We set off on the maiden voyage of our brand-new Tesla Model X, for which we had waited for almost a year. A 6,000+ mile road trip. Some comments on long-range journeys in EVs in the US today (plus my review of the X). TL/DR – in a Tesla, it’s a snap! X is great – with some caveats.
Rogie, our aging but willing dog, and I drove out to Bozeman, MT. My wife flew out, and off we set on an ambitious agenda. We had only one month due to commitments but wanted to pack in much that we hadn’t seen in the 40 years we have lived in the US. And to road test the X!
In summary our agenda was: Yellowstone, Salt Lake City, Zion National Park, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon (North + South Rims), Sedona, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, OK City, Bentonville AR, Memphis, Nashville, Gatlinburg TN, then home.
About the state of EV travel in the US. If you are driving a Tesla, it’s almost as convenient as traveling in a gas guzzler, but does require more planning, preferably in advance of the trip; with any other make of EV it wouldn’t have been as easy, if at all feasible.
The secret is not only Tesla’s incredible network of Superchargers (SC), and the seamless integration into the vehicles’ Nav facilities, but the amazing job that Tesla has done in promoting destination chargers to hotels nationally (and I would guess, internationally).
Having a destination charger allows you start the day with a (free) full charge, with first stop for lunch! Had we realized the opportunity, we could have – and should have booked 100% of our stays in charger-equipped hotels. But the SC network is the real ace up the sleeve.
Every destination was in reach of multiple choices of SCs on the route, most of which are conveniently located near services for a bite and a rest stop. On the way out I travelled between 500 and 700 miles each day, so maintained 2-hour stages, and 20–30-minute charges.
Once my wife joined, we began touring and site seeing, stopping for 2 or 3 days in each location, and the trip legs reduced to a few hundred miles. Generally, we set off mid-morning, stopped to charge for 30-40 minutes in the lunch hour, and arrived at about check-in time.
If the hotel had a destination charger, I would hook up, and we could just take off in the morning. Failing that I would take the car to the local supercharger before or after dinner, or we would charge up in the morning on our way out. Quite convenient.
The great Tesla value-add is not just the SC+destination network; it’s the integration of the car+network, showing options, and number of charging points free at each location, recommending stops. I can’t imagine planning/executing a trip without that.
I tried abetterrouteplanner.com to plan stops & hotels along the way for my outbound trip, and a guide for hotels to book, but found the UI clunky and awkward, with far too many gotchas. After struggling with it, I gave up and stuck to the Tesla website and in-car nav.
Improvement ideas: need to ensure that there are garbage cans convenient to the SC locations, and ensure they are serviced. Some stops are serviced by the local merchants and are spotless…other not so much. One had a transparent tip-box for local volunteers – it was pristine!
The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. This small Chapel sits atop a small Mesa in dramatic fashion, in a town that is one of the many jewels of the Southwest.
About the X: fantastic tourer, best I have yet experienced. Single major complaint: glare from early/late sun pouring into the vast windshield and driver/passenger window, not dealt with efficiently by the ingenious yet insufficient visor. It’s a design flaw in my estimation.
I had misgivings about the Yoke before driving the car but loved it from the first. I prefer the Model 3/Y single screen to the S & X split screen. I don’t believe the split screen adds much info, but it distracts from the single focus on information implemented in the 3/Y.
I am not sure the stalkless driving solution as in the X & S is yet fully solved. Not even after a month and 6,000 miles of driving did I develop an instinctual grasp of the controls, and I sounded the horn, set off the wipers, and initiated a call, each on more than one occasion!
Wish I had time to have racked up sufficient Safety Score miles to have FSD added (as I have on my daily driver Model 3). But Autopilot (NOA) proved very helpful (mostly freeway miles) and made the driving incredibly easy. I did all the driving, and never felt tired at any stage.
Also wish I had had time to get the car wrapped before taking off on the trip. We ended up getting two tiny chips on the nose paintwork (a minor miracle given the freeway miles), not apparent to the casual review. Hopefully when I get it wrapped, they’ll repair the damage.
We bought the X for my wife, a replacement for an 8-year-old Hyundai Santa Fe. There’s going to be a fight before I hand it over to her. I dearly love that car now.