Daily driving electric cars in a major city is fine, but what about traveling cross-country?
The fact of the matter is that if you do a little preparation and accept the minor inconveniences, you can daily drive an all-electric vehicle in many parts of the US now. However, the reality is that in 2018 only 361,307 electric vehicles were sold in the United States and the charging network isn't as convenient as gas stations, particularly once you get outside of urban and suburban areas. That's why we watched the Engineering Explained video of Jason Fenske's experience road tripping in a Tesla with interest.
Fenske packed his Tesla Model 3 with luggage and a friend for a roughly 2,000-mile road trip from Idaho to Michigan. On the way, he sought to find out what kind of realistic range he would get on a single charge, how much time it takes to charge his Tesla in the real world, how much it would cost versus doing the run in a regular gasoline-powered car, and how long the trip would actually take.
How long the trip would actually take would be the hardest to answer without actually making the journey. Although a GPS app is good at estimating a journey's time on a straight run with brief stops for gas, planning and extra time is needed to find charging stations and wait for them to do their job. As Fenske points out, "If you like to stop and eat then it's not much different but if you like to grab something and keep driving then it will be significantly faster to drive a gasoline car versus an electric."
So how did Fenske get on? It's worth watching the full video to get the full and detailed experience as Fenske recounts it, but in terms of the time it took to drive 1,963 miles between cities, he spent 7 hours and 50 minutes charging in total during the 30-hour journey. Each stop took an average of 40 minutes to charge enough to get to the next charger with a safety buffer of stored energy, and he coincided stops with eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner to take the sting out of it. That means he had to stop for a total of around 50 minutes every 200 miles in total.
The bottom line here is that it's possible to make a decent road trip in a Tesla as long as you're not in the kind of time limit that requires you only stop for a splash and dash at gas stations on the way. The other important thing is just how efficient the long drive was for Fenske in terms of energy use. He hit an average of 118 MPGe for the trip.