Model S Roadtrip

Model SOver Memorial Day weekend, I was l lucky enough to be offered a Tesla Model S P85 to take on a ~1,000 mile road trip. I have driven a P85 before, but never on an extended trip like this. While it wasn’t perfect, the experience was absolutely amazing.

The day before my planned trip, a Tesla representative sent the vehicle owner an email, notifying her that the 12V auxiliary battery was going bad and needed to be replaced. While this was inconvenient, it was not nearly as inconvenient as getting stranded somewhere with a dead 12V battery, and I appreciate Tesla’s proactiveness. After doing some research online that night, we decided that I should get this taken care of before the trip. The Tesla Service Center in Costa Mesa was extremely accommodating and got me the first appointment at 8am, despite them being totally booked. I had nowhere else to go, so I waited at the store for the service to be complete. The Model S 12V battery is located in the frunk, behind the interior panels. It’s not a normal 15-minute battery change. The whole process took over an hour. I wish it were as easy as replacing the main battery pack!

After replacing the battery, Tesla mentioned that the tires should be rotated. Since they already had the car in the service bay, I told them to go ahead and rotate them. While rotating the tires, they inspected the coolant pumps, which were “generation two” and apparently really needed to be upgraded to “generation three”. I don’t follow the Model S forums that closely, so I have no idea what the difference is, but the advisor really didn’t want me going on a long trip without these updated. Even though this was going to take a couple of additional hours, I agreed. Better to play it safe than sorry, I figured. At this point, Tesla offered to drive me to breakfast, which was extremely nice of them. They also gave me chocolate and showed me funny pictures online. Honda never does that…

Once the coolant pumps were replaced, I was hoping to get on my way, but unfortunately Tesla had started a software update and I had to wait about 30 minutes for it to complete. Tesla’s reasoning for it taking so long (they claim to have started the update process when I first arrived) was that the existing software was so old, there was a lot to update. The owner said that Tesla had just updated the software about a month prior, so I’m not sure what was going on. The good news is that the car was charging while updating, so I was able to recover the electricity spent driving down to Costa Mesa.

Colby and WozJust after noon, I left the Tesla Service Center with 200 miles of range and was finally on my way. I hit some Memorial Day traffic, and 3 hours later I was about 100 miles North at the Tejon Ranch Supercharger. I plugged in and got a Chipotle and Starbucks. On my way back to the car, I ran into the one and only Steve Wozniak, who was also supercharging his Model S! I have talked to him on Foursquare before and always see him checking in at Superchargers. He’s extremely nice and very approachable. We talked about the Model S and Foursquare for a few minutes, then he and his wife Janet went to grab lunch and I drove off to the next Supercharger. I spent a total of about 30 minutes charging at Tejon Ranch.

The next Supercharger is about 125 miles North at Harris Ranch. I arrived with about 100 miles of range remaining. Had I left Orange County with a full charge, the Tejon Ranch stop wouldn’t have been necessary and I would have gone straight to Harris Ranch. Because the number of Superchargers is limited, you tend to see the same people at each one. I recognized one Model S from Tejon Ranch, and a few minutes later, Steve and Janet pulled up again. I charged at Harris Ranch for just over 30 minutes and left with about 230 miles of range. My destination was about 210 miles away.

BecaSupercharginguse I was driving over the speed limit, I had to keep an eye on the “estimated range” to make sure that it didn’t drop below the miles to my destination. I didn’t have to hyper mile, but I was cutting it somewhat close. I arrived with about 10 miles remaining. I didn’t fully charge at my destination. I think I left with around 85-90%.

The drive back went smoothly, aside from the Memorial Day traffic. I stopped and charged at Harris Ranch to give me enough range to make it to Tejon Ranch. All four times I supercharged, it was over 99 degrees out, but the system handled it like a champ. The Model S even turns the AC on if you are inside while charging, so that you can hang out, listen to music, and browse the internet on the 17″ touch screen. Though most people (myself included) probably would rather get out and stretch their legs for a bit.

Driving the Model S was an amazing experience. It is unlike any other EV. I didn’t plan the route beforehand, just had the car direct me to the Superchargers. I didn’t worry about range. I didn’t spend hours charging. I didn’t hyper mile at all. In fact, throughout the whole trip, I never fully charged or discharged the car. Tesla is doing some amazing things and other OEMs need to step up their game if they want to compete in this market.


3 thoughts on “Model S Roadtrip

  1. Glad to hear you could try out the Model S on a long trip. Changing a traction battery on a Model S at a service center actually takes about 5 hours, despite the really nifty 90 second demo by Elon Musk at Hawthorne last year.

  2. Colby, I again apologize for the last-minute required maintenance on “Big Tessie.” It was way cool that Tesla Motors gave me the email heads-up on the depleted state of the 12 Volt battery the night before your sojourn. (I had no idea since the car was running fine) I constantly inform people (after your trip in BT) how easy an almost 900 mile round trip in a Model S can be. And the reply to that irritating question: “But could I drive this thing to Vegas?” is a delightfully resounding Yup, yeah and YES!

    • It is surprising to me, although maybe it shouldn’t be, that more people don’t realize that cross country trips in a Model S are now quite easy. I drive up and down the west coast frequently, and don’t even plan much anymore, except to avoid traffic in LA and the Bay Area. The Supercharger network makes long distance travel a breeze.

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