Tesla's Coast-to-Coast Coasting Isn't Enough

Elon Musk is holding off on the coast-to-coast Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) trip with the kids until later in the year when his children are out of school for spring break, but that's not stopping other enterprising Tesla employees from making the journey.

Tesla made waves this past week when employees involved with the rollout of its growing Supercharger network of regional charging stations departed Los Angeles in a pair of Model S sedans. They arrived at New York City on Sunday in time for the Super Bowl. 

Musk was excited about the feat. 

This cross-country trek should have been a brilliant marketing coup. It should have put range anxiety concerns to rest, affording affluent potential buyers the comfort in knowing that an electric car isn't just for local rides. However, dig beneath the hype and we still have a problem.

Musk is proud that his crew was able to complete the epic road trip using only Supercharger stations, but this still wound up being an expedition that spanned 3,464.5 miles. As CNN Money points out, the most direct path for this trip is closer to 2,790 miles according to Google Maps. Using the stations that are complimentary for Tesla drivers is a blessing in the pocketbook, but it will often come with driving out of the way to make an itinerary happen.

It's not just the distance. An electric car can be a real time saver for someone fine with being restricted to driving locally. There's no time spent at the gas station, since a car can charge with a specialized socket at home overnight. It's a different story on the open road.

Recharging a car can take hours, but these Supecharger stations can restore half of a battery's juice in as little as 20 minutes. That may not seem so bad, but having to make sure that you're near a Supercharger hub every 170 miles or so can be a real drag. Now an even more intense bout of range anxiety could arise because of those shorter charge lives in unfamiliar territories. 

One can argue that this doesn't matter. Folks aren't buying a Model S to see the country. Second cars or rentals can scratch the itch for those getaways. However, that may change when the larger Model X with three rows of seating hits the market later this year. Crossovers are appealing to young families, and those families that can shell out big bucks for a Tesla are going to want to take road trips with their primary vehicles. They're going to want to do what Musk wants to do with his sons in a few weeks, and they're not going to be as patient as he may be when they pull up into a Supercharger station every three hours for a partial charge.

"Are we there yet" will have an entirely new meaning when it's kids are complaining during the lengthy charging process.

Source: Tesla Motors.

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Read/Post Comments (26) | Recommend This Article (5)

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  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:06 PM, deeageaux wrote:

    The kids will be able to get lunch, an ice cream or a lemonade and run around for 30 minutes while the car charges.

    Or play video games and text their friends.

    Being in a car for 300-700 miles straight as you would in gas or diesel car is an absolute PITA. Maybe near impossible with at least one or two restroom breaks.

    And there will be a much more direct LA to NYC route by the end of the year. This is a more sight seeing route Elon wants to take with his kids.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:20 PM, oTeslaManiax wrote:

    Calm down. Look at the supercharger map. Lots more stations coming weekly.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:24 PM, StanO6 wrote:

    @RickMunarriz, I think I missed the part of your article that explains the "fuel" was free (as in no money).

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:31 PM, SteveTG3 wrote:

    Rick,

    there were 0 SuperChargers a year and a half ago, 0.

    a year ago this week, John Broder tried to convince the world that Tesla's ability to get you from D.C. to Boston was sketchy and more broadly that expressed doubts that Tesla could handle road trips at all.

    now, you can get from L.A. to NY, for free.

    so can you see that they are building a network, and fast.

    a year from now the L.A. to N.Y. in a Tesla will be as direct as any ICE, and save you about $350 (if you have an ICE that can average 28 mpg).

    move the slider on this link below to see where Tesla is headed with their SuperChargers this year and next:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:35 PM, kingwilley wrote:

    On the other hand, if this is the worst thing we can find about Tesla, we should all be piling into the stock, even at the present valuations. Given where this time last year (about 15 super chargers), and how quickly this happened, this is another significant achievement. For a more direct route, all we need to do is wait a few months for more super chargers.

    Looking at where TSLA is headed (more super chargers, better battery range at a lower cost, less expensive cars), they is looking more and more like a significant game changer. Are they all the way there yet? No, but neither was my $2,500 1989 IBM 286 computer with dial up access (I still bought it anyway, it was a good deal at the time).

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:50 PM, Phrontrowalpine wrote:

    No mention of the 2 minute "battery swap" coming out. Incomplete article. Also, it's not like Tesla is done making Superchargers! They've just started! At least mention the map of future Supercharging locations!

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 8:54 PM, weaponz wrote:

    The point of the coast to coast rally was to show that a major milestone has been reached. Obviously more superchargers are coming, by the time the Model X hits, 80% of the US would be covered including the direct routes coast to coast.

