Over the past two decades more than 65 vehicles have graced my ownership, most procured within a few hundred miles of my home. But once in a while a car comes along that requires a multi-day road trip to get it home. In this blog post I’ll cover my most recent purchase, a 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport, sourced out of Palm Beach, Florida. Enjoy following along as I recount the three days of driving, charging, and hi-jinx that ensued!
Avid blog readers may recall last year’s trip (car purchase) that involved Tampa, Florida, which I chronicled HERE. Thanks to Tesla’s amazing Supercharger network, that Model X SUV only had to stop once every few hours, and for only roughly thirty minutes at a time. And with AutoPilot features, the drive was a cake walk, and one that I performed solo over roughly two days. But this Roadster trip was far different, with the only similarities perhaps being the manufacturer of the vehicle.
For those unfamiliar, the Tesla Roadster was built from 2008 through 2011 when Tesla as a brand was still trying to figure out their roadmap towards the future. You can learn more about the specs and history of the Roadster on the Wikipedia page HERE. This particular car is #613 out of around 1,400 total that would be released into the USA, and out of 2,450 total cars sold worldwide. At my time of my procurement the odometer was just under 4,400 total miles, which for an 8-year-old car is extremely low although not uncommon for exotic and collector cars with a single owner like this one.
What made this car extremely appealing to me is the fact it carries the upgraded 80 kWh battery pack. This upgrade was released for the Roadster postmortem, which is to say it was announced in 2015 and started shipping in 2016, five years after the last Roadster was produced. Bumping up the battery from 53 kWh to a stout 80 kWh allows for the car to travel over 330 miles in ideal conditions on a single charge, making the car on-par with the new Model 3 sedan as far as total range capabilities. Crazy to think this car has 5 kWh more battery capacity than my wife’s 2017 Tesla Model S, and 20% more range! (With a light foot in the right conditions, people have gone 400+ miles on a single charge!)
Ultimately then it was the combination of price, features, and condition that drove me to acquire this piece of automotive history. Roadster #613 here is configured as a Sport model, which allows it to rocket from zero to 60 MPH in a scant 3.7 seconds. It is finished in a gorgeous coat of Radiant Red paint, and has virtually every carbon fiber option available, including the bare hard top roof. When it came to bang for the buck, there wasn’t another Roadster around that compared. For years I have wanted a Tesla Roadster, and finally I found the right one!
After deciding to pull the trigger I gave the seller a deposit and started to work on how I was going to get the car home. Had it not been for my friends Darren and Eric I would have just spent the big bucks and had it shipped to Ohio. But with their support (and crazy influence), we devised a plan to drive the car all the way home!
Admittedly the entirety of the plan was created by Darren, a friend and Tesla Model S owner from Pittsburgh. It was only after he compiled the trip into a spreadsheet that I was able to tweak the last 1% of details as needed. Without his efforts we never could have made the trip. And about those efforts….
Darren spent countless hours researching both the “ideal route” that one might take in a petrol based car, and cross referenced it against the “necessary route” that we’d have to take in order to find charging stations in our electric car. Furthermore, his research included a deep dive into the charging options at each stop, to ensure we would not attempt to use a charger that PlugShare users had perhaps reported as being inoperable. This also meant comparisons at each major interval, in efforts to find the maximum kW charge rate (in most cases, the charger with the highest amperage). This helped get us back on the road as swiftly as possible with the lowest stop-over duration (time).
Note that unlike the Tesla Model X trip that preceded it, this journey didn’t have the ease of just plugging in a final destination into some sort of fancy 17″ touch screen and letting Tesla’s navigation do the hard work for us. Instead, because this car only supports Level 2 (L2) charging maximum (240 volts nominal), we had to do our homework to streamline our trip. Thanks, Darren!
In total our trip itinerary began with 20 planned charging stops over the course of over 1,200 miles. Our agenda indicated that we would be driving for 24 hours, yet charging for 41 hours, giving us a grand total trip time of 65 hours duration (estimated). In the end we actually managed to beat that time by a few hours!
Our journey to Florida began with an evening flight. My co-driver and EV fanatic friend Eric joined me as we departed from CLE/Cleveland airport, flew via BWI/Baltimore, finally landing in PBI/Palm Beach, Florida. We landed sometime after 11:15 PM EST, and grabbed a shuttle to our hotel a few miles away. That night our conversation was filled with anticipation and excitement for the road ahead, as we crashed around midnight.
