Update: This post is part of a series of posts about a recent road trip I took in my Tesla Model 3. You can see a list of all posts in the series here.

Grand Tetons from Model 3 Dashcam

I recently drove a 2700 mile road trip alone with my electric vehicle: a Tesla Model 3. Many people have asked me why I would want to drive from Seattle, Washington to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Even my own family members chose flying over riding with me. Someone even asked if the gas was more expensive than a plane ticket 😏.

There is quite a bit of information and opinions out there about electric vehicles. I have had my Model 3 for almost a year and many people have asked me questions about my experience. People are always very curious, yet the questions they ask tell me that most people do not know enough about electric vehicles. Even with all the information out there people are having their fears blown way out of proportion, are being misled, and even have outright false information.

This is why I chose to drive 2700 miles instead of buying a plane ticket. We are all overwhelmed with information these days. Information coming from the first-hand experience of someone you know will be more memorable than misleading articles you see online. I hope to share my experience with the people I know, so they may start asking different questions. Our planet and future generations depend on it.

Benefits? What benefits?

There is, of course, another reason I deciding to pass on the plane ticket. Electric vehicles are just fun to drive. There is no other way to put it. I would choose driving my car over any other form of transportation in almost any scenario.

The questions people ask are always about common concerns with electric vehicles. They never ask about the benefits. What I have come to realize is most people do not know what the benefits are, yet even realize they exist. The pros-and-cons list in people’s heads looks something like this:

Perceived EV Pros and Cons

This is completely normal. Electric vehicles are new and different. We are scared of what is different and tend to focus on it. People were skeptical of the original iPhone because it didn’t have a keyboard. Whoa, different. Scary. Does anyone remember using a phone with a physical keyboard?

Electric vehicles are currently seen as a compromise. They are better for the environment, but I have to give up a lot to have one, right? Well, let’s spend some time looking at that other list that people tend to forget.

More specifically, I would like to share some benefits I experienced throughout my road trip, many of which I experienced for the first time.

Cost of fuel

I will start by getting this out of the way. Most people I talk with understand this benefit pretty well. In fact, most see it as basically the only benefit. Nevertheless, it is always great to see some real-world data. How much cheaper is an EV road trip compared to the same road trip in a internal combustion engine (ICE) car?

We will start by estimating the cost of driving 2700 miles in a comparable ICE car. Let’s start with the following assumptions:

  • 28 MPG for a car comparable to a Model 3
  • Average of $2.85 per gallon

With those values, driving 2700 miles would cost about $275 with a cost per mile of $0.10.

2700 miles / 28 miles per gallon = 96.4 gallons of gas
96.4 gallons * $2.85 = $275

Looking at the data from my road trip, the total charging cost came to $98 with a cost per mile of $0.04.

This comparison is not perfect, but gives us a good idea about the difference in cost. Keep in mind that cost will vary depending on how you drive and the price of fuel. The cost of electricity at Tesla Superchargers varies by location at a state-wide level and has occasional price adjustments.

Tesla has a useful calculator on their website for comparing the cost of supercharging. There are also great tools for estimating the cost of an EV trip; my favorite being A Better Routeplanner.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Driving through mountain passes in an electric car is one of the best driving experiences I have ever had. Much of this is due to regenerative braking.

Every manufacturer of hybrid and fully-electric vehicles implements regenerative braking differently, so it is hard to generalize the experience across all EVs. The basic idea is that an electric motor in your vehicle can also act as a generator. When you want to slow down, this generator will start to convert the kinetic energy of your moving vehicle into electrical energy to charge the battery, slowing down the vehicle in the process. The “when you want to slow down” is very different across vehicles. Some require the driver to use the brake pedal, a certain gear setting, or a stalk on the steering wheel.

In a Tesla, the only vehicle with regenerative braking that I have experience driving, all regenerative braking is controlled by the accelerator pedal. When you let off the accelerator, regenerative braking will be applied instead of letting the car coast. This allows you to precisely control the speed of the car by only using the accelerator pedal. The only time I use the brake pedal is when I come to a complete stop at intersections and when I need to slow down in a hurry.

