Me & My Model 3 Goin’ Cross-Country …

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… with 2 big electric bikes on the back.

Why are we going cross country? We have houses in Wisconsin and in Northern Utah, our daughter has a Southern Utah house, and another daughter lives in North Carolina with her family. We wanted to go to all of those places and document the travel experiences. This article focuses on Wisconsin–Utah. Perhaps another will cover trips to and from North Carolina.

Some background

My clever wife managed to finagle a cabin with a pump at the sink and an outhouse into a wonderful lake house in Northern Wisconsin. It cost me $130 there to get a NEMA 14-50 outlet in our garage, which together with the EVSE cable that came with our Tesla Model 3 Long Range gives me level 2 “fast” charging there. It means 5 seconds to plug in after driving into the garage and 5 seconds to unplug some hours later or in the morning for all the local driving we do within a 100 mile range without a bit of range anxiety.

Our clever daughter bought an investment property (house) in Saint George in the SW corner of Utah (See Figure 5) that she lets her old parents (me and my wife) use for mild winter living. It cost me $250 for another NEMA 14-50 outlet to get level 2 charging there. We can reach Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, and all the other local driving we do — again, without a bit of range anxiety.

We have another clever daughter in North Carolina who has a house where we make do with a 100V AC outlet and a 50 ft extension cord for level 1 charging for local driving. A nearby Supercharger is handy as a backup when we want to make multiple longer trips. Maybe I will tell the story of driving the Model 3 from North Carolina to Utah another time.

Our main retirement home is in Lindon, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City in Northern Utah. We have a dedicated level 2 charger there that we put in for our first Nissan Leaf 7 years ago. In our Model 3 Long Range, we can do SLC International Airport, the University of Utah Medical Center, our daughter’s home in Park City, my ski instructor job at Brighton (see Figure 3), and all of the other local driving we do without a bit of range anxiety.

How do we make the long-range cross-country trips between our residences?  

Our long range Tesla Model 3 has a nominal range of 310 miles. But there is a problem! I am a huge fan of riding big electric mountain bikes, and the only practical way to carry them is on a tray type carrier in back (see Figure 2). You need to have a receiver installed for this kind of carrier, and, technically, Tesla doesn’t support towing or receivers for the Model 3. I did some research talking to some other Model 3 owners and found that a third-party receiver installation works just fine.

Tesla is famous for having super slippery, low-drag-coefficient cars, and my Model 3 even comes with a set of nerdy hubcaps which lower the drag coefficient another smidgen. The point is to give you long driving range. So, what happens to your range when you attach two big drag-inducing bikes on a rack behind your car. To be frank, it’s not good! However, it hasn’t stopped us from traveling cross-country, and I will tell you about the consequences.

A little about our Supercharging strategy: On a V3 Supercharger (250 kW), I am charging above 200 kW from 5% to 40% state of charge (SoC), then the charging speed starts to drop to avoid damaging the battery. Above 60%, you drop below 100 kW; above 80%, below 50 kW; and as you approach 90%, the charging slows to ~15 kW. Bottom line: don’t charge above 80% unless absolutely necessary. Making frequent stops and charging to 80% or less will save you time. This works fine for Supercharging spacing up to 120 miles with no bikes on the back. As my wife and I are about 80 years of age and we travel with our small dog Zuni, the frequent stops are actually welcome.  

We visit the bathroom, walk the dog, stretch our legs to prevent thromboses, grab a bite if needed, and before you know it, we have enough charge to continue our trip.

You will see that it took 16 charging stops for the 1520 miles from Three Lakes, Wisconsin, to Lindon, Utah. However, we make the trip in the same three days that we did with our old gasmobile. That’s a lot of stops for a car that should have 310 miles range, but the big ebikes on back do that. Also, the frequent stops might be typical for someone with a shorter range Tesla or a long range Tesla pulling a small trailer. That’s the quick summary of our trip in case the details are too tedious for you.

Figure 2: Two ebikes on my Model 3 at Supercharger in Wall, South Dakota. October 24, 2021. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

What do two bikes on back do to my range?

With two bikes on the back, my maximum effective range is only about 125 miles. To make the maximum range, I must charge to 90%, and even then, my maximum travel speed is 70 mph. If the spacing between Superchargers is about 100 miles, which is common, I also need to charge to nearly 90% if I want to go 75 mph and not worry about making the next charger. This is not ideal, but we have found that we can still make the same 500 miles/day that we did before in our gasmobiles. In order to charge to 90%, the car needs to sit at the charger for 45 minutes. We do some reading, web browsing, or grab some nearby fast food before we proceed with our trip. Recently, we ordered Mexican food at a nearby restaurant. We charged to 75%, drove the 0.4 miles to the restaurant, picked up our food, and returned to finish the charge while we ate our food.

With the two big ebikes on back, we don’t skip any Superchargers more than about 60 miles apart.

Driving the Tesla from Wisconsin to Utah for the third time: Looking at the details of cross-country road tripping in a Tesla Model 3 Long Range

Note: We finished our charge to 90% just before leaving home in Three Lakes, WI.

Three Lakes (Wisconsin) Supercharger to Wausau (Wisconsin) Supercharger — 84 miles

Charged to 80%. We were the only car charging. (I charge until the estimated state of charge remaining at our designated destination is 35% according to the Tesla NAV.)

Wausau Supercharger to Eau Claire (Wisconsin) Supercharger — 100 miles

Charged to 85%. All eight 120 kW stalls were full after we started charging. My wife bought carryout at a nearby Thai restaurant. We thought we might make our destination in NW Minneapolis, but to be conservative, we stopped at the Oakdale (MN) Supercharger in East St Paul. The Eau Claire Supercharger is about 20 miles out of our way. That detour won’t be a problem next spring because of the new Menomonie (WI) Supercharger.

