Remote Trip Planner Test

I recently took a long trip through Southern California and tested the features of the Tesla Trip planner in a very remote environment.  This particular excursion was not a simple long drive to a single destination estimating the amount of charge needed at each supercharger as I had focused on in my earlier testing of the trip planner with software 7.0.  On this road trip I drove to, through, and out of Death Valley National Park – one of the most remote (and beautiful) places on earth with an updated version of 7.1.  This post discusses both the current pitfalls with the trip planner software but also some advice for Tesla drivers in remote areas.

The software itself is helpful but the driver still needs to understand how the software works and not get too nervous with strange behavior.  The software has improved since my earlier test as the number of false warnings has decreased but many issues still remain.  I also discovered a new problem that I had not seen before, but likely was part of the earlier versions.

Always Roughly Plan Your Journey

On any road trip you need to plan to some extent your itinerary.  For people who don’t like rigid schedules, I would still recommend estimating distances and travel time for various options on a given day.  With gas stations ubiquitous, an ICE vehicle can travel without worrying about filing up, but with an electrical vehicle in remote locations — even with superchargers — some up front planning is recommended.

Tesla recently added some superchargers enabling driving to Death Valley.  A few owners had earlier ventured to Death Valley by using a charger at the RV park in the middle of the national park.  I was traveling during a busy season (where RV charging can be more challenging), and I also did not want to stay in the park during this visit.  I was going to depend upon the three supercharger stations in and around Death Valley:  Lone Pine, Inyokern and Beatty.  Also in and out of Death Valley National Park only has a few places where you might be able to charge in a true emergency such as in Panamint Springs.  But there are many long sections such as between Panamint Springs and Searless Valley where there are almost no buildings of any kind.

triangle

Superchargers Surrounding Death Valley and Distances Between Them

On a quick look at the map, one could think that charging will be no issue.  The maximum distance is 141 miles going through Searles Valley and Trona between the Beatty and Inyokern chargers.  Unfortunately most mapping software wants you to drive through Olancha.  The road through Searles Valley is more interesting, but currently there is a few miles of unpaved gravel road that is under repair.  I like using the supercharge.info map more than the Tesla version when planning as the Tesla map is in only in black and white.

The simple mileage numbers do not tell the whole story.  The next step is to look at the evtripplanner.com software numbers.

evtripplannerdv

EVtripplanner Estimates From Beatty, NV supercharger to Inyokern, CA supercharger

In some ways although the energy usage is accurate, the overall elevation number is a bit misleading.  Starting at Beatty at 3,300 feet, you drop into Death Valley at about 0, but then need to climb back up to Towne Pass near Panamint Springs which is another 5,000 feet in elevation.  The supercharger at Inyokern is at 2,434 feet.  Although you regenerate a lot of electricity on the downgrade, you can’t recover all of it.  Both algorithms in evtripplanner and Tesla’s software do consider the topography during the trip to estimate energy usage.

Watching Energy Use While Driving

You have done a lot of planning and now are actually on your trip.  There are several screens you can look at to see if you can make it to your destination safely.  But unfortunately Tesla still has not added waypoints, making planning in the car quite difficult.  I like to flip between four different indicators when I’m watching my energy consumption as I’m showing in the photo.

consumption.jpg

On the dash if you have the energy widget up it will tell you some useful summary information since the last time you charged.  Also you can dynamically watch your energy usage while driving.  I watch the orange / green power meter.  On a gross level, if you are in the green you know you are regenerating energy.  If the indicator is above 0, the color is orange.  When trying to save energy, the consumption should be between 20 and 40 kW in “normal” conditions.

I would really like this screen to be redesigned.  The Miles Per Hour indicator is very large and prominent with the numeric display.  Half the tachometer is used up to also indicate the speed of the vehicle with the blue line.  I never look at this and the only thing remotely interesting is the listing of how fast the car could technically go.  When trying to be cautious of the energy usage, the scale between 0 and 40kW is pretty small.  I would really like the entire gauge to be energy usage not half of it to allow me to monitor instantaneous energy usage on the dash itself.

I can also monitor energy usage on two screens on the touchscreen .  The consumption tab is the most interesting of the two tabs. Consumption lists average or instantaneous use over 5, 15 or 30 mile sections and at times can be too much information with too many options.

