I recently went on a 500 mile road trip with my Tesla Model 3 through the mountains in Massachusetts and upstate New York. How’d it hold up, and more importantly, did I end up doing this at any point?
I don’t know how you are when it comes to traveling, but I always like to have a game plan and try to keep the “let’s just wing it” to a minimum.
For a few years now I’ve been meaning to visit Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York because I have some family history that ties back to the Fort and the revolutionary war in the United States. In addition to that trip, and as someone who’s been involved in art and design his entire life, I carry a little shame that I’ve never visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, even through I’ve driven by it countless times over the past 20 years visiting family in New York.
I thought this would make the perfect test run for my Model 3 on a longer road trip because most of the driving would be through the mountains in western Massachusetts and upstate New York. And while there are half a dozen Tesla Superchargers sprinkled throughout the area, there’s nothing super close to Fort Ticonderoga.
When planning an EV road trip, you don’t have to do extensive planning, but a little bit will make for a smoother, stress free drive. The navigation system in the Tesla doesn’t just direct you to where you’re going, but it also will plot in charging stops if your destination is further than your charge will get you.
Tesla also has a browser based trip planning tool, and there are few other options out there too, but in planning my trip I used abetterrouteplanner.com. Much like the built in navigation system, it takes into account weather, terrain, driving style, the model of car, and more into the estimates. In my case, I was going to be able to get to my destination, a hotel in Queensbury, NY, which is over 200 miles away on a single charge. The hotel also had a couple of Tesla destination chargers that I could use for free overnight, and if they were occupied, there was a Tesla Supercharging station in the mall just down the hill from the hotel.
So how’d that leg of the trip go? It was cool and rainy, which has an impact on efficiency, so I ended up getting an average of 276 Wh/mile. That’s about 80% efficiency when you compare 211 miles driven, but 261 miles used off the battery. It was okay, but not great.
The next morning I got an interesting warning in the car. Temperature changes can cause big swings in your tire pressure, and it was much cooler now than when I had started my trip. Tire pressure can also have a big impact on efficiency, so I think this may have been a contributing factor on my 80% efficiency from the day before.
At the hotel I added about 64 kWh to my car’s charge, which would have been the equivalent of $14.12 in electricity. Not bad having the hotel foot the bill for topping off my car. With a 95% full battery and filling my tires to the recommend 42 PSI, I set off on the next leg of my journey up to Fort Ticonderoga. The Fort sits in between Lake Champlain and Lake George and the road I was talking, 9 North, snaked its way along the lakes through the Adirondack Mountains.
There was a lot of beautiful, curvy, roads that let me open the car up and have some fun. And even though it was cold and cloudy, the scenery was amazing. I spent most of the day at the Fort taking tours and learning about the history of the area. It was a part of the nation’s history I knew very little about, and my family connection to the Fort added another layer to the day.
There were only two things that took the edge off a little bit: it was colder than I was expecting, so I didn’t have the right gear, and when I drove into the Fort there was a very long, bumpy, muddy, dirt road to the parking area. My beautiful, beautiful, new baby got very, very dirty.
I finished off the day driving to the top of the tallest mountain in the area, Mount Defiance, which had an amazing overlook of the entire region. It shouldn’t be a surprise that going up the mountain the car didn’t break a sweat. The Model 3 felt like it could have rocketed up those roads without an issue, other than the fact I probably would have successfully driven myself into a tree. Going back down the mountain was pretty fun because I didn’t have to touch the brakes at all. The regenerative braking kept the car from gaining uncontrolled speed, and by the time I got to the bottom I had -400 wH/mile (up vs. going down). Thank you Mount Defiance.
My drive back to the hotel was mostly the reverse of the trip I took to the Fort. I ended up on interstate 87 a bit, which was a much faster roadway than 9 North. All told the round trip to and from the Fort was about 110 miles with a 265 wH/mile, or about a 84% efficiency. Slightly better than the day before, but still lower because of the cold and mountain driving.
Again, I topped my car off with the hotels Tesla destination charger, which added 33.84 kWh. That’s like another $7.56 top off.
