Road Trip: Driving 1,200 miles in a Tesla Model X SUV

This past weekend I drove 1,200 miles in a Tesla.  Specifically, my just purchased certified pre-owned 2016 Tesla Model X SUV.  Below is a recap of my trip, some photos & videos, and a little bit of tech talk regarding efficiency dynamics.  Enjoy!

For the past year my blog has focused mainly on home automation.  Prior to that, it was all about fitness wearables.  Throughout my life my interests have been diverse, with personal transportation always being a top passion in my life.  But the automotive section of my blog has been somewhat neglected, so over the next year I hope to do more in this category.

Our garage has hosted some sort of electric vehicle since 2012, when we first acquired a Nissan Leaf all-electric car.  And since 2014 we’ve had at least one Tesla in the garage at any given time.  These days we’re currently 100% electric in our fleet, and that has been more or less the case for the better part of two years now.

Changing Vehicles

Those who know me like to joke that I change cars like most change their underwear.  While that isn’t far from the truth, I do hope my friends change their undies more than once every 6 months.  These days I’ve slowed down a bit, but a new car does tend to appear every year instead of twice per year.

Justifying a new Tesla vehicles is easier to justify than most cars, because the technology advances so quickly.  My car-swapping is an expense hobby, but for a tech junkie, it keeps me on the bleeding edge of advancements.

For me it began 3 years ago with a pre-autopilot rear-drive sedan (2014 Model S 85).  That was traded out for one of the newer Dual Motor all wheel drive cars with autopilot (2015 Model S 85D).  Then in mid-2016 that car made way for one of the new body style models (face lifted, no more nosecone) (2016 Model S 70D).  And just a few weeks ago I sold that car, to make way for my new Model X, which I’ll talk about more in a moment.

During the roughly 30-month span that I’ve leap-frogged across 3 Model S sedans, and now a 4th Tesla (Model X SUV), my wife has had two Tesla sedans of her own.  She began with a car that had no tech package (2014 Model S 60), but that meant it lacked turn-by-turn navigation.  She eventually replaced that with her current car (2014 Model S 85) which has the tech package.  There were a few “dark months” between her cars where she gave a try at the Audi A3 eTron, but ultimately missed her Tesla too much!

Ultimately between the both of us we’ve had our fair share of Tesla cars.  Collectively we have travelled over 100,000 miles of 100% electric driving.  And we’ve enjoyed it thoroughly, sampling many iterations of Tesla’s progress along the way. 🙂

SIDEBAR:  Within my blog here are other posts about my Tesla ownership.  Most enjoyable might be the track day in my red car blog post, or some early autopilot thoughts.  Though that last one is now a bit dated, seeing as v8.0 is the hot new ticket these days.

Road Tripping 1,200 Miles

After selling my sedan, I was on the hunt for the perfect Tesla Model X SUV.  Ultimately my search would lead me to a certified pre-owned located in Tampa, Florida.  Because of the way Tesla breaks the country into regions this particular vehicle carried a $2,000 transport fee to get it to my home town of Cleveland, Ohio.  Rather than spend this much just to ship the car, I instead opted to fly one-way and drive it home.

For those curious, my vehicle is a 2016 Model X 75D in Midnight Silver with the 22″ Carbon Turbine wheels.  Inside are multi-pattern black seats with carbon fiber trim, and a black headliner.  It is a 7 seater configuration with 1st generation Autopilot hardware built in the first half of 2016.  Like all Model X vehicles, it has smart air suspension.  When I picked it up it had a few miles shy of 6,000 on the odometer.

SIDEBAR:  For those Tesla owners who read this and try to analyze the efficiency data that is included throughout the remainder of this, please note:  Most of the trip was via I-75.  During the trip I had the cruise set to 75 MPH for over 95% of the driving.  And for that same portion, AutoPilot was engaged.  Also note the vehicle is on the 22″ wheels as noted, with the Pirelli Scorpion All-Season tires that Tesla includes.

Headed home. 1200 miles lie ahead. #tesla #teslamodelx

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After picking up the car from the Tesla Service Center located in Tampa, Florida I began my 1,200 mile journey back to Ohio.  Thankfully, Tesla has a network of Superchargers that blanket the country, making travel easy and enjoyable.  And since this car was obviously built before the charging cost changes made in January, my charging costs were zilch!

During my trip I kept a log of data that might help assess how efficient the Model X was during each leg of the trip.  Although there are web sites that will track this data for you, such as TeslaFi … you have to entrust them with some login data.  Plenty of Tesla owners are okay with this, but I’ve opted to not yet join the TeslaFi community.  Plus, my attitude is that I don’t want to overanalyze the numbers– I just want to drive, and enjoy my vehicles!  For those of you who aren’t already a Tesla owner you can just glaze over the “geek data” that I’ll include along the way. 😉

First of many supercharger stops.

