By Sasha Brown-Worsham
Day One, aka, the first time we questioned whether we’d made a giant mistake planning a month-long cross country road trip in a Tesla.
We’d driven 450 miles from Boston to Buffalo, taken a quick spin on the Maid of the Mist, marveled at Niagara Falls, eaten at Chipotle, and piled our family of five into a budget motel room.
The trip was off to a good start, but our math was way off. Before heading out, my husband Rob calculated our mileage per charge, factoring in the roof rack we had packed to the gills. The mileage per charge that we planned for? 250. The mileage per charge that we actually got? 170. Almost 100 miles less than anticipated.
There were a few reasons why we decided to drive our Tesla—an EV (electric vehicle)—across the U.S. on a month-long summer vacation, including 2022’s exorbitant gas prices and because it’s better for the environment. We also wanted to see if we could actually do it. Most people thought we were crazy. During the month we spent on the road, sometimes we thought we were, too.
We weathered one flat tire on the Wisconsin-Minnesota state line and whipping winds in South Dakota that stole 50% of our mileage. We learned to pack our roof rack aerodynamically, maximize our mileage, and ignore range anxiety. On top of it all, everyone we met seemed to have an opinion on Teslas.
5 Tips for a Tesla (or EV) Road Trip
In total, we drove 9,000 miles, passed through 25 states, visited 10 national parks, and learned a few new things about our Tesla. If you are considering taking your Tesla (or really any EV) on a long drive, we have a few hard-earned tips from my family to yours.
1. Run test drives and plan accordingly
Any road trip requires planning and mapping, but one with an EV requires even more. Every drive was a math equation—we were always trying to optimize our charge and make sure we could hit all the next day’s sights. So before you leave, it’s extra important to run test drives.
If you are going to carry a loaded Thule like us, your car isn’t going to get the mileage it does on your daily commute. On that first day, our mileage was so bad, we nearly called it quits. Instead, we cut some sights that added too much distance, optimized our Thule, and removed all miscellaneous items (like cellphone chargers) that were pulling from the charge.
2. Know where the EV dealerships are
Even if you never run into trouble, knowing where Tesla or EV dealerships are along your route will help. When we had a flat tire, we were thrilled to be close to the Minneapolis
dealership. There is no spare on the Tesla and it requires a flatbed tow truck, so knowing what kind of access you have along the ride ahead of time is key.
Photo by J Dean
3. Bring all your charging equipment
Teslas come with a “granny charger,” and as the name suggests, it’s the oldest and slowest way to charge an EV—it takes 36 hours to fully charge. Relying on a granny charger can cause a huge delay on a tightly scheduled trip, so if you can, invest in a supercharger unless you plan to spend a long time at each destination. Remembering to bring your adaptors is also key to timely departures—a lesson we learned the hard way.
4. Have a few EV tricks up your sleeve
Here are ours:
Don’t always fill to full. Instead of trying to charge to 100% and drive to empty, fill up just enough to get to the next charger and keep moving forward. The smaller charging stints are much faster and can be a huge time saver.
Avoid charging your phone on the port and running the air conditioning on high–-both can be massive battery drains.
Focus on packing the essentials. This can make a noticeable difference in mileage. Pack light and do laundry on the road.
Map out your stays near superchargers. This is something you can easily plan ahead by checking out a map of charging stations.
5. Budget your time well
Every long drive in a Tesla takes longer than it would take in a gas vehicle. The charge doesn’t last as long and charging takes more time than filling up with gas, but you can use this to your advantage.
Plan out your meals according to what’s near charging stations and pack gear to keep you busy while you wait. My son brought his skateboard, my daughters brought jump ropes, and Rob and I brought laptops—it was a win-win(-win). The car charged, the kids played, and the adults got some work done.
In Short, Go For It
We survived the trip with one roadside 911 call, one truly meltdown-worthy motel, and a few nerve-racking, low-charge drives we weren’t sure we’d make, but months later, we all looked back at our trip with happy memories. We hiked Bryce Canyon at sunrise and saw temperatures as high as 120 degrees. We ambled down Route 66, hiked Devil’s Tower, and marveled at Mesa Verde. We ate in Albuquerque’s Old Town and watched the sun set over the Grand Canyon.
It was a fever dream we will retell to get us through our next New England winter, and we did it all without buying gas once.