Monday, March 2, 2015

Tesla Road Trip: Lake Tahoe, Lone Pine, Death Valley, Las Vegas

Photos from this trip are here:

We picked up our new 85D at the factory in Fremont on Monday and wanted to take a road trip. Our daughter was going to be in Las Vegas for some meetings on Thursday so we decided to drive there. This is not the easiest trip since the only Supercharger on the route is in Lone Pine which is 263 miles from our home and Las Vegas is 230 miles from Lone Pine. These are both a bit of a stretch but we wanted to give it a try. We mapped out alternative chargers on the route and felt confident that we could stop and charge if needed.
We left Lake Tahoe and drove down US 395, starting with a 270 mile charge and a pre-heated car from our house. We had the advantage of a 2500 ft elevation drop to Lone pine but there are several mountain passes on the way. This is one of our favorite drives since it follows the Eastern Sierra with beautiful mountain views. The temperature was in the 60s for most of the route so we kept the sunroof open to "vent" and turned off the climate control. This helped with our energy use. We also kept the cruise control to about 60-65 mph for most of the way.
We arrived in Bishop at dinner time with 65 miles of range and 60 miles to travel to Lone Pine so we stopped at the J Diamond RV park in downtown Bishop where the very friendly proprietors were happy to rent us a 50 amp charging spot and gave us good advice on local restaurants. We added 35 miles of range during dinner which gave us confidence to drive to Lone Pine, arriving with 30 miles of range.
I charged at the Supercharger to 80% that evening then topped off to 275 miles 100% in the am (and also pre-heated the car). We headed across Death Valley to Las Vegas, again with the climate control off and sunroof open to "vent" which seemed to minimize energy use. The trip energy prediction software had a difficult time calculating the energy use going over the three mountain passes and down the valleys to below sea level. It's estimates of destination battery remaining varied between +10% and -23% as we went up and down the mountain passes but settled to a steady 10% once we reached Beatty, NV and the relatively flat stretch from there to Las Vegas. We had scouted out an RV park in Amagorsa, NV as a possible site where we could stop and charge if we needed to but we decide that we could make it without the stop. However, this is a very interesting spot in the desert since in addition to the RV park it also has the "Area 51 Alien Information Center" and a brothel prominently advertised on a large red billboard with the imaginative name "Brothel".
We arrived at the Las Vegas Supercharger with 30 miles of range. We did a partial charge and picked up our daughter and took her to her meeting site which was, fortunately, not in downtown Las Vegas but at a resort hotel located about 15 miles to the East in a development called "Lake Las Vegas" (think of Disneyland without the crowds). We hadn't been to Las Vegas since our daughters were in high school and we traveled there for a soccer tournament. I'm not sure that I would recommend anyone go to Las Vegas if they didn't have a love for the particular style of entertainment offered there.
The next day we dropped our daughter off at the airport (she was thrilled to be able to drive the Tesla before her older sister), stopped at the Supercharger and headed back to Death Valley. We only had 135 miles to the valley so no need to charge beyond 80%.
We stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch. There are no public charging spots in the valley. There are 17 RV sites with power but these are booked solid months in advance. We asked nicely at the Ranch registration and they were happy to lead us to a NEMA 14-50 charging spot near the golf course which they unlocked for our use. I also had prepared an adapter that could plug into the (NEMA 6-20) 240 volt air conditioner plugs commonly found in motels. We didn't need the charge but I did test it out and it worked well, giving about a 10 mi/hr charge rate.
The next day we went for a hike on the sand dunes (I had just re-read Frank Herbert's "Dune") so this gave me some real world context. We stopped for lunch in Lone Pine while we charged to 265 miles at the Supercharger for the trip back up 395.
We knew we would have to stop on the return trip since we had a 263 mile and +2500 ft. elevation gain so we scouted chargers in Minden and Garnerville, NV. The first ChargePoint charger only charged at 30 amps so we moved to Minden where there is a 70 amp charger but this is only 208 volts and the Tesla single charger would only draw 40 amps for a 26 mi/hr charge rate. We had dinner at Francisco's Mexican restaurant and then headed up the hill to home.
When I picked up the car, I had them install the Michelin winter tires but I almost changed them out for the summer tires for this trip to the desert. Fortunately, I didn't because on the return trip a storm came through and we had a foot of snow going up Spooner pass and around the north shore of the lake. I was eager to try out the Tesla in snow and it performed flawlessly on the ice and snow packed roads. Of course I was driving cautiously since these are steep winding mountain roads with 100+ ft drop-offs but the car was absolutely solid. I couldn't detect any slippage or squirming. It felt as solid as a dry road.
We made it home with 7 miles reserve. Average energy use for the entire trip was 300 Wh/mile.
I now have almost 1500 miles on the car and it's less than a week old. We're looking forward to many more trips.