    To be honest, most people would not drive like they drove in the rally. Because in the rally they were using superchargers only. On a real trip, you would also charge over night at your hotel. Which means less stops.

    That said, if your driving alone. Then yes, it might be less effective time wise to drive a Tesla. But if your with the family making a road trip, a 30min+ stop every 2-3 hours is completely normal.

    So it would work like this, wake up at hotel with full charge. Drive 3 hours, stop from 30 min, drive for 3 hours, stop for 1 hour, drive 3 hours, stop at hotel to charge and sleep.

    So wake up at around 8am. Have breakfast till 9am. Drive for 3 hours, stop for 30min at 12pm for snack and bathroom breaks(12:30pm). Drive 3 hours. Stop at 3:30pm for 1hr for lunch(4:30pm). Drive 3 hours and arrive at hotel (7:30pm). Check in, bathrooms and etc 8pm. go for dinner, 9pm. Get ready for bed and go to sleep 10pm.

    And you restart the day. There is no "waiting" for charging.

    Also, superchargers are being built within 100 miles of each other. (Some areas are 200 but will be 100 soon, those on coast to coast are 100 with exception of PA which cranberry, PA charger which is under construction will fill) So you have plenty of attempts at charging.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 9:37 PM, Monclover wrote:

    The ridiculous becomes more ridiculous. Can you visualize having to wait a half-hour for your car battery to recharge....no! This is like those silly advertisements of the five minute oil-change, It may take five minutes, provided you don't have to line-up behind who knows how many other cars waiting for that five minute oil change. The same applies here with The Tesla. On top of that, Tesla's batteries are just standard battery design. Tesla Battery Charging Stations will be nothing but an exercise of getting into long lines.....reminds me of what happens when we have a fuel crisis. Only with Tesla it's a shortage of Charging Stations. I will stay with pulling into my local gasoline station for that real five minute refueling.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 10:04 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Sounds like a big pain in the butt to me. Stop every two hours or so for a half hour? Insane. And then what? Wasn't the point of these cars to eliminate co2? What about the co2 emitted in generating the juice?

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 10:11 PM, weaponz wrote:

    @Monclover - Wait a sec, you waste 5 minutes filling up? You must not have much better to do ha? That is hours of wasted time every year. You can also add in 10 minutes from going out of your way there and then 5 more min every time the darn machine won't process your credit card and you need to go to the cashier. That is a lot of wasted time.

    I will stay with my 5 second of my time fill ups at the convenience of my home.

    See there is a BIG difference between wasting 5 minutes of YOUR time and 30 minutes of the car's time. With an EV you plug in and mind your own business, with a gasoline, that is YOUR time being wasted. And you even pay a premium to waste your time lol

    As far as chargers go, Tesla knows where there are the most cars based on deliveries. If there is crowding, they will just build more. Remember 99% of charging is going to be done at home. The superchargers are used for long distance travel.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 10:33 PM, teslaman wrote:

    "Musk is proud that his crew was able to complete the epic road trip using only Supercharger stations, but this still wound up being an expedition that spanned 3,464.5 miles. As CNN Money points out, the most direct path for this trip is closer to 2,790 miles according to Google Maps. Using the stations that are complimentary for Tesla drivers is a blessing in the pocketbook, but it will often come with driving out of the way to make an itinerary happen."

    Not that many Tesla drivers will use the entire route. But all Tesla owners will use sections of it for hundreds of miles around their homes or on their way to vacation or business.

    Tesla owners are not required to navigate the entire breadth of the continent whenever they need to make a trip. They'll only use those stretches of highway that they need, Even still, all interstates will eventually be covered by the Supercharger network.

    In my city, we have an expressway that circumnavigates the entire city. Its 63 miles long and if you drive in one direction for an hour, you end up where you started.

    In other words, you could conceivably waste 63 miles to go nowhere. But just because it is there doesn't mean that everybody is required to drive in the entire 63-mile circle whenever they use it.

    Furthermore, Superchargers will cover all conceivable routes (including the shortest) in a mere matter of months. Because of this, it is pointless to even argue this fast-evaporating line of reasoning.

    "It's not just the distance. An electric car can be a real time saver for someone fine with being restricted to driving locally. There's no time spent at the gas station, since a car can charge with a specialized socket at home overnight. It's a different story on the open road."

    Unless you are a crazed NASA astronaut who is willing to wear diapers so you don't need to waste time actually visiting the bathroom while driving from Texas to Florida to kill your ex-lover, I think you are going to stop at least 3 times for an hour (or more) to eat and use the bathroom during the 600-800 miles that you might drive in a single day.

