Westward Ho! 1500 Miles in My Tesla Model 3 Long Range with 2 Mountain Ebikes: Cost, Supercharging, Tips

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My wife and I have just completed our annual 1500 mile trip from Three Lakes in northern Wisconsin to Lindon, Utah, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. We take three days in our Tesla Model 3 Long Range just like we did previously with our Toyota Highlander gasmobile. This is true even with two big ebikes on the back on a receiver-mounted tray-type bike rack. For part one of this series, click here. Now, how about some fun and games on a long-distance EV road trip?

Do we have to make too many stops and spend too much time charging? I start with an overnight charge to 80% and I increase the charge limit to 90% an hour before departure. You will see below that we charged 16 times on our three-day 1500-mile trip. I estimate that 75% of the Superchargers are in the parking lot of a hotel or convenience store providing access to a clean bathroom. At the Supercharger in Evansville (near Casper), Wyoming, there are even waste baskets and windshield cleaning scraper/squeegees and fluid. At age 82 I don’t pass up a chance to use a bathroom. Meanwhile, my wife Mary goes walking our dog Zuni. If we are hungry, we stop for fast food and eat while charging. Recently, I walked 200 yards to a Burger King next door. Getting out and walking for a bit is good for the health of your legs and will prevent thrombosis. In any case, if we only need to charge to 60%, we are ready to go after the bathroom trip. If we need to charge to 80% or 90%, we need to sit a bit longer and so we browse the internet for another 15 minutes or so. Bottom line: we still make our 500-mile goal for the day and find the trip less stressful due to somewhat more frequent stopping.

My Supercharging Strategy

The two big mountain ebikes on back destroy the hard work Tesla has done to reduce the coefficient of friction of the car. I put the fuddy duddy aero-hubcaps back on for long road trips, but that only gains me a few percent more range. The advertised range on my Tesla Model 3 Long Range was 310 miles, but it is much less with 2 big ebikes on back. However, charging is not optimal for us when the Superchargers are more than 100 miles apart. Why? Because then we need to charge over 80%.

About 50% of the Superchargers on our route are V3 250 kW, while the other half are V2 150 kW. On our trip just now, it was unusual to see another Tesla charging, so we never had to power-share a 150 kW Supercharger. On the 150 kW chargers, charging would start at a rate of about 135 kW. However, by the time we reach 80% state of charge (SoC), the charging rate is already down to about 50 kW, and it’s even slower if you need to reach 90% SoC. Bottom line: It costs a lot of time to charge over 80% SoC. On a 250 kW charger, you may gain a few minutes charging from empty (~8%) to 60%, but after that, you don’t save anything. Tesla reduces the charge rate as the battery fills up to prevent damage to the battery.

Note the orientation of our car at the Chamberlain Supercharger in the picture above. We don’t back into the stall like everyone else if we can help it. This is because the rear distance sensors don’t work with bikes on back. On the regular Tesla back-in Superchargers stalls, my wife needs to get out and tell me how far to back up. A few of the Superchargers on our trip had one drive-by stall, which is perfect for us. If there were no other cars at the Supercharger, we would park sideways, as you see in the picture above. While this is a small problem for us, can you imagine the hoops you would have to jump through if you were pulling a trailer.

What did Supercharging cost us on our recent 1500 mile trip? I read that Tesla has raised the price on Supercharging recently. From experience, I found this to be the case. I know that the Beaver Utah Supercharger rate has gone up from 30 cents/kWh to 40 cents/kWh since last year.

How do you know how much Supercharging the car costs? On your screen, you see your bill increasing moment by moment while charging, but once you unplug, it’s gone. You need to look at your credit card bill to find out.

Charging in 16 Supercharger sessions driving 1500 miles from Wisconsin to Utah, here’s what I found (from my credit card statement, in reverse order):

  • $23.03 — Evanston, Wyoming to Lindon, Utah: 99 miles
  • $22.09 — Rock Springs, Wyoming to Evanston, Wyoming: 101 miles
  • $26.03 — Rawlins, Wyoming to Rock Springs, Wyoming: 108 miles
  • $17.55 — Casper, Wyoming to Rawlins, Wyoming: 123 miles
  • $19.27 — Lusk, Wyoming to Casper, Wyoming: 102 miles
  • $7.79 — Custer, South Dakota to Lusk, Wyoming: 108 miles
  • $13.12 — Wall, South Dakota to Custer, South Dakota: 79 miles
  • $16.81 — Murdo, South Dakota to Wall, South Dakota: 82 miles
  • $14.35 — Chamberlain, South Dakota to Murdo, South Dakota: 74 miles
  • $15.17 — Mitchell, South Dakota to Chamberlain, South Dakota: 71 miles
  • $21.56 — Worthington, Minnesota to Mitchell, South Dakota: 128 miles
  • $10.58 — Saint Peter, Minnesota to Worthington, Minnesota: 108 miles
  • $14.76 — Bloomington, Minnesota to Saint Peter, Minnesota: 74 miles
  • $13.72 — Menomonie, Wisconsin to Bloomington, Minnesota: 80 miles
  • $10.97 — Wausau, Wisconsin to Menomonie, Wisconsin: 116 miles
  • $10.71 — Three Lakes, Wisconsin to Wausau, Wisconsin: 84 miles
  • Total miles = 1,522
  • Total Supercharging cost = $244.52

Note the higher charging cost at the Wyoming Superchargers. Presumably, the cost of electricity is higher in Wyoming.

