Matt and I worked on this next blog post together. Well, I shouldn’t say together exactly, since if we actually wrote it together, it wouldn’t be almost 22 years of wedded bliss now, would it? I wrote some parts and he wrote some parts and we meshed it together. Actually, I have to admit I slept most of the drive home; put me in the passenger seat of a smooth car and I’m out faster than a mellow baby in a swing. Matt was very sweet not to mention this part and I’m very lucky he was busy driving and not taking pictures . . .
We had been planning our “unplanned” trip home with the Tesla Model S for a few weeks, ever since we decided to go pick up the car from the factory instead of having it delivered. My dh, Matt, had wanted to make it a “bro weekend” with our son, but hello, anything that included a vehicle factory tour must include me, so the ladies barged in on their plans.
We drove to the airport and parking our old Lexus RX330 in long term parking. A colleague interested in buying it would pick it up later that day and try it out over the four days that we would be gone. We have not been in it since. She served us well.
We flew into San Jose and went out to grab a cab to go to the Tesla factory about 10 miles up I-880 in Fremont. It was amusing; the cab line in Las Vegas can be scores of people long with cabs lined as far as the eye can see. In San Jose, there was one cab waiting. So we hopped in. It was a Prius. Gas guzzler.
The factory has a new owner greeting and waiting area, where we were greeted and waited. We were early, and looked around the parking lot at the new, shiny Teslas. On a whim I looked at the VINs of the gray cars, and lo and behold, there was ours, just waiting for us.
The Tesla staff drove the car inside to a bay where we would be oriented with the car. We started that process, but then were called away to the factory tour. Telsa’s factory is in the former GM NEMA plant, a 5,000,000 square foot behemoth. It was about a 10 minute walk before even getting to the actual assembly line. Unfortunately, it was not running, but there were probably 100 cars in some stage of assembly, from bare frame to finishing touches. There is even an indoor test track. No emissions, plenty of space, no reason to have it outdoors. Sorry, no pictures allowed, but here’s a picture of a picture on the wall in the waiting area.
After the factory tour, our Tesla rep finished going over the car with us and made sure we knew all the features and how to operate them. That whole morning I couldn’t get over the feeling I had that this company is the perfect combination of Apple and Mercedes. All the staff were very hip to technology and enthused and very uncarsalespeople-like and in taking the tour, I could see the process that goes into making each part and the dedication that someone’s hand touched each part.
When we finally left, where did we go? A mall. For the food court, of course! We had been awake since 5a and were starved since it was after 1p, so we found the closest mall and hit the most international food court we have ever seen. Thai, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mongolian, Greek, Mexican, McDonald’s, and Subway. To keep people away from the car while it was parked in the parking lot, Matt made use of the Tesla app and honked its horn at varying times and we all giggled. I’m sure people walking by thought the car was possessed. Oh, did I mention ds left his window rolled down half way while we were in the mall? Sigh.
That night we were so tired that instead of heading to another much more hip mall to charge up, we were all in bed by 9:45p (and if you know me, that’s a true record!). We went to San Francisco the next day. I’ve been to San Francisco many times, but what was more fun for me that day was seeing all the heads turn as people drove by us (LOL, dh was sticking to the speed limit or a little below to conserve the battery). They were checking us OUT! There was some pointing and definitely looking in side mirrors after they passed. What a hoot! Funny thing is, we saw a bunch of Teslas in the Bay Area. It’s not like there aren’t any around up there. The headquarters are there and California is big on alternative fuel vehicles because of mandates, so while Teslas aren’t as common as Priuses, they’re not as uncommon as a Chinese car. As we got home and were driving to pick our dog up from boarding, the guy behind us took a cell phone pic of us. A few others have come up and asked about it, some knowing what it is, most not. One guy asked if it was a Maserati. Most ask who makes it, and when told “Tesla,” they ask again who makes it. Still Tesla.
The thing about driving an all-electric car home across state lines is that instead of planning for fuel stops, we had to plan for charging stops. Not a big deal unless the charging stations were full, which we wouldn’t know until we pulled in. Tesla Motors, in promoting their electric vehicles, has put in Superchargers which have the capability of giving their largest battery a half charge in a ½ hour. Not bad! Currently there are 9 stations operating: 6 in California, 2 in Connecticut (really 1, but 1 on each side of a divided interstate), and 1 in Delaware. They’re located at places like outlet malls and near restaurants so you’ll actually have something to do besides sit in your car for an hour while it charges.