    That's plenty of time to get more than enough charge to make it to the next Supercharger. Just as easy (actually easier) than gasoline, and unlike gasoline, completely free and 100% clean.

    "Recharging a car can take hours, but these Supecharger stations can restore half of a battery's juice in as little as 20 minutes. That may not seem so bad, but having to make sure that you're near a Supercharger hub every 170 miles or so can be a real drag. Now an even more intense bout of range anxiety could arise because of those shorter charge lives in unfamiliar territories."

    Whether you are using the most direct route and traveling long distance, or (as this article so graciously concedes) you're using an inefficient "out of the way" route like the current cross-county route, a Supercharger will always be spaced along your route at 80-120 mile intervals.

    Both the Father/Daughter team and the two Tesla teams crossed the continent using the Supercharger network even though all the planned stations along the route were not built yet, and still they had no problem with range.

    Its worth noting that the Father/Daughter team made the trip in the worst conditions imaginable - For two days, they drove their Tesla Model S through the heart of a sub-zero polar vortex, and the car did not even flinch.

    Yes, sub-zero polar vortexes and thousand mile stretches of virtually unpopulated American heartland, Sixty MPH winds, zero visibility, blinding snow...hows that for, um, "unfamiliar territory" as this article puts it?

    I'd say this article just fell flat on its face.

    "One can argue that this doesn't matter. Folks aren't buying a Model S to see the country. Second cars or rentals can scratch the itch for those getaways."

    Um, no. The Model S handles these kinds of trips just fine.

    The only thing you are going to scratch with a rental car is your credit card when you swipe it paying for the rental and the hundreds of dollars of gas it is going to take to cross the U.S.

    "Crossovers are appealing to young families, and those families that can shell out big bucks for a Tesla are going to want to take road trips with their primary vehicles. They're going to want to do what Musk wants to do with his sons in a few weeks, and they're not going to be as patient as he may be when they pull up into a Supercharger station every three hours for a partial charge."

    Right, try driving 3-4 hours in a gasoline car, then stopping at the gas station for gas only - without anybody getting out of the car. Sorry. Rick Munarriz, it ain't gonna happen! It's going to be bathroom break, food, Cokes, maybe souvenirs, stretching the legs and so on.

    It'll be this way every time you stop for gas on a long trip, ESPECIALLY with kids.

  • Report this Comment On February 04, 2014, at 11:02 PM, RichardBRiddick wrote:

    Well written. The novelty of the electric car and charging stations would wear out before crossing the CA state line into NV with Jimmy and Suzie in the back seat asking are we there yet?

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:02 AM, nchandha wrote:

    When I'm on the road trip, I'd rather control my own schedule instead of having a car control my schedule. Whether it's 5, 10, 15 minutes or half hour, it's up to my discretion. Some places may be worth stopping for long duration, some places may be not. Half hour is very ideal situation which is when the spot is empty and you get the service right away. What if you have to wait because it's too crowded or there's technical difficulty in charging station and you're really out of juice? Even just one wait for another car could ruin your day already.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:49 AM, ericday wrote:

    Not mentioned anywhere in the article is that it cost the participants nothing in fuel costs to traverse the entire country. That's kind of a big deal.

    If Ford rolled out fueling stations for their cars where you never had to pay for gas again people would be dancing in the streets.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 3:18 AM, DGalik wrote:

    So this seems like Lindbergh just flew from New York to Paris, and all the author Rick can say is "Where was the inflight meal, and the movie ?"

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 7:49 AM, oTeslaManiax wrote:

    5 superchargers per week are being built this year. I wonder how long it took for all the gas stations to be built. Try 100 years. Whiners.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 8:42 AM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Sorry Tesla supporters. You are a decade away from there being enough charging stations to make it viable. There needs to be a station in almost every town.

    This "80% of the US population will be in range" argument is garbage. Just because I can drive 250 miles to get to one what's the point? Like I'm going to charge up at home, use most my charge so I can charge up and drive right back home? If I want to take a trip the chances of a charging station close enough so I don't have to drive 100 miles or more out of my way to go where I want is almost zero today and by this time next year will still be zero.

