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Published on July 6th, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan


Driving A Tesla Model S To The Polish Boonies

July 6th, 2017 by  

As you’ve probably read, a handful of guys and I recently got a Tesla Model S 85D for an intercity European Tesla Shuttle service we’re launching based out of Wroclaw, Poland. This last weekend, I rented the Tesla myself (but with no personal driver, unfortunately) to pick my family up from my in-laws’ “summer house” (lake house in the middle of nowhere). This place is really off the beaten track, in what I think we’d call “the boonies” in the United States.

I was a little bit concerned about making the drive with limited long-distance EV driving experience and limited charging options in the boonies. The home is 160 kilometers (99 miles) away, which isn’t too far but could require double the driving range if there ended up being a problem charging the car there. I’ve thought about trying to make the drive in a BMW i3 REx or a 30 kWh Nissan LEAF, but I’ve always felt it’s a bit too risky since much of the driving is on fast roads, there are a lot of elevation changes and curves in the road, and there’s not much option to even get gas (let alone charge) along certain stretches of the possible routes. It was definitely nice to make the first electric trip there in a Tesla Model S 85D, but I was still a little nervous about how well it would turn out. Would I eat up battery capacity much more than expected? Would I actually be able to charge at my in-laws’ house? Would I be able to charge somewhere “nearby” if it came to that?

I have another article coming about Tesla’s smart navigation system in which I will discuss this feature at length (I’m just waiting on some details from Tesla), but I can say that Tesla’s navigation system gave me a good sense of security and a lot more mental comfort going into this trip. I drove to and from Berlin a few days before making this trip to the Polish boonies and my experience both ways was that Tesla’s smart navigation was conservative rather than overly optimistic. For example, after a Supercharge at the station pictured on the right, the Tesla navigation told me I could get to my Berlin destination with 20% battery capacity remaining, but I ended up getting there with 23% charge remaining.

The Tesla navigation system told me I could actually drive all the way to the summer house and back and arrive home with 18% battery capacity (starting with 100% battery capacity). Still, a wrong turn, bad weather (it was raining and windy), elevation changes, or other factors could change the story dramatically, right? It turns out Tesla’s navigation system was conservative yet again. I got to the summer house with 67% charge instead of the initially estimated 60% charge, and I got back with 42% charge instead of 33% charge, something I should note came in large part from the navigation system rerouting late in the drive to a slower highway through Prochowice rather than the one on the map below through Legnica (also note that this route through Prochowice is indeed the route we’d take in a gas car as well — I’m not sure why Tesla initially tried to navigate me through Legnica, but perhaps it was related to the Supercharger option on that route or simply because it’s a faster highway).

Anyway, let’s step back a bit again: Planning for the trip, I wanted to be prepared for a “worst case scenario.” If my range was dropping faster than expected on the way to the boonies, I found a place I could charge with a 22 kW connection that was 30 minutes off the route. It’s a hotel and a note on PlugShare says (in Polish) that it’s “for guests of the hotel.” I decided to call up the hotel, explain my situation, and ask if it’d be okay to charge there if needed. The man to whom I talked (presumably the owner) didn’t sound stoked about the idea, but he said it would be okay.

I also scoped out places on the other side of the boonies in case I drove a different route or got to the house and learned that I couldn’t actually charge there. There’s apparently a new 22 kW charging port at a TOTAL gas station an opposite 30 minutes out of the way, and if you go another hour beyond that, there’s a Tesla Supercharger.

Naturally, a couple of extra hours to charge wouldn’t have been convenient, but the surprising thing to me was actually that there were these backup options available in the Polish boonies. This country has a tiny number of electric cars.

I wouldn’t have been thrilled if I had to go charge at one of these backup options, but at least they exist. And if you can drive an electric car into the middle of nowhere in Poland, I think you can drive an electric car to a lot more places than you might think.

In the end, because the Tesla navigation told me I would get to the summer house with a lot more range than I initially expected, and I assumed that charging at the house would work out alright, I didn’t spend time on one of these backup options. I trickle charged at the house with an extension cord and normal electricity outlet for several hours (getting up from 67% to 82% despite a short roller coaster ride with my brother-in-law to show off the electric torque) and we left in the early evening, as was most convenient for our young daughters (3 and 1) and my wife. (The house also has a stronger power outlet we could have theoretically used, but the house’s water pump is hooked up to it, they didn’t want to disconnect that for logical reasons, and we had no real need for it.)

As noted above, we got back home with 42% charge.

Surely, this trip was made a lot easier by having a long-range Tesla Model S, but it actually should have worked fine with the medium-range Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, or Hyundai IONIQ currently on the market … I think. Maybe I’ll try one of those options some day.

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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