We chose to attend Teslacon in Florida and make the trip by road in our 2018 Tesla Model 3. This was our first 1000+ mile road trip. Previously we had attended a Tesla event in Asheville which was a 600 mile round trip. With a modest road trip under our belt we felt more confident in making the trip from Middle Tennessee to the East coast in Central Florida.
We planned the trip with A Better Route Planner. It estimated it would take 13 1/2 hours to drive plus an hour of charging for 14 1/2 total drive one way.
A better route planner was set to assume an average of 65 mile/hr in making its estimates. Due to the length of travel one way we chose to stop off at a Hotel along the way. Our Hotel reservation at our destination in Port Canaveral was already made. To provide as much flexibility as possible we chose to select a Hotel while on the road, stopping when the time felt right. I took my laptop with me so that we could book a Hotel easily from a parking lot or restaurant.
Before the trip I had Tesla Mobile service do some maintenance. I had them replace the cabin air filter and 12v battery. I have these done every two years as part of my maintenance plan.
We set off at about 9:15 am Thursday October 20th. Late enough to avoid rush hour traffic in Nashville. We stuck to the plan we had prepared stopping at Kimballl, TN, Atalnta GA and Fort Valley GA to supercharge. I was getting tired after 6 1/2 hours of driving so we chose to pick a Hotel. We saw we could book at Cordele GA or Tifton GA. Tifton is a little bit further and has a better choice of Hotels with overnight charging. Using Plugshare I could see Hotels that had a good reputation for charging success and used Hotels.com to see which Hotels had good reviews. We chose the Radisson in Tifton and reserved a room online using the Hotels website.
According to Plugshare the Radisson at Tifton has four Tesla destination stations and two J1772 stations. When we arrived I discovered that the Hotel had expanded to six Tesla destination stations and four J1772 stations for a total of ten plugs!! Three of Tesla units were broken and several other stations blocked with ICE vehicles. I was able to park next to a working Tesla unit that was next to the rear entrance to the Hotel. All of the stations are free to hotel guests. I updated Plugshare with the new plugs. I charged to 85% overnight and set the charge limit to 100% when we woke up using the Tesla app. The car reached 98% state of charge when we left.
Since we got a full charge overnight the plan to stop at Jasper FL was no longer appropriate. We used the cars navigation and stopped at Ocala FL. The supercharger at Ocala is an older one that opened in 2014 and it charges at just 120 kW. The plugs were all beaten up from many drops to the ground over te years, they did still work. I left the charge limit set to 100% and we sat down for a meal at Mimi’s. The slower charge was welcome, it gave us enough time to eat our meal and unplug the vehicle at 96%, this charge took 54 minutes, the time it took to eat lunch. The charge was more than enough to get to our final destination.
In Tennessee and Georgia, Superchargers are charged by the minutes on multiple charging tiers. In Florida Supercharging is billed by the kWh. When billed by the minute one needs to ensure one arrives at a relatively low state of charge and leave when the charge rate drops below 100 kW. This minimizes time charging and therefore total cost. In Florida charging speed is not relevant, you pay for what you use, so a leisurely charge over lunch was perfect. The cost of supercharging in Florida is at least twice as expensive as Tennessee or Georgia. The single charge in Ocala cost as much as the three charges on the previous day combined! While billing by the kWh is fairer than by the minute, by the minute supercharging does encourage drivers to move on rather than let their cars reach 100%. On balance I prefer by the minute supercharging.
Charging while at Teslacon
This article is about the road trip, not the event, so I won’t cover Teslacon here. We stayed at the same Hotel as the event, the Radisson Resort at the port. The Hotel does have two charging stations, one Tesla one J1772. However with 276 registered Tesla owners the stations were at a premium. We arrived early on Friday and I was able to get a charge to 90%. I moved the vehicle as soon as I saw the charge had completed. As I was unplugging a Tesla backed into the adjacent parking space and I handed the owner the charging cable.
We toured the local area visiting a beach, restaurants and took an Airboat ride. Airboats need to be electric to make them quieter. Later we visited the Manatee Sanctuary Park which did have two J1772 charging stations. I plugged in next to a Mach-e while we explored the park.
The night before leaving both charging stations were in use, actively charging vehicles. At check in I was informed that the Hotel next door which opened that month had six charging stations, but I did not feel comfortable using stations that are designated for guest use. When I woke at 6:30 am the day of departure I was able to plug in. We got a hearty breakfast at the Hotel which would sustain us until dinner time.