A graph also exists of the overall trip energy consumption as shown in the upper right.  This shows you how much energy the trip planner thinks you will use over the course of your trip marked with the grey line.  As you are driving and do not match its estimates, the route is shown in green.  I don’t use this screen much but it can be useful as it indicates the route’s topography changes.  A flat route is a simple line, a mountainous routes will show curves in the graph.

Visiting within the Park

Of course when visiting the park, you simply do not want to drive through it.  You want to stop and look around and hike a bit.  This requires more energy planning depending upon how far you want to go.  A drive from Beatty through Badwater, the lowest point in North America at -282 feet, and to Inyokern would be pushing a 85kW battery.

badwater

EVtripplanner Estimates Using a Waypoint of Badwater

The estimate is that is 207.7 miles and 56kWh under ideal conditions.  My battery has already degraded by 8%, so I actually have a 78kW battery.   In the summer, Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth and filled with European tourists.  In the winter it can be extremely cold.  On this trip it was a very pleasant winter 80 degrees, but I would not feel comfortable driving all the way down to Badwater and expecting to arrive safely at the Inyokern supercharger.  I don’t know the actual weather or wind conditions when I will be driving and I don’t really want to drain my battery down to zero in such a remote location.

Record Wildflowers

My trip happened to coincide with a large wildflower bloom.  This last year we have finally gotten some rain in California, and there was actually a bad flood in Death Valley.  One result was a very large bloom of wildflowers in the far southeastern part of the park.  To get to the best wildflowers clearly required a return to the Beatty supercharger.  The photo does not give justice to the sublime beauty of the desert.

wildflowers

Wildflowers In Death Valley February 2016 Near Ashford Mills

Electrical Options

I did decide to ask various folks at Furnace Creek if I could charge my Tesla. The RV park was full.  I inquired at the Furnace Creek Ranch and they clearly stated only guests could charge.  The visitor center also had no options.  My last place to inquire was at the Timbisha Shoshone Indian Reservation within the park.

I have passed by this small reservation for many years wondering why they never offered any visitor services as they are in the middle of the park.  To my great surprise they finally opened up a small eatery.  I’m not sure what I am more passionate about saving the environment or social justice.  I very happily ate an Indian Taco for lunch made with that delicious fry bread along with some shaved ice.  I encouraged them to install an electric charging station as Tesla owners could top off while eating lunch.

shoshone

Delicious Fry Bread at the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe’s  Eatery in Death Valley

When I finished my excursion to the flower fields, the trip planner went a little crazy again.  Instead of heading directly back to Beatty, it wanted me to continue on south through the park and into Nevada on a longer course to the Beatty supercharger using a lot more energy and time (shown on the lower right).  The day earlier I had the same problem when driving into the park as the trip planner wanted me to go up and around the park (shown on the upper left).

avoidingthepark

Trip Planner Twice Wanted to Loop Around Death Valley National Park on Longer Routes

After driving in the correct direction to Beatty, the trip planner returned to the correct routing.  Over the last ten years or so as GPS devices have become popular, I have a recurrent thought that the current generation of people will begin to loose their sense of direction, or people with a weak sense of direction will learn to depend upon apps like Waze without really understanding where they are headed.   In remote areas with a Tesla, a driver needs to truly understand their route.

Lost Connection

When traveling from Bakersfield over to Lone Pine two days earlier, I drove on Highway 178 that was in a deep river valley with no buildings.  Many parts of this road had no internet connections, so the software weakness that I reported in my earlier report still exists.  The trip planner got completely confused and told me I was going to be out of energy before I arrived at the supercharger.

falsewarnings

False Warnings From Trip Planner When Cell Connection is Lost

Summary

Until Tesla’s trip planner adds waypoints, EVtripplanner is an essential tool before beginning a journey.  With 7.1, the software still issues false warnings and wrong directions.  Until EV charging stations are ubiquitous, drivers need to plan their trips ahead of time.

Camping Mode

Camping in the Model S

Camping in the Model S

On my cross country trip last spring, I camped one night in the Tesla while charging at an RV park.  Last month I met up with some friends who were camping for several nights.  I was on my way to an event and joined them for one evening with the Tesla.

On this trip, I was not in an RV park and had no need to charge so I decided to try the unofficial Tesla “camping mode”.  The camping mode allows you to keep the cabin air at your preferred temperature.  However you cannot charge while in camping mode.