So, how is this related to driving through mountain passes? Well, whenever you drive down a mountain or large hill in a ICE car, how do you drive differently? Maybe you downshift to lighten the load on your brakes? Perhaps you just keep your foot on the brake pedal, switching between coasting and braking throughout the descent?

For my car, the experience driving down a hill is the same as any other. No shifting, coasting, or even using the brake pedal. All I have to do is use the accelerator pedal to control precisely what speed I want to go. And thanks to regenerative braking, I do not even need to use the brake pedal when going down a steep mountain pass. I just let off the accelerator a little more than normal and that is it. Not only is an EV not using any energy when driving downhill, but it is actually gaining energy by recharging the battery. This often happens over long distances and without ever using the brake pedal.

There was a point in my trip where I averaged -10 watt hours per mile of energy consumption over five miles of driving.

EV Regenerative Braking

The projected range was a comical 999 miles. Seems like Tesla needs to replace that with an ∞ symbol.

Having precise control of downhill speed makes the driving experience down mountain passes a lot of fun. It was easy and safe to pass trucks and other slow vehicles, and fun to not have to slow down 20 miles per hour around corners thanks to the precise speed control and tremendous handling from the weight of the battery pack.

Of course, going up mountain passes was fun, too. Again, it was easy to precisely control speed going up steep mountain passes. This time due mostly to tremendous horsepower, torque, and acceleration from the two electric motors. No shifting, awkward automatic transmission, or increase in engine noise. It really does not even feel like you are going uphill. You may even wonder why everyone else on the road has started to slow down so much.

“Please Turn Off Engine”

Source https://www.roadtrafficsigns.com

I love coming across signs like this. I have experienced this before a number of times when waiting for a draw bridge or taking a ferry. I also experienced this again on my trip.

Idling sucks. It is a waist of fuel and pollutes harmful toxins in our air, often near places with heavy traffic and many pedestrians. You can turn off your engine when sitting in traffic to avoid idling. Or maybe your car will automatically do it for you. Neither of these are perfect solutions. Ask yourself: when sitting in traffic why don’t you turn your engine off? Maybe it is too inconvenient? Are you worried about not being able to turn it on back in time? What if your engine fails to start again? Having your car automatically turn the engine off isn’t the best solution either. If it was so great, why doesn’t everybody use it?

One more thing you don’t need to worry about if you drive an electric car. There is no engine to start and nothing to “turn on”. It is just a simple switch from park to drive. If you are still worried about switching from park, just let the car “hold” the brake for you. It is just a simple tap on the accelerator to continue moving forward.

On my way home from Colorado, I decided to drive through Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, there was a major car accident in the park as I was making my way through. Traffic came to a dead stop while the main road was closed down to one lane for a couple of hours.

We would end up sitting in one spot for ten to fifteen minutes before moving up a little at a time. The waits were long enough that everyone decided to turn their engines off, but short enough that drivers had to pay attention and be ready to turn on their engines at any time. There were always those one or two cars that were not ready in time and backed up traffic for a few car lengths. It didn’t really matter in the end, but it is the small things that count! Since I could switch to drive at a moment’s notice, I usually waited until two or three cars ahead started moving before switching.

It was the evening and still a little warm out. Most cars would leave windows unrolled and engines off, including myself. As the evening went on, the bugs started to come out. Eventually, I rolled up my windows and turned on the air conditioning. No problem. For the ICE cars, they had to compromise. They could continue to keep windows unrolled and deal with the mosquitoes. They could also roll the windows up and turn on the air conditioning and engine. Or they could roll up the windows, leave their engine off, turn on the fans and risk running their battery down.

This may not matter to everybody, but the little things add up. And when you are already in a stressful situation, like stuck in traffic in the middle of nowhere, one less decision to make goes a long way.

This first post has gone over a few of the benefits of taking an EV on a road trip. I hope you have learned something new and are one step closer to being comfortable owning an EV.

There are a few other posts I have planned in this series that will cover some of the concerns surrounding electric vehicles, Tesla-specific features, and deep dives into nerdy, technical details. So stay tuned!

Questions or suggestions? Feel free to DM me on Twitter @codynhat.