The return leg
We left the Hotel with a 96% charge at 9:30am, avoiding the rush hour in Orlando. I did not know until that morning if I would get a charge or not so did not plan the route back. We used the in car navigation to suggest charging locations. I set home as a destination and drove. Our first stop was at Alachua FL. The charging station looked brand new. I checked later on supercharge.info and saw it was opened just a few months previously on June 8th.
Next stop was Cordele GA, a relatively new station opened a year ago, charging was flawless. Next stop suggested was Marietta GA, we set off however as we were driving the car disengaged navigate on autopilot and rerouted to a less busy supercharger. The suggestion was the Acworth GA, arriving with less than 10% charge. I also noticed the estimated charge kept dropping. Rather than slow down to be sure to make the new Supercharger I queried Superchargers on the route and found that McDonough GA was closer. I’d arrive with 30%, not ideal but I preferred that since I could get well north of Atlanta before needing to stop and select a Hotel. In addition a charge boost would allow for the vehicle to reroute around the city center if traffic issues occurred, it was rush hour in Atlanta. Another reason not to chance it.
McDonough supercharger is just over a year old. Several of the outlets in the mall had not opened yet. There were limited options for food, I was able to find a bathroom in JC Penney. As we were travelling through downtown Atlanta traffic was OK and we made great time. I now faced the choice of finding a Hotel or simply driving on. I felt great so decided I would at least go as far as I could.
The plan was to stop at Kimball TN as our last charge. However as we were traveling up I-75 we noticed signs for Buc’ees ahead. Brisket sandwich vs Taco Bell was no contest. I did not navigate to the Supercharger as I prefered a slower charge to eat dinner. Buc’ees supercharger is in Adairville GA, well north of Atlanta. Another brand new location that had opened just three weeks prior. The Adiarville charger at Buc’ees was empty when we arrived, we got brisket sandwiches for dinner and ate while we charged. Two Teslas arrived as we ate dinner. I realized we could make it all the way home if we charged to 67% and would arrive at 9:40pm. I decided to just go for it and we did indeed get home by 9:40pm. A 13 hour drive. Autopilot makes driving less tiresome and at no time did I feel drowsy or in need of a nap.
Plan vs Actual.
On reflection the trip back from Florida was much faster than the trip down to Florida. This was in part due to incredible luck in not having traffic holdups returning home like we did on the way down. In addition we used 250 kW charging stations exclusively on the way home, most of which were new, empty or lightly used. Does that mean one should not plan? No, plans can change but planning is important so you know your options should you change your mind on the fly.
A better route planner estimated the charging cost would be $54 for the outward leg to Florida. The actual cost for the round trip was $107.82. ABRP got the cost right almost to the penny, just 12 cents difference at $108 for the round trip!! The estimates per charging station were not the accurate, but overall it nailed it.
The travel time was very conservative with ABRP, since I had it set to use 65 mph as an average. I averaged more than that, saving over an hour compared to the plan for the return leg. Not having any holdups at all on the way home helped boost the average speed significantly. I would still plan with an average of 65 mph to account for traffic holdups.
Trip Stats and the value of Hotel charging.
The journey was a round trip of 1583 miles with 450 kWh of energy used. I averaged 284 Wh/mile.
Supercharging was totally flawless, every plug I tried worked and charged as fast as expected. Stopping every 2 1/2 hours is very reasonable for a long road trip, giving you the ability to stretch your legs and visit the facilities while charging. I got 4,500 steps according to my fitbit, so I did get a reasonable amount of exercise finding restrooms etc. I think this helped me stay alert the whole way.
I have always charged an EV at a Hotel and sought Hotels with charging stations when staying away. Running the numbers for this trip showed the value of doing so. Leaving the Hotel with a full charge means the first leg of the journey takes you to lunchtime before you need to stop to charge, up to three hours. It’s a great time saver over using supercharging the night before. In addition it saves quite a lot of money. More than I realized.
Hotel charging represented 25% of the total energy used on this trip and saved $50 (at Florida supercharger rates). Hotels provided 116 kW of free fuel. Thanks Radisson.
I noticed on my trip that nearly all the J1772 public charging stations were free and did not require membership to a network. All the stations were clipper creek brand and all seemed to be in good working order. I used several with no problems, no RFID cards required, plug and charge, the way it should be.
The state of charging infrastructure has improved dramatically in the last twelve months. 75% of the superchargers visited were opened in 2021 or later. The same journey just a year ago would have been slower and require meticulous planning and execution. Tesla have done a great job ‘filling the gaps’ on the charging map. The trip was anxiety free and very enjoyable. Road tripping a Tesla is the way to go.
Now I know I can make a long trip with no issues, next up is a really long trip out west. Hopefully in the summer of 2023.