We have had our Red Tesla Model Y long distance for three months and we just completed our first vacation-trip. Our route was San Diego to Blythe CA to St George UT to Page AZ then Carefree AZ and back to San Diego. All in all about 1,600 miles. The first day of the trip we made our first Supercharger stop in Redlands CA using the in-car map-directions system. It worked flawlessly and we had just enough time for a toilet and refreshment break. This was the first time ever we had charged the car outside of our home charger. The Tesla Supercharger was in a large nice shopping mall area right next to an In and Out Burger. The whole area was very clean and about 5 of the 15 charging spots were being used. The charging area was about a mile off the freeway we were traveling on to get to our destination.
After the first charging spot we continued on to Blythe CA to find a hotel for the night. Blythe is an agricultural town that is normally not a vacation spot. We have been here a few times when we had a motorhome for their Bluegrass Festival which is normally held in the winter. It is worth commenting on the fact that our original destination had been Las Vegas. We had reservations at the Wynn and were looking forward to a show and a couple of nights at a five star hotel for reasonable rates. The miserable road system in Los Angeles buggered us up again with I-15 through the Cajon pass. There was a blockage when the hill just started going up and from what I could tell via Google, Apple, and Tesla maps was that this was a very bad hours long back up. We tried using the recommended route from Google and spent about an hour getting a few blocks before turning around and re-routing. About three years ago this same stretch of road fouled up a trip in our motorhome when there was a brush fire. The problem is there is no good way to get around this road. There are ways, but they take hours. Plus we were in a Tesla and this was our first trip and we had range anxiety. The same thing could have happened in a gas car if you only had 1/4 of a tank. This was hot day and we had a very long hill/ mountain to go up with no charger for the next few miles. So we diverted.
As it turns out diverting with the Tesla system of charging stations it was no problem. If I had it to do over again I would still divert, as I did not know how many hours we would be stuck in this jam up. I have lived in the general area of Los Angeles much of my life. Only one short time in the city of LA itself, but a long time in Orange County and San Diego. LA has had bad traffic for all of my adult life going back to the 70’s, but it is much worse now than back then. I am no expert on transportation, but for what ever reason the snarl of traffic that now characterizes this huge city is just impossible. Years back the traffic was inconvenient, but you could live with it by just allowing more time. When we lived in Orange County in the 80’s we used to do things like subscribe to the downtown theater and music and just drive in to downtown in the evening. When I was a kid you could drive to Hollywood and the Whiskey A Go Go for a date. Now that is long since gone and LA is just an impossible jungle of jammed up cars where I hate to go. My candidate for the most to blame for this impossible situation is the lack of investment in new roads and updating old ones. Phoenix Arizona shows you that when you build modern roads things do get better. LA and the people that run it have their heads stuck in the sand and refuse to make the situation better. In my opinion if the State and local governments would actually start to plan for the future like Phoenix did that this combined with the upcoming revolution in automated electric and hybrid vehicles of different sizes could make great progress in untangling the knot of Los Angeles. It is also my opinion that no amount of billions and billions in antiquated old time transportation like Choo Choo trains (Except fo the hyper loop) will make the problem in LA better. To me to improve transportation and to make it better you have to look forward and not to the past. That is one of the major reasons I bought a Tesla.
So back to the trip. We are now in Blythe and when we get up in the morning we head right over to Denny’s and have breakfast. We are met there by a very friendly waitress who brings us very good food with a smile for little money. I decide to fuel up at the Supercharger that is about 4 miles down the road. The charging takes about 20 minutes and we are off down hwy 95 going north to Needles CA. This is a kinda remote route we had been on before in the RV. The road is two lane with fairly good surface and whoop de doos of up and down the landscape. The Tesla model Y long distance and it’s taught suspension handles this road well. The ride is firm but not punishing. Ideally in future model Ys the firmness of the ride can be adjusted. The way it comes now is a compromise towards sport handling which is good but can get tiring after a while. And it is combined with steering that is quick at any of it’s three settings. On perfect or smooth good roads this is a good combination, but on average or not so good roads my old Acura MDX is better. Although I have always thought the Acura MDX is a great suspension – steering set up for an SUV. We have had two of them and it is still the champ in my driving experience for this size car (biggish) and heavy (not the biggest but quite a bit of weight) in the SUV configuration. Our car is now over ten years old but I recently replaced all the shocks and front struts and it has gotten back it’s dance-on-your-tiptoes kindly ride-steering experience. Honda – Acura got this right way back in the early 2000’s when the first MDX came out and you had to pay over sticker for them. They tweaked and improved in in 2006 by easing the tendency for the rear end to swing out a little too much, plus improved the brakes. And the 2022 MDX I drove three months ago, have made additional improvements to this setup as mentioned by a number of car journalists.