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My first supercharger stop was in Ocala, Florida.  Where I had departed a warm 77° in Tampa, it was now only 66° in Ocala.  This first leg was 93 miles and my efficiency showed as 388 wh/mi (that is watt-hours of energy per mile travelled, for you non-Tesla folk).  This would be the most efficient leg of the day, which was likely due to both the elevation changes as well as the decreasing temperatures I saw as my journey continued.

Further north I head, colder it is getting. Boo! But I do love seeing all the palm trees.

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Next up: Lake City, Florida.  By this point the sun was starting to set, and it had dropped to 55° F outside.  This leg had taken me 80 miles, and I arrived having used 419 wh/mi.

It is worth noting that my longest stop of the entire journey was about 40 minutes; my shortest supercharger visit was around 20 minutes.  After refueling my body with some dinner I got back on the road.

Further north another 105 miles later I was in Tifton, Georgia.  It was still fairly warm (at least by my standards of what winter feels like in Ohio), at 50° F.  This would be the last supercharger I would visit on my first day, and the Model X has used 430 wh/mi to complete this leg.  Next stop: my hotel.

Rounding out my first day of travel, I arrived in Macon, Georgia with another 101 miles under my belt.  It was getting cold out, down to 44° F as I pulled in around 10:30 PM EST.  This final stage had been 101 miles, and the car had used 438 wh/mi — my worst of the day, and the second worst leg of the trip.  Temperatures or elevation may have been the cause, but again I’ll let the more data-hungry of the Tesla community chew on that data if they really want– all I care is I was having a blast!

SIDEBAR:  There is a Tesla Supercharger located in Macon, Georgia, about a 10-minute drive from the hotel in which I stayed.  However, I had chosen this resting spot for the night because ChargePoint offered a place to charge that would allow me to refill while I slept.  In turn this meant I could shave 30 minutes off my time charging, by doing so during my slumber.  Only downside was a minimal fee, which wasn’t the case the 2nd night as you’ll see shortly (free Tesla destination charging!)

When I awoke the next morning it was 40° F in Macon, and my car was ready to go.  Being able to skip the local supercharger helped get me right on the road, and off to my first stop 89 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia.  Much to my dismay the outside temps had dropped to 38° F and it was raining.  My car had netted just 454 wh/mi, the worst I would see for the entire trip.

 

At the behest of my wife (wink wink), I stopped at the nearby IKEA after leaving the supercharger station.  There I acquired two items that were oddly not in stock at any of the stores in our region.  As well as some chocolate and Swedish fish, naturally.  It was an unexpected surprise to find public Blink Network chargers at IKEA, so I topped off while I shopped.  These were not free, but I spent less than $2 during my time there and the added juice was appreciated.

Odd location for this Supercharger: inside the parking lot of the Chattanooga Airport. But hey, I'll take it!

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Chattanooga, Tennessee brought me into another state of the union, and another 110 miles closer to home.  It was now 46° F as temps for the day began to rise.  The Tesla rewarded me with 399 wh/mi — though I would see even better on the next leg.

I was underwhelmed with the location of this supercharger station.  It was in the parking lot of the Chattanooga Airport, which was convenient for using a restroom, but not so much for food or shopping.  Researching this ahead of time, I stopped and got food before I charged, and ate in my car while juicing up.   Like most of the other supercharger visits, there was only ever one or two other cars charging at the same time as me; in some cases, I was the only car charging.

During the course of my trip I ended up broadcasting three (3) Facebook Live videos.  Above is the first of the series.  I’m including it here for your enjoyment– it was for the benefit of my friends, most of whom are obviously NOT Tesla owners.  This blog post is equally meant to be informative.  I’ve set all three videos to Public, so anyone should be able to see them.

 

Continuing north along I-75 brought me to Knoxville, Tennessee.  Many of my friends were seeing my Instgram/Facebook photos and asking questions, so I decided to post the first of my 3 videos, as shown above.  This area was a nice big shopping district, with a Starbucks in close proximity to the charger.

It was a mild day, 49° F — and the efficiency was 383 wh/mi — the best of the day.

Having picked up a DJI OSMO Mobile camera gimbal, my next video put that to the test.  This was a bit less informative clip, though the “local fella” was mildly entertaining if nothing else! Watch above.

Regretfully, as I arrived in London, Kentucky, I was so excited to do the video above, that I completely forgot to record the temperature or my efficiency.  And by the time I was done messing around, and getting a Red Bull from the nearby gas station, it was time to get back on the road.  The “local” guy was still hanging around the nearby trash dumpster when I left, so I handed him my pocket change and went on my way.

My final supercharger visit for day #2 was in Lexington, Kentucky.  Had I charged longer at the prior stop I could have skipped Lexington, but I opted to break the trip up this way since I was ready for dinner at this time.   My dashboard showed 51° F and 399 wh/mi for this 70-mile leg.

