Sunday, January 11, 2015

1/7 - 1/11 Wisconsin to Maine

Blogging requires diligence that is tough to achieve while on vacation and traveling every day.  We have been having a great time on the road and visiting family, and haven't had a spare moment in the past few days, so this is a long update.

We are currently in Bethel, Maine, after a fairly uneventful trip since the last update.  The entire leg was in cold and snow, from Wisconsin, routed below the Great Lakes, across Pennsylvania's  "Supercharger no-man's-land," arriving two days ago in Maine, where there are no superchargers, but plenty of resourceful family and friends.  The car now has over 5,100 miles on it and has performed flawlessly.  There are virtually no items requiring service or repair.  We have finally experienced a bunch of "launches" from zero using the car's "Insane" acceleration mode - and cannot get enough.  The car has 691 horsepower and four wheel drive with traction control, so can out all the power down, right here, right now.  Press the accelerator and you are "gone," with your body pushed into the seat at 1.3 g's.  The car magazines have tested the acceleration at 3.0 seconds to 60 mph, and Tesla claims 3.2 seconds.  In any case, it is crazy fast, but completely benign, with no wheel spin, noise, or drama.  My nieces, nephew, and the rest of cousin Sherry's family and friends drove the car. Our Maine relatives are NASCAR fans, so the EV immediate-torque experience was new, and changed some minds about internal combustion's future.

The trip-to-date charging and range statistics are updated in detail at the bottom of this post - for Tesla fanbois who care about and request such things.   We are now driving normally and no longer "hypermiling".  Early in the trip we attempted to maximize range and use the least possible wh/mi.  That meant driving below the speed limit most of the time.  Since South Dakota we have driven either exactly at the speed limit, or a bit over (5 mph max).  The three exceptions were the stages from Somerset, PA to Hershey, PA, and from Hershey to Paramus, NJ.  The entire stretch from Somerset in western PA to Paramus, NJ is without Superchargers, and we relied on a destination charge in Hershey PA using a Tesla wall charger similar to what we have at home. This takes roughly 5 hours to fully charge, and given the long distances, we were cautious about range.  The bottom line is that when trying to gain range, we achieved between 350 and 385 wh/mi.  Driving normally at the speed limit, we registered from 420 to 516 wh/mi per leg.  Cumulatively, the car has averaged 413 wh/mi over the 5,128 miles driven since new.  This compares with 325 wh/mi over the 31,000 miles that we drove our last Tesla, a slower and more practical S85.  Despite its relative inefficiency and shorter range, we would not trade the new car for the old one.  There is supposedly a software update coming soon that will improve efficiency - close to what the older Model S versions achieved.

Speaking of software updates, the car has received two over-the-air software updates since we took delivery about 12 days ago.  The update that we received yesterday while staying with the Schaedlers in Topsham, ME had a lot of new content.  Examples of new features that the car has today that were not there two days ago include: automatic dimming for the high beam headlights, automatic emergency braking based on forward radar, rear camera guidelines that curve to show where the car will go in reverse based on steering wheel position, activation of the previously unused proximity sensors for lane changing, and improved front and rear parking sensing, among 21 improvements in that one download.

Our prior Tesla also received many new features in the two years that we owned it.  One example was an added location-based smart air suspension function.  A Tesla "learns" where its driver requests the suspension to go into high or extra-high mode, at a speed bump, tall driveway entrance, ferry boarding ramp, just to name the places where we need the suspension to provide more clearance almost every week.  After it is first raised, the car remembers where to raise the suspension from then on - so when we approach our Maryland house's tall driveway apron where it would otherwise scrape bottom due to temporary depressed paving on the new street, it automatically says "raising suspension" and is ready go before we reach the obstacle.  It amazes every time!

I caused some controversy on the Tesla forum website this week after disclosing that we had left the car charging overnight at several Supercharger locations in the west and midwest.  Some forum participants consider it bad practice and unethical to leave a Tesla parked at a Supercharger longer than the hour it takes to fully charge the car.  However, we developed a pattern of charging twice at each location where there is either low or apparently nonexistent Supercharger demand/use.  At Superchargers with six or eight charging stations, we booked a nearby hotel (sometimes a half mile away), left the car around 8-9 PM, set charging to stop at 90%, woke up early (4:30-5:30), and used the Tesla iPhone app from our hotel room to finish the last 10% charge, and warm the battery and car interior while eating breakfast.  The weather was single digits to negative 18 degrees (plus wind chill) throughout the last week.  At virtually all of the snowy Supercharger parking spaces, there was no evidence of any other usage during our visits, as no other tire tracks were in evidence.

