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Figure 1: Full 40-stall Supercharger. Baker. California. Presidents Day. February 21, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

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Tesla Model 3 Road Trip Review — Finishing Our Transcontinental Tesla Trip To California

With 2 Million Teslas Sold, Is the Tesla Supercharger Network Keeping Up?

We’ve recently driven our Tesla Model 3 from our daughter’s house near Charlotte North Carolina, to Salt Lake City Utah. Just now we finished the last leg of our transcontinental Model 3 adventure on February 14, 2022, driving from the Salt Lake City, Utah area to Palm Springs in Southern California. On our multiple cross-country trips, we have never had to wait for a Supercharger stall and never found a Supercharger location out of service.

However, Tesla reached more than 10% of automobile sales in California in the 4th quarter of 2021 and has sold about 2 million cars globally. With the Austin Texas Gigafactory coming online to add onto the Fremont factory, Tesla will soon be making cars in the US at a rate easily exceeding a million cars per year. Will the number of Tesla cars in the US overwhelm the Superchargers or is Tesla keeping up?

Encouraging signs: Most Tesla Superchargers have between 2 and 8 stalls. A couple of years ago, I was amazed to read about a Las Vegas Supercharger that had 25 V3 (250 kW) stalls. However, now the Supercharger at the midpoint between Salt Lakes City and Saint George Utah on I-15 at the little town of Beaver has recently increased from 8 stalls to 32 stalls, with all the new stalls the V3 250 kW versions. On February 14, we stopped at the mind-blowing Supercharger in Baker, California (see Figures 1 and 2) at the midpoint between Los Angles and Las Vegas on I-15. The Baker Supercharger is planned to have 96 V3 covered drive-through stalls. This station will be the second biggest in the world behind the 98 stall Supercharger at another location in California. On our return trip from Southern California to Saint George, Utah, on Presidents Day, I actually counted the stalls at Baker and there are “only” 40 stalls in service now. One was out of order and the other 39 were full. For the very first time, I had to wait a few minutes for someone to finish charging and let me hook up. According to PlugShare, this is a 150 kW charger. We were sharing a charger with another car, so we were only charging at a rate of 65 kW.

Since we are always traveling with one or two e-bikes on a tray-type bike rack on the back of our Model 3, the ultrasonic distance sensors on the back bumper are not functional. Therefore, my wife has to get out to tell me how far to back up so that we can reach the short cable without hitting the charger. For this reason, we are especially glad to see the new drive-through chargers.

Figure 2: Drive-through Stall Supercharger. Baker, California. February 16, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

The next Supercharger 100 miles further west of Baker on I-15 is the Hesperia California Supercharger station (See Fig. 3) that has 20 V3 stalls.

Figure 3: Seven Teslas all lined up. 20 Stall V3 Supercharger. Hesperia, California. February 16, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler

Unfortunately, at many older Supercharger locations, there are only eight 120 kW or 150 kW stalls which are shared pairs, so when the stalls are mostly full, you may be only charging at a maximum rate of 60 kW or slower.

Green Energy Generation on the Rise in California

Figure 4: Concentrated Solar Power Station. Nipton, California. February 16, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Near Nipton California, I saw a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant for the first time. Most commercial solar plants these days use massive fields of photovoltaic panels. However, a CSP plant uses hundreds of mirrors to concentrate the heat of the sunlight on a tower containing molten salt which is then used to generate electricity. See the brilliantly illuminated tower in Figure 4.

Then, as we approached Palm Spring, California, we were greeted by massive arrays of thousands of wind turbines, some of which are shown in Figure 3. These turbines are located in a mountain pass where the wind is funneled through. Some are smaller, older turbines with lattice structure towers and others are modern, large mono-poll structures. Many were not turning and some had missing blades. I don’t know if the 25 mph gusty wind on February 21 was more than they could use or if it is a lack of maintenance.

Figure 5: A number of the thousands of wind turbines in Palm Springs, California. February 16, 2022. Photos by Fritz Hasler.

Numerous Destination Chargers at the Marriott Palm Desert Villas Timeshare

Figure 6: Our Tesla Model 3 at Marriott Desert Springs Villas timeshare. Palm Desert, California. February 18, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

We are staying with friends at a Marriott Springs Villas Palm Desert timeshare intertwined with two gorgeous 18 hole golf courses. The timeshare is in Palm Desert adjacent to Palm Springs about a hundred miles east of Los Angeles. Only 50 yards from our lodging there is a 14 stall L2 EV charging station as shown in Figure 6. We plugged in shortly after our arrival, and six hours later we had a full charge to start our return trip back to Utah. Riding around the large timeshare complex on my bike I found a number of other 14 stall L2 EV charging stations. The chargers are free and as you can see there are plenty of empty stalls.

Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta — Update

We’ve now gone three full months with FSD (Beta) V10.5 and V10.8 and made our first cross-country trip with it. Read my previous articles for a full description of my FSD (Beta) experience. The good news is we have used FSD (Beta) to navigate on numerous trips with virtually no interventions and never had an accident or a close call. The system is very consistent. You quickly learn its shortcomings and know when to intervene. The greatest need for intervention comes at stop signs and rotaries. At rotaries, the car will stop even when no other cars are present and then creep forward. At a stop sign, the car will usually stop at the correct place but creeps forward very slowly checking for cross traffic. If you are in a hurry or there is cross traffic or someone following you, it is necessary to press slightly on the accelerator when it is time to go. However, the car automatically steers the turn correctly.

On the cross-country trip, the FSD (Beta) navigation works the same as previously except that it no longer hands control back to you on the off-ramp. Now it drives you automatically all the way to the Supercharger.

I find that the car observes a slower moving vehicle in plenty of time and changes to the passing lane promptly except when there is a lot of traffic. Since I don’t exceed 80 mph, I’m not the fastest car on the highway, so I like to get out of the passing lane quickly. However, FSD usually fails to do this, so I need use the turn signal to force the exit from the passing lane.

Several months ago, one of the over-the-air updates to FSD gave me automatic stopping at stoplights and stop signs. However, at stoplights it was necessary to approve going through a green light. This was very annoying! Also, if no vehicle was in front of you, it was necessary to signal approval to proceed after the stop. Now, with FSD (Beta), both red and green stoplights are handled properly.

FSD (Beta) V10.8 still has too much phantom braking and slowing for no apparent reason. It’s not a big problem for me since I keep my foot lightly on the accelerator and add some pressure when it occurs.

February 20, 2022 I was finally given access and downloaded FSD (Beta) V10.0 using cell phone data. I will report in a future article to see if meaningful improvements have been made over the previous version.

 
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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.

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