What my Tesla model taught me this week

I went on my second road trip with Willie, a white Tesla Model Y, this week. I took a trip through Florida in December, but that trip was different. I was visiting friends who have a dryer in their garage, so I bought an adapter for my Tesla charging cable and charged it overnight in their house. This time I was going to a conference at a hotel in St. Augustine, so this was the first time I needed to rely on the Supercharger network.

Lesson One: Embassy Wings

The conference was at the Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach. Before I left, I went to her website, which said amenities include EV chargers. Wonderful! I can get there nonstop, deliver, and have a full charge in the morning. I even called the hotel to check the availability of chargers and made sure they were. So, it arrived at dusk with the battery indicator showing the 11% state of charge (SOC). The valet said he would be happy to park the car and drop it off for me.

After taking a shower, I checked my Tesla app, which said the Wylie was off but not charging. So I went down to speak to the server who apologized but said my charging cable didn’t fit in the available plug. when? Don’t electric car chargers have their own charging cables? We went to the parking lot together and lo and behold, There were no chargers for electric vehicles! Wylie backed up to a standard 110V wall socket. I don’t have an adapter for that, as I wasn’t expecting to use one. [Update: It turns out the adapter for 110V charging was in the frunk.]

Now, it’s totally dark, I’m in a strange city, and I need a supercharger. The closest one is 11 miles away near Route 95. I could have charged the tolls there on my way, and I would if I had known there were no chargers in the Embassy Suites. Now, I know this is silly, but I’ve never used a supercharger and was a little worried about it. How will it work? Will I find it difficult to start the charging process? If the location I was headed to doesn’t work, will I get enough charge to get to another supercharger?

We’ll find out soon. First, be aware, There are no electric vehicle chargers in the Embassy Suites in St. Augustine Beach! The next morning, I called the company offices and told them how upset I was about lying about the availability of electric vehicle chargers in the hotel. I have even told them that I am a senior writer for a major international publication and will tell my readers to avoid the hotels they are staying in. It’s been 5 days and I haven’t heard anything from the Embassy Suites. Apparently, they have No interest in dealing with people who drive electric cars. There, I feel better now that I’ve gotten that out of my system.

Lesson 2: Supercharging is easy

Credit: Steve Hanley for CleanTechnica. All rights reserved.

Yes, I know you all think I’m an ignorant mass, but there’s always a certain kind of fear that comes with trying something new for the first time. On the way to the Supercharger, a message popped up telling me that Wylie had started pre-configuring the battery for fast charging. sweet! I had no idea what preconditioning meant, but I was glad to know the car was keeping an eye on me.

I found the Supercharger website at Wawa, powered up my Model Y, plugged it in, and was amazed to see the touch screen instantly light up to show that charging has started. Initially, it was charged with over 200 kilowatts of power, enough to add more than 700 miles of range in an hour.

Most of you know what will happen next. As the battery charge increased, the charging rate decreased. By the time it reached 78% SOC, things had slowed down considerably considerably. Most of you know this stuff but it was new to me. Here I am writing about electric cars and seeing all the ads about how such and such a car can get to 80% in 15 minutes or less, but it never sinks until I tested it myself.

To get from 80% to 95% takes looooonnng the time. It’s faster to stop at less than 20% and charge to 80% than to stop at 40% and charge to 95%. You probably already knew it, but it was a valuable lesson for me to learn. I stopped 3 more times with a supercharger during the trip, and I can say, without hesitation or fear of inconsistency, that traveling in a Tesla is as easy as falling off a log. No need to worry and nothing to worry about.

Enter your destination and the car will know where to stop to recharge and exactly what the SOC will be when you get there. It is so strange and simple that even a great writer in a major international publication can discover it. If you want to drive an electric car but have a worry of range, relax.

Why Wawa?

Several Supercharger locations in Florida are located in Wawa stores. They are clean and well lit places with restrooms, but there is nothing inside for a person to eat. In general, anything that comes in a package these days is full of salt, fat, high fructose corn syrup, and empty calories. Certainly none of it can be considered nutritious. Kudos to Tesla for providing a safe environment for people to charge their cars, but Wow? truly? How about a place that serves food? [Update from editor: Some readers claim Wawa is famous for serving real food. I don’t think I’ve ever been in one, so I cannot confirm.]

The last time I charged on my way home was at Target. Yes, it was 1.5 miles off the highway, but there were a couple of restaurants nearby and I actually bought a few things at Target since I was there anyway. It was a much better option than the Wawa stations I’ve visited with their racks and shelves of chips, Doritos and candy bars.

Another thing I learned is that I have to set aside 20 minutes to half an hour for each charging event. That’s longer than it takes to fill a gas tank, but there are advantages. You have to walk around, stretch your legs, and clean your head. If you’re a “gas and go” person, trying electric vehicles might not be for you. But it’s a lot more comfortable and you’ll arrive feeling fresh.

To read the second half of Steve’s road trip review of the Tesla Model Y, head over to CleanTechnica Pro. If you are not a member yet, join here.


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