Before I had a chance to wander off to eat, a family stopped by to ask me questions about the Tesla.  It was funny that the kids knew more than the parents, and were exponentially more excited, too.  Granted the adults were interest and curious, but it were the kids who know about the Falcon Doors.  It was warming to see the positivity by these folks, and I enjoyed taking a few moments to share my thoughts about the brand.

My final Facebook Live video was intended to educate my curious friends about Tesla’s increasingly popular Destination Charging network.  When I arrived at the hotel none of the chargers were powered on, but the staff was kind enough to rectify that situation for me swiftly.  However, it was worth noting that I think they only partially turned them on.  Most importantly, the unit I was near was on and provided me the free overnight electrons that I was needing.

I did not manage to take a photo at the hotel, but this final stage for the day was 86 miles into Newport, Kentucky — just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio.  I had churned out a rather paltry 426 wh/mi for this step.  Had I been driving with a co-pilot, I might have tried to make it all the way to Cleveland.  But instead opted to spend a night, and see some clients in the area the next morning (Monday).

When I awoke the next morning it was only 30° F — so below freezing.  I had kept tabs on the tire pressures up until this point and they had always been at the suggested 42 PSI when cold, or higher when driving as they were warmer.  They were still within an acceptable window, at 39 PSI all around, but knowing the temps this final day would remain chilly, I boosted them all up to around 43 PSI cold.  This extra pound would also allow for the 20-degree temps I’d see in the coming cold weeks back home.

After spending the morning visiting clients, I made my way to my first of two superchargers that would get me home.  One of my favorite chargers in Ohio, the Grove City location is nearest to City Barbecue- a great place to eat!  As I arrived so did another identical color Model X, with temp tags on it.

Total driving since leaving my hotel, including my customer visits, was 131 miles.  It was now considerably warmer, 50° F to be exact, and the car showed 381 wh/mi which was great, but not my best which was still yet to come.

Last stop on my 1,200 mile journey home (Florida to Ohio). Full blog post recap in a few days. arijaycomet.com

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Tesla’s system for getting you to your destination is called Trip Planner.  It does a decent job connecting the dots between superchargers, but sometimes it does some silly stuff.  For this final leg it wanted me to charge a full hour at Grove City, and skip the fairly new charger located in Mt. Gilead, Ohio pictured above.  However, after only 30 minutes charging at Grove City I left, and continued to Mt. Gilead.

By doing this I actually saved myself 15 minutes, because I only had to charge for 15 minutes there, instead of the 30 minutes left at the prior charger.  This is because as you near a more complete/full charge, the speed diminishes.  Hence I was surprised the car didn’t account for this automatically, though I suspect the Model X was simply trying to minimize my total number of stops.

It had warmed up to around 52° F and I had managed around 405 wh/mi for this step.  This portion was an estimate because I forgot to record mileage and actual efficiency, so as I realized this just as I left, I took down the temps and did my best to remember what I had seen on screen. Oops!

My final leg was 105 miles, arriving home to a surprisingly toasty 53° F — unseasonably warm for Cleveland in February.  It was also my best leg, efficiency wise, with a nice and low 368 wh/mi.  For those who are just now realizing it– lower numbers are better — the less watt hours (energy) you use per mile of travel, the better.

Closing Remarks

Having only previously test driven a Model X it was a different experience altogether to spend just under 48-hours total going a distance over 1,200 miles.  It is essentially just a bigger version of the Model S that I’ve owned for the last 7 months, with the same core features.  Still the dynamics of the size don’t go unnoticed.  And most interestingly, I had seen around 295 wh/mi in my Model S over those months, so the lower real world range of the SUV is something I’ll have to adjust to now.

Thanks to autopilot, not once did I feel fatigue even during the 12-hour Sunday portion.  It also helps that every 90 minutes (approximately) I was getting out of the vehicle, giving me a chance to stretch my legs, use a restroom, grab a refreshment, or whatever I needed to do.  And the multi-pattern seats were extremely comfortable.

Overall my initial thoughts on the Model X were that is is nearly the perfect vehicle.  I’d have opted for a 6-seater if I could have found one that met my criteria, though I suspect that extra seat will be useful at times.  Or make it so the middle row middle seat could fold in half when not in use.  I’d like to see lighter wheels for better efficiencies.  Frankly I’d prefer a wagon over an SUV.  There are a few other niggles about the car, but really, it is amazing.  Oh and given the option, I’d get a 100D for the added power/distance to skip some of the chargers, but that doesn’t quite fit my budget right now.

In the coming months you can expect more articles, product reviews, and videos.  There are plenty of folks blogging about Tesla, so please shout out below if you want to see anything specific.  My goal is to help bring more awareness of the brand and the vehicle feature to my friends, family, and readers. Thanks for reading!

 

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Ari Jay Comet

Sharing my life experiences. Interacting with technology. Digital self-expression. Binary is black, white, and many shades of grey.

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