2017-04-01: 188 Miles (round trip) 1 Day Trip (Austin/Burnet/Llano/Enchanted Rock)

Preparation/Planning
This will be my 2nd trip to Enchanted Rock State Park, which is about 120 miles from Austin. The last time when we went there, I forgot to charge Saara to 100% so this time I did not repeat that mistake. I charged it to 100% and decided to take the route via Burnet and Llano to our destination, avoiding any charges on the way.  To be on the safe side, I anyways did have the ‘MobileNow’ app ready, in case I had to use it to charge at the Clipper Creek CS-60 charging station at Fredericksburg.

Route
183A, TX-29E, TX-16S

Trip
We left with 100% charge and the car predicted that we would reach Enchanted Rock with 55% remaining on the battery. We left at around 615am and reached the Park at around 815am with 55% remaining on the battery. After a couple of hikes and good lunch, before we started back, I checked that the remaning charge on the battery was 53% and the car predicted that we would reach home with 19% on the battery. Before Heading Home

We left at around 5pm and reached home by 7pm with 11% remaining on the battery.After Reaching Home

Summary
Total miles driven: 94
Charging on the way: No

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06/15/2016 – 07/07/2016: 5800 Miles TX-OK-NM-AZ-NV-CA Cross Country Roundtrip

Preparation/Planning
This is our longest road trip (5800 mile roundtrip) so far since we bought Saara 18 months ago. The previous longest was 4000+ miles from Austin, TX to New Work, NY. Since we thoroughly enjoyed our earlier 9 day road trip to NY last Fall, we decided to make this one a bit longer to 23 days!

Our main idea was to visit the Bay Area (CA) to meet some friends and also have fun along the way exploring stuff. Following is the list of attractions that we visited during this trip:

Route-66 Attractions
 - U-Drop Inn Cafe - Shamrock, TX
 - Leaning Water Tower - Groom, TX
 - Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, TX
 - Ghost Town - Glenrio, NM
 - Blue Hole - Santa Rosa, NM
 - Musical Road - Tijeras, NM
 - Diner 66 - Albuquerque, NM
 - Sandia Peak Tramway - Albuquerque, NM
 - Elmer’S Bottle Tree Ranch - Oro Grande, CA
 4 Corners Monument - Junction of the 4 States: UT, CO, AZ and NM
 Yosemite National Park
 Bay Area
 - Golden Gate Bridge
 - Lombard Street
 - Fisherman’s Wharf
 - Piers
 - Alcatraz
 - Silicon Valley Companies - Apple HQ, Facebook HQ, Google HQ, Tesla HQ and Factory
 - Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory
 Mystery Spot - Santa Cruz, CA
 Pacific Coast Highway 1 (PCH-1) 
 - 17 Mile Drive - Pebble Beach, CA 
 - Monterey Beach
 - Bixby Bridge
 - Pfeiffer Beach
 - San Simeon Bay
 - Piedras Blancas Rookery
 - Morro Bay
 - Pismo Beach
 - Santa Barbara (Shoreline Park)
 Hollywood Sign - Los Angeles, CA
 Hollywood Walk Of Fame - Los Angeles, CA
 Universal Studios - Los Angeles, CA
 Hoover Dam - Las Vegas, NV 
 Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
 Dinosaur Tracks at Tuba City, AZ
 Antelope Canyon, AZ

During our previous road trip to NY, I had to charge Saara a couple of times at non-Tesla charging stations on the way (in addition to charging at Tesla Destination and Super chargers), which set us back a few hours sometimes, so this time I decided to charge only at Tesla Destination and Superchargers. I did take my CHAdeMO charger with me but never had a chance to use it.

Total Payload (about 900lbs)
2 adults, 3 kids (ages 11, 8 and 8), 2 huge suitcases, 1 cabin luggage, 1 big duffel bag, a big cooler, etc.

Route
Based on the routes to the above listed attractions, below are the list of chargers that I made use of:

Onward Journey Charging DetailsReturn Journey Charging Details

We drove across 6 states (TX, OK, NM, AZ, NV and CA) and brushed 2 (UT and CO) on our way. Based on the lessons learnt from our previous road trip from Austin to New York,
we tried not to drive more than 500 miles per day.

Drive Day Routine
– Breakfast at hotel, checkout and hit the highway by 9am
– Lunch on the way while supercharging. On some days we cooked rice before we checked out of the hotel and had that for lunch along with some readymade curry. If any superchargers were located at any hotels (Holiday Inn, Courtyard Inn, etc), the hotels were always generous to let us use their dining rooms/halls where we had our lunch inside while the car supercharged.
– Reach destination hotel by 6-7pm.

