The Tesla Chronicles – 2. Charging

I’ll admit it. I was reluctant to buy a Tesla because I was worried about running out of “juice”. What if I was on a long trip and I couldn’t find a charging station? Gas stations are everywhere, but what about charging stations? Fortunately, my friend Laura showed me that my fears were baseless.

Sitting together in her Tesla S, she asked me to specify a destination, typed it into the “Navigate” box, and voila! The car mapped the route (in my example here, we are going from Central Jersey to Columbus, Ohio), showing recommended charging stops, estimated arrival times, and length of time it would take to charge to the recommended level. (Never charge to 100%, but we’ll get into that later). If you click on one of the route’s pins, up will pop information about that particular supercharger–how many stalls and which amenities are available.

The car’s Navigation system usually recommends Tesla Superchargers along the route, and so far, I have been unable to find a destination for which there are not sufficient Superchargers, but who knows? Maybe it is possible. And what if you want to plan out a long trip, but don’t want to do it while sitting in your car? Fear not, there are options.

Like the Tesla Navigation app in your car, the top three apps map out your route, providing recommended stops for charging, with information about the amenities offered per stop.

If you prefer using your computer rather than your phone, here ya go:

https://www.plugshare.com/trip-planner.html

https://chargehub.com/en/chargehub-guides.html

https://abetterrouteplanner.com

There are more–but these 6 apps should get you started and keep you busy for quite a while.
The bottom three icons are for different charging networks. Evgo and Chargepoint charging stations are open to everyone. You just need the correct connector. For the Supercharger network you need the correct car. If it isn’t a Teslas, you’re out of luck.

The last time I visited my family in Massachusetts, I only knew about the EVgo network, so I was pleased to see that there were 2 EvGo chargers closer than the nearest Tesla Supercharger. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Lesson #1: make sure you have a compatible adaptor. Doesn’t sound difficult, does it?
But wait: the options are CHAdeMO, CCS, J1772 and NEMA. Although your Tesla comes with this neat bag stashed in the trunk, it only contains the J1772 and NEMA adaptors. Guess what the EvGo network uses? If you chose “none of the above”, you’d be right.

The J1772 adaptor is on the right. On the left, you see what awaited me at the EvGo station. Sadly, it was impossible to “mate” these two, although, believe me, I tried.

Subsequently, I learned that the gadget on the left is know as a CCS connector, which unfortunately, isn’t available for Teslas yet. A bit of a bummer, given that CCS is becoming the USA standard. Tesla DOES offer an adaptor for use with CHAdeMO connectors, but it is bulky and costs $450. Because CHAdeMo is not the standard of the future, I’m hard pressed to plunk down that kind of money, especially since enough Superchargers are available, although sometimes I have to drive 5 or 10 minutes out of my way. On the bright side, Superchargers are located near food, bathrooms, shopping, wifi, AND the other Tesla owners I’ve met while charging are all so friendly and helpful.

Lesson #2: Research the different charging networks. After I discovered PlugShare and ChargePoint, I learned that there were several OTHER charging stations nearby that offered FREE level 1 charging, compatible with the J1772 adaptor.

Lesson #3: Learn about the different charging levels. Level 1 is the power you get when you plug into a standard home outlet, using a NEMA adaptor. This gives you a charge of 110 volts, which gets you about 8 to 15 miles worth of charge per hour.
Level 2 is 240 volts, which gets you approximately 124 miles in about 5 hours. The only way to charge faster is with DC, and that is what the superchargers use. (You need the CCS or CHAdeMO adaptor to access a non-Tesla DC supercharger).

I learned from my electrical engineer son that 240 volts is the maximum you can get for home charging, and let me tell you, it takes a WHOLE lot longer to charge at home than it does with supercharging, but who cares? At home, you can charge while you’re sleeping. At least that’s what I normally do.

I know you probably have heard more about charging than you want or need, but one last thing: Your Tesla will go from 20% to 50% a whole lot faster than from 50% to 80%. Keep that in mind if you are using a network where you pay by the MINUTE, not by the kWh or mile (that’s how EvGo does it).

Here’s a visual example. I decided to start 2021 with the battery fully charged. The computer estimated it would take six hours and thirty minutes to go from 29% to 100%. When I checked the progress on my iPhone this is what I discovered.

After four and a half hours, the battery was at 98%, and it was estimated it would take almost another hour for the last 2%. That explains why the Tesla trip planner suggests that you run the battery to low levels before stopping to charge, and it never recommends that you charge to the maximum. I found that puzzling, until my son explained that it was like Lucy and Ethyl at the chocolate factory. Initially they could stuff a lot of chocolates into their mouths, but as their mouths got full, the “stuffing” got slower. Or if you prefer, think about filling a container with water and how you slow down as the container gets full.
You’ll see the trip planner shown at the top of this post has you run your battery WAY down before charging, plus it doesn’t have you charge too much, so you minimize your time at charging stations. Of course, when I go on long distance drives, I look forward to bathroom, food and stretching breaks, so I sometimes stay longer than suggested at the charging stops–but that’s just a personal preference.