There are charging stations located elsewhere as well because Tesla obviously isn’t the only electric vehicle manufacturer around. The Blink Network and ChargePoint have systems throughout the country located in various public places where you generally pay by the hour for the electricity, but some are free. We used a Blink station at the Ikea store in East Palo Alto for a quick “fill up” after our day in San Francisco (interestingly, we parked next to a Chinese car parked in the other Blink space, but I couldn’t tell if it was electric—it wasn’t plugged in).
The night we went to San Francisco, we charged at the Tesla store’s charger in San Jose at Santana Row. We didn’t need much juice, because our next stop was at the outlet mall in Gilroy only 35 miles down the road, but we had overnight temperatures to worry about. The battery loses power overnight, especially in chilly weather to keep the batteries warm. The cabin heater uses a fair bit of power too, as there is no waste heat from an internal combustion engine. So blanket up in cold weather if you’re on a road trip and need to save range! Turns out that we did have quite a bit of battery drain that night (about 15 miles of range), but we still had enough to get us to Gilroy without any worries.
We were the first car to pull into the Tesla Supercharger (there are four bays at Gilroy), at the outlet mall on Leavesley, followed within a minute by another Model S with a driver wearing Google glasses. How cool is that! By the time we were out of the car, the other 2 stalls were full—talk about good timing! As we walked around, we noticed another S had pulled into a nearby parking space and was waiting for a stall to open. We had about 25 miles of range when we arrived, and after less than an hour, left with 197 miles available. Plenty to get us to our next stop, Harris Ranch on I-5, 113 miles away, even with a climb over Pacheco Pass.
The drive to Harris Ranch was a piece of cake. It was dark by the time we arrived, and the plan was to spend the night there. There is only one Supercharger, though an eight bay setup is under construction, hoped to be completed by the end of March. We had a gourmet dinner of Le Burger King, then headed over to the charger, conveniently and ironically located at a gas station. Of course having already decided to spend the night on the chance that we would have to wait for our turn to charge, the charger was available. We charged from 78 miles to 188 in about 40 minutes. The next leg was 117 miles to Tejon Ranch, near where I-5 and Highway 99 split. It’s about a 25 mile detour to go that far south.
The drive to Tejon Ranch was no problem either, and we arrived with 38 miles of range to spare. The Supercharger has a capacity of six cars, and again nobody was there. Matt dropped off the family at McDonald’s, parked, plugged in and met up with the rest of us. The next leg of the journey would take us over Tehachapi Pass, so we wanted a healthy charge. After eating, we probably waited another 15 minutes to get sufficient juice in the battery pack, and left with 181 rated miles for a 143 mile leg.
It was cold and foggy over the pass. The Tesla’s computers shows projected range, and for a time it was significantly less than the distance remaining. The downhill side made up that deficit, and we arrived at the Barstow Supercharger on Lenwood Rd. with 25 miles of range, again the only ones there (Barstow has two). We plugged in, went to In-N-Out Burger for lunch, over to Old Navy at the Outlet Mall, and by that time the car had charged to over 197 miles of range for the 168 mile trip to our house. This is the segment we were worried about. Freeway speeds eat battery. Hills do too. But it was reasonably warm and we had a decent tailwind, so we left full of optimism.
Was the optimism warranted or is the car sitting abandoned in Primm, unable to continue? Let’s just say that with the cruise pegged to 70, and the occasional burst of speed to get around a truck, the computer always showed we would make it comfortably. And it didn’t lie. Even after picking up our dog from her forced doggie hotel stay, we arrived home with 25 miles of range. We had successfully driven from San Francisco to Las Vegas in an electric car, not even having the largest battery available. Total energy cost you ask? Three bucks. Because of the stop at Ikea. Yes, I left out the best part. The Supercharges are free. Gas for 700 miles at 20 mpg and $4.00 per gallon would have been $140. Will the car pay for itself with energy savings? No. Given that we didn’t buy the car primarily for the energy savings, but to stop using gas, do we enjoy saving money on energy? Yes.