Your First Tesla Road Trip

Driving your new Tesla around town was never a concern.  With even the lowest range models there is plenty of miles available to make it around town and back home.   Twice.    But what do you need to do when planning that first road trip?   Are you going to be calling Tesla Roadside Assistance from the middle of some back road?

Here are some tips to help you get the most enjoyment from your first Tesla Road Trip.

Charge the night before

An easy way to avoid an extra 20 or 30 minutes on a trip is to make sure you are fully charged the night before.   Depending on the trip plan, you will likely want to charge up to at least the daily limit.   Setting the charge limit to 100%, the “trip” setting, may not be necessary.  Keep in mind that avoiding 100% charge whenever possible can extend long-term battery life of your Tesla.   That said, don’t skip the 100% charge for an occasional road trip if it is going to save you 10 or 15 minutes on your trip.

Bring your charging kit

This is especially important if you are using a NEMA outlet in your garage to charge every night with the charge kit.    You will want to have the kit an all the adapters “just in case”.   While often not needed it can come in handy to plug in at a relative’s home or at a public charging station that is not a Tesla station.   Some cities, Tampa for instance, have multiple on-street parking spaces with Chargepoint or other stations which allows you to top off at or near your final destination.   They will require the charging kit adapters.

Allow for extra time

Tesla road trips are different, no doubt about it.   Unlike petrol-based cars and petrol/electric hybrids you will need more time to “fill up” between stations in a Tesla.   A typical Tesla charging stop at Supercharger takes 15 to 25 minutes as opposed to the 3-5 minutes to fill a tank in a dinosaur-burner.

What used to be a 7-hour drive from Charleston to Tampa is now 7.5 hours — 8 hours when you add in the “leisurely pace” of lunch or other distractions that inevitably creep in to a 20 minute stop.

Use the Tesla recommendations

While you can now plan your trip directly from the Tesla site, something they added during the summary of 2018, it is an estimate that is not exactly right for every vehicle.  It only shows current on-sale models.   For a more accurate picture of your trip you’ll need to get in the car and bring up the trip route using the in-car navigation.   Let the app suggest your charging stops.

The in-car navigation app provides the optimal route and charging times to get you to the destination quickly.

Following the advice of which chargers to stop at and for how long typically yields the fastest overall travel time.

Tesla Road Trip Navigation
Tesla Road Trip Navigation

Limit charging time

Charging an extra 10 minutes at one of the recommended stops does not always shorten the next stop by 10 minutes.  Charge only until the charging app tells you it is charged enough to go to the next stop.    When the app changes from “10 minutes remaining to continue trip” to “50 minutes remaining” it is time to move on.

Only charge enough to continue your trip.

Slow down

For long-time petrol road trippers this may seem a bit counter-intuitive.   Driving an additional 15 MPH can shave 10 minutes off an arrival time for a longer trip.  Sometime this even works in a Tesla.  But often the net gain in time is ZERO.    When you start to realize you are only gaining a better chance of an impromptu visit from your local law enforcement officer during your trip in return for nothing, the better choice is often to slow down.

Watch the time to charge on the navigation app as well as your arrival time at the charger.  If you see the time at the charger jump, and it will in 5-minute increments, you may want to knock off  5 MPH from your current speed for a few minutes.   Often you’ll gain that 5 minutes back in reduced charging time and only arrive at the charger 1 minute or less later than that 5MPH will give you.

Avoid fast but short bursts of speed

Yeah, that is really fun in a Tesla.  Zero to 60 is quick.    60 to 90 is just as much fun.    However on a road trip this short hard bursts of acceleration drain your battery in a hurry.   In a gas powered car it does the same thing but having to add an extra half gallon of fuel takes 15 seconds.  In a Tesla the equivalent can mean an extra 5 minutes on the charger.

A short burst of speed for 2 minutes can add 5 minutes of required charging time.

This goes hand-in-hand with the slow down mantra.    Keep a “decent” but steady average speed and you’ll get to the destination faster.    A steady 75 is going to serve you better on a long trip than 75 a quick 90 then 70 while waiting for another gap in traffic.

Check the charge

Always wait a minute or two after you’ve plugged into a charger to not only make sure it is working but that you are getting the maximum charge rate.   Different models charge at different rates depending on the charging unit in the car.  Older single-charger cars and newer non-performance models should be charging at close to 100A when below 30% charge remaining in the battery.    Do not “pair” on the same numbered supercharger if you can avoid it.

Don’t be afraid to move to another charger — they are NOT all equal.

Some chargers at the same station will charge a lot faster than others.  Check Google Reviews or the Plugshare app at that station for recent feedback from users.

Check the destination

Many owners prefer to stay at places that have destination charging.  Others like to be within 20 miles of a supercharger.   There is no right or wrong answer but one thing to definitely keep in mind is to check the round trip charge at your last charging destination.   If you are not going to be near a destination charger or supercharger you will want to make sure you have at least 5% battery charge on a “round trip” to you final destination from your last charging point.

In some cases this may mean finding the closest destination charger to your final stop and checking the round trip from there.  Keep in mind some destination chargers are patrons only, however many Tesla owners find that most businesses are very friendly towards Tesla drivers and will let you charge up if necessary.