My final day of the journey took me back to Massachusetts through Stockbridge and the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Jacob’s Ladder Trail along route 20 to Russell, MA. If you enjoy art and are in the western Massachusetts area, do yourself a favor at stop at the Norman Rockwell Museum. It’s not only located in a beautiful part of the state, but Norman Rockwell is a very interesting artist who captured American life from the 40’s through the 60’s. Most people know his work from the covers he did for The Saturday Evening Post, but there’s much more to his work than just that.
After spending a couple of hours there, I headed out along Jacob’s Ladder Trail, which is a winding path along route 20 in the Berkshire Mountains. Much like my drive up to the Fort, route 20 has some beautiful winding roads and incredible scenery. Perfect for enjoying the car. By the time I got home, I had driven about 213 miles with a rated 215 miles used on the battery, which means I got a 99% efficiency at 226 Wh/mile. That blew me away.
So what was the difference? Here’s my best guess. The average temperature on day 1 and 2 of my trip was a rainy and cold 58 and 56 degrees Fahrenheit, while my final day was a sunny 70 degrees. The first day my tire pressure was lower than it should have been, which gave me a softer ride, but a lower efficiency. The second day had some drastic altitude changes driving through the Adirondack Mountains. Even though I drove through the Berkshire’s on the final day, they weren’t as steep or varying as the Adirondacks. I also had a few local driving stops in Queensbury where the car was idling for a while with the HVAC running, which drives the Wh/mile up and affected the wH/mile average overall for that day.
Internal combustion engine cars suffer from many of the same efficiency issues when it comes to weather, driving style, and tire pressure, but as an EV driver I think I was more attuned to it because of my desire to make sure “I didn’t run out of charge” and avoid this …
In the end, it wasn’t something I needed to worry about at all on this trip. There were four Tesla Superchargers directly on the path I took to and from the hotel. That’s one about every 50 miles. And even if I had gone straight to the Fort without stopping in Queensbury, there would have been three along the alternate path. Not to mention the ample number of Level 2 chargers at places like my hotel.
You don’t need to worry about range, but with a little planning you can make sure you’re optimizing your time enjoying your trip and not sitting at a charger. My next big trip will be to visit family in Rochester, NY, which is about 800 miles round trip. For that type of trip, you can time your charging stop for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and get charged up while you eat.
And one final note on charging costs. The only amount I paid was my final charge at my house when I got back home, which worked out to 47 kWh added to the battery for a cost of about $10.91. Not bad for driving 534 miles. That’s about $0.02 per mile. If I had to use the Tesla Superchargers in New York, it would have been $0.24 per kWh, adding another $23.40 (97.53 kWh) for a total of $34.32 in electric charging.
What about compared to gas? Well, the average gas prices I was seeing in Queensbury were about $2.84 gallon … and up to $3.00 in some places. In Massachusetts it’s not to far off at about $2.79 where I am. Even if we take the cheapest of those and factor a 32 mpg, you’d be looking at almost 17 gallons at $47. That’s a $0.06 mile for supercharging vs. $0.09 mile for gas, and depending on where you are that delta could be even bigger. But for this trip, it’s a $0.02 mile for electric vs. the $0.09 mile for gas. I’ll take it.
And if you’re curious how I got a lot of my data, I’ve been testing a service called TeslaFi, which I’ll link to in the description below. If gives you incredible data on each trip you take, how much energy was used vs. cost, as well as your battery’s efficiency and charging history. It takes a little tweaking to make sure TeslaFi doesn’t keep waking your car up and causing phantom drain, but once it’s setup the data is pretty interesting. I’m also able to use my Amazon Echos to check how much range my car has or turn on the car to warm it up before a drive.
I’m very interested to see how the winter plays out with efficiency, so if anyone else is interested, I can make a follow up video in a few months on that. Comment down below or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’d love to hear your ideas for future videos. And if you have a Tesla or other EV, comment down below about your experiences driving on longer road trips.
If you have a Tesla and are looking for some nice add-ons and upgrades for your car, take a look at Abstract Ocean. If you use my discount code, you’ll get 15% off your first order. They’ve got some great center console wraps, screen protectors, brighter LED light replacements, and much more. The link is down below.
And if you’re in the market for a Tesla S, X, or 3, you can use my referral code to get a $100 Super Charging Credit. Considering my trip would have cost me $23.40 at Super Chargers, you can definitely get quite a few miles for free out of it.
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