Estimated efficiency in a similarly size gasmobile with two big ebikes on back = 25 mpg. (Note: This is my guess. Perhaps someone can give me a better estimate.) So, 1522/25 = 60 gallons used (estimate). I saw gas prices ranging from $3.79 to $4.39 per gallon on my trip, so I will use $4/gallon. Estimated total cost for a gasmobile = $243.00

I used to tell people that I paid 2/3 of what a similar gas car would cost to drive my Tesla long distances. I’m not pleased to find that with Tesla’s new higher Supercharger fees, I estimate that the cost for driving a similarly size gasmobile on a long trip is about the same as the of the cost of driving my Tesla. That’s true even with the currently high gas prices. However, with my old Nissan LEAF, long-distance travel with an EV was impossible. Also, remember that local driving and charging at home still costs about 1/3 of the cost of fueling up a gasmobile.

Don’t Try Driving I-80 across Wyoming in a Ford Mustang Mach-E

The 5 Tesla Superchargers on I-80 in Wyoming were installed in 2014. Even now in 2022, eight years later, the only way to get across Wyoming on I-80 in an EV is with a Tesla.

Most Superchargers are spaced every 70 to 100 miles apart on Interstate highways. In this case, I set my speed to 75 mph and don’t worry about it. The maximum spacing on my route was 126 miles from Worthington, Minnesota to Mitchel, South Dakota. There is a Supercharger in Sioux Falls at roughly the midpoint, but it is in downtown Sioux Falls 7 miles off of I-90. That would necessitate a 14 mile detour from our route to use the Sioux Falls Supercharger. Tesla: Please put in another Supercharger right on I-90 at Sioux Falls! For longer charger spacing like this, I will start with my speed at 60 mph to make sure that I will make the next charger. I watch the estimated SoC for arrival at the next Supercharger. If the estimated arrival SoC increases, I increase my speed one mph at a time. I usually find myself at 75 mph for the last ~40 miles.

Since I made this trip last year, Tesla has installed two new V3 250 kW Superchargers in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and Saint Peter, Minnesota. I can now make my whole 1500-mile trip with no detours for Supercharging. On our trip driving from Wisconsin to North Carolina, there was one detour of ~50 miles. On our trip driving from Utah to Southern California, there were no detours. The Sioux Falls Supercharger I am requesting would make the trip less stressful, but I was able to proceed without taking the 14 mile detour.

New CCS–to–Tesla Charger Adapter

New CCS–to–Tesla charging adapter. $250 from Tesla. Image from Tesla website.

Crisscrossing the USA from Wisconsin to North Carolina, North Carolina to Utah, and Utah to Southern California, Tesla Superchargers are a godsend. I’ve never found a Supercharger out of order and I’ve never had to wait for a stall. However, there are a few places familiar to me, like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and some parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where the Tesla Supercharger system is inadequate. I’m sure that there are many other places off the beaten track where driving your Tesla would be difficult. The nearly universal standard for non-Tesla charging is CCS. I can think of two situations where an adapter from CCS to Tesla would be helpful to my family.

Example 1: We like to drive from Three Lakes to the marvelous tourist town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, on Lake Superior with a ferry to nearby Madeline Island. The trip requires me to charge at the Chamber of Commerce in Bayfield for 6 hours. However, just south of Bayfield in Washburn, the Bayfield County seat has a 50 kW CCS charger that would make the trip much more convenient for us.

Example 2: When driving longs distance, we pick a hotel to stop at for the night that has a Tesla Supercharger nearby. When my daughter was driving her Tesla Model X from Utah to Wisconsin in 2021, she stayed at a hotel that had an Electrify America CCS charger with a power output up to 350 kW in the parking lot. She told me that she tried all her adapters and none of them worked. She could have charged at her hotel if she had a CCS-to-Tesla adapter rather than driving to the Tesla Supercharger about a mile away.

In the last few years, Electrify America, car dealerships, and other companies have put in thousands of CCS chargers. With money from President Biden’s infrastructure bill, there will be many thousands of CCS chargers installed around the country in the next years.

If there is a place you want to go but you can’t because there is no Supercharger on your route, bring up the PlugShare app on your phone. Switch the car specification from a Tesla to, say, a Chevy Bolt and see if there are CCS chargers that would make the trip possible.

A CCS-to-Tesla adapter would have solved the problem for us in both cases. A CCS-to-Tesla adapter has been available in South Korea for a couple of years and now is offered by Tesla in the US. It is bulky but reasonably priced at $250.

What company would you expect to be more tech savvy than Tesla? With that in mind, I challenge you to find the CCS-to-Tesla adapter on Tesla’s website. Or, for that matter, try to find the Tesla Mobile Connecter that costs only $200 but used to be supplied with every Tesla. I have found them both, but only after wandering around Tesla’s website for 15 minutes. Try this: Pick a Tesla model, like a Model 3; pick custom configuration and scroll down until you find the Mobile Connector. I’ve seen the CCS-to-Tesla adapter on the Tesla website, but I don’t know how to find it now. I’m sure a reader will explain in the comments section how to do this.

But not so fast! If your Tesla was purchased before October of 2020, like mine, the CCS-to-Tesla adapter won’t work! However, you can schedule an appointment with Tesla Service to have your car upgraded so that the CCS-to-Tesla adapter will work. I tried this. The response was that the upgrade is not available now! Tesla says: “please try again in 2023 and hopefully the upgrade to your car will be available at that time.” I hope the cost won’t be prohibitive.

With the Mobile Connector and CCS-to-Tesla adapter, you will be prepared for almost any situation on your trip.

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