But back to the Tesla. Driving a Tesla model Y as currently configured with a usable range of about 220-250 miles requires that you switch the way you drive a bit. And not necessarily in a bad way. Just stop every couple of hours for a top up at the Tesla Supercharger and you can blast the air conditioner and go fast effortlessly. For my usual driving combo of my wife and I splitting the driving this works out well. You can make a food or rest stop about every 2-3 hours and no worries. Except for getting a flat as there is no spare. Quite a few cars are now eliminating the spare tire so I cannot put this only on Tesla, but to me traveling with a spare tire is a good idea. Around town where AAA type help is close by no spare is sort of OK, but in conditions of very high heat or very cold in the middle of no where I don’t think it is wise. One of my friends just bought his daughter a Ford Escape 2021, and it had no spare. To me this is a bad trend. Flats are rare, but can be a significant event in extreme conditions.
An electric car vs a regular internal combustion motor car (gas, diesel, hybrid) are significant. Electric motors are much much quieter than ICE (internal combustion engines) motors. If our fleet of vehicles just switched by magic overnight and we woke up to a EV World things would change drastically for the better. Cities and most of the country would be much much quieter. Electric motors are far far cleaner. So no gas or diesel spilled at the gas pump. No leaking oil on our roads, gas stations, driveways, or garage floors. The worst are diesel cars. I have had a couple of those plus a diesel RV and every time you fuel up you have to deal with putting dirty slippery stuff in your tank. That means you get the bottoms of your shoes fouled when walking around getting fuel. Your hands get sticky diesel all over them when handling the pump. I usually kept disposable gloves in the car to do this. My experience so far with Tesla Superchargers is that they are clean. You don’t need gloves for the fill up connector, the floors of the charging stations are free of oil. They are a better experience by far than a regular gas station or worse a truck stop.
Even though I like the sound of a hot car like a Ferrari, Corvette, or Mustang, there are just too many people today and too many noisy cars, and I would like to get back more of the sounds of birds singing. Same with oil everywhere, less is better. We now have oil in the air, on the roads, and messing up the floor of my garage. Less of that is better. And while I am writing this the sound of a jet liner intrudes on my morning of writing this blog. I would like a lot less jet noise too. Underground hyper loops sound like the way to go in the future. Much quieter, adaptable to using cars (Elon Musk’s plan puts electric cars on moving beds in the hyper loop ). And from what I have heard much more energy efficient. And now next door the gardener has arrived and is using a very loud gas powered weed hacker and blower. My weed hacker and blower are both electric and do not bother my neighbors when I run them.
After our night in Blythe we went to St George UT. This is a lovely moderate sized town with beautiful red rock formations all over. It also has one of the best smallish dinosaur museums I have ever seen. New and modern it is a building built over a local deposit of dinosaur bones and tracks. To get from Blythe to St George we charged up at a Tesla Supercharger about 25 miles south of Las Vegas. There was just enough time to get a nice Deli sandwich which was a 2 minute walk from the charging station. By the time we finished our sandwich the car was ready to go. From there we used the internal map-GPS system to get us to our hotel in St George. I was worried about the big climb up from the valley of Nevada to St George. It comes at the end of the drive from Vegas to St George, and I though it might be a power problem. It was not. I figured out that if you want to save charge to follow these rules; 1. Keep your speed down to the speed limit. 2. Use the cruise control or full self driving whenever possible. The big hill I worried about was so inconsequential to the powerful Tesla that when sticking with the speed limit (the smart thing to do anyway) and using adaptive cruise when possible, it hardly used any extra power over level ground driving. We had plenty of power in the batteries when we got to our hotel and there we were met with a big surprise. The Hampton Inn we were staying out had four charging stations for electric cars. They were free for people staying in the hotel. I had not expected this and it was a big benefit. After using the car for the day we just hooked up to one of the chargers and were ready for the next day when we got up. 2 of the 3 nights we stayed there I went down and moved my car out of the charging spot when it was full so that someone else could use the spot if they wanted. There was never a time when I could not get a spot.
