Lessons learned from driving a Model S 10,000 miles

Daniel Sparks is a reporter and columnist for The Motley Fool, a financial news and advice organization in the US. In the past 4 months, he has logged over 10,000 miles on his personal Tesla Model S 85. Here are the lessons he says he learned along the way:

1. Charging is easier than you might think

Sparks says his car’s 265 miles of range has been more than adequate for all that driving. Typically, he plugs the car in at night at home, but made full use of the Tesla SuperCharger network while on a 2,200 mile trip to the West Coast. He also stayed at hotels on that trip that had chargers available onsite.

Away from home, he and his wife use a SuperCharger station at a nearby mall while shopping. He says he has used free public charging stations once or twice but only because they were available, not because he needed to. Which leads him to Lesson # 2.

2. Range anxiety is overstated

Sparks says in 10,000 miles of driving, he has only worried about having enough charge left in his battery to get home on one occasion and that was because he forgot to check his car’s state of charge before setting off on a 60 mile round trip. At the time, his car had already traveled 200 miles since its last recharge. He made it home anyway.

Experience also taught him that driving in cold weather or in the mountains can affect how much range he has available. For instance, driving on the highway at 70 mph with the heater running in 0  degree (F) weather reduces range to only 218 miles. Similarly, climbing up a 5,000 foot mountain uses as much energy as driving at 60 mph for 30 minutes. The good news is, driving back down the mountain allows regenerative braking to put as much as 80% of that energy back into the battery, an advantage no gasoline burning car can match.

An electric car owner has to learn to take factors such as temperature and elevation change into account. Sparks has found that the range calculator on the Tesla website is a useful tool for planning how different driving conditions will affect his available range.

 3. Tesla’s Supercharger network is a game changer

Sparks has nothing but praise for Tesla’s network of SuperCharger locations. He has never had to wait to put his car on a charger and with a 50% charge available in only 20 minutes or an 80% charge in about 40 minutes, he says the charging experience is painless and hassle free. Since he does most of his charging overnight at home, he has spent very little time charging on the road during his 10,000 miles of driving.

Tesla currently has 143 SuperCharger stations in operation nationwide with more coming all the time. That means the average Tesla owner is never more than 150 miles from a charging location. Sparks says his Model S experience just would not have been the same without the peace of mind the SuperCharger network provides.

4. Most people are clueless about Tesla

Sparks was shocked how many people he met knew nothing about Tesla, regenerative braking or electric cars in general. When he explains that is car is made by Tesla, most people ask who owns Tesla. They think it must be part of GM, Ford or Toyota. Clearly, the electric car industry has a lot of work to do educating the motoring public about their cars.

Sparks sums up his experience by saying it has given him greater confidence in the long term viability of Tesla Motors.

Posted by Steve Hanley

Steve Hanley is a car nut and Formula One addict who occasionally drives his Mazda MX-5 on track at HPDE events. He has been known to drive to Nova Scotia just to see the lupins in bloom or to Watkins Glen for a weekend of historic racing. He writes about automobiles, technology and travel from his home in Rhode Island.

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