Trip Report: A Long Drive in a Short Time

An unusual situation presented itself to us in June. We needed to travel a long distance in a very short amount of time, to attend a high school graduation hundreds of miles away from home. There wasn't much sightseeing on this trip, and it didn't take place on Route 66, but I thought it deserved a report anyway. It is a type of trip that is often brought up in arguments against EVs, and the ease with which it was done is a good illustration that electric vehicles really are ready for the mainstream.

We have made the trip from Las Vegas, Nevada to Crescent City, California many times in the last 25 years. Usually, we travel down into California on I-15, west on CA-58, and then north along mostly I-5 and US 101. This route is about 1,000 miles and we do it in two days. The 'short way' from Vegas to Crescent City is north through Nevada on US 95 towards Reno, then northwest through Susanville to I-5, up into Oregon and then down US 199 back into California. It's about 850 miles, and our plan for this trip was to drive the whole distance there in one day, and come back in one day as well. We've done it before in gas cars, but it's a long drive for one day no matter what you're driving. Luckily, Tesla's Supercharger network is built out enough that it is possible to take this way in our Tesla Model 3, The Blue Spirit.


Part 1: Las Vegas, Nevada to Crescent City, California

This trip involved our whole household: two parents and two teenagers, so the car was pretty well packed to the gills with people and luggage. As usual, we started out from home with a full charge. The first supercharger northwest of Las Vegas is at the Eddie World travel stop in Beatty. We didn't really need to use this station because we had enough range to get to the next stop at Tonopah, but we were in need of a bathroom break so we stopped. If we were using gas, we would still have stopped, and it would have taken the same amount of time. This is one example of how an EV may spend more time charging without necessarily adding to the length of a trip. Eddie World is also equipped with a DC fast charger for other types of EVs and AC level 2 chargers on the ChargePoint network. We charged for 6 minutes and then continued on our way.

Supercharging behind Eddie World in Beatty

The DC fast charger at Eddie World


Our next stop was Tonopah. By this time it was about 9:30 a.m. and we needed a meal break as we had not eaten breakfast before leaving home 3 hours earlier. Tonopah is a small town without big stores, so there are extra amenities provided by some convenience stores that you don't find at every big city gas stop. We had breakfast at Giggle Springs, a gas station and convenience store nearly across the street from the Tonopah Superchargers. They had a decent selection of quick food, a microwave to heat up items from a small frozen and refrigerated section, and seating similar to a fast food restaurant. After food and restrooms we headed back to the car. Before leaving I took a quick look at the nice indoor kiosk that Tonopah has provided for visitors right by the superchargers. Our charge time was 31 minutes.

The Tonopah visitor information booth, right in front of the Tesla Superchargers


Our third stop was another restroom break, this time in Hawthorne. These superchargers are located at a fairly new gas station that has both a convenience store and a Port of Subs sandwich shop. It was quite busy and we actually added more charge than needed to get to Reno, simply because there was a line for the restrooms. By the time we left the car had charged for 14 minutes. Like Beatty, this stop would have been just the same if we were using a gas car.

North of Hawthorne at Schurz, we left US 95 in favor of Alternate US 95, heading west towards Yerington. We eventually connected with US 50 just west of Silver Springs before continuing north on USA Parkway, a new road that was opened in late 2017. As it happens, the Tesla Gigafactory is located just off USA Parkway near I-80. This is where the batteries and drive units of our car were made. We had a very brief glimpse of the enormous Gigafactory building through the hills as we approached the I-80 interchange, and then took the interstate west into Reno.

The charging stop in Reno was our longest of the trip. There is just one supercharger station in Reno with 6 stalls, located at the Atlantis Casino Resort. It is about 4 miles south of the I-80/US 395 interchange. Our route would take us north on 395 so it was a small deviation from our path to reach the charger. Since it would be over 200 miles to the next supercharger over a lot of mountainous terrain, I wanted to get near full this time. The Purple Parrot restaurant inside Atlantis fit the bill for a leisurely lunch while the car charged almost to completely full. The total charge time was 60 minutes.