The above routine gave us ample time to stop by and enjoy attractions on the way coupled with 2-3 supercharges.

Charging Limit
Until Day 6, I used to supercharge Saara upto 100%, but after that, I never felt the need to charge it beyond 90% and also due to the fact that charging it to 100% more frequently will affect the life of the battery.

Heat Handling
When the temperatures hovers around 95+ degrees, I noticed that the car made a lot of noise trying to cool the cabin and the battery – the noise was worse when the temperature was hovering around 120 degrees in the Mojave desert.

Autopilot
Out of the total 5800 miles, the car was on Autopilot for atleast 4500 miles with eyes always on the road and hands always on the wheel except while stretching out for a few seconds to relieve stress – it is the best road trip that I have ever taken so far, thanks to Autopilot that took the stress/fatigue away, especially during long stretches. Out of the 5800 miles that my wife and I drove, I was on the driver’s seat for atleast 5600 miles!

Comfort/Luxury
As far as the comfort/luxury with 3 kids in the back seat, it was fine most of the times – we played a bunch of road games, kids used their mp3 players whenever needed and to my surprise, they got to watch only 1 movie in the car during the whole trip!!!  Sometimes, I did feel that it was a little cramped for 5, but it was much better than most of the family Sedans that I have come across.

Apps
Trip tab in Saara’s Energy App and Plugshare app are the ones that I used most of the times and I did check the altitude of some cities on Google.

Gist of itinerary, with details on any EV related stuff, wherever applicable
Day 2: Route 66 attractions
– U-Drop Inn Cafe – Shamrock, TX (inspired the Ramones Garage in the CARS movie)
– Leaning Water Tower – Groom, TX
– Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX (inspired the background landscape for Radiator Springs town in the CARS movie)

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U-Drop Inn Cafe – Shamrock, TX
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Leaning Water Tower – Groom, TX
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Cadillac Ranch – Amarillo, TX

Day 3:
Route 66 attractions:
– Ghost Town – Glenrio, NM
– Blue Hole – Santa Rosa, NM
– Musical Road – Tijeras, NM
– Diner 66 – Albuquerque, NM
4 Corners Monument (UT,CO,AZ,NM): To get to 4 Corners Monument, we stayed at a destination charger hotel in Farmington, NM. Since the Farmington hotel was just 180 miles from the Albuquerque supercharger, I charged the car to only 90% – 237 rated miles (versus the 100% – 265 rated miles). I had to take I-25 and NM-550 to get there, with most of the drive being on NM-550 which did have a couple of non-Tesla charging stations but we wanted to skip those kind of chargers as much as possible in this trip. Driving on NM-550 eventually got a little trickier and did give us some range anxiety, when we had to reduce the speed a bit and we eventually reached the hotel with 42 miles on the battery!!!

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What more proof do I need to show that I did take Route-66?
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Diner 66 – Albuquerque, NM
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42 remaining miles when we reached Farmington, NM
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4 Corners Monument (UT,CO,AZ,NM)

Day  4: Without a flat tire, can you say that you have been on a road trip??! While we were driving towards Kingman for our night’s stay on day 4, we had a flat on one of our rear tires at around 10pm. I tried using the Fix-A-flat tire kit that I had with me
but to no avail. I called Tesla Roadside Assistance who said that they can have the car towed to my hotel but I have to arrange my own transportation (Cab or Uber) for my family from the incident spot to the hotel, so I called AAA and they sent a flatbed that could also accommodate all 5 of us and took us and the car to the hotel. The following morning, I had the car again towed by AAA from my hotel to the nearest Walmart tire center (as it was a Sun, all tire centers were closed there, except for Walmart) where they patched up the tire. There was a setback of few hours in our schedule that day, but we eventually caught up and were fine from the following day.

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Flat tire when approaching Kingman, AZ at around 10pm

Day  5: Route 66 attraction (Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch), Mojave desert. The temperature that day was a scorching 118 degrees!!! Saara was making a lot of noise while cooling the battery and the cabin. Also, we did charge at our first solar powered Supercharger at Barstow, CA.

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Charged at the solar powered Tesla Supercharger at Barstow, CA
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Driving by Mojave airport

Days 6-8: Yosemite National Park – Hikes to Bridal Veil Falls, Giant Sequoias in Merced Grove, Glacier Point, Vernal Falls, El Capitan and saw some bears in the wild. I used the HPWC destination charger at the camp sites at Yosemite with no issues. I did see a couple of other Teslas but there was no conflict at the single Tesla HPWC charger there.