Camping mode is quite simple:

  1. Do not plug your car in
  2. Place the car in Neutral
  3. Manually set the parking brake in the control screen
  4. Dim your lights as much as possible

Northern California has been very warm this fall.  The Pacific Ocean for a reason that is likely unrelated to global warming is 5 degrees warmer than usual.  Our nights have been reasonably warm and this evening in the car was no exception.

I found the light of the touchscreen to be a bit distracting to sleep as I had not dimmed the setting completely before trying to sleep.  Since the night was quite warm and the Tesla cabin is small enough to stay warm, I ended up turning off the climate control completely.

Perhaps I will test this feature out  someday when climate control could be useful and see how much energy I would use, but I doubt I will be sleeping very many nights in the Model S.  Even with a very thick pad and some extra clothing near the change in seat height, the trunk is not particularly comfortable and motels are more appealing.

Don't Forget To Set the Parking Brake

Don’t Forget To Set the Parking Brake

Model S 30K Miles

Hit the 30,000 mile mark in the Model S

Hit the 30,000 mile mark in the Model S

Over a month ago, I hit the 30,000 mile mark in my Model S. One and a half years and 30,000 miles of non-commute driving is a surprising number for me. It took me 4 years to put about the same mileage on the Roadster.

The large difference in driving is largely due to the supercharger network. The Model S is truly a road trip car and is far more comfortable and cozy than the Roadster.  But without the supercharger network I would have never driven cross country in an electric vehicle. I simply do not have the patience to always charge in RV parks and level 1 charging stations.

I doubt I will ever drive across country again nor have such high mileage in a year and a half of driving. However, I do have my eye on some future road trips in the Model S.

 

Supercharger Review

Over the course of a year I have managed to visit 67 superchargers around the country.  On the Tesla Motors Club Forum is a friendly (and somewhat silly) contest to see who has visited the most superchargers.  I am currently in the lead by one.  I know the person behind me plans to leave for another trip in September, so I will very soon loose my title.

After visiting so many superchargers, I feel I have enough experience to review the features at the superchargers. What is quite nice is that each location is unique.

The following are my favorite features listed in the general order of priority although all the features are in fact quite desirable:

  1. Easily accessible restrooms
  2. A variety of restaurant choices preferably non-chain
  3. Nearby hotels
  4. Safe neighborhood
  5. Walkable streets
  6. A variety of daily shopping choices:  grocery stores preferred over outlet malls.
  7. Free wi-fi
  8. Clearer stall signage
  9. Car washing service
  10. Public charging?
  11. More locations vs. more stalls

1. Easily accessible restrooms

A nice clean and easily accessible restroom is ideal such as in a welcome center.  Sometimes it can feel awkward using a restroom in a restaurant when one is not hungry.  I try to patronize the businesses nearby the superchargers but I can’t necessarily eat a meal or stay in a hotel every time I charge.

2.  A variety of restaurant choices

I also found that the more restaurants around a supercharger the better.  Tesla owners have a variety of tastes in food and variety is also nice for the individual driver.  I strongly prefer local restaurant chains serving locally sourced food.  After a while eating at the same chain restaurants gets very old.

3.  Nearby hotels

For a long road trip it is also nice to charge at your destination.  Destination or hotel charging does not need to be a supercharger.

If you use plugshare.com on the Tesla screen or http://tesla.plugshare.com elsewhere, you can sort for chargers with the tag “hotel only” that will find hotels with any kind of charging capability.  Most chargers except the very slowest can charge your car overnight.  I am not sure when this feature will roll into the standard website and the companion Recargo app. Non-tesla electric car drivers may need to use destination charging, and I almost always plan my trip on a computer not in the car.

Also Tesla itself has recently added to their charging page icons for destination charging.  Several businesses have purchased Tesla high powered chargers for their customer’s use.  While looking around this new web page, I discovered that a Tesla can now easily go to Yosemite by staying  at the Groveland hotel that is on the way from the bay area and has recently installed a Tesla high powered connector for customer use.  Even if you choose to sleep elsewhere, you can use this charger for $5.

4.  Safe neighborhood

Most Tesla superchargers are located in relatively innocuous locations off the main freeway.  But safety is of course a concern for everyone.  Some Tesla owners are uncomfortable with the location of the current Las Vegas supercharger.

5.  Walkable streets

Walkable streets is also quite important.  Unfortunately these days many suburbs are truly built for driving instead of walking.  When I walk in the areas around the superchargers, I rarely see other individuals walking and many cars streaming by.  Look at the two pictures below taken near the Roseville supercharger.  While walking from the supercharger to Whole Foods and back, I had to cross the street three times instead of just once, because there was no crosswalk!  And right near the supercharger there is a section of the road in the mall that simply has no sidewalk.

