3 things I learned zipping across 12 states in our Tesla Model 3

We got a rear-wheel drive Tesla Model 3, with an estimated range of 267 miles, in June 2021. Last fall, we took it on its first long-haul — 10 hour round trip to Florida. It was great, so when it came time to head across the suburb with our two cats from Florida to New Hampshire over three days, we decided to give it a try. Here’s how it went!

packed in

We did this giant trip because we moved to New England. (Yeah, we know it’s cold. No, we don’t care. We love it here.) The movers took the bulk of our belongings, and pared our car’s gear down to basics. We put valuables—jewelry, important documents, a fragile Victorian skeleton watch—in our trunk and shared a large bag we put in the trunk, along with our coats, winter boots, and cat kits. Cats travel with a lot of things like babies.

Driving with two cats was initially a bit of a quandary, as the Model 3’s back seat isn’t big enough for larger animal carriers, and cats can’t sit in enclosed mini carriers for three days. So we put our cats in their beds, tied them up using retractable car seat belts that clipped into their harnesses, and hope for the best.

To our relief, our cat relocation strategy worked great. We have white seats in Form 3. Seth Weintraub, ElectricThe publisher told me when I was about to order our Model 3 that the white Tesla seats clean like magic. He knows because he has kids and a big dog and cats too. So we chose white, and he was right. Just to make sure, we put clean carpets on the seats, and they came out unharmed. We also have rubber floor mats, which came in handy when the cats needed to use the litter box (when they go, they have to go). This is what our cats look like in the back seat:

Photo: Michelle Lewis

They didn’t like being in the car, but they weren’t upset either. They slept 95% of the time, and we breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the flight for no cat disasters.

What you learned: The Tesla Model 3 is a bit cramped for a big road trip like this, but it’s possible. The seats are comfortable and easy to transport the animals. Big win. You don’t need an SUV to comfortably take that big ride on the East Coast.

Tesla trip planner

The in-car trip planner makes any road trip easy. On the first day, we mapped from Clearwater, Florida, to Smithfield, North Carolina, where we stayed overnight in a hotel. (Next to the supercharger. And Dunkin’ Donuts. Because the coffee.)

Tesla Supercharger, Springfield Mall, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, DC

On the second day, we traveled from Smithfield to Chester County, Pennsylvania, where we stayed overnight with family. The car did a great job guiding us through traffic in Washington, D.C. on a Friday afternoon. If you’ve ever driven in DC traffic, you know it’s not for the faint of heart. But all we had to do was look at our screen and listen carefully to the voice directions. We didn’t miss a single turn or exit, even in the heart of the city and heavy traffic.

On the third day, we took a slightly different approach. Tesla wanted to take us straight across Manhattan. I’ve lived in New York City for six years, and although it’s a familiar area, it was not My favorite way. So instead, we moved to Tarrytown, New York, so we bypassed Manhattan, crossed the George Washington Bridge and crossed the Bronx. It’s not fun either, but it was way better than Manhattan. So we kind of forced her to redirect us, and that was fine. Once we left Tarrytown, we reset the route planner to Hanover, New Hampshire, and it was a straightforward, uncomplicated snapshot of New England.

What you learned: Your car, for the most part, will get you from point A to B efficiently. As with the Manhattan re-routing experience, you sometimes have to steer from one station to another, rather than your final destination, to force your desired route, but it was easy.

Performance-wise, everything in the car was working fine, except for about five minutes where the screen froze and then restarted itself while driving through South Carolina in the dark. It was a little annoying, but we knew what was going on. We also knew how to manually restart the computer if necessary – press and hold the two scroll buttons on the steering wheel until it restarts – and we knew this can be done while driving.

(We didn’t use autopilot. Don’t yell at me in the comments. We’d rather drive the car ourselves. Also, we’re not fully self-driving.)

Super Shipping from Florida to New Hampshire

The overall supercharging experience is great, period. People ask if it’s annoying to have to stop anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour, and it’s not. It’s best to be able to walk, stretch, go to the bathroom, and get food and drink. Plus, shipping has never stopped us; It encouraged us to do what we had to do anyway. We never have to wait for shipping to finish.

My favorite supercharger award goes to Mount Laurel, right on the New Jersey Turnpike. It had clean bathrooms, Starbucks, a variety of dining options, was easily spotted from the road, and had plenty of coves without a wait. (In fact, we never had to wait our turn to charge the entire trip.)

The most unusual Tesla Supercharger award goes to Summerton, South Carolina. Easily spotted from the cliff, thanks to the chargers’ red glow since nightfall, they sat next to a Stuckey that looked (and smelled) like it hadn’t been updated since 1956. We sat in the car eating snacks, listening to frogs, and watching feral cats roam In the car park. It got the job done, it had a bath and drinks, but it was a bit weird.

In terms of cost, driving was free for us, because we have referral miles. Gas prices were over $3.50 a gallon, so our trip, even if we had paid the freight, would have cost less than if we were driving a gasoline car.

What you learned: Tesla Supercharging is a smooth and easy experience that doesn’t delay your road trip. We got great range overall, never got close to running out of charge, and set the speed limit at 80mph so we wouldn’t stop at the speed. (The car did feel sloppy because we got close to 80 mph about 50 times, so obviously we needed that far.)

However, there are two things I’d really like to see Tesla do, moving forward.

First, I’d like to see the Tesla Superchargers under the solar canopies. Then, you’ll know you’ve been charging with clean energy, and it’ll also be easy to spot.

Which brings me to the one thing we found annoying: the lack of signage directing Tesla drivers to Superchargers. Sure, your car directs you to Superchargers. But most of the time, we had to play Easter egg hunt, because the car doesn’t tell you that exactly their location, and finding them is not always self-evident.

If Tesla installs signage at the highway exit, then more signage with arrows directing you to the actual supercharger, it will make a big difference. They are always trapped in the back of nowhere and more than once we ended up bickering and driving in circles because we couldn’t find them. I had to do Google image searches to find out, “Oh, they’re behind Hardee’s, not the barbecue joint, like the Tesla website wrongly says.”

Tag Superchargers with big tags, Tesla, and it will boost brand and visibility, and thus confidence in a Tesla full of curiosity and range anxiety, as there are already places to charge them. The red glow helps, but if the supercharger is paired with signals, it makes a huge difference. If McDonald’s can get motorists’ attention with giant telescopic signs in the air hundreds of feet high, Tesla can install some as well.

Read more: 3 Things I Learned on a Country Road Trip in Florida in My Tesla Model 3

Photos: Michelle Lewis

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