So we explored all over the St George area using free fuel. And then we drove to Page Arizona using free fuel. Again I was worried about running out of battery charge. But the Tesla trip planner indicated we would be fine and then I made sure there would be lots of leeway in case the Tesla planner was being optimistic. The Tesla planner is very optimistic. We fully charged the batteries on the days we were going to travel a long distance and there are few to no chargers. So we started with about 310 miles on the miles to empty estimator. The first 100 miles went down very fast. My unscientific estimate is that when we went down the first 100 miles indicated the actual miles traveled might have been as low as 60. And this is with driving the speed limit or slightly over using cruise control whenever possible. The Tesla always used more miles of fuel than it guessed /estimated it would. At the very least this under performance was 20%. My guess as I did not write down the exact performance was under performance of between 20 and 30%. And this was with driving the speed limit and use of the cruise control as often as possible.
At Page AZ there was no charger at our hotel, but in town there was a Supercharger that was never full. We pretty much charged the car every day and just watched part of a TV show on Netflix on the dash screen. Page AZ is a beautiful area and worth a visit by anyone. Just make sure things like the boat tours on Lake Powell and seeing the slot canyons are open when you go. We had been to Page before and things were open. Unfortunately most everything was closed during this visit due to Covid 19. We did drive around to places we had not been before but a boat ride on Lake Powell is a thrill and we were sorry we could not go this visit.
So next on to Carefree AZ. Carefree is a small town to the north of Scottsdale. We have been there before and like staying in the beautiful Boulders resort. Unfortunately the Boulders needs a lot of repair and is not it’s former self at this time. To get to Carefree we drove from Page and stopped at Flagstaff to top up the electric tank. This time the Supercharger was at a Marriott hotel like in Page. We stopped and in about 20 minutes we were full. So we used the bathroom and watched part of a Shits Creek show on Netflix. From Flagstaff it is a lot of downhill to Carefree. This means you don’t use as much battery power as usual. After the free charger at St George I started to look on the Tesla map to see if our next hotel had a charging station. It had two. We parked at the Boulders resort and plugged in our car. By the time we went to dinner we were full of power. During the three nights at this hotel were were the only electric car that used either of the two charging stations. Again, the electricity was free.
Then drove from Carefree back to Jamul. Made two stops at Superchargers on the way back. Apple Maps gives the mileage for the route we took back as 371 miles. The Tesla trip planner says 370 miles. Left the Boulders resort with the miles of estimated battery life at 311. The Tesla trip planner told us to stop twice. By this time I took a more active role in trip planning and was not willing to let the estimated charge at destination get bellow 20%. So I ignored one of the trip planners recommended stops where we would have had 8% of estimated battery life and refilled at a closer charger where we had 25% left. In both cases that was not a big inconvenience. The first stop was a newish gas station about a mile off the freeway. The second was a shopping mall about two miles south of the freeway. At the mall Supercharger most of the stations were occupied. From there we drove home and arrived with 40% in the tank.