No crosswalk in Roseville

No crosswalk in Roseville

Crosswalk but No Sidewalks in Roseville

Crosswalk but No Sidewalks in Roseville

Even when I started to visit the superchargers, I often wondered about physically challenged people due to long term conditions or temporary injuries.  Many of the superchargers are located in the back sections of parking lots and the target destination for spending the time can be significantly far away.  California weather is nice enough for walking a vast majority of time, but in many parts of the country long treks in wind and snow from the supercharger are not particularly pleasant.

6.  Shopping

After visiting the first California superchargers, I began to tire of outlet malls.  I began to quickly realize on longer journeys, I preferred supercharging near practical stores like grocery and drug stores.  On my recent trip to Oregon, I really liked that I could pick up groceries while supercharging in Roseville instead of stopping later.

7.  Free wi-fi

I think free wi-fi is a nice amenity, but I found myself either using my smartphone or the car’s wifi.  Only a few times I pulled out a laptop and usually did not really need wi-fi.

8.  Clearer shared stall signage

Most locations now have the stalls marked “1A, 1B, 2A, 2B” etc… But the labels are often difficult to see while in the car.  It would be nice if the labels were near the top of the posts.

Stall Identifier Too Hard to Read While Parking

Stall Identifier Too Hard to Read While Parking

9.  Car washing service

As the supercharger use picks up, I would like to see enterprising locals provide a car washing service.  I would easily pay for someone to clean with minimum water my car such as the service available here locally in Redwood City.  Or an enterprising person could offer to clean the windshields as long as they obey local ordinances.  I had one very generous person in South Dakota insist on cleaning my windshield for free.

10.  Public charging?

I find it interesting that Tesla lists on their web page for each supercharger nearby public charging.  I have only encountered a very short wait twice at the superchargers.  Perhaps if all the stalls needed service due to some calamity, the owners could charge at the nearby public charger.

11.  More locations vs. more stalls

I have occasionally been to superchargers when all the chargers are in-use.  At some point instead of adding more chargers at a particular location, I’d prefer that Tesla adds a new supercharger locations offsetting the use at the existing stations. With more choice, the traveling options for Tesla owners will be more flexible.  I am not very fond of freeways, so if the density of superchargers throughout the country was every 150 miles no matter where you traveled, you could truly take any open road.

Adapters

I have so many adapters now since I bought the whole set for my cross country journey.   I stopped by the Fremont service center prior to the journey to pick up all the available adaptors knowing they would likely have the best selection.  I had written in my post that I purchased five but if I look at the actual invoice, I purchased only four!

In all this confusion, I thought a detailed post with clearer photos would help clarify the adapters and which ones are the most useful.

SAE – J1772  — Varied Output

J1772 Front View

J1772 Front View

J1772 Side View

J1772 Side View

 

This adapter has a different appearance than the other connectors.  I received this with my car,  and I have used this connector the most as it is the most common connector for public charging stations.

The J1772 theoretically can charge up to 80 amps but the vast majority of public J1772 charging stations charge much slower at about 8 to 22 miles per hour.   So most public charging stations will allow you to fill up your Tesla Model S overnight.

Although public charging stations are often quite slow, they are ubiquitous and often conveniently located.

As you can tell from the photos, the adapter already has a little wear and tear.

14-50 (1014324-00-D)

240V / 40A  / 10kW / 29 miles per hour of charge

14-50 RV Park Adapter

14-50 RV Park Adapter

This adapter is typically given with the car and included with the mobile connector bundle.  I oddly did not have this standard adapter in my bag.  Somehow Fremont also gave me the 14-50 adapter when I purchased the other four.

This adapter is very common in RV parks and is the one I used most frequently on my cross country road trip.  I used it in an RV park and in a hotel garage parking lot.

Modified Version of the 14-50 with New Grey Faceplate

Modified Version of the 14-50 with New Grey Faceplate

Turns out a lot of newer buyers are opting to just use this plug with the mobile connector at home instead of installing a High Power Wall Connector.  For an overnight charge this solution is quite viable if your garage or charging location has sufficient amps.

This particular adapter was part of a recall in January of just the adapter.  A few of the adapters heated up and some actually melted.