After a brief breakfast at the hotel, the seller (owner) of the Tesla Roadster picked us up from our hotel around 8:00 AM and took us 20 minutes down the road to his home. We spent a few hours thoroughly inspecting the car, performing a brief test drive, and completed the necessary paperwork to transfer ownership and making final payment. By 10:30 AM the car was officially mine as we pulled out of his driveway, beginning what would be three days of crazy fun!
Our first leg was a short skip-and-jump up to Vero Beach, where Eric’s family member would meet us for a quick lunch. Being only 70 miles it also gave us a good benchmark to test the range, having left with 330 ideal miles of range. We arrived with 240 miles remaining, which told us we used 125% of the actual miles. This ratio would continue for the rest of the trip, as we tended to go 65-70 MPH on the expressway (typically at the posted limit, though at times a few MPH below for sake of efficiencies). Our trip guru, Darren, had anticipated this 125% number– precisely so– making out spreadsheet more accurate than we could have ever hoped for as the trip pushed forward.
With the confidence we now had, and 271 ideal miles on the readout when we departed Vero, we made our first “skip” of the planned stops, jumping over Melbourne, Florida and going straight to Augustine, Florida. Here we charged the car at a hotel that was ~168 miles away from our prior stop. This would actually end up being the longest leg we would complete in all three days of travel, thanks to the lack of elevation change. Where we had stopped in Vero for 1hr 20min, the stop in Augustine would be for 2 hours to recoup energy. Thankfully there was a Dunkin’ Donuts walking distance away that offered us refreshments and free WiFi.
Sidebar: Tesla’s Roadster uses a proprietary connector, and this car came with both the 120-volt and 240-volt cables. The former uses a standard outlet you’d find in your home, but charges at a max 15-amp rate. The latter requires an outlet similar to what you may find behind your electric dryer, but not often found in the wild. Instead of using either of those cables, we did most of our charging using Henry Sharp’s CAN SR (LINK), giving us access to Tesla’s Destination Charging network. Though in a few instances we used the CAN JR, for those few cases where we needed an SAE J1772 hookup.
Heading out of Augustine was Eric’s first time behind the wheel (he may have giggled like a school girl as he juiced the accelerator North on Route 1). At this point we skipped over yet another planned stop in Jacksonville, instead making it all the way up to Yulee, Florida, just shy of 60 miles away. As this stop was near two hotels but not much else we stayed merely 30 minutes to top off the charge and get onto the next charging stop, which was just shy of 50 miles away in Brunswick, Georgia. Finally, we had officially gotten out of Florida!
Arriving in Brunswick we were greeted by a Tesla Destination Charger at Cheddar’s restaurant, allowing us some climate controlled relaxation as we enjoyed dinner and a much-needed 2.5 hour break. By this point in our day we had now consumed just over 100 kW of energy, covered 340 total miles, and averaged an impressive 294 Wh/mile!
Our final leg for day #1 was just shy of 60-miles north of Brunswick, located just outside of Savannah, Georgia. Here would be our first J1772 (non-Tesla) charging stop, located after-hours at the local Harley Davidson dealership. Our charge rate here was slower, only 32-amps which was about half the rate we had been seeing at Tesla’s HPWC (High Powered Wall Connector) stations of 70-amps max. But we didn’t mind, as this gave us a chance to crash for a few hours at the hotel next door, and start off the second day refreshed for more driving.
On Sunday morning we arrived back at the car with the good fortune to see it had charged successfully, reaching around 82% SOC (state-of-charge), and showing 272 ideal miles of range. This was great, as it meant we could skip the first stop on our planned list for Sunday, jumping all the way ahead to Augusta, Georgia. Regretfully the restaurant located in the plaza where we charged in Augusta was closed on Sundays, forcing us to walk over a mile in the oppressive 90-F heat to an open business. Here we once again found a Dunkin’ Donuts, but also an adjacent Zaxby’s, the latter which would be our lunch stop for the day.
