Checklist for your first Tesla Model 3 road trip across the country

Below is a list of things to remember when taking your first long road trip in your Tesla car. Note: Many suggestions would apply to any trip by electric vehicle and some suggestions would apply any vehicle.

  • The Tesla to J1772 adapter: If you use one all the time in your garage like I do for the charger I bought for my first Nissan Leaf, buy a second one and keep it in your car. You may need it for non-Tesla destination chargers and emergencies.
  • The Electrical Service Vehicle Equipment (ESVE) cable that came with your car: Again, if you use it in your garage like me, don’t forget to take it with you.
  • A NEMA 14-50 220V adapter for your ESVE cable: Also be sure to leave the 110V adapter that came with the car in the trunk. Most RV campgrounds have NEMA 14-50 outlets that could come in handy in an emergency. Also, since I go from garage to garage with a NEMA 14-50 outlet (one in Utah, one in Wisconsin), I don’t forget to take the EVSE and NEMA adapter with me. 14-50.
  • Small air compressor (battery or 12V powered) in trunk: You don’t have a spare tire. Monitor tire pressure every few hours and watch for the amber low pressure warning light.
  • Filling with windshield fluid, Windex and cloth: Stop at a gas station to clean the bugs splattered on the windshield.
  • An insulated bottle that fits in your cup holder filled with ice and cans of Diet Coke or other caffeinated drinks to help you stay alert.
  • Snacks/emergency food: Cheese and Wheat Thins, COSCO Kettle Chips, bananas, apples, peanut butter and a knife. Also, a gallon of water in the trunk. Plus, I pack a bag of sunflower seeds to shell and a cup for the shells to help keep you alert. They are $1.72/bag at Walmart and $5+/bag at typical quick stops along the way.
  • Aero hubcaps: I think the aero hubcaps are ugly, so I take them off. I bought a kit from Tesla that has covers for the bolts and a small round cover for the center of the wheel. I only put the aero hubcaps back on for longer trips because they add a few percent to my range.
  • In very cold and snowy weather: Warm coat, ski pants, balaclava, ski gloves, boots and reflective sleeping bag for each traveler.
  • My brother and sister-in-law have owned a silver Model S for several years now. His suggestions: I also take candles/matches, defroster spray, hand warmers in case the charger port gets iced up, a shovel to access remote superchargers.
  • Kate and Bob own a red Model S named Scarlett. Kate’s Suggestions: Have a garbage bag. Phone holder. Check websites for new gadgets offered. Some coolers plug into your 12V socket between the front seats. For older Tesla models, a wireless phone charger that also plugs in between the front seats you just put your phone on. Wet wipes.

Plan your trip

  • Get free PlugShare app for your phone: This is the best way to research chargers when planning your trip. Insert your car make and model and it will automatically filter out chargers that are not compatible. You can set the filter only for superchargers, J1772 L2 chargers, Tesla destination chargers, etc.
  • Get free A better route planner app for your phone: ABRP allows you to enter the exact make and model of your car. Typically, you select your current location and enter your destination. ABRP then maps your route, showing you recommended Supercharger stops and charging time at each stop taking into account your car’s range as well as the current air density and wind forecast along of your route.

On the way

To note: The Tesla Supercharger system is fabulous. We never had to wait for a stand at any of our stops on several trips across the country, including from the east coast to the west coast. A typical Supercharger has 8 stalls, but we’ve seen Superchargers in California with 40 stalls on busy roads (see Figure 2). You back up or parallel park, open your charge port, grab the cable head, and stick it in the charge port. When you have reached the desired state of charge, stop charging on your screen or by pressing the button above the cable head. Unlike any other charger I’ve used, Tesla automatically charges your credit card.

Figure 2: Tesla Supercharger with 40 stations. Baker, California. February 21, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler/CleanTechnica.

Superchargers: In my experience, there is a Supercharger every 120 miles or less along every major Interstate Highway. However, you will rarely have to travel up to 20 miles to find a Supercharger on your route.

Also, I found superchargers on major non-interstate highways – such as between Rawlins, Wyoming, on I-80 through the Black Hills to I-90 near Rapid City, South Dakota. Tesla recently added a supercharger station that facilitates the direct non-interstate diagonal route between Worthington in far western Minnesota on I-90 and Minneapolis. In another case, by driving directly between Minneapolis and Wausau, Wisconsin, there is no longer a need for a small detour to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. A number of new superchargers in northern Wisconsin and Michigan now allow more travel to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

A bit about boost strategy: don’t charge above 80% unless absolutely necessary. Stopping frequently and recharging to 80% or less will save you time. Again, from my brother: Your quickest strategy is to exit the Supercharger when the charge rate drops to 56kW, assuming you can reach the next charger.

Once plugged in, I enter the next Supercharger in the navigation. The easiest way is to search for nearby chargers on the screen and press the button at the bottom. If you scroll up, you will see the estimated charge on arrival (ECUA). It may be empty or negative initially, but as it loads you will see the ECUA increase. I like to recharge leaving only on arrival the battery consumption reaches 15-30%. Be conservative at first. I have two bikes in the back and you may have a roof rack or a headwind which will make the estimate too optimistic. I believe the estimate accounts for altitude change and will soon also account for air and wind density.

If you always put the next Supercharger in the navigation, the car will precondition the battery for fast charging starting several miles before the finish. Again, from my brother: When stopping for the night, always recharge upon arrival rather than waiting until morning. Otherwise, when it’s cold, you’ll regret it when you see how slowly a cold battery charges.

On a 250kW Supercharger V3, I charge above 200kW from 5% to 40% state of charge (SOC), then the charging speed starts to drop so as not to damage the battery. Above 60% you drop below 100kW, above 80% below 50kW, and as you approach 90% the load slows down to ~15kW.

It works great for Superchargers spaced up to 120 miles apart without bikes on the back of my long range Tesla Model 3. With bikes, I sometimes need to load to 90%. As my wife and I are in our 80s and traveling with our little dog Zuni, frequent stops are actually welcome. We visit the bathroom, walk the dog, stretch our legs to avoid thrombosis, take a bite if needed, and before you know it, we have enough charge to continue our journey.

More suggestions from Kate: Get some food before you start charging, download Netflix—you can eat, charge, and catch an episode of your favorite show or watch a movie at every stop. The charging time then passes so quickly.

Good road!

Please let me and the readers know your tips in the comments section.


 

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