenance on my new car!" You just paid tens of thousands of dollars, or hundreds of dollars every month, for that new car. You are paying for this "free" stuff whether you know it or not. And as noted in a previous comment, you never know if in the future Tesla will charge for the electricity. All that being said, I really like the Tesla. It looks sharp & performs well. I really hope it succeeds.

  • mayhemm mayhemm Posts:

    Well I can tell you one thing; whether a permanent arrangement or not, Superchargers are a heck of a lock "free-er" than anything you'll find on a gas car. Doesn't matter if it costs $15,000 or $250,000. And, to me, that's worth quite a bit.

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger It looks like there will be superchargers in (roughly) Buffalo, Syracuse, and Ithica next year. Fordson1 will make it to Watkins Glen. Rejoice!

  • drcomputer drcomputer Posts:

    Tesla has said that the SuperChargers will be free for life. Also, to address security concerns the cable gets locked to the car when the car locks so a vandal can't just walk by and unplug a charging car. Since the newer stations are being built with 8-10 charging spots and the average person only charges for 30 minutes, the likelihood of having to wait more than a few minutes if you arrived to a full station is very minimal.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    mfennell - LOL - I live 25 miles north of Buffalo, so the Glen is around 160 miles from me. With a SC location in Buffalo, that doesn't help, because when I pass through there heading to the Glen I will still be almost fully charged. Unless I can find a charging solution in the vicinity of the track, though, I don't know how I could make it home. I guess I could bake in a trip to Ithaca to charge up there, but that involves driving 50 miles out of my way. drcomputer, do you know of any law, natural or man-made, that would make it so that there could only ever be 10 cars at a 10-charger SC location, rather than 13, when you pull up? You are positing both that a) Superchargers will provide free refueling forever, and b) there will never be a waiting line for that free refueling.

  • Is it bad for the batteries to leave the car charging overnight? Like a cell phone battery, you're not supposed to leave them plugged in overnight or it could cause them to hold less of a charge if done repeatedly. I suppose you could simply go to a battery swap location to circumvent this, but that's not really what I'm asking.

  • jvonbokel jvonbokel Posts:

    @arcticbluetsx: The reason it's not good* to leave your cell phone plugged in overnight is that it reaches 100% charge and then stays there, which is one of the two most detrimental states a lithium ion battery can be in (the other being high temperature)

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