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Across The Country: 4,180 Kilometers In A Tesla Model S (CleanTechnica Exclusive)


Over the holidays, I purchased a Certified Pre Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S… from the other side of the country. Check out part one and part two of the purchase story as well as the summary of my early learnings from the first day of owning the car… in which, I drove 2,000 kilometers!

My rough plan consisted of getting from Columbus to Indianapolis after purchasing the car, sleeping a few hours, then driving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, the following day, where my brother and his family live. The first full day of driving would be the longest and it would get shorter from there. It’s easy to talk about driving 1,067 miles in a single day, as defined by a single episode of mostly awakeness… but the reality of it wasn’t quite that simple.

indiana to colorado

Driving Day Two — Indianapolis, Indiana, to Colorado Springs, Colorado = 1,715 kilometers / 1,067 miles, 15.75 hours drive time

Looking at the trip on the map shows just how many much of the planet I would be driving through in a single day if the plan worked out. It was crazy. It was way too many miles. Gosh, I hope all those Superchargers work. I hope the speed doesn’t eat up too many miles. I hope it doesn’t get too cold. It should work though… right?

After attempting to sleep a full night but realizing that I had slept too much on the plane, I hit the road early on day two, which felt good. I was beyond excited to get into my “new” Model S, which I had laboriously charged up the night before (starting at 1am!)… but when it’s new, that’s still exciting to do… and it was. I hopped in and jumped on the freeway, not thinking about just how many miles lay in front of me. Just 30 hours of driving to go. Not to mention charging time. No big deal.


Awesome Botched Panoramic Shot of my Model S Supercharging… twice

Let me take a minute to talk about charging. The battery charges faster when it’s nearly empty. The “add 150 miles of range in just 30 minutes” Supercharging benchmark rate speaks of charging from this ideal. This is a non-existent, fleeting status that you actually never want to hit. Will I ever run my Model S down to zero? Nope, never. I had my Leaf down to an estimated 4 miles of range (the guess-o-meter goes blank at ~8.5 miles of range left) and we have had my wife’s B-Class Electric down to 8 miles of range. That’s 5 and 10% state of charge, respectively.

Adding insult to injury, charging from 150 miles of range to 100% takes a LOT longer. In the Model S, assuming it was at the elusive 0% state of charge, it would get up to 150 miles of range in ~30 minutes. Taking it up to full would require another 45 minutes. Breaking down the math, it’s actually faster to stop at every Supercharger, top off for 30 minutes and continue on down the road than it is to fully charge up at one station and skip the middle station. That didn’t make sense to my pea brain until I fully thought through it. With most of the Superchargers just a few tenths of a mile off of the interstate, there wasn’t much loss of time in getting to/from the chargers either.


The Rocky Mountains as depicted by the efficiency graph in the Model S

On my cross country journey, the distance ranged from 66 miles to 144 miles between Superchargers. I believe I did skip one Supercharger but didn’t make a habit of it after actually processing how charging speeds and miles driven were related. If I were to have plugged straight on through to Colorado Springs, I would have arrived at an inconvenient time… somewhere around 3:30am. So I did what any reasonable person would do — curled up in the back while at a Supercharger, turned on the heat, and took a few 1-hour naps at 2 or 3 charging stops. That topped up the battery and stretched out my arrival time to a more reasonable ~6am. As a special bonus, it helped keep any sleepiness at bay.

I spent a wonderful couple of days in Colorado Springs before resuming the journey, which was great because that long day really took it out of me. The plan was to spend Sunday driving down to Las Vegas, NV, where I would arrive at CES in time to get registered for the event and cover the Faraday Future Concept reveal on Monday.

I had two options for the drive — through the Rocky Mountains (straight west on the map below) or south to New Mexico, through the high desert of Arizona and then up to Las Vegas. If the forecast was agreeable, I would plug straight through, but didn’t want to chance any mountain passes if the weather or temperatures weren’t cooperating. Thankfully, it must have been the perfect week for this drive, as it snowed before I arrived in “the Springs” followed by an amazing 5 days of sunshine. Granted, it was still a bitter cold for a guy from Southern California, but it meant that I had a great shot at a run through the mountains.

colorado to vegas

Driving Day Three — Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las Vegas, Nevada = 1,315 kilometers / 815 miles, 12.5 hours drive time

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the elevation gains but there were no surprises on the journey as far as the driving went. It was beautiful — amazing mountain passes, winding through world-class ski resorts like Breckenridge, Aspen, Vail, and quite a few others that I’m just not cool enough to know about. Thankfully, the road was snow free and as my audio book of choice kept my mind occupied, I was able to soak in the beautiful sights and just enjoy the drive.

The drive from Colorado Springs through to Utah was by far my favorite part of the drive. The majority of the drive on either side, with the exception of the flooded Mississippi River, was fairly typical midwest farmland mixed in with frozen patches of trees.

vegas to ventura

Driving Day Four — Las Vegas, Nevada, to Ventura, California = 530 kilometers / 330 miles,

Finally, after spending a few days covering CES, I would drive the final leg of the journey to my hometown in Ventura, California. What would normally be a long, tedious drive felt like a breeze. Just two charging stops (Primm, Nevada and Barstow, California) and I was home. Ironically, it snowed a little on this leg of the journey, just as I entered California, but not enough to stick.

Aside from just proving that it was possible, this trip proved to me that a road trip is more than feasible in a Model S — it’s enjoyable! Granted, I would not subject myself or my family to the type of drives I put in on this journey but just the fact that it went off without a hitch was amazing to me. The breaks every few hours were a welcome opportunity to answer the call of nature, get more coffee, and stretch my legs.

The Model S really has reawakened my desire to drive long distances with my family and I’m already looking around for the next adventure. 🙂

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Written By

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.


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