The issue for some Tesla fans who criticized this practice is that we could have blocked or "ICE'd" a needed charging stall after our car was finished charging but still plugged in - while we slept.  We understand the need to be courteous at Superchargers and not block anyone, and believe that with added penetration of electric vehicles, such practices may not work.  Already in California and some high-volume east coast locations, Superchargers can have waiting lines during the day, and it would NEVER be appropriate to leave a car there unattended.  However, in our case, given raging snowstorms, sub-zero weather, and remote charger locations, we believe that our approach was prudent and had virtually no risk of blocking anyone.  However, there are now hundreds of posts on the Tesla forum website on both sides of the argument about whether we should or should not have left the car unattended.  In conclusion, duly noted here - we stand by our practice on this trip but will never leave a car on charger when it is finished being charged where there is any chance that a convoy of Teslas will could need the space.

This became a raging discussion on the forum because of an issue that I noted one morning - in Maumee, Ohio, we woke at 5:30 AM to start the charge and battery warming process.  Every Tesla is wirelessly connected to the web, and owners have a smartphone app that allows starting the car, initiating or terminating a charge, mapping the car and owner's location, and other information and functions, such as honking the horn, venting the roof, flashing lights, etc.  When we tried to start the heating function in Maumee, the app returned an error message saying that it could not connect.  This went on despite multiple tries until I walked to the car around 7:00AM, in subzero temps acoss unplowed parking lots.  Still no app function.

The car was very cold and had only 210 miles of range in the battery.  We knew the actual range would be much less due to cold weather and starting out with a cold interior and battery.  I did not know how much range this would cost, as we have always pre-conditioned the car before leaving.  In this case, our first leg of the day to the next supercharger was only 128.6 miles per the navigation system, so I decided to push off with the 210 miles of theoretical range.  However, there was a huge hill just before the exit for the next charging stop at Macedonia, Ohio, and our range dropped precipitously despite reducing our speed to half the 70-mph speed limit.  We did make it to the charger, but it was our closest range near-miss event of the trip - rated miles showed 0.0, with 2.5 miles left to travel, and we nervously watched the range indicator saying "Charge Now" until pulling into the welcome charging spot.  While enroute, I called Tesla customer support and was told that the Tesla servers that handle app-to-car functions were down, and had been inoperable for hours.  I blew some steam at the representative and posted a forum topic about Tesla's fail - it is inexcusable for servers to go down at this stage of dual-backup redundant technology in my opinion.  In this case, it occurred just when we most needed the app function.  In reality the range issue was also my fault - we could have stayed at Maumee for a half hour and topped up and warmed the battery.  On the other hand, we had a long upcoming run to the day's destination in Hershey, PA, so needed to get underway.  This was an incorrect judgement call - but I also blame Tesla's server failure for putting us in that position in the first place - to which some Tesla fans watching our trip said that I should never have been parked at the Supercharger in the first place.  Whatever, we made it and all is well.  Lesson learned.

Pictures of the Wisconsin-to-Maine part of the trip follow with commentary.

Driving in blowing snow across Indiana.  The 4WD dual motor setup is a big improvement over the rear drive car.  Note the secondary navigation screen to the left of the speedometer - this is one of several options to display to the right or left of the instruments.  The main navigation map is on the big touchscreen to the right - by google.  The one on the left is by Garmin and will operate anywhere.  The google map needs cell phone access to update the display.

Arriving at South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame, which we drove around, and then visited our newest investment - Heritage Square shopping center, not far from the university.

Always up for a property tour even in a snow storm, we went a few extra miles to see the center that our partnership purchased a couple months ago.

It is a fairly new property that we bought out of foreclosure from a local bank - with a lot of vacancy and upside.

 The center has a local high-end grocer as the primary anchor - full lot despite the storm.