Oddly enough the Fremont service center gave me an old version of this adapter.  When I arrived home from my trip I received the new version with the mail with a return box.  The new version on the other end has a grey faceplate instead of a black faceplate.

I have to admit I have not gotten around to returning the adapter.  I wanted to blog about the adapters first and I don’t work in an office with regular fed ex pickups.

 

 

5-15 ( 1014355-00-B)

110V / 12A  / 1.4kW / 3 miles per hour of charge

5-15 Standard US 110V plug

5-15 Standard US 110V plug

This adapter is the simple plain 110V standard household outlet used in the United States.  The folks at the Atlanta service center told me that several of their customers use 110 all year and only had problems charging sufficiently in the winter.  My blog post on Living with 110V is one of the perennially popular ones, so I suspect a number of customers use 110V for a period of time.  This adapter comes with the car.

5-20 (1016258-00-B)

110V / 15A  / 1.8kW / 4 miles per hour of charge.

5-20 Adapter

5-20 Adapter

This adapter I tried to use at my friend’s house near Nashville, Tennesse.  The horizontal slot increases the amps for a 110V outlet to 15A.  Turns out their plug was the mirror of this adapter and did not work with the Tesla.

They had installed this outlet in their garage for some construction equipment.  This adapter costs $45.

10-30 (1016174-00-B) Older Dryers

 240V / 24A / 5.8kW / 17 miles per hour of charge.

10-30 Adapter Older Dryer Outlets

10-30 Adapter Older Dryer Outlets

This adapter works great for charging from a dryer outlet and used it last weekend during an overnight stay at a friend’s house.  Their house is only ten years old so I am not sure why the term “older dryers” is applicable. This adapter costs $45.

14-30 (1018243-00-B) Newer Dryers

240V / 24A / 5.8kW/ 17 miles per hour of charge

14-30 Newer Dryer Outlets

14-30 Newer Dryer Outlets

I have not yet used this adapter.  This adapter costs $45.

 6-50 (1016021-00-B) Welding Equipment

240V / 40A / 10kW / 20 miles per hour of charge

6-50 Adapter for Welding Equipment

6-50 Adapter for Welding Equipment

I have not yet used this adapter either.  When driving across the country another $45 dollars for an adapter “just in case” seems like a wise investment.

Chademo US

This adapter will be very expensive at $1,000 but a number of charging stations exist in the US that can take advantage of this at the rate of 150 miles of range per hour.  I have seen a few of these stations in California but am not yet inclined to spend that much money.

Another detailed guide about adapters is available here. http://cosmacelf.net/Home%20Made%20Adapters.pdf

New Tires – Again

So unfortunately I had to buy a full new set of tires.  The Minneapolis service center prediction was wrong.  I am now at 26,000 miles and decided to replace all four.  Two of the tires may have lasted a little bit longer but did not seem worth the trouble to deal with the issue again in a couple of months.

With the original equipment Continental tires, they lasted 20K miles on the front and 6K on the back.  The pair of Michelin tires I purchased this year lasted 7.5K on the back and 6K on the front.  I may have been able to get a little more mileage out of the Michelins.  I decided to purchase the Continentals as they appear to have slightly better longevity but I really am just guessing.  The Denver service center implied that the low wear was due to the usage of the low suspension setting.  I am not going to use this setting unless I need extended range.

Another fact that I found surprising is how much my car was out of alignment again.  If you look at the detailed report below, the tires are out of alignment particularly with the rear toe.  The shop owner indicated that some of the bolts were not particularly tight.  The overall alignment numbers are actually worse than the earlier problem I reported.  The local garage suggested that I stop by again in 1,000 miles to see how my alignment is holding up.

 

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

June Alignment Report at 26,000 miles

X Country Trip Statistics

I finally arrived back home in California a couple of weeks ago.  I am still digesting this trip as it was in many ways quite unique.  I am actually looking into writing a book about the journey.  Only about one third of the content would be about the Tesla experience itself.

For fun I gathered the following statistics.

  • 10,756 miles
  • 318 Wh/mile average
  • 52 Superchargers Visited
  • 8 Non Network Charges
  • 430 gallons of gas not used
  • $1,700 of gas expenses saved
  • 36 days
  • 26 states
  • $183 per day in expenses
  • 4 friends visited
  • 2 visits to Tesla service centers
  • Countless people met
  • 155 tweets
  • 15 blog posts
  • Too many thoughts