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Round Trip Chapel Hill NC to Richmond VA in One Day with an 85 kWh battery

Yesterday I drove from Chapel Hill NC to Richmond VA and back with my wife to visit her father. It is (according to maps.google.com) 157 miles from my house to his. I have a Model S with an 85kWh battery. I range charged it to about 269 miles before we left about 8:30 AM.

This would have been difficult to impossible had there not been a very nice Tesla Model S owner who let me recharge at his business. I could have recharged at a local Nissan dealer (I called and asked and the sales manager said I could), but that would have been 240 volts 30 amps and maybe 9-10 miles of charging in an hour.

I did not skimp on the speed I drove, and drove mostly 65-70 MPH the whole trip. At those speeds, I got to my wife’s father’s house with something like 88 miles remaining, so I went 269-88=181 miles of charge to go 157 miles. Most of it was on cruise control at the speed limit. So as with my other trips, I used about 15% more charged miles than actual miles.

I drove to the place where I could charge, with my wife following in her father’s car, dropped the car off, plugged it in, and went back with my wife to her father’s house. This was about 12:30 PM. It took until about 4:30 PM to charge to about 200 miles, and we visited during this time. The 200 miles gave me about 157 actual distance and about 43 miles of margin.

Driving back I went 55 (boy is that tedious) and got slightly better actual miles than charged miles used. Several previous trips have no convinced me that cruise control on fairly level ground at 55 MPH will use rated miles of charge at a slightly better rate than actual miles. When we got to the NC border, I had enough miles left so that I increased speed to 60 MPH (on a road with a 70 MPH speed limit). Got home with about 40 miles of charge left.

This again convinced me that Tesla really needs to build out a Supercharger network. Long trips without Superchargers require planning and slow you down, both because you have to go slowly to get rated miles, and because it takes a long time to charge. A good place to put a Supercharger would be at the intersection of I-85 and I-95 in Petersburg VA, as it would enable travelers coming up both I-95 and I-85 to charge.

Additionally, I’ve got the biggest available battery. Anything more than local traveling will be even more difficult for be 60kWh battery cars unless they space the Superchargers no more than 150 miles apart. If I knew I could charge quickly every 150 miles, then I could go 65 or 70 and not worry about. Range anxiety is not the right term for it; I knew I could make it and charge, but with current infrastructure, it is really tedious.

I went on a roadtrip with my S85 last week from SF to Reno and I came to similar conclusions. I used the supercharger in Folsom - a natural midpoint, and critical charging station prior to driving up the Sierra's to get to Tahoe. On flat freeway driving, I go at the flow of traffic and I consume 100 rated miles for every 85 miles driven.

Like you, I wondered how 60kWh drivers manage long road trips. I'm sure it is possible to travel long distances with a 60kWh - but the planning and extra charging would make it quite a challenge.

Spacing superchargers out every 130-150 miles along major freeways would take all the range anxiety and hassle out of driving a Tesla Model S on a long roadtrip. I keep hearing that there's a supercharger announcement due out soon but it keeps getting delayed. I wonder what's the holdup?

@hamer, this is why I am hesitant to travel from Cary NC to NYC with my MS but still using my MDX and needless to say I have the S60. We need the supercharger real bad.

@jandkw: Several weeks ago I did travel from Chapel Hill to Tinton Falls NJ, which was probably about 50 miles south of NYC. I charged at the Supercharger in Wilmington. Had I driven 55 MPH between Wilmington and NYC I certainly would have arrived in NYC with a great deal of charge left. But that is clearly tedious.

(And I had to stop at an RV park in Ashland VA to charge to make it to Wilmington, which took about 6 hours.)


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