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Long Distance Tesla Travel in the Age of COVID

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OK, suppose that you are too paranoid to get on an airplane and instead decide that any trip within 1,200 km of your home city are fair game for a road trip. What do you need to make the trip as safely as possible. Here are some notes 🙂

Safety Stuff: Of Snow tires and things

Well the first thing is that with a Tesla you do get road side assistance, but it could definitely take a while if you are 100 miles from the nearest city (yes the American West is a vast place). So here are some of the things you need:

  1. Real snow tires and wheels. Yes, this is particularly true if you have a Model 3 Performance with those very cool and fast performance tires. First of all, should not be driven when it is below freezing nor should it be stored when it is 20F. So fortunately from Tesla or Tirerack, you can get approved snow tires. One trick here is that if you have 20-inch performance wheels, the stepped hub on the Performance is really big, so the stock 18-inch wheels won’t fit. You need a wheelset that will fit around it. We’ve used the Pirelli Sottozero 3 which is the special Tesla T0 PCNS version with sound deadening inside. Tesla offers these in a Winter Snow Package with 19″ Gemini wheels that look nice and have decent fuel economy too for $3,500 which is definitely a lot to pay, but you get a car that is really stable everywhere. We actually got our snow set before the Gemini’s were available and ended up using a Fast Wheels EV01+ 18″ set with the same kind of “ugly” aero covers but they are really efficient. We spent a fortune getting these from Canada, but they are now $1,200 from Evannex.
  2. Snow Shovel and Brush. Yes, you will need these. We have some no-name ones, but the ORIENTOOLS looks great as it is folding and the SNOBRUM is just 17″ when closed and has a foam top
  3. Inflater, Flashlight, LED Emergency Beacon, Emergency Mylar Blankets, Smart Spair Tire Repair Kit, LifeHammer and Jump Starting Power Pack. Yes, it has a huge battery, but there is also a 12V that can give out. Plus you need something that will let you flash things in the real world. The nerdiest thing is the Life Hammer which breaks a side window if you need to get out in a hurray 🙂
  4. Covers for the rear seats. Assuming you are going to be piling junk in there, this is perfect for covering the seat. it’s a pet cover, so really works well.

Really planning your trip: A Better Route Planner

If you are taking a 12-15 hour trip in your Tesla, then minimizing charge time is going to really matter. Using A Better Route Planner and paying for the premium features is a great idea. With it, you can see the exact road conditions and also learn how to optimize charge time. In this time of COVID-19, you probably don’t want to lounge around in strange restaurants, so having a place to use the bathroom and have a snack in the car is vital:

  1. A Better Route Planner tuning parameters. This tool let’s you do long term planning. There are two things to know. First is that tuning the application to your driving really matters. For us for instance, the default parameters that matter are your energy consumption to 65 mph and the speed parameter which is what percent of the speed limit are you going (not that you should ever go above the speed limit). As an example, the Model 3 Performance is 295 Wh/mi at 65 mph and we’ve found that pretty high given our style of driving and also with the EV01+ we get better mileage. So careful tuning shows we are doing about 265 Wh/mi. And 103-107% on the second parameter seems to match times well.
  2. Monitoring real performance. If you leave ABRP on with your phone, you can see how you are doing vs forecast, it has buttons that let you adjust the actual State of Charge (SoC) and see what you are really doing. That’s useful to tune the two parameters above.
  3. Always have a bailout plan. When you are planning to drive down to 12%, make sure you have a bailout plan. We only do this on routes we know because if you get to a charger and it doesn’t work, you need enough charge to get somewhere else, so it is a good idea to know a bunch of alternative sites. The Supercharger network is pretty good, but we have seen cases where half the chargers are down and you have to go somewhere else.
  4. Charging Strategy. With the Model 3 battery, you get the best charge times when you are between 10 and 50%, so you will see that the built in Tesla planner tends to optimize for fewer but longer charges. So it will try to charge to 80% which sounds good except the taper is very steep after 50%. The optimal balance between stops which means you slow down and charging time is hard to estimate, but usually, if you get down to 12% and then charge to 60%, you are going to be driving for two hours before a charge of 10 minutes or so. When you factor in slowing down and parking this makes some sense. In truth really just a 10 minute stop is really short, so the reality is that you start a plan with ABRP and then see how you are really doing in charging time.
  5. Bias to 250W chargers. Of course, there is another factor, the older 150W chargers are slower and when they are full, you share charging power with another stall, so you can definitely have long charging times with the 150W. When modifying a ABRP plan, we tend to bias towards getting to the 250W 12% (if you go lower than 10%, charging slows again) and then pushing for enough to the next 250W charge if it is in range. There are definitely some routes like I-5 in California where there is a 250W charger every 90 miles or so, that’s nearly ideal as you can run from 10-50% and stop for 8 minutes at a time.
  6. Charger load factor. It is a good idea to look at see what the busy chargers are. Some are just never busy (try the ones in Idaho), but in California, you can really wait a long time, so it’s good to hit the busy station either at the 250W ones or early in the morning. Also, those chargers close to the city oftentimes have local folks with free unlimited charging taking up lots of spots

Napping and Sleeping in the Car

Finally, there could come a time after 12 hours of driving that you need a little shut-eye. Fortunately, there’s a big discussion forum about how to do this thanks to the relatively long (6′ 4″) length with the seats folded. The knee room is a little tight in a Model 3 and its twin-sized so not big for two full-sized people 🙂

  1. Tesmat Camping Mattress. It’s expensive at $270 direct, but it is a nice 2″ thick memory foam with a board underneath that helps bridge the 6″ gap between the rear seat and the front seat back. There are even fitted twin sheets for it.
  2. Dreamcase. This is a big more expensive and has a case prop instead of a board to cover the last six inches. Comes from Europe so would take 2-3 weeks to get to the US. They sell them for a huge number of cars, for the Model 3 including sheets, so this is direct $658.
  3. Exped Megamat Duo 10. This is a whopping $349, but is air inflatable so theoretically smaller and insulated. Plus it is self inflating. You will still need a board or something to bridge the gap at the top.
  4. Zinio 4″ foam folding mattress. It’s huge but comfortable and much cheaper.

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