Heading Home

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

We are making our way back north again, with a stop tonight in Marion, IA. My younger brother moved here from Illinois earlier this year, and we haven’t seen him for a while.

On our first road trip with a Tesla, we have spent a great deal of time trying to understand how temperature (internal and external,) wind speed and vehicle speed affect the range. When I initially plotted the route, I thought we could count on the rated 250 mile range from a full battery. We quickly learned that cold temperatures have a negative impact. Add a head wind, and it becomes even more negative. At times, we have had to drive significantly slower than the speed limit (10 – 15 mph, which is painful for a driver that likes to go a bit over the limit,) plus lower the temperature inside the vehicle to make it to the next charging station. We did bring blankets along, which my 94 year old father made use of. We also purchased some Smart Wool socks to keep his feet warmer.

At times, our range was reduced by 25-30&, and we experienced a fair amount of range anxiety. More than once, we reached the charge with only about 15 miles to spare. If any of the charging stations had been out of order, we would have been in trouble. We can plug into any electrical outlet, but would have to sit there for a very long time to get enough of a charge. For instance, we plugged in at my brother’s house, and got about 1-2% charge per hour.

We decided to start tracking stats for the remaining legs of the journey – vehicle speed, wind speed and direction, outside temperature, distance and percent of charge used – and compare this to on-line calculators to see how reliable they are. Planning a long distance road trip in cold weather seems like planning a flight in a small aircraft. Wind speed, temperature, distance all play a part in achievable range.

Wednesday, December 21

Spend a good day with my brother and his family, catching up on our lives, playing cards and talking smart. We also visited with a cousin who lives in Cedar Rapids – always fun to see her.

Thursday, December 22

We’ve discovered that our on-line GPS recommends routes that are longer, not just in miles, but in hours as well. We had plotted our course last night, using Google maps, and knew that the next supercharger was only about 150 miles away, easily reached with the charge we had. When we started the vehicle, its system recommended a route that was 40 miles and one hour longer, and not attainable with our current charge. I guess we have to verify everything before heading out.

Rather than traveling the interstates, we took a more scenic route through parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, hugging the Mississippi River for much of the journey. Even in winter, this drive is beautiful, with barren trees atop and ice falls on the sides of bluffs, the locks and dams on the river, and the rolling terrain of the river valley. This route deserves a road trip in the spring for the greenery, in the summer for the river traffic, in the fall for the colors, in the winter when you can see for miles, and any time for the eagles.


Now at the end of this journey, I think it’s safe to say that the Tesla, although very comfortable, will not be our vehicle of choice for long road trips. We already know that it’s not designed for cold weather distance travel. Even in warm weather, though, we won’t want to be dependent on how far away the next supercharger is. We like the freedom to go off route when something looks worth investigating. We won’t want to worry about whether we can add a few miles to the journey without running out of charge. I’m quite sure we’ll be taking the Prius on future road trips.

As always, it’s good to be home.

About kcbernick

I love to travel.
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