I have had my Model S for exactly three months today, and today I also hit 5000 miles on the car. I have never driven a car at a rate of 20,000 miles per year, but I really like driving this car. Also, if my wife is going farther than I am, she gets the car that day. I wanted to share my experiences with mileage and range anxiety for people who are contemplating ownership, as this seems to be the biggest issue people have when considering actually buying me of these amazing cars.
Living with a battery does take some getting used to. Like when I first had a cell phone, I worried about the charge, but now I know that plugging it in at night will last me the next 24 hours. At first I worried a lot about the car running out of power, but with 5000 miles under my belt, I have a much better feeling for it now. We had one early day when we made it home with just 7 miles of range on the battery. I had a long (and fast) drive in the AM to play paintball with some buddies, and forgot about the long drive we had to a Christmas party that night. I had only a short time to charge some before heading out to the party. My wife was worried. I wished I had thought ahead and set it to max charge the night before. (To save battery life, the car charges to only 90% capacity by default, unless you specify a 100% charge). We watched the mileage the whole trip down and back, worrying about if we could recharge, and planning alternate routes to find a place if needed.
The car reports the "rated miles" on the battery, which is just an indicator of how much charge is in the battery. The display then also tells you your "projected miles" based on your power usage over the last 30 miles. The rated miles won't be how many you get, as it depends on many variables, and you may get more or less. A pie may be rated for 8 servings, but it could be more or less depending on how you slice it. Make small slices and your projected miles goes up.
When I drive around town, my projected miles is often only 2/3 of my rated miles, especially with how I drive. So if I have 180 miles left rated on the battery, it is telling me that based on current driving patterns, I might only expect to get another 120 miles. At first that concerned me a lot, but that's driving around town. When I go long distances, generally the highway, my projected is closer to my rated, and sometimes above the rated, depending on my speed. City mpg is always less than highway. Acceleration uses much more power than going a steady speed, and regeneration doesn't make up for that, just as doing a hill one mile up and down uses more energy than two miles flat. I don't go 200+ miles in the city however, only on the highway, so when I really need the range on the highway, it's there. I have learned that by keeping at 65 mph, I can exceed the rated miles, going 75 mph, I get less.
Today I drove a 165 mile loop across Southern California between my different offices. I have the big 85 kWh battery pack, and on a full charge began the day with 265 rated miles. My first 28 mile stretch, My speed was limited by traffic, and I arrived with 240 miles of rated range with my projected was exceeding the rated. My next leg of 70 miles I got to use an HOV lane with my California EV stickers and was buzzing down the freeway at 75+ mph. Now my projected dropped below my rated, but no worries. I arrived at my next office with 152 rated miles, and a projected of 129, but still more than enough for the 67 miles home.
In the end, I started with 265 on the battery, and arrived home with 73 left. So I used 192 miles of battery to get 165 actual miles. Therefore, I got 165/192 = 86% of what was rated. Less than predicted yes, but I did not modulate my driving. I know now I can do this trip reliably, without any adjustments or charging, and even without the max charge. I also know that, in a real pinch, I could slow down a little and squeeze out some extra miles, even exceeding the rated range.
Looking back, I have only ever charged at home. (Ok, I did once charge at the Hawthorne/Space X/Tesla Design Center supercharger, but I really didn't need to, I just wanted to see it.) I pass by all those Leafs rechargeing in parking lots. I just don't need to charge on the road. I will really only have to plan for charging when I do even longer trips, which hasn't happened yet, although I am looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas with a stop at the Barstow supercharger.
Some people are probably too lazy to have to think at all about their range and charging. Some people drive so much each day that even 85kWh will not be enough. But most people don't drive as much as I did today. With a little time, living with an EV is not intimidating and very doable. The benefits of the Model S such as great torque, repsonsiveness, and quiet, are well worth it. Range anxiety is fading, and I am so glad I bought this car!
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