Used 2015 Tesla Model S P85D on day of purchase [photo: Jay Lucas]
As a nation, the U.S. takes lots of road trips, because most of the country has no viable mass transit between city pairs.
If electric cars are ever to enter the mass market in North America, they have to be usable on those road trips. Last year, our reader Jay Lucas of Alexandria, Virginia, wrote an account of his road trip in a new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car.
Now he's followed up with an explanation of why he now drives a used Tesla Model S. What follows are his words, lightly edited by Green Car Reports for clarity and style.
I sat in a restaurant near the Supercharger beside my shiny new used 2015 red Tesla Model S, P85D, watching the electrons flow into the battery on the Tesla app and thinking how I came to be here.
Last year I bought a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, also red, and I loved it. I think it is Chevy’s supreme creation, and it carried me with spirit and verve
all around Northern Virginia.
But now I have a Tesla, and my son has the Bolt. I have given up some things, but boy,
have I gained others.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, June 2017 road trip from VA to KY and back [Jay Lucas]
Last summer, my buddy Stewart accompanied me on a 600-mile trek in the 2017 Bolt EV. I've just completed that same journey in the Tesla with my wife.
The two cars provided very different experiences: in the Bolt EV, we felt like pioneers, whereas in the Tesla, the level of worry and unknowns was far lower. That’s why I switched to Tesla—for a better long-distance trip experience.
Overall, Tesla has delivered. Here are a baker’s dozen ways in which the two cars differed on road trips. Most favor the Tesla experience, but not all.
(1) Finding your route is much easier with the Tesla.
In the Bolt EV, I would spend about an hour with the PlugShare app and Apple Maps finding a route to my destination that included clusters of CCS DC fast-charging sites—and making sure the distance between chargers did not exceed my car’s range.
Tesla’s in-car navigation system, and its website equivalent, does the whole job for me. I simply enter the destination, and it presents a proposed route (after a short wait), along with the charging times at each Supercharger, and the predicted state of charge as I arrive at my destination.
Charging 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and 2015 Tesla Model S P85D at home in garage [photo: Jay Lucas]
(2) Charging at a Supercharger is much faster than the CCS fast chargers for the Bolt EV. Overnight in my garage, charging speed doesn't matter.
But on the highway, when I am anxious to keep going, the half-hour to 45 minutes at a Supercharger is much more satisfying than the typical hour or 90 minutes required at any 50-kilowatt (non-Tesla) fast-charging site.
Many of those commercial sites stop after 30 minutes of charging, requiring a restart of the charging process, which I've always found infuriating.
Some systems have now lessened this constraint, but the Tesla app on my phone just tells me when the car has sufficient charge to get me to the next charging stop with a margin of safety—and off I go.
(3) The on-road charging process is automatic and hassle-free for a Tesla. While some commercial charging networks are better than others, most require some type of interactive card, credit card, or phone app to be used.
With the Tesla Supercharger, I just grab the charger cord and bring it close to the Model S, the port springs open, and in goes the plug.
My used Model S came with a lifetime of free Supercharging; but even if it didn't, I'd receive all charges later on, automatically logged to my account for monthly billing.
Tesla electric cars at Supercharger fast-charging site, TK [photo: Jay Lucas]
(4) Traveling at speed is easier in a Tesla: less range anxiety. In the Bolt EV, 70 mph seemed to be a bright red line. Above that speed, my energy use per mile skyrocketed and range dropped noticeably.
The Tesla seems to slip through the air more gracefully, and while I don't use a heavy foot, I can be freer with the accelerator.
(5) Superchargers are sited better, with a greater selection of nearby restaurants and other facilities nearby. They're also closer to the highway.
While some CCS charging stations were well-located, and more and more are appearing in highway rest stops and travel plazas, that's still the exception rather than the rule—at least along my route.
The Superchargers I used seemed to be closer to the highway, so my trip was less disrupted by the charging.