Because we had traveled ~130 miles to get here we needed at least 2-2.5 hours to recoup the energy used (35 kW). However, we stuck around longer to avoid the heat, but also to give Darren a chance to catch up. He had been on a trip to Texas, and was currently making his way home (to Pittsburgh) in his red Tesla Model S. By waiting at this stop around 3 hours gave him a chance to catch up, and upon his arrival meant we were now armed with a second car. This allowed us to rotate driving responsibilities, such that someone was always able to relax a bit for the rest of our journey home. As we pulled out of Augusta, Darren was awarded with his first chance to drive the Roadster, and I got a chance to relax in the Model S with Elon as my co-pilot (AutoPilot!).
As we headed towards Charlotte, North Carolina, we stopped briefly at a supercharger to plug-in the Model S sedan, and rotate drivers. This put me back in the Roadster, and then gave Eric a chance to learn by Darren’s hand more about the Model S and AutoPilot. Some 165 miles later we landed in Charlotte, NC with the roadster showing merely 85 miles of range remaining. Right around 5:30 PM EST we saw a warning on the dash indicating that charging power was going to be reduced, due to the extremely high temps. Although we saw a brief moment at 70-amps, the car quickly dropped to ~40-amps for much of the time spent. We figured it was as good a time as any to let the car cool down, as well as ourselves, so we grabbed dinner and relaxed. This stop ended up having to be 3.5 hours (more than anticipated) because of the slower charge rate. Finally, at around 9:00 PM EST, it was time to leave Charlotte, NC and press on!
Just an hour up the road was our next stop, in Mooresville, North Carolina, at a Holiday Inn Express. Yet another Tesla Destination Charger, we were surprised it was not blocked (“ICE’d over”) as the spots were prime, near the hotel entrance. At this juncture we realized that if we drove through the night we would pass some prime driving roads during darkness, and we determined we did NOT want that to happen. A quick shuffle of the planned stops using my Apple iPad, and we had a new agenda!
At midnight we left Mooresville, and headed to Elkin, North Carolina. We had called ahead and confirmed that this Fairfield Inn had four brand new charging stations, but nobody on PlugShare had taken photos or provided data– so we were flying blind! Upon our arrival at 1:00 AM Sunday night (Monday morning) we were greeted by swarms of (harmless) bugs annoying us as we tried to figure out the charging situation. As it turned out the EVSE on-site was ChargePoint, but wasn’t yet showing up on their app. Worse yet, the WiFi was down, and one of the two terminals wasn’t even finished being setup. Luckily I had the wherewithal to try my phone’s NFC/app and it let us in, allowing both the Roadster and Model S to charge overnight using J1772 adapters in both instances. By 2am we were in the hotel room, fast asleep, preparing for our final day of travel.
This final day of travel is truly what made the trip worthy of our time: twisty roads and camaraderie! Around 8:00 AM we pulled out of Elkin, NC and made our way towards Fancy Gap. Because of the full 100% SOC we were able to skip the KOA camp ground stop we had planned, and instead bypassed it for more enjoyable roads, vistas, and a few photos too (see below). This included Blue Ridge Parkway, amongst some other random side roads that Darren was able to source for us. I was up first, and had a blast apexing corners as can be seen from Darren’s dash cam photo snaps in the below gallery.
Our day consisted of various side-roads, swapping drivers, and endless smiles. We made a stop over in Bluefield, West Virginia, having still averaged 283 Wh/mi over the 100 miles that got us there. In Bluefield we were lucky enough to encounter a very nice owner at the Bluefield Inn, a Tesla destination charger. Although we were not patronizing her establishment, she still gave us the go-ahead to charge, and even offered us some extra pizza she had (we declined). Instead we headed into town and found a very nice little diner that provided us delicious food and quality WiFi access. After a splendid meal in town we snaked our way through the mountains of WV, stopping briefly in Mount Hope, West Virginia for the Model S to supercharge. We had lucked into clear skies, amazing country roads, and memories we won’t soon forget!
As we creeped closer and closer to Ohio (home!), it was time for dinner and some more charging. We pulled into the Hampton Inn located in Mineral Wells, West Virginia with another “first” for us– the car had reached 0 miles of rated range, and less than 29 miles of ideal range. Essentially the car thought it was due time to charge, and we couldn’t have agreed more!