As you’ve probably guessed from this post, I am NOT technically oriented. If you are, and would like more in-depth discussions, check out the Tesla Motors Club (https://teslamotorsclub.com) forums.

I hope this information is helpful. Any tips anyone wants to share would be most welcome. Let’s all learn together!

My Tesla’s First Long Distance Road Trip

I had no idea when I picked up my “long distance” Tesla Model 3, on March 6, 2020, that it would be 5 months before I found out how far I could drive without stopping to recharge. In the 22 weeks that I have owned my hot wheels, I’ve driven less than 1,500 miles, which averages out to less than 10 miles a day. Our longest excursion, so far, has been our drive to the Delaware River, which is about 70 miles round trip.  Yes, I lead an exciting life.  

But all that is about to change. Shortly, my Tesla and I will be embarking on our very first long distance drive. Let me stop you before you conjure up a coast to coast road trip. In the age of covid, I define long distance as any drive that requires recharging somewhere other than our garage. My first trip will be to visit family in Massachusetts. That was the main reason for purchasing the long distance Tesla– my frequent family visits.  

Foolishly, I thought a range of 322 miles meant that I could drive the 260 mile trip on one charge.  Nope, the 322 miles is the EPA estimate, and like all the EPA estimates you see stuck on new car windows, it doesn’t consider speed, hills, weather, use of air conditioning, etc.  Knowing my  tendency to press the pedal to the metal, even starting fully charged,  I would expect a 260 mile trip to require a stop.  

First let me confess that prior to purchase, I was very concerned about the availability of charging stations. That fear was put to rest when my friend Laura gave me a tutorial from the front seat of her Tesla Model S.  She showed me that all you need to do is type in your destination on your display, and the computer not only maps out the route, but it also tells you where to stop to recharge, how LONG you will need to stop at the station, and how much of a charge will remain once you reach your destination. You want to see what the display looks like?  Check out the header photo of this post, which maps a route from home to the Fairhaven Library, assuming a starting charge of 80%. (WordPress just “improved” its software, so in the off chance that you can’t see the heading, here it is again.)

As of March, 2020, Tesla had 25,000 charging stations in the USA. Only Tesla owners are able to use these stations, which generally are located along major highways, and in places where you would want to stop, with bathrooms, food and/or shopping. But Tesla owners are not restricted to just these superchargers. The Tesla comes equipped with an adapter ( CHAdeMO –no I have NO idea what that means — just think of it as a piece of equipment named Chad) which allows you to connect at OTHER public charging stations that use”Chad” for hooking up.

Because there are a couple of EvGo stations  that are located more conveniently than the Tesla Supercharger, in the area I’ll be visiting, I signed up for an EvGo account. I found the EvGo website VERY user friendly and informative, especially for a non-engineer like me.   After reading its tutorial, I finally understood the three different levels of charging–which was formerly a mystery to me. 

EvGo offers two plans: a monthly membership, or a pay as you go option. You also can choose between “super fast” or  “faster than plugging into a standard wall outlet” chargers.  Obviously, the faster one is more expensive.  These numbers are approximate, calculated from the estimates on the EvGo page: $.30 per minute or $18 per hour for 180 miles of charge ($.10 per mile) versus $1.50 per hour for 20 miles of charge (or $.075 per mile).  Because no one in my family has a charging station (or a garage), I expect to be using that EvGo charging station at least once while in Massachusetts and will describe the experience in my usual painstaking detail.    

Back to my obsessive compulsiveness.  As my friends and family know, I am a planner, at least when it comes to travel.  Although I can do many things from my phone’s Tesla App, it doesn’t allow me to do any navigation or trip planning.  That can only be done from the car’s display. Maybe some people enjoy sitting in a parked car, but I don’t happen to be one of them.  Fortunately, the Tesla Motors Club website has very helpful and friendly posters who directed me to A Better Route Planner (which can be downloaded to your phone from the app store, or even viewed on your desktop.) Let me tell you, it’s much more fun planning imaginary trips from the comfort of your couch than from the front seat of your car!  At least it is to me. 

The information on ABRP (A Better Route Planner)is much the same as what you get from the Tesla Display, except that it also includes public charging stations, and provides estimates of cost and length of time for charging.  You start by inputting the your destination, % of charge (called “SOC” or state of charge), and the application does the rest.  Here’s a screen shot from my phone.  

 

You can include the desired “SOC” for  when you arrive at your destination, and can plot out your stops for your return trip, but you’ve seen enough shots of screens, haven’t you?    

For some reason that is clear to the technical members of the family, but not to me, the battery should be kept between 20% and 80% charged.  I don’t need to know why.  I went to Catholic school.  I do as I’m told.  Well, most of the time, or maybe some of the time, and this was one of those times.  Tonight, however, that sucker is getting charged all the way up to 100%, so tomorrow, I’ll be charged up and raring to go.