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Image courtesy of Jim Ringold


World’s Fastest SUV vs. Gas SUV — Road Trip Time & Cost Comparison

We recently had the extreme pleasure, bucket list quality, of traveling from Tampa Bay, Florida, to Austin, Texas, to report on the Tesla Giga Texas Cyber Rodeo grand opening celebration for CleanTechnica. The frosting on the trip was driving to Austin in our new Tesla Model X Plaid delivered on Valentine’s Day.

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

With less than a thousand miles on the digital odometer prior to the trip, the car was still a very new car. The trip covered 2,816 miles to Austin and back with a side trip to Dallas to visit relatives. Being in no hurry, we took two and a half days to arrive in Austin. We dined on local specialities on the way.

When the trip was entered into the very fast Model X “navigation” screen, the suggested Tesla Supercharger stops were displayed. Since the Model X Plaid charges faster at lower charge levels than at higher charge levels, Tesla has designed the Supercharger stops to start at a lower state of charge, thus tying up the Supercharger for less time. We also considered using the fastest V3 Superchargers, which is what all new Superchargers are. They are easy to spot in the real world by the thinner, water-cooled cables, and power capacity is indicated on the Tesla Supercharger map.

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

We decided we did not want to arrive at a Supercharger location to find it not available for charging even though we could see ahead on the trip navigation screen if it was working and how many Teslas were currently charging. So, we charged more and therefore were at Superchargers longer, contributing to our total charge time on the trip of 7.38 hours. Now this may seem like a long time, but it’s a long trip — note that gas fill-ups would have taken 3 hours. (See the comparisons in the chart below). We also considered that the Supercharging time could include meals. In the case of the Supercharger in Crestview, Florida, there is a Panera Bread in the same parking lot. A half an hour for lunch and the same to charge kills two birds with one stop. The Tesla iPhone app keeps you advised as to the charging progress, and you return to a car still cool with air conditioned air.

The route across lower America also includes Louisiana. While a lot of Interstate 10 is new, some is not, and even the Model X’s air suspension cannot compensate. There are also a lot of right-lane bandits zooming alone in the left lane in Louisiana. This is where Tesla’s eyes on all sides come in handy. When running on Autopilot, which is most of the time, the X will not switch into a lane with a bandit coming. With the cameras on the screen — Left, Right, and Rear — you have an excellent view of the traffic around you. Almost comparable to the vista the Model X windshield provides. The absence of the radar was unnoticeable. Sensing was the same, with one small exception — the screen no longer displays the car in front of the one in front of you, since it cannot “see” that without radar if the views from the cameras are obscured.

A word on Tesla Autopilot: I have encountered some who think Tesla Autopilot is a “sissy” tool, like some think about an automatic transmission. If they enjoyed Autopilot for a while, I think they would revise their opinion. Keeping a car in a lane for hours is somewhat fatiguing. Autopilot allows you to observe the traffic and the surroundings much better when “lane keeping” is removed from your list of things to do. Another feature is that when coming up to a slower vehicle in the right lane, seldom a pickup truck, the X will slow and maintain a polite seven car lengths behind until a single press of the left turn button on the yoke will pull you into the next lane. The car will then accelerate to your set speed to pass. It is relaxing for sure. A single press of the right turn button will return you to the right lane when you are politely ahead of the vehicle you just passed.

If you are a traveling salesman, you will likely want a fossil fueled car to cover the maximum amount of distance between customers in the minimum amount of time. Though, you must also be willing to pay twice as much for using gasoline instead of electricity in the process. Those on a less hectic schedule and with weaker bladders, though, will find a Tesla and it’s reliable Superchargers the better choice. I would say the dependable Supercharger system is the clear, clean, and economical way to go.

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

Tesla manufactures its own car seats, with a basic seat frame for all models. The Model X with extra padding is most comfortable, at least for us. The air seat ventilation (hot or cold) is a strong feature. The headrests are fixed because they are where they need to be in case of a crash.

We never got close to having range anxiety except for one traffic-caused incident going into Houston on I-10 where traffic was backed up for three miles, denying access to the Supercharger there. The navigation system, being set for alternate routes, routed us to our hotel on another route. After dinner, we went back the six miles to the now traffic-free Supercharger.

We only encountered one very busy Supercharger in Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas. More Superchargers could be well used in this area. Austin, with the new Giga Texas factory, has had a lot of new Supercharger locations spring up since Tesla moved to town. One new location is just 10 minutes from the most modern car factory in the world. No exaggeration!

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

Image courtesy of Jim Ringold

For my comments on the Cyber Rodeo, check here. For friend Johnna Crider’s comments, check here. With more than half the “under one roof” factory available for the Cybertruck, Semi truck, robot, etc., Giga Texas will increase output for years to come. Exciting developments in Austin and thousands of wonderful well paying jobs are being created as a result.

Keep in mind when looking at the number chart above that the Model X, while being fairly economical to operate, can out-accelerate anything it comes up against (except a Model S Plaid). We were spotted on the highway and challenged. But what’s the use, the Plaid would easily win!

Some other numbers: coal rolled — once; unintended decelerations — 0; conversations at Superchargers — many; close to blocked at Superchargers — once. When is the last time you had a conversation with someone pumping gas? Teslas are so enjoyable in every way!

Our Tesla Safety Score upon returning home was 98! Full-Self-Driving Beta to come — we still qualify! (Note: You don’t get docked for other drivers’ actions when you are in Autopilot!)

By Jim Ringold, exclusive to CleanTechnica, all rights reserved

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