One of the current leasing challenges - replacing the bankrupt and closed Coldwater Creek.   The Eddie Bauer next door is doing big sales numbers, so finding a new tenant should happen fairly soon - good luck to Nate Tower, the operating partner for this property!

Charging at the nearby Simon Property Group's University Park Mall.

The snow is really piling up in the un-plowed lot, but the car had no issue keeping going.  Note that no other cars had used the charger that day.

One of the more bizarre Supercharger locations - near Cleveland, Ohio, in Macedonia.  The Supercharger shares a parking lot with Quaker Steak and Lube - an ironic electric vehicle juxtaposition.  The restaurant, where we ate lunch, has gasoline-themed exterior and interior decor.  Similar to most other Superchargers on this trip, there was evidence that no other Tesla had visited that morning (it was about 1 PM here)

Gas pump door handles!

Antique gas pumps outside and inside.

Motorcycling & automotive memorabilia throughout.

 An old funny-car dragster on the ceiling.

 A dirt track racer hanging over our table at Quaker Steak & Lube.

The Somerset, Pennsylvania Supercharger.  Like most in the East, this Supercharger sees little use so far.  It may get busy in the summer or when the weather is better, but none of the eight charging stalls had been used in at least a day, since the snow started accumulating.

 Can the EZ-Pass toll cameras can read this tag?  We shall see when the bill comes.

An interesting stop at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They have installed two High Power Wall Chargers, identical to the ones we use at home.  They are slower than a Supercharger, taking 4-5 hours to complete a charge, but they cost only $750 for the equipment, compared to a few hundred thousand dollars for a Supercharger station with eight stalls.  We arrived after closing and left before they opened the next day, so did not go inside.  Next time.  It happens to be next to a Staybridge Hotel, so we plugged in and stayed there overnight.  This strategy was a bit of a gamble.  We did call ahead to the museum and confirmed that we could charge and leave the car there overnight, but this location was a 149-mile leap from the last Supercharger in Somerset, PA, and 171 miles to the next in Paramus, NJ.

Because the many planned Superchargers in Pennsylvania's center are either still in permitting or construction, there are no Superchargers available yet in either central PA or central New York state.  There is a completed Supercharger route to I-95, but we would have had to drive southeast from Somerset, PA to Hagerstown, MD, and route through the Baltimore area and then to the Newark, Delaware turnpike Supercharger.  Our preference was to stay north, as we were headed to Maine.  The "Hershey" private charger strategy worked, and we arrived with 27 miles reserve at Hershey, and 34 miles reserve at Paramus, NJ.  By the end of 2015 this type of range concern will go away, as the planned 2015 Supercharger map includes several locations that would have removed any anxiety.

The Tesla High Power Wall Charger installations at the closed Antique Automobile Club of America in Hershey, PA.

 The Hershey Kissmobile apparently won't fit inside.  Bizarre.

The Paramus, NJ Supercharger happens to be at a Tesla store and Service Center.  Here we saw our first charging sister since Colorado.

Another view of the Paramus Tesla lot shows the 30+ Tesla cars that are available due to owners like us who upgraded to the P85D.  There are no P85D's at the dealer, but if you want a gently used two-wheel drive Tesla, they have every option and color at good prices for lightly-used cars.

The dirty P85D car in front of Tesla's pristine showroom at Paramus.  The delivery specialists there asked for the blog information when we told them we had just arrived from Oregon via stops in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Colorado.

Another Supercharger without much use so far - this one in West Hartford, Connecticut.  The only tire tracks, around noon, were ours.

The Auburn Mall Supercharger in Massachusetts is currently the northern-most Supercharger on the East Coast, but several are under construction in Maine and New Hampshire that would have solved our next problem.

My cousins, Sherry and John Schaedler live in Topsham, Maine, where they each own thriving businesses.  I had assumed that my large array of charging adapters (we carry nine adapters) would work with their house dryer outlet.  No luck.  We took the car to John's nearby shop (he is a concrete foundation contractor), and one of his employees quickly jury-rigged a direct-wire solution.  It gave us 40 amps, enough to fully charge in about five hours.