- The Tesla Model Y long distance is a reasonably good stylish SUV that has extremely fast acceleration and is driven by electric power. Once and a while the fast part is significant for when you want to get on to the freeway or highway and also when you want to pass someone. The rest of the fast part is doing it for the thrill of it. I have had fast cars before but this thing is another level. The Tesla accelerates faster than a Corvette I owned a while ago, or a Porsche 911 I owned, or a very fast Firebird with a 400 HO motor, and would blast past the Honda S2000 I had in the 2000’s. BTW the Vette and Porsche cars I had where quite some time ago. The 0-60 acceleration to me is not the big thing on this car, it is the 60 and up that is almost shocking. Actually not almost shocking, it is shocking. If you slam down the throttle on this car at 60 in the couple of blinks of an eye you are going to be going 90. And that kind of acceleration can get you into danger fast. Plus of course the legal implications. This car does have good slow down – stopping power. So if you get to a high speed you only need to lift off the throttle and you slow down pretty quick due to regenerative braking. Plus the actual brakes seem to work quite well too. But maybe a smaller, less horsepower motor that could get better miles per KW would be a better choice. To me the Tesla Model Y does not have good high speed characteristics. I have driven cars in Europe like BMWs that handle 120 mph better than the model Y. The Model Y is fine on a drag strip or smooth race course, but it is so stiff and the steering is so quick that high speed driving on roads that are in mixed condition could be very dangerous. The S2000 I owned for 4 years was also quite fast and had stiff suspension and quick steering. But the Tesla to me is even a little less capable at high speed. On the other hand my Vette was very comfortable at high speeds. The steering adjusted for the amount you turned it and the suspension was more compliant than the Model Y. If I wanted to drive a long distance at a high speed I would take a BMW like the last one I drove from Cologne to Düsseldorf a few years back or my Vette any day over the model Y. Of course the answer to the situations and cautions noted above is to drive the speed limit as the power system wants you to do.
- We bought this car when I test drove it and it just seemed like the best car I have ever driven. It has a wonderful smooth acceleration with no gear changes that combines with slow down without brakes when you lessen the throttle pressure. This is combined with low to the ground, firm suspension that hugs the ground for sports sedan like performance on smooth roads. Plus the operation of the cars controls and software are mostly very intuitive and easy to use. The pairing up of my iPhone to the car just blew me away. Other cars I have paired with my Jeep, Toyota, and Acura you needed to get out the manual to get it to work. And you needed to do many steps and read the procedure carefully. The Tesla just did it. You lay down your iPhone, go to the phone connection part of the software, and the pairing is almost automatic. So based on my initial overwhelming good test drive we ordered one. Leased. And this is the first time I have leased a car in decades. Why? Electric cars are going to have huge changes in the next few years and you will want a new one every two or three years to keep up.
- Besides my initial impressions there is the undeniable benefits of electric vehicles over traditional gas, diesel, and hybrid ones. Electric cars are very good for the place we live. They are quiet, powerful, and clean. Providing the fuel to make them go needs to go forward to at a fast pace. To me the place to start is roof power systems on the places you live and park your car. There are problems with big windmills. They kill millions of birds every year. This needs to be fixed or these systems need to go away. Windmills ruin the places to live next to them. We have a local town 50 miles away from us that is an extreme case. Plus the windmills make lots of noise if you live near one. Big solar panel farms affect large areas of land that disrupts the creatures living there. There has to be mitigation to not damage these environments. On the other hand roof solar systems combined with “power wall” type battery backups seem like a winning package. Converting to these types of systems in our area also makes running power lines much less of an issue. If new housing areas had these systems to start with the requirement for central power lines would be much reduced or eliminated. Overall though people need to be motivated to convert to new systems and not commanded by authorities to obey or else. Command control will just breed resistance and animosity.
So far our Tesla Y long distance is a great car. As a suggestion to Tesla though I would use a software update to change the trip planner to more realistic estimates of miles possible. This should be easy to do and when you see the estimates that are correct you can deal with them to get to chargers when you need to. Secondly, the suspension of the model Y needs to be adjustable. I have heard this is coming up in version two. Great. I have also heard that new batteries are going to provide additional range. Great it is needed. 220-240 miles per charge is not long enough. And not everyone can afford a Model S with 500 miles of range. Steering, too fast and twitchy. Should be variable like GM has used on some of their cars. Steering change is mild in the center and get progressively faster the more you turn. The software for adaptive cruise needs to be better. It is currently on my car very disruptive when driving through town where there are signal lights. I just don’t use it except for on the freeway any more. Full self driving is OK, but not much of an advantage over steering yourself on a trip. Hardly worth ten thousand dollars.