Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Road Trip (and Charging Options)

We live north of Indianapolis, but have family living near Louisville, about a 2 hour drive south (about 120 miles distance). My mother also owns an alignment shop, so I wanted to have a quick look at the rear-end alignment, as well. Also, on the way is also an outlet mall (which my wife needed to visit before her visit to Korea). So, with wifey, dogs and bags loaded, with a 100% charge, we sat out for the weekend drive south.

Now, my 85D (if I drive slowly and with a full charge) technically has the ability to do this round trip without charging, but if you add around-town driving at the destination and a few launches to wow new passengers, it definitely behooved me to at least do an overnight charge before the return trip back home. However, I did decide to also try a "charging tour" of sorts, checking out the Indianapolis Supercharger station and the Blink charger at the Edinburgh Outlet Mall, just for the heck of it (and to get a lay of the land, so to speak). The main overnight charging would take place at my mom's house, where we would stay the night.

As for highway driving, I'd already had a little experience (since I took delivery in Cincinnati), but this time was no different. The car is very comfortable and ridiculously easy to drive. A few times, I kind of wished I had the autopilot or traffic aware cruise control (TACC); but even without it, the drive was great.

Our very first stop was the Indianapolis Supercharger. I'll note that this would be my first ever visit to a Supercharger! Anyway, we'd left the house with a 100% charge, and it's only about 30 miles to the SC, but I figured I'd at least top off the "tank" as well. I was also curious to see how fast it would charge when it was already nearly full.

The station was just off I-465, in the parking lot of a La Quinta Inn. It seemed like a relatively safe place, but didn't look like there was much to do nearby. When we pulled in, there was nobody around. The charging rate was better than I had expected to get. My battery was maybe at around 90%, but it still ramped up to about a 120 miles per hour charging rate. The charging characteristic was almost 400 volts at just under 97 Amps. We sat there for around 10 minutes and grabbed about 15 miles before continuing on our trip.

Next, at the outlet mall an hour later, I tried out the Blink charging station. This mall has two of them (right in front of Tommy Hilfiger, near the Harley Davidson store). When I pulled up, one spot had some sort of plug-in hybrid charging, so I took the other spot. It's interesting to note that I didn't have to back in, as the cable was plenty long enough to reach anywhere within the entire parking spot.

Blink's el-cheapo cable couldn't handle 29A
However, as for the performance of this charger, I was NOT impressed. Not only was it "expensive" (45 minutes cost me almost $3, at $0.03 per 30 seconds), but the voltage and current were weak and the cable was definitely sub-par. In fact, after about 10 minutes, the car showed a fault with the cable and reduced the charging amps even further. It started out at 29A but reduced to 22A. I think the cause was the fall-temperatures sunshine?

Rusty, our Papillon enjoying his
mama's seat while she shops.
But, basically, it was just enough to let me sit in the air conditioning with the dogs while my wife shopped, and also adding a few extra miles (like maybe 6 or 7). I don't think I'll ever depend on this charger, unless absolutely desperate - which I don't think will ever happen.

Interestingly, I was approached by several people who were very curious about the car. They had never seen or even heard of Tesla before, and seemed shocked that such a "sporty" looking car was plugged-in and taking a charge. They were struggling to comprehend the concept of a 100% electric car that didn't look "electric" and could hit near 300 miles in range. Unfortunately, with crazy barking Papillons in the car, I wasn't really to continue the conversation or show them the car; but that was my first experience as a Tesla "representative." No wonder Tesla doesn't find a need for marketing!

Patio with nearby receptacles.
I actually like the top view!
Anyway, onward! Once we arrived at and were settled into our destination, I set out exploring my mom's home electrical system to see if I could manage a 240v charge somehow.
Started the night before at 132 mi

The good news was that I could easily park down by her half-basement patio and run a cord to the dryer outlet nearby... the bad news was that it was a NEMA 10-30 receptacle, and the stores were closed.

So, 120v standard outlet it would be; and for the first time, too. I was actually surprised that I was able to draw 12A, though, and achieved 4 miles/hour charging rate all night. By the next day, I'd gained about 50 miles of range. Definitely lots of comfort room to make it home.

But, I'll be damned, if I wasn't at least going to try out the Supercharger again; but this time, with a bit less in the battery, I really wanted to see how fast it could go.

This time, I got to experience the infamous jet engine taking off under my hood. When you're dumping almost 300 Amps of DC straight into the battery, things are bound to get warm, and the Tesla Model S takes care of that with two hidden radiators & fans to remove heat from the liquid cooled battery. These radiators are located under each headlight, and they have little doors that open only when needed (to improve aerodynamics).

At this point, I was adding a mile every 10 seconds. It would've taken only 15 minutes to get me to my usual daily charge amount of 62%; but home was only a half hour away, so I decided to unplug and complete the trip.

It was interesting that the Supercharger cable was pretty warm. I'll be curious to see one of the new liquid-cooled cables.

So, all-in-all... a pretty cool trip. I've got a better feel for the car's capabilities, and gained confidence in its ability to predict and estimate mileage & range (it's dead-on accurate). The anticipated "range anxiety" never happened, and I was completely comfortable the entire time. Love this car!

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