Tesla Road Trip #1 – AUS to MEM

I wanted to throw up a quick post of my thoughts on how this road trip went in the Tesla. Things learned, tips, and surprises. Spoiler alert: I am cured of my Range Anxiety.

The trip was from Austin, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee. A couple of weeks prior to the trip, a major crack was discovered in the newer bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis, causing it’s closure. There’s another older bridge at Memphis, but this closure was going to have a significant impact on traffic.

Trips in a Tesla are different from trips in a gas vehicle in that you will have to stop more frequently for charges, but not for a long time given the supercharger network. The network is setup to be located near amenities for food, restrooms, etc.

A normal trip from Austin to Memphis in a gas vehicle is approximately 10 hours. Using the third party application A Better Routeplanner, or as it’s often referred to, ABRP; it predicted roughly 12 hours.

In the Honda CR-v, I would historically stop twice on this trip. ABRP scheduled four stops, lasting in a range from 15 to 30 minutes each. The Tesla also has built into the navigation the supercharger network, but way less feature-filled than ABRP.

Here’s how I operated for the trip:

  • Using ABRP, with it’s built-in traffic monitoring, plan the route to Memphis. Locate the first planned charging stop.
  • Using Tesla Navigation, enter the first supercharger from ABRP as the destination.
  • Once we arrived at the supercharger, I’d compare the resulting SoC (State of Charge) on the Tesla to the estimated SoC that ABRP predicted we would arrive at.
  • Once we hit the level of charge that ABRP stated we should be at for departure, I stayed on the charge for longer for good measure.
  • Using ABRP, I’d repeat the previous steps for each charging destination.

This method of ABRP to plan and Tesla Navigation to execute the trip worked wonderfully. Could I have relied on Tesla Navigation alone? Sure, but having the ABRP amenities, estimates, etc. was like having that very experienced copilot along for the flight.

ABRP’s navigation includes the following information for each planned charging stop: Arrival SoC, Time needed to charge, Departure SoC, and supercharger busyness level. For the Arrival SoC, we were within 1-2% of what ABRP was predicting for every stop. This fact alone is what I believe cured me of my range anxiety. Until I experienced the trip, I had no idea how the Tesla was going to behave vis-à-vis battery levels when combined with average trip speed, unknown traffic, weather, etc.

Going from Austin to Memphis, I didn’t follow ABRP’s guidance on Departure SoC or charge time. For example, ABRP’s charge stop in Sulpher Springs states that we should arrive with 10% SoC, charge for 15 minutes, and leave at 56% SoC for the next stop in Texarkana. Did I feel comfortable leaving Sulpher Springs at 56% SoC? Not really, so we stayed a few minutes longer and charged to ~93% SoC. These extra minutes at the charge stops added up to an extra hour for the trip, and we arrived in Memphis after 13 hours.

But arriving in Memphis after a 13 hour Tesla road trip was a completely different experience for me than in the past with a gas vehicle. I felt rested, and my right leg that is usually shooting pain wasn’t hurting at all. The more frequent stops and “forced walking around” had been a huge benefit to the fatigue that can accrue when traveling.

On the trip back from Memphis to Austin, I decided to not stay as long at the charge stops. Did I fully heed the ABRP recommendation for Departure SoC? No, but I also didn’t charge up as much as the trip before. All told, the trip back was 12 hours. (Weather going to Memphis was 70% rain, so that contributed some to the extra time. Coming back to Austin we only hit rain around Waco.)

Tesla Navigation, when you enter a supercharger as a destination, will tell you how much SoC you should have when you arrive. This value is dynamic and changes as you travel, so that is a nice gauge for feedback on how you are tracking in real-time. There’s also displayed a countdown for when you reach a “Point of No Return” on your SoC – meaning if you depart a supercharger, the system will show you when you reach a point where returning to the previous supercharger won’t be possible. A nice, if not slightly scary, feature.

Every supercharger location we stopped at was located near several food amenities and restrooms. One stop, in Waco, was at a place called Collin Street Bakery. They asked if we were traveling in a Tesla, and comped a coffee because of it. Another location had a dog park, which was a nice surprise since we were traveling with ours. ABRP has a feature that will route based on desired amenities, such as dog parks, if that is something you care to ensure.

Finally, since the Tesla stores all your trip data, and you can give access to ABRP for this data, I am able to review all of the trip to and from Memphis. This was nice to review and compare what the actual vs. the planned was for all parameters of the trip. The largest takeaway from this trip was that the Tesla was comfortable, capable, and easy. Charging was a breeze, and fast. I learned to relax, not worry, and enjoy the ride.

More later…

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