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Electric cars go cross-country

Santiago Miret, Ph.D. student, materials science & engineering | February 7, 2014

A common anxiety among potential electric vehicle (EV) drivers is being stranded in the middle of the road with an empty battery and no possibility of recharging. Similarly, another concern is that electric cars do not have enough range to sustain longer road trips.

Tesla Motors’ Model S, which has an EPA certified range of about 265 miles, would have to be charged at least once to make a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a distance of about 380 miles. The range and charging procedures of EVs can make a road trip significantly more unpleasant than a road trip with a gasoline powered car, which has an established refueling infrastructure.

As a result, many established car manufacturers have released hybrid cars, such as the Chevy Volt or the Ford Fusion, which have both a battery and a gasoline-powered engine. Recent EV sales data indicate increasing sales of both models, with pure EV sales increasing 19% from January 2013 to January 2014, and hybrid EVs sales increasing 25%. The current bestseller of EV models is the Nissan Leaf, which sold 1,252 units last January. A breakdown of EV sales by CleanTechnica can be found here.

Realizing that range anxiety is a significant concern among consumers, Tesla Motors decided to build a network of charging stations across the United States. Moreover, Tesla created a Supercharger network comprised of stations in which drivers can recharge a battery faster than regular charging stations.

Tesla claims that the Superchargers can refill a battery in about 20 minutes, yet testers have recorded varying charge times when testing different stations. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced last week that the company’s Supercharger network is about 80% complete and the company promises that the network will serve about 98% of the U.S. population by next year. The current Supercharger network covered enough ground for Tesla to attempt a record-breaking coast-to-coast road trip with its Model S.

map of U.S. supercharger nettwork

Tesla’s supercharger network (Source: Slashgear)

The rally started last Saturday from Los Angeles and ended later in New York City 3,464.5 miles and 76.5 hours later. The entire trip cost 1,197.8 kWh of energy. The Model S had to traverse various adverse driving conditions during its cross-country trip, including blizzards, sand storms, rain and freezing temperatures. The rally attempted to break a Guinness World Record for cross-country energy efficiency, which still has to be verified.

Tesla team in NYC

Tesla team at the New York City finish line (Source: Tesla Blog)

Tesla’s recent rally drew public attention to the fact that EVs have the ability to last through cross-country road trips, but this was not the first successful trip across the United States with an EV. About a week before the Tesla rally, John and Jill Glenney, a father-daughter duo, traversed the continental U.S. in their Model S in the opposite direction. Their trip took about 5 days; the duo started in New York on Jan. 20 and finished in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, fueling the Model S at 28 Supercharger stations along the way.

Even though both cross-country trips still have to reviewed to be included in the<em> Guinness Book of World Records</em>, I personally will have a Guinness in their honor.

Cross-posted from BERC Blog, published online by the Berkeley Energy & Resources Exchange, a network of UC Berkeley scholars and industry professionals.

Comments to “Electric cars go cross-country

  1. As an EV driver, I found the article interesting and encouraging.

    I have taken several trips from the Bay Area to Los Angeles area. And the travel time was only a bit longer. I saved gas and emissions along the way. (To Jim’s point, remarkably, the car did not catch fire nor did the garage where I charged burn down. To date, the only people I am aware of that have been injured is a bicyclist who was sadly killed when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. I encourage him to get his facts straighter.)

    I look forward to the point when I have an opportunity to take a trip farther still. Tesla has shown that EVs are here to stay. EVs have even more traction around the world. I also find it remarkable that other car companies are NOW taking EVs more seriously and making longer range emission free vehicles. Good for us all.

  2. We love our Tesla. We got the 85 kW battery and use our technology (apps on phone and supercharger map in car) to allay any possible range anxiety, and to plan trips.

    We took several road trips to SoCal over the summer as they opened the supercharger network on highways 5 and 101. We had a blast. Yes we stopped to charge, but we stop for restroom and food breaks anyways. We just had our 1-year check-up, all systems are go, Tesla service is great. There are constant updates and upgrades. We get thumbs up and high fives and even little kids waving excitedly everywhere we go.

    As to electrical connection concerns and fire hazard concerns, we have none as we had a professional licensed electrician do ours at home. I can only think the haters out there disparaging Tesla without any true specific facts, examples, or statistics of any sort, must be working for the ICE (internal combustion engine) industry.

    I’m proud to be green and have this gorgeous, powerful car. (I’m also proud to be a Cal grad!)

  3. I wish I could rely on a pure electric vehicle. I am the owner and the traveling salesman for Superior Magnetics web. The best I have been able to do is to drive a Prius. I often drive 800 miles in a day with a deadline for an arrival time.

  4. They should be spending their money and effort fixing Tesla’s unsafe designs, instead of conducting publicity stunts.

    The Tesla model S. still has defects that make it a fire hazard. Tesla charger connections are still overheating, melting and burning.

    On January 9, 2014 Elon Musk said that replacement adapters that are part of the recall would be mailed out within two weeks. A month later, Tesla customers have still not received the replacement adapters that are part of the Tesla model S. recall.

    Several people have been injured by faulty Tesla charge connectors. Tesla is big on making promises and hype, but short on delivery. Tesla needs to start making safety a top priority. Tesla needs to stop playing blame games and games with semantics. Tesla needs to stop lying. Tesla needs to be proactive instead of reactive.

    Tesla is being a follower of technology, rather than a leader. Tesla is a greedy corporation that has a disregard for safety. The Tesla model S. is an E-Pinto.

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