Not pretty, but it worked fine.  After a quick visit to the local touchless car wash, we had our first real "fun" with the car - letting my cousin, a couple of their friends, and our 20-something nieces, nephew, and their spouses drive the car.  After demonstrating the car and making sure they could drive it, each of them had a chance to "launch" the vehicle from stop using the "Insane" acceleration setting.  It was the most fun we have had on this trip so far - despite spending Saturday at their house watching our Ravens go down to the local favorite Patriots in a tight and hard-fought playoff game.  The car is simply amazing in every way.

Today we departed around noon and drove into Maine's White Mountains. Our first stop was the Mt. Abrams ski resort, which has two Level-2 chargers.  We plan to go back and climb the mountain with snowshoes on Tuesday.

We will stay in the Bethel, Maine resort area, snowshoeing, maybe snowmobiling, until Wednesday, and then drive to Portland, ME to attend part of an aquaculture conference.  There are no other chargers currently operating in the Bethel area, but we have plenty of range to go to Portland in any case, an there are many (slow Level-2) chargers near the conference hotel.  From there we will hop back onto the existing Supercharger highway in Massachusetts and head home by the end of the week.  So far we have driven 5,128 miles, and have another 900 miles to go to get to our farm in Virginia, an then ultimately return to our Maryland home on January 19 - about 6,000 miles in the P85D's trip home from the point of sale!  It will need its first service (tire rotation and inspection) as soon as it arrives.  How many Tesla's will ever drive from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine in one trip?

Our base for the next three days.  Cute town, lots of snow fun to come.  Lee says "where's the spa?" and I say where's the snowmobile trailhead?  More to come...

