Mike Krueger recently drove with his son in a Tesla Model 3 from northern California to Texas and back to visit family members who live in the Lone Star State. He made a very detailed video and uploaded it to his YouTube channel to share some of the trip insights. There are many striking aspects of this journey: one is the fact you can put the Model 3’s back seat forward and lie down in the rear of the car — even though the vehicle may not appear from the outside to be large enough to do this. Another is that the very long trip was comfortable for a 10-year-old as well as the adult driver. The main narrative element appears to be just how easy the multi-state summer trek was.
Krueger generously answered some questions about driving the Model 3 on such a lengthy excursion for CleanTechnica.
1. What is your name and why do you use the handle Frugal Tesla Guy?
My name is Mike Krueger and I’m just an average middle class guy who doesn’t have a lot of money. Over the years most of the Tesla YouTube channels were filled with wealthy guys showing off their very expensive toys. When the Model 3 came out I did have to tweak a few things in my budget to make it happen. That’s when I thought it would be great to start a channel for the “Average Joe” like me. I just want to be down to earth and not only help people decide whether or not they want to buy a Tesla but also help those who already have one.
2. How long have you had your Model 3 and why did you choose it instead of the other EVs on the market?
Before I ordered my Model 3 I did have a Nissan Leaf since 2013. Although it wasn’t a road trip car and everything I wanted in an EV, it was a start and also affordable. Once the Model 3 came out, I ordered one and received it in August of last year. The reason I chose the Model 3 is because as far as I’m concerned it’s the only EV on the market worth spending my money on. I have been following Tesla since the Model S was released but have also kept up to speed with the other EV news. Plus the Supercharging network still can’t be beat, but I am also aware the CHAdeMO and CCS charging network is beginning to catch up.
3. Why were you interested in buying an EV?
The idea of having an EV has always fascinated me, long before the Model S came close to hitting the market. Reducing my carbon footprint is a perk but not the main reason I have an EV. Having an EV just makes sense. It’s virtually maintenance free (never took my Nissan Leaf in for maintenance in the 5 years I had it), clean, and fun to drive.
4. How many miles have you driven it and what do you like about the Model 3?
So far, I have just over 26,000 miles on my Model 3 in the 11 months I’ve had it. Eight thousand of those are the two trips to Central Texas and back to Northern California. Even then, 22,000 miles is still a lot of miles to put on a car in less than a year, but I love driving it and get excited any time my wife wants to go on a weekend road trip. We both love road trips and after the trip to Central Texas with my son, so does he. The question isn’t what do I like about my Model 3 but what DON’T I like about it? This may sound crazy, but I love everything about it. From the quick and smooth acceleration to the garage door opening automatically when I drive up to my house. This car is everything I have ever wanted in a car and so much more. Sure, there are things like the lack of Apple Carplay and … well, I honestly can’t think of anything else. The lack of Apple Carplay by the way is not the end of the world despite what many other people say.
5. Why did you make the 4,000 mile road trip video to share all the Model 3 info?
I didn’t document and make a video the first time I made the 4,000 mile road trip because I didn’t have my YouTube channel yet. However, this last time I took the trip I not only wanted to share my experience but I also felt an obligation to do so because of my following, albeit humbly small compared to many others. The video was mainly for people on the fence about getting a Tesla to prove it can be done without any problems. It’s also for those who have one so they can see the potential of their car and how amazing the Supercharging network is.
6. How much did you spend on electricity for the journey?
Thanks to the people who used my referral code, I was able to acquire over 140,000 miles of free Supercharging, so I didn’t have to pay for any of my Supercharging sessions. However, I failed to report what it would cost if I did have to pay since most people will have to pay. That being said, the first time I did the trip it cost me $150 total and based on A Better Route Planner the estimation was the same.
7. Is driving the Model 3 more comfortable than driving a gas-powered car because it’s quieter and the Autopilot does some of the steering?
The Tesla Model 3 is by far the most comfortable car I have ever driven without a doubt. Since the suspension is fairly tight, you do feel the bumps more than a luxury sedan like the Model S, but it’s also one of the reasons it handles like a sports car. Although it doesn’t have engine noise, there is plenty of road noise. However, I blame that noise on the roads and not the car. Some roads are simply not as smooth (quiet) as others. Autopilot … it’s not perfect but improves with every update. That being said, it’s AMAZING. I used it during most of the trip and it helped relieve a lot of the stress of driving. In fact, I always get a sharp pain in my back and shoulder during long road trips. Autopilot reduces that pain from a 10 to a 3. Plus, I had an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.
8. What was the driving time for each 2,000 mile leg?
On the way there, it literally took 48 hours to get to Central Texas from Northern California. I slept in the car two different times for about 3 to 4 hours. We stopped a few times the first day, but my son wanted to push through the next day to get to Texas. On the way back home we did stop and check out a few more sites, including a 3 hour detour to the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. We also stayed at a hotel for a good night’s sleep. It all added about 12 more hours to the trip.
9. It seemed from the video that stopping more frequently to charge didn’t bother you. Was that because you planned to do other activities at the same time?
I didn’t mind stopping more frequently at all. Sure, we did want to enjoy some of the sites along the way, but more stops meant more rest. Not only did Autopilot help relieve the stress of driving and reduce the mental and physical stress, but being forced to stop more frequently for Supercharging allows you to “recharge” as well. I also looked at each Supercharger destination as small victories to help with the overall length of the trip. In most ICE cars, you will have longer stretches of driving between fuel stops allowing for more fatigue.
10. Do you think doing the extra planning for charging makes you more mindful of the journey
Absolutely! You do become more mindful because you need to pay closer attention to where the Superchargers are. The infrastructure is still centered around ICE cars and will be for a long time. That allows ICE drivers to go with little planning especially if they have a good navigation system and stop whenever they need gas without even thinking about it. With electric cars, you can’t just “fill up” whenever you start getting low — you have to plan for those “fill ups.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing it just means a little more planning.
11. How old is your son and how comfortable was he with the trip?
My son is 10 years old and I actually asked him if he wanted to go on this adventure and he said yes without any hesitation. He really enjoyed it because he loves traveling in general and got to see new things on this trip. He’s also a big snacker, so he enjoyed getting drinks and snacks on most of our charging stops. He never complained and never asked the question, “are we there yet?” I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that the big screen illustrated where we were at all times and he referenced it on his own frequently. He even mentioned he wants to go to Seattle on our next road trip.
12. Is it important to you to have him become aware of the environmental issues related to transportation?
Aiden is growing up in a day and age where recycling and green energy are the norm. He is always bragging about our electric car and how it’s so much cleaner than a gas car and better for the environment. He grew up with fuel efficient cars from a Prius at birth, a hybrid Ford Escape, an all-electric Nissan Leaf when he was 5 years old and now the Tesla Model 3 for almost a year. It’s obvious it’s important to me and I love the fact that he is taking interest in EV technology on his own. He knows all of the 2020 Roadster stats and points out all electric cars on the road.
13. When he starts driving, will he be driving an EV as well?
If he has it his way, he will get my Model 3 in 6 years when he starts driving. If I can afford a new Tesla at that point, the Model 3 is his. If not, we’ll see what’s on the market. He also likes fast cars, so we’ll see how his taste develops.
14. What other long road trips might you take in your Model 3?
My wife and I are always looking for new adventures, so only time will tell exactly where we take the Model 3 next. That being said, we do have a trip to Oakhurst near Yosemite at the end of this month and I’ve already scoped out where the nearest Supercharger is to our Airbnb. There is one about 20 miles north of us.