Thanks to our fun spirited driving, even though we had managed to stay below 300 Wh/mi we still had used almost all of our charge, so after 4.5 hours of driving, we needed another 3.5 hours of charging. We had dinner at the nearby Cracker Barrel over conversation about the scenic drive and engaging roads that had filled our day. With full bellies (and some 5-hour energy drinks consumed), it was time to begin the final leg home.
Our last stop with Darren in tow was in Cambridge, Ohio. The Tesla Model S needed the nearby supercharger, so that he could make it northeast to Pittsburgh. And we used this stop to top-off our charge at the nearby Dunning Motors car dealership. By 11:00 PM we had said our goodbyes, and split apart back to single car convoys. We were in our home state, and the last 2 legs of our trip!
Had we charged longer in Mineral Wells we could have skipped our final stop, but alas we had not. So our final charging visit was at the Cambria Suites in Uniontown, Ohio. We spent an hour enjoying the cooler Ohio evening temps, anxious to get home to our own beds. By 1:30 AM I had dropped Eric at his home, and by 2:00 PM I was at my own. Finally, home!
IN THE END
By the numbers, the trip was a GREAT success! We ended up driving for 21.5 total hours, shy of the 24.0 hours expected. We had charged for 42 hours total (though that is rounding up to include the arrival/departure times slightly). After 63.5 hours we arrived home, a full 1.5 hours earlier than planned. And that included a LOT of side roads and “off the plan” driving in West Virginia, much to our amazement!
Total energy used was around 355 kWh with an average value of 266 Wh/mi (mean). We had put over 1,200 miles on the car — adding 28% more mileage than it started with! And we didn’t end up with a single inoperable charging station, nor any required reroutes because of charging issues. As a matter of fact, the #1 concern I had going into the trip was going to be charging difficulties, and thankfully, we had none!
Driving the Tesla Roadster is much different from the Model S/X/3 cars on the road today. First and foremost, this is a Lotus chassis that was tinkered with by some engineers. So what it lacks in features like power steering, or even a tilt steering column, it makes up for in amazing handling and charisma. We didn’t find the car uncomfortable, but it certainly wasn’t designed for road trips. Still we made the best of the big battery pack and Tesla’s destination chargers to provide what we felt was a reasonable 2:1 ratio of charging to driving. Certainly this sort of trip isn’t for everyone, but we’re glad to prove it could be done, and could be fun!
That said, the car did have a hiccup or two along the way (albeit small). Typical Roadster issues like the 12-volt battery, the aforementioned hot temp charging step-down, and other little niggles kept us aware of the fact this is a one-off hand-crafted car. But we didn’t end up stranded anywhere, and we certainly pushed the car to the limits of what it was expected to do as far as heat, travel duration, and so forth. It isn’t efficient to charge a hot battery right after driving 3 hours, but we did it– and it complied.
There is SO MUCH MORE I could say about this car, and how it drives– but I wanted to make this particular blog post more laser focused on the trip. What details did I leave out? What more do you want to know about our journey? Sound off below and I’ll do my best to reply! Thanks for reading.
PS: After releasing this blog post, my co-pilot reminded me of some great parts of the adventure I inadvertently left out. Here is one of the best, in Eric’s own words:
Two miles from my house, there’s a fully automatic unmanned laser wash. We were passing right by as I was driving to drop myself off. At almost 2AM. Ari says, lets stop in for a wash, the car has 1200 miles of road grime, a good time to clean off the big stuff. Ari has to jump out of the car, and walk up to the selection screen, because it is literally a foot or two ABOVE the roofline of the Roadster. He selects the wash, hops back into the car, and we enter the wash bay. The robotic arm proceeds to rotate around the car, depositing the multicolored soap, it all looked so neat. THEN the water Rinse stage started. At this point I noticed a small drip on the leftside window, near the front seal, then it began dripping more, and more, I quickly reached for the empty water bottle to catch it, but then another leak sprung, closer to the windshield, and then a few more over on Ari’s side. He grabbed his bottle, and we feverishly tried to catch them all, laughing the whole time. we exited the wash at the end and Ari jumped out to the trunk to get the cloth that Mr. Pew had luckily given us in Florida to dry off the dampened interior. All in all, funny, but a lesson learned. The Roadster is NOT built on the same Lotus platform that James Bond used in “The Spy Who Loved Me”.