2013 Tesla Model S before DC-to-Boston road trip, Feb 2013 [photo: Aaron Schildkraut]Enlarge Photo
Signs on the cars, hand-made at the Delaware rest stop, informed the curious: "@TeslaRoadTrip – Follow on Twitter" as a response to the on-the-road and rest-stop gawking by amazed drivers seeing their first-ever convoy of Tesla Model S cars. Twitter followers grew exponentially to more than 2,500 followers.
Organizer Aaron Schildkraut of Yonkers, New York, received a surprise phone call—while on the road – from George Blankenship, Tesla's vice president for sales and customer experience, who'd learned about the Road Trip via social media.
"We're just in awe of what you're doing," Blankenship said.
Nine Teslas Model S left the Rockville showroom, two as a sort of honor guard escort that went only as far as the Delaware Superchargers. One car went to New York City, where its drivers opted for dinner and a Broadway play instead of continuing to Groton.
The six cars that completed the trip started from Ocean City and Owings in Maryland; Westchester, Pennsylvania; Yonkers, New York; and Washington, D.C. Model S owner Ben Goodwin actually lives in Boston, which had been Broder's original destination. He drove all the way to the Delaware SuperCharger to start the trip with the rest of the convoy.
Owner Dante Richardson had already taken his Model S on a long-distance trip – from his home in Ocean City, Maryland, to Miami – just a few months ago, charging largely at RV parks along the way.
Long-distance travel in a Tesla Model S, he said, is a piece of cake. You just have to plan ahead.
The trip proved a number of points that effectively refute Broder's negative experience.
First, yes, low temperatures do affect batteries and you deal with it
The Model S displays real-time energy use and projected range – that is, how many more miles it can go on the current charge. If temperatures are low, some of the car's energy is diverted to keeping the batteries warm. All of this is clearly displayed.
Tesla Road Trip from MD to CT, Feb 2013 - Tesla Model S cars at Delaware SuperCharger locationEnlarge Photo
Measures can be taken to reduce energy use, such as slowing down and moderating the climate control features. While outside temperatures were a bit colder when Broder made the trip than last weekend, Road Trip drivers did the sensible thing anyhow and lowered their cabin temperatures and speeds to save energy.
But no one's knuckles turned white, nobody's feet froze--and nobody drove at speeds much below 60 mph.
Second, you have to plan ahead
Until charging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations, long-range travel in an electric car will take planning and a careful eye on what the car is telling the driver.
The Road Trip cars all charged up FULLY at both supercharging stations. While Broder charged up fully in Delaware, he apparently didn't do so in Connecticut. There he charged until the display showed a range of 185 miles, "well beyond the distance I intended to cover before returning to the station the next morning for a recharge and returning to Manhattan." Had he invested a few more minutes and completed the charge, the story would have been different.
Just as important, given the temperatures, he did not plug the car in overnight to keep the battery warmed. Even plugging into a standard 110-Volt household overnight would have kept his batteries warm. The Road Trip drivers proved this.
Another point--somewhat geeky, but important. The Model S has two settings, "standard" and "range," which means maximizing distance From the logs of Broder's car that Tesla examined after the fact, Broder's "full charge" in Delaware wasn't actually full. It appears that he was operating and charging in standard mode, so the battery charged to maximum on that setting--but less than 100 percent.