    Face it, Tesla cars are being bought by the rich as toys. They get excited because they can make a cross country trip. Sorry but to me that should be a given. in fact it should be a given that if you buy any new vehicle you should be able to drive it where you want. Right now you spend $70k on a Tesla and leave it parked anytime you need to take a trip. Like I said, I don't see it changing any time soon.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 8:43 AM, ckenney922 wrote:

    To me Tesla's cars are like the remote control toy I used to get at Christmas. It was fun racing the car around the room at lightning speeds until the batteries died and when it stopped I picked up another toy to play with - but the big thing is it didnt cost $100K and I didnt expect it to last very long anyway.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 10:03 AM, merlej1934 wrote:

    Does the motly fool have tesla sold short ?

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 10:13 AM, txfilmguy wrote:

    I can't imagine a family with kids on a road trip that don't need to pull over for a potty break and snacks every 250 miles anyway. This is a non-issue.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 12:05 PM, djplong wrote:

    Amazing how all these people invent complaints that have little bearing on reality concerning all these long trip they take - when statistics show that Americans get less and less vacation time each year as the American worker is treated more and more like a commodity.

    In other words, they're complaining that a Tesla won't allow them to take the trips that their employer's schedule ALREADY doesn't allow them to take - and they ignore reality to do it!

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 12:38 PM, SkepticalOne234 wrote:

    When I first looked at Tesla at $90, I wanted to short the stock. Then I took one for a test drive and have been long ever since.

    When it comes to range anxiety, I usually have that three or four times a year (with my ICE vehicle). I come to work and say to myself I will fill up on my way home, then a client phones right before I am about to leave and delays me. I get to my car with only just enough time to get my daughter from school and take her to soccer. The fuel light comes on halfway there and I worry about if I can make it. I watch the range tick down and start to sweat. That will no longer happen when my Tesla gets delivered next month as I will have a "full tank" every time I leave the house.

    For me, there are maybe four days a year that I drive far enough to burn a whole tank of gas and usually that is Vancouver BC to Portland, Or. Straight down I-5 gives me two superchargers at very convenient places to buy a coffee or stop for lunch. There is no supercharger to get me to the Okanagan yet but I expect that by the end of 2014. I can make it there on one charge anyway so it would just be a matter of refilling over the first night anyway.

    I will gladly trade 15 minutes every week filling (one or two fill ups) up for 52 weeks a year for 4-6 half hour to one hour stops on longer road trips, at least half of those I would be making anyway for coffee, washrooms or food. Saving $80 every time I stop on those longer road trips will put a grin on my face.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 1:59 PM, Shai wrote:

    Five Electric Cars That Want to Kill Tesla

    http://www.bloomberg.com/video/five-electric-cars-that-want-...

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 3:53 PM, DrDauger wrote:

    Is Munarritz' ignorance accidental or intentional? Either way he missed an obvious trend line in the number of Tesla Superchargers: 9 in 2012, 74 today, hundreds by 2016. It's public knowledge:

    http://www.teslamotors.com/supercharger

    Has he ever taken little kids on a road trip? I have, in my Model S:

    http://dauger.com/tesla/roadtripOCSF1305.html

    The little kids delayed us a half hour beyond the needed charging time. These are real-world kids, a real-world Model S, and real-world Superchargers that shows the Tesla technology works. As a result I'm itching to take my Model S on a family cross-country road trip, once my kids are old enough. Tesla will have more than enough Superchargers online by then. Again the kids are the limiting factor not the Superchargers or Tesla.

    Whether it's armchair quarterbacking or a hit piece, Munarritz' dribble is just sad. Do some real-world research rather than write a sloppy piece like this.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 8:35 PM, oTeslaManiax wrote:

    lots of shorts trying to manipulate the stock.... that's fine... But Elon knows that creates a bad image perception for the company if Tesla is in the news all the time if the stock drops... Elon owns over 20 percent of it... I think Elon will bring them a world of hurt this year.... he is pissed at the shorts and the media drumming up negative BS.. if you are a long, on every drop in the stock buy more shares... screw the shorts... I bought more and more and more shares on every major dip...

  • Report this Comment On February 06, 2014, at 10:04 AM, gjsuhr wrote:

    Why is it, that on the Tesla web site (True Cost of Ownership) part of the cost savings you have is time you don't spend at the gas station filling your car (the default is 4X per month - 10 mins ea - $50 / hr).......BUT....when you stop at a Supercharger for half an hour....and drive 700 miles out of your way to do so....that is FREE.

    If I drove across the country in my Honda Accord, I imagine I could do it in 50 hours if I averaged 55 mph. Contrast that with the 74 hours these folks took and use the default $50/hr Tesla figure for what my time is worth and it looks like the Tesla cost me $1200 to drive for free. (My Accord by contrast would use about $350 worth of gas)

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