Charging Stats
Date  Starting Odometer  Starting Rated Range Cumulative Average wh/mi  Cumulative Total kWh  Charging Location  Miles Since Last Charge   kWh Since Last Charge  Avg WH/Mi. Since Last Charge Rated Miles Before Charge Notes
28-Dec  12 159     Tesla Tigard Service Center         New car delivery
28-Dec  12 134 410  8.2 Woodburn, OR Supercharger  20.0  8.2 411    
28-Dec  32 184 413  40.8 Springfield, OR Supercharger  78.8  32.6 413 78  
28-Dec  111 223 410  98.3 Grant's Pass OR Supercharger  141.0  57.6 408 34  
28-Dec  252 221 417  149.6 Mt. Shasta CA Supercharger  118.8  51.3 432 53  
28-Dec  370 223 398  186.4 Corning, CA Supercharger  109.3  36.7 336 103  
28-Dec  480 202 402  234.1 Vacaville, CA Supercharger  114.1  47.8 419 46  
28-Dec  594 200 402  267.3 Fremont, CA S/C (factory)  82.8  33.2 401 81  
30-Dec  671 114 401  295.4 Gilroy, CA Supercharger  71.5  28.1 392 17  
30-Dec  748 242 396  336.6 Harris Ranch, CA Supercharger  113.3  41.2 364 112  
30-Dec  862 225 393  380.5 Tejon, CA Supercharger  117.6  43.9 373 83  
30-Dec  979 208 400  442.0 Barstow, CA Supercharger  137.5  61.4 447 7  
30-Dec  1,117 245 403  509.6 Trump International,  Las Vegas  160.8  67.7 421 31 Car garaged 2 days
1-Jan  1,279 244 400  559.4 St. George, UT Supercharger  131.0  49.0 374 87  
1-Jan  1,409 247 399  625.5 Beaver, UT Supercharger  170.5  66.1 388 26  
1-Jan  1,580 250 394  692.1 Green River, UT Supercharger  189.6  66.6 351 27 Skipped Richfield S/C - major mistake - range ran negative, maintained 35 mph up mountains in 75 mph zone
1-Jan  1,769 154 395  715.2 Moab, UT Supercharger  53.7  23.0 429 79 Best Western Moab - great base camp for hiking
2-Jan  1,823 225 395  747.5 Moab, UT Supercharger  80.0  32.3 404 112  
3-Jan  1,903 239 397  789.6 Grand Junction, CO Supercharger  98.8  42.1 425 97  
3-Jan  2,002 201 398  828.1 Glenwood Springs, CO Supercharger  93.3  38.6 413 72  
5-Jan  2,095 254 399  881.0 Glenwood Springs, CO Supercharger  126.2  52.9 419 63 Drove to Aspen, Snowmass (overnight twice), Ashcroft, backtracked to Glenwood Springs for charge & proceeded east
5-Jan  2,221 222 401  922.0 Silverthorne, CO Supercharger  93.5  41.6 444 81  
5-Jan  2,315 134 395  942.2 Denver, CO Supercharger  80.4  19.6 243 67 Downhills are great!
5-Jan  2,395 222 396  987.9 Cheyene, WY Supercharger  112.9  45.7 405 69  
5-Jan  2,508 251 397  1,047.4 Lusk, WY Supercharger  140.0  59.5 425 51 Should have range charged here
5-Jan  2,648 214 396  1,110.3 Rapid City, SD Supercharger  165.7  62.9 380 2 Failure to range charge at Lusk - Second major error - had to go 25 mph over mountain before Rapid City
6-Jan  2,814 249 399  1,171.8 Murdo, SD Supercharger  136.3  61.6 452 41 Easy cruising at 80 (75 mph limit), single digit temps
6-Jan  2,950 216 400  1,231.9 Mitchell, SD Supercharger  141.5  60.1 425 15 Easy cruising at 80 (75 mph limit), single digit temps
6-Jan  3,092 229 402  1,291.0 Worthington, MN Supercharger  130.2  59.0 453 31 Easy cruising at 80 (75 mph limit), single digit temps
6-Jan  3,222 204 404  1,344.5 Albert Lea, MN Supercharger  116.1  53.5 460 24 Easy cruising at 80 (75 mph limit), single digit temps
6-Jan  3,338 228 407  1,406.5 Onalaska, WI Supercharger  127.9  62.1 485 19 2 degrees on arrival, blowing snow
7-Jan  3,466 246 410  1,471.1 Madison, WI Supercharger  134.1  64.6 482 27  
7-Jan  3,588 182 410  1,502.0 Rockford, IL Supercharger  72.6  30.8 425 79  
7-Jan  3,661 195 410  1,540.6 Country Club Hills, IL, Supercharger  95.2  38.7 406 66  
7-Jan  3,756 250 411  1,583.7 Mishawaka IN, Supercharger  94.8  43.1 455 105  
7-Jan  3,863 210 413  1,646.8 Maumee, OH Supercharger  140.5  63.1 449 1 Yes, 1 mile range left 
8-Jan  4,003 210 416  1,713.2 Macedonia, OH Supercharger  128.6  66.4 516 -2.5 Tesla App Server was down - therefore did not top up or pre-warm battery - major mistake & Tesla fail
8-Jan  4,132 250 417  1,757.0 Cranberry, PA Supercharger  97.4  43.7 449 106  
8-Jan  4,229 239 417  1,796.4 Somerset, PA Supercharger  85.5  39.4 461 106  
8-Jan  4,378 249 415  1,851.4 Hershey, PA Antique Auto Club of America HPWC  149.0  55.0 349 27  
9-Jan  4,524 248 414  1,915.9 Paramus, NJ Supercharger  171.2  64.5 377 34  
9-Jan  4,640 240 414  1,963.1 West Hartford, CT Supercharger  115.8  47.2 408 81  
9-Jan  4,756 220 414  1,990.5 Auburn, MA Supercharger  65.1  27.4 421 127  
9-Jan  4,821 253 412  2,053.1 Topsham, ME jury-rig charge  174.1  62.6 359 46  
10-Jan  4,995 252 413  2,083.7 Topsham, ME jury-rig charge #2  174.1  30.6 508 60 Did a bunch of "family" launches in P85D Insane mode this day
11-Jan  5,128 250 413  2,114.9 Mt. Abrams Family Resort, Maine - Level 2 Charge  133.0  31.2 495 1 Did two "family" launches in P85D Insane mode


  1. Love the pix and prose. Full support for your overnight decision; bad luck getting hit with the rogue server wave (the 6.1 and website updates) in mid-trip!

  2. Looks like a great trip! Thanks for the share!

  3. Thanks for stopping by our yard sale and talking Tesla's. I look forward to reading the blog!