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Yosemite NP
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Tunnel View (El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the center, Bridal Veil Falls on the right) @Yosemite NP
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Half Dome on left and Nevada Falls @Yosemite NP
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Camping @Yosemite NP
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Yosemite NP
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Sequoia tree, Merced Grove @Yosemite NP
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Vernal Falls @Yosemite NP
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Horseshoe Tail Falls @Yosemite NP
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Bridal Veil Falls @Yosemite NP
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Charging @Yosemite NP

Day 10: Silicon Valley HQs in the Bay Area, CA
– Apple
– Facebook
– Tesla
– Google

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On the way from Yosemite NP to the Bay Area
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Tesla HQ @Palo Alton, CA
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Facebook HQ @Menlo Park, CA

Day 11-12: San Francisco area
– Golden Gate Bridge
– Alcatraz prison
– Piers and Fisherman’s Wharf
– Lombard Street
– Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory
– Tesla factory

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Golden Gate Bridge @SFO
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Alcatraz @SFO

Day 13-15: Mystery Spot and PCH-1 attractions (Monterey Beach, 17 mile drive, Bixby bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, Piedras Blancas Rookery, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara Beach). I loved and enjoyed the way how the car handled the windy roads of the coastal highway bordering the Pacific.

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Pebble Beach @17 Mile Drive
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Lone Cypress Tree @17 Mile Drive
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17 Mile Drive
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Bixby Bridge on PCH-1
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Pfeiffer Beach on PCH-1
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Pfeiffer Beach on PCH-1
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Piedras Blancas Rookery on PCH-1
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San Simeon Bay on PCH-1
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Morro Bay on PCH-1

Days 16-17: Los Angeles area
– Universal Studios
– Hollywood Sign
– Hollywood Walk of Fame2016 CA Road Trip (787) (Large)
Days 18-19: Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon and Dinosaur Tracks at Tuba City, AZ. I charged at the HPWC destination charger at the hotel at Grand Canyon with no issues.

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Lake Mead @Las Vegas, NV
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Grand Canyon NP
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Grand Canyon NP
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Dinosaur Tracks @Tuba City, AZ
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Dinosaur (Dilophosaurus) Tracks @Tuba City, AZ

Day 20: Antelope Canyon, AZ – one of the most beautiful places that I have seen in this vast country. After wrapping up the hike at the Antelope Canyon, we drove back to the destination charger at the hotel where we stayed the previous night to add enough juice to get to the next Supercharger.

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Antelope Canyon, AZ
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Antelope Canyon, AZ
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Antelope Canyon, AZ
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Antelope Canyon, AZ
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Antelope Canyon, AZ

Day 21: Sandia Peak Tramway, Albuquerque, NM2016 CA Road Trip (1021) (Large)
Day 23: Home sweet home!

Summary2016 CA Road Trip (1041) (Large)
– Miles driven: 5794.6
– Miles on Autopilot: Atleast 4500
– Energy consumed (kWh): 1903
– Average energy consumed (Wh/mi): 328
– Number of Superchargers: 38. We did skip a couple of Superchargers on the way as we  had enough juice to get us to the subsequent one.
– Number of Destination chargers: 6
– Number of non-Tesla chargers: 0
– Amount paid for Charging: $0
– Amount paid in Tolls: $0
– Speeding Tickets: None

Lessons Learnt
– AAA service is better than Tesla Roadside Assistance – especially for a family of 5.
– I experienced range anxiety on a couple of occasions in NM and AZ due to the nature of the terrain, so be aware of altitude variations and charge/drive the car accordingly.
– On Autopilot, I experienced much less fatigue, but always kept hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Sometimes when passing huge trucks, I felt like the car was moving towards the trucks, but that could have been just my feeling, so I took over the car manually on some of those occasions.

Tips/Bottom Line
Based on this trip’s experience, given a payload of about 900lbs on the car, driving within 10mph above the highway speed limit, Model S can drive comfortably up to 225 miles on a full charge and one can totally trust the car’s Navigation/Energy app in doing its job!
While charging, whenever the Navigation app was on with the next destination on it, the Charging app would pop up a message “you have enough energy to continue on your trip” as soon as the car determines that the current charge on the battery is enough to make it to the next destination, but
I always waited until the estimated remaining charge on the battery reached atleast 25%.

2016-01-10: Autopark ‘Summon’ feature (v7.1)

20150212_133559 (Large)I tried out the newly released Autopark ