2012 Tesla Model S Drives From L.A. To Las Vegas On A Single Charge

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The MotorTrend editorial team must have spent more time behind the wheel of the 2012 Tesla Model S than any other automotive journalists to date.

Not only did MotorTrend get to borrow the personal 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Sport belonging to Tesla CEO Elon Musk for a few days to test the real-world range of the $100,000 luxury sedan, but it took it on a road-trip from Los Angeles, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Setting out from the Los Angeles basin, Motor Trend’s Jessi Lang and Frank Markus set out on their 210-mile trip, aiming to get to Sin City on a single charge. 

Range anxiety

Even though Lang and Markus knew the flagship Tesla sedan had the theoretical range to easily drive 210 miles, the first part of their trip included two 4,000 foot mountain passes, giving Markus some serious range anxiety.

After some serious calculations using Tesla’s own energy-use curves for the Sedan, the duo deduced the best option would be to drive the first part of the trip at a sedate 55 mph, with the air conditioning switched off. 

The result? a blistering 104-degrees Fahrenheit inside the luxury sedan, and numerous frustrated drivers piling up behind as they paced themselves up the mountain passes at the slowest legal freeway speed. 

More than enough

L.A. to Las Vegas In Tesla Model S (MotorTrend)

L.A. to Las Vegas In Tesla Model S (MotorTrend)

Enlarge Photo

After several hours of what we assume was fairly tortuous driving, Lang and Markus hit the top of the second mountain pass, having used around one half of the Model S’s 85-kilowatt-hour battery pack. 

With only 75-miles to go to their destination, the pair started to relax, increasing their speed and making use of the car’s welcome air conditioning on the final part of the trip.

The result? Lang and Markus arrived in Las Vegas with an estimated 65 miles of range to spare, proving that it was at least possible to drive the Tesla Model S between the two cities on a single charge. 

Possible, but would you do it?

MotorTrend’s resulting video of the trip is entertaining enough, but as Lang and Markus admitted to camera several times during the experiment, the journey was hardly an everyday occurrence. 

For a start, we can’t think of that many car drivers, who would be content driving along in blistering 100+ degree heat without air conditioning on. 

Then the’s the matter of speed. As we’ve asked before, just who would drive a 2012 Tesla Model S at 55mph? 

Ultimately, Tesla expects to install its superchargers on regular inter-city routes, allowing Tesla Model S owners to drive at 80 mph instead of an embarrassingly-slow 55mph, stopping for a 30-minute, 90-kilowatt rapid top-up charge mid-way.

For now then, if you’ve got a 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Sport, we recommend that you don’t attempt the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a single drive. 

Unless you’re really fond of saunas and truck lanes, that is. 

Would you have made this trip? Did it prove anything, or did it do more harm than good for electric cars? 

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (17)
  1. Be happy to make the trip as long as Jessi Lang was going with me.

  2. I would have liked to see them drive it with a bit more faith in the car. They should turn on the air conditioning and have at least done the speed limit. I'm sure that the cars passing them had their AC on and were doing the speed limit or higher. Cruise control can easily be used to maintain your speed and reduce unnecessary acceleration.

  3. Actually, it's pretty funny that those who carried out this short range trip have actually provided excellent proof that the Model S is incapable of extended travel on our Interstates, although I'm sure they didn't realize it : Driving 55 on an Interstate? No AC usage? Using a brand new battery? No loading of a car supposedly in a vacation travel situation? No rain? No non-city Interstates have a 55 (or even a 60) MPH posted limit. Over 85% are posted at 70 MPH or above. Tesla's own data shows their
    car's range, using moderate AC but otherwise ideal driving conditions achieving ranges (at 65/70/75 MPH) of 236/217/200 miles when new, 219/201/185 at 4.5 years of age. You'll never achieve those ranges on an extended trip needing recharges

  4. You just need a few L3 stations on the interstate every 50-60 miles or so and even the poor little LEAF could cover many states in no time at all. I juiced it up with L3 for the first time over the weekend and going from 0 to 80 in 20 minutes was amazing. Investing in batteries and supporting technologies is great but getting basic infrastructure set up now is much cheaper and would cover the other 5% of driving that the electrics just cannot do.

  5. I just drove from Chattanooga to Atlanta in my LEAF yesterday. This Tesla drive doesn't even come close to what I experienced... 65 miles left on the clock? WTH? Try coming 10 miles short and pulling into Walgreens for 2 kWh of power at midnight. And the "slowest legal freeway speed" is technically 40 MPH but I wouldn't try it either. Even on backroads at 45 MPH the local GA freaks just wanted to kill me...

  6. This is why people buy EREVs instead of pure BEVs...

    But I would say LA to Vegas trip more "rare"... Unless you are pro gambler or party animal, you wouldn't do that trip all that often... 230 miles is plenty for real life daily usage.

    However, after 5 years, that 230 miles might become 184 miles (80%) and during the extreme cold weather, that 184 miless becomes (another 20% loss due to cold weather) 174 miles... It starts to become a problem...

  7. With that said, I would still love to have Tesla ANYDAY... I will just buy a Volt and Tesla... :)

  8. The LA to Vegas road trip is extremely common, to the point of causing predictible weekend traffic jams. This was a perfect demonstration of the Tesla's range for anyone living in California. When they can do this at 75 MPH with the air conditioning on, a lot of EVs will be taking this trip.

  9. Realistically, Tesla will likely install a SuperCharger in Barstow and drivers will stop for 20-30 minutes to get an extra 40-50% battery charge. Based on the data you should be able to drive 85mph with your AC on and only need to stop for a 20 minute charge to have plenty of margin to get to Las Vegas.

    I drive to Vegas all the time, and a 20 minute stop in Barstow or Baker is standard practice if only for soda and a bathroom break. Longer if there is traffic, in which case I take time to eat and relax.

    MT were fools driving 55 with no A/C. They ended up with ~70 miles of unused range (they only used 60kWh of the 80 usable). Their data shows they could have done it at 65 with A/C, though it would be tight.

  10. Charger in Barstow and Stateline and no problem with many EVs. Please make it a nice stop, not a McDonalds or public rest area. Hmmm...business plan developing...

  11. My understanding is that there is already a charger in Barstow, and I believe it works for Tesla. I'm not sure where or what kind. I also stop in Barstow and usually hit the In & Out Burger.

  12. 20% loss to cold weather is pretty flippin far from the real world experience of Tesla Roadster owners driving above the Arctic Circle. There is a reason that Norway is the second largest market for Model S after the U.S.

  13. 20% is the number that Tesla itself predicted... Telsa Roadster doesn't really have much amenity. Norway gives a HUGE incentive for the so called "large" market for Model S....

  14. Well, it shows it is possible even without proper infrastructure... I don't know situation in US, but in my country there are fuel-refilling station everywhere, but no charging stations. If Tesla can build superchargers on the most important interstate roads/highways it won't be any problem to travel very far even with high speed and A/C on.

  15. Still looking for some independent technicals on this car and company before I pass judgement. Might as well have a Volt on this trip but not at $40K and not fair to have the tax payer caugh up $7,599 plus for my driving privlidge.

  16. A/C really isn't that taxing. They were over cautious with A/C. Driving up the hill gingerly say at 65 was all they needed to do.

  17. Ridiculous idea. i run 300 KM trips all the time in my electric Fluence, with full AC on, and stop for five minutes to take on a new battery every 90 miles. its routine, its automatic, no drama, hills and mountains and 106 degrees. The car costs 30K dollars, including taxes (no refunds in Israel)

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