Reno Superchargers: busy, but not full


Back on the road, we headed north on US 395 into California, followed by CA-36 through Susanville, then CA-44 and CA-89 to Mt. Shasta. This is a beautiful drive but we didn't have time to stop along the way to see the sights. I needn't have worried about the long drive from Reno to Mt. Shasta; the small drop in elevation coupled with the lower speeds on two-lane highways meant that we were not particularly low on charge upon arrival. Mt. Shasta also has level 2 chargers and DC fast charging for other EVs, both on the ChargePoint network. We went into the Ray's Food Place supermarket across the parking lot to use their restroom while the car charged up again. In California, Tesla is able to charge for power by kWh instead of by the minute, so I am not sure how many minutes we charged. The car added 34 kWh by the time we returned from the supermarket with drinks, and we proceeded north on I-5.

Plenty of room for parking in Mt. Shasta


Our next stop was in Grants Pass, Oregon. The superchargers here are located at the Black Bear Diner at the north end of town, which added about 3 miles to our trip compared to driving straight through Grants Pass on US 199. This was another restroom stop, and we added charge for only 10 minutes or so. The road ahead down US 199 was twisty mountain road, and not having driven it in an EV before I wasn't sure how much power the car would use on it, so the charge at Grants Pass was insurance. As it turned out, we had enough charge to reach Crescent City without stopping at Grants Pass. We'll remember for next time that this leg does not use more than rated range!

The Grants Pass superchargers at Black Bear Diner (photo from our return leg)



The total time for our drive to Crescent City was 17 hours, and we traveled just under 850 miles. We spent the next 3 days visiting family and tooling around Crescent City. We charged a couple of times at the Crescent City superchargers while visiting shops around downtown. We drove about a hundred miles around the area. Before leaving I made sure to charge up most of the way so we wouldn't have any delays on the way back.


Part 2: Back Home Again

For the trip home it was the another long day of driving, the same route in reverse with the same supercharger stops. Having gotten a feel for the road on the way up, we were more confident on the way back. Our restroom and charging break in Grants Pass was very brief. We had planned to eat a sit-down lunch during a long charge in Mt. Shasta, as there is another Black Bear Diner very near to the supercharger, but it was so busy that we decided to get something a little quicker at the Ray's supermarket after we used the restroom there. This was our 'almost full' stop for the trip back, as the Ray's had a deli and some hot food and seating that we took advantage of. After less than an hour we were ready to head back down the two-lane to Reno.

ChargePoint's DC fast charger and AC Level 2 charger, Mt. Shasta


This time in Reno, we walked up the block to Walgreens for the restroom, drinks and snacks instead of heading into the casino to eat. By the time we returned to the car over 30 minutes had passed so the car was charged enough to make the leg to Hawthorne easily. We arrived in Hawthorne after 8 p.m. and the Port of Subs inside the convenience store had already closed, but luckily they had some prepackaged sandwiches for travelers. We charged for 15 minutes while using the restrooms before proceeding, with our sandwiches in hand to eat later.

Charging under darkening skies in Hawthorne


In Tonopah our stop this time was very short. Since it was so late there was no restroom available nearby, so we stayed at the car to eat our sandwiches and charged for just 10 minutes before moving on. Thankfully, the supercharger at Eddie World in Beatty is located next to the Stagecoach Casino, which is always open. We were able to use the restroom there and after 15 minutes we were back on the road to home.

We arrived back to Las Vegas very tired, but with a successful long trip under our belts. The return took about 30 minutes less than the trip up, about 16.5 hours. Our total driving distance was 1,785 miles, of which only about 320 miles was freeway driving. The Blue Spirit performed flawlessly.


If anyone tries to tell you that an EV can't do a quick, long haul, just point them here and they can read for themselves that with some EVs at least, it's no big deal!

Comments

  1. Very good trip story. It would be fun to tell people how many miles you gained on each quick charging stop. The new 150 kW Super Charger power is teally fast in a nice efficient model 3. Ours seems to go forever.

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  2. Great write up, thanks. Did you just rely on the Tesla Navigation, or did you sup with another 3rd party? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. We used the Tesla navigation. It is helpful to set the supercharger as a destination so you can keep an eye on miles of range left vs. miles to the supercharger. In a couple spots I checked with Google Maps on my phone just to confirm it was the same route. About 90% of this trip you can really only go one way.

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