Taking A Tesla Model S For A Spin, Part 1

I recently took delivery of my Tesla Model S, and it brings me back to a time when the word ‘electric’ stood for cool, as in electric fantastic, electric banana, electric kool-aid.  So last month, I decided to hit the electric highway, and try out smoke-free driving from Washington through New England and back.  Family visits became a story of life in the fast lane, absent range anxiety, and free charging all the way for almost 1,100 miles.  Exception: the $2.75 I owe my sister in Vermont for electricity.  So here goes:

Bethesda, 6:00 AM Tuesday morning – Travel begins with 267 miles of range showing on the instrument panel.  This is Tesla’s bow to EPA, which claims the range is only 265 miles, not the 300 careful drivers can get in California weather.  Head north on I-95 with no traffic, just a lot of rain.

7:30 AM – Unscheduled stop at Maryland EZ Pass headquarters – turns out EZ-passes don’t work well behind the thick, sharply sloping windshield of a Tesla and some other sporty cars.  Rain gets harder.

Tesla Motors Model S

Tesla Motors Model S (image via Tesla Motors)

8:00 AM – Charge for an hour at Tesla’s private super-charge station at the I-95 rest stop in Newark DE till my 267 miles of range is showing again.  Charging here is fast, free, and solar generated, Tesla owners have already paid for this in the price of their cars. Waiting over coffee and emails, I learn the rainstorm will be tracking us all the way up the electric highway.

Noon – Arrive Westport, CT at the home of my sister, Barbara, give demo rides, drive to her amazing photo-diary of Gujarat on display in Fairfield, CT, then lunch while charging at Tesla’s solar-powered station on I-95 in Milford, CT.  Ironically, the PV panels are arrayed along the roof of a 12-car gasoline refueling island.  Cool.  Leave with full stomach at 2:45 PM, in pouring rain.

Exciting drive up Route 8, past lakes and farms.  Rain lets up long enough to enable passing long files of traffic at speeds I cannot admit to in print; this is a silent rocket.  Reach the Pownal, Vermont chalet of my sister Ronnie just after 6 PM.  Plug here for the night into an ordinary outdoor 110v – the car sits partly in the front garden in order to reach the outlet, and you have to step over the dog to reach it.  It pours all night (this storm will never leave), but the Tesla is fine, it’s even downloaded a software update (this is a computer on wheels). Aye yup, first time anyone got cell service there, let alone serviced a car over the net.

11:30 AM Wednesday – Leave Pownal for Boston with 161 miles of range showing.  It was indeed wise to plug in in Vermont as the Google-recommended route is 159 miles – that’s too close for comfort.  Opted instead for the 141-mile scenic route, a beautiful stretch of Route 2 through the Berkshires, then straight across to Boston.  Long downgrades on this drive trigger the Tesla’s regenerative coasting feature, so we arrive at Cambridgeside Mall by the Charles River with 30 miles showing, having actually gained 11 miles of range down the hills.  Public EV charging at this Mall parking structure is free.  We use the car for the next two days on errands in and around Boston, charging now and then when parked.  Attend son’s graduation from Harvard, which was the main goal of this junket!

4:00 PM Friday – Sit in Boston gridlock for an hour, arrive 5:30 PM back at Tesla’s Milford, CT supercharging station; leave Milford 6:30 PM, battle New Jersey traffic, and arrive at Newark supercharging station 10:50 PM.  Leave Newark at 11:30 PM – check into a Quality Inn for the night.

9:00 AM Saturday – arrive at Kensington, MD car hand-wash for much-needed de-griming.

End Note – Thoughts Along the Way

Driving this much and this far in the Tesla Model S makes you realize that electric vehicles (EVs) today fall into two groups – the Tesla Model S and everything else.  The everything-else group consists largely of what may be called ‘compliance vehicles’ because they’re produced in numbers needed to afford automakers access to car markets in California and some other states.  This is not to disparage the drivers of the Leaf, Honda Fit EV, Ford Focus EV, or various plug-in hybrids like the Ford Energi, Chevy Volt, and even the Fisker.  These pioneers are paving the way to a new world of high-efficiency and largely petroleum-free driving.  For Tesla drivers, however, that future is here and now.

Disclosures: I waited 42 months to take delivery of one of the first Tesla Model S off the assembly line, Serial #183.  You may think that sounds kind of dumb and risky, and it certainly was, but I paid for a lot of this car through pure stock speculation in TSLA, and remain long in Tesla.  This is my 38th car.  Two of my earlier cars ran on compressed natural gas (CNG) – a converted Mercedes 300E and a converted Chrysler Concorde that I fueled at home with a FuelMaker C3 compressor – and I ran another Mercedes strictly on biodiesel.  Indeed, last month’s escapade was inspired by a first- ever drive in 1992 from Bethesda to Boston entirely on natural gas, documented by Sarah McKinley, a reporter at the time for Natural Gas Intelligence.

Stay tuned: Next trip report – Indiana!

breaking-energyEditor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Breaking Energy. Author credit goes to Ben Schlesniger.

Breaking Energy provides access to news, analysis, thought leadership, reference materials and discussions about the day’s most important energy market trends.


  • Reply June 21, 2013

    daniel sheehan

    Good story, mice to hear the great sfur

  • Reply June 23, 2013


    The Nissan Leaf is not a compliance car. Over the past 2.5 years, Nissan has sold over 25,000 Leafs in the US and another 25,000 outside the US where there are no zero emissions requirements. At best, it will take Tesla many years to catch up with Nissan’s EV sales.

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