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

By Rick Munarriz – Feb 4, 2014 at 7:32PM

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Are we there yet? Tesla's first cross-country treks are still incomplete journeys.

Elon Musk is holding off on the coast-to-coast Tesla Motors' (TSLA -0.19%) 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.

Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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