Eau Claire Supercharger to Oakdale (Minnesota) Supercharger — 80 miles

Charged to only 70% because of the short distance to the Minnetonka Supercharger.

Oakdale Supercharger to Minnetonka (Minnesota) Supercharger — 27 miles

Charged to 90%. First we stopped to see my sister in Plymouth (NW Minneapolis), and topped off at the nearby Minnetonka Supercharger to make the long run to Sherburn.

Minnetonka Supercharger to Sherburn (Minnesota) Supercharger — 139 miles (then stopped for the night in nearby Jackson)

Charged to 60%. Our goal was to stay the night in Worthington, MN, but the 172 miles was more than we could do, so we went 30 miles out of our way to Sherburn. Even then, Sherburn was at our range limit and we needed to drop to 50 mph for the last 40 miles to make it. Also, our preferred hotel in Worthington was full, so we ended up staying in Jackson between Sherburn and Worthington. Next year, the brand new Supercharger in St Peter near Mankato will allow us to make the Minneapolis-to-Worthington run without going out of our way.

Sherburn Supercharger to Worthington (Minnesota) Supercharger — 46 miles

Charged to 90%. Mitchel was at our range limit, so it would have been nice to stop in Sioux Falls, but that charger would have been 15 miles out of our way.

Worthington Supercharger to Mitchel (South Dakota) Supercharger — 127 miles

Charged to 80%. With Chamberlain only 71 miles away, we could easily make it at 75 mph.

Mitchel Supercharger to Chamberlain (South Dakota) Supercharger — 71 miles

Charged to 80%. With Murdo only 74 miles away, we could easily make it at 75 mph.

Chamberlain Supercharger to Murdo (South Dakota) Supercharger — 74 miles

Again only charged to 80%. With Wall 82 miles away, we could easily make it at 75 mph.

Murdo Supercharger to Wall (South Dakota) Supercharger — 82 miles

Charged to 85% to make it to Custer at 75 mph, arriving at dusk.

Figure 2 shows our Tesla with the two big ebikes on the back at the Wall Supercharger, only 100 yards from the famous Wall Drug Store.

Wall Supercharger to Custer (still South Dakota) Supercharger — 97 miles

Charged to 85% to make it to Lusk in the dark on two-lane roads at 65 mph.

Custer Supercharger to Lusk (Wyoming) Supercharger — 108 miles (then stopped for the night at our long time Pioneer Motel favorite)

Charged that night to 80% in the dark before turning in for the night.

Lusk Supercharger to Evansville/Casper (Wyoming) Supercharger — 102 miles

Casper was a stretch with only an 80% charge, due to the fact that I failed to top off in the morning. I had to slow down to 50 mph.

Charged to 95% to make it to Rawlins at 70 mph on mostly two-lane roads.

Casper Supercharger to Rawlins (Wyoming) Supercharger — 123 miles

Charged to 90% expecting a 20 mph headwind (it was less, so we maintained 75 mph).

Rawlins Supercharger to Rocksprings (Wyoming) Supercharger — 108 miles

Charged to 85% so we could maintain 75 mph.

Rocksprings Supercharger to Evanston (still Wyoming) Supercharger — 101 miles

Charged to 85% so we could maintain 75 mph on the last stretch.

Evanston Supercharger to Lindon (Utah) Supercharger — 99 miles (home)

Forgot to set the limit back down to 80%, so we charged to 90% in our garage at home.

See Figure 3 below for a photo of me on the job as a ski instructor in Brighton, 48 miles from our Lindon home near Provo. Then on to our new winter home in St George, Utah.

Figure 3: My winter job teaching skiing in Brighton, Utah. January 20, 2011. Photo purchased by Fritz Hasler.
Lindon Supercharger to Nephi (Utah) Supercharger — 50 miles

Charged to 90% to make Beaver at 75 mph.

Nephi Supercharger to Beaver (Utah) Supercharger — 115 miles

Charged to 90% at the 250 kW V3 charger (Figure 4 below) to make St George at 75 mph.

Figure 4: 16 Teslas charging; 32 Supercharger stalls; Beaver, Utah. November 24, 2021. Photo by Fritz Hasler.
Beaver Supercharger to St George (Utah) — 107 miles (arrival at winter home)

Charged to 90% in our garage. Forgot to change charge limit back to 80%.

Figure 5: My Tesla Model 3, my daughter’s Tesla Model X, and my wife at our new winter home in St George, Utah. January 2, 2021. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Note: The Tesla Supercharger system is fabulous. We never had to wait for a stall at any of the 16 stops. You back in or park parallel, open your charge port, grab the cable head, stick it in the charge port, and Tesla automatically bills your credit card.

Only one Supercharger in Eau Clair, Wisconsin, was so crowded as to give us a slower charge rate. A new Supercharger in nearby Menomonie will eliminate that problem when we return to Wisconsin in the Spring.

Only one charger (the one in in Worthington Minnesota) was so far away that we had to go out of our way to reach the charger. A new charger near Mankato, Minnesota, will eliminate that detour when we return to Wisconsin in the Spring.

Most of the Superchargers are near a hotel or convenience store where you can use the restrooms. There is often fast food or a restaurant within walking distance. A couple are near a TJ Maxx (my wife is addicted), where I drop my wife off before charging.

Backing into a stall is difficult with the two ebikes on the back. The backup sensors are blocked by the bikes. I have my wife get out and let me know when to stop. If the Supercharger is empty, I park parallel to the chargers, as you see in Figure 2. Some Superchargers have one drive-up stall. I believe that Tesla is doing all drive-up stalls at some new Superchargers.

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler has 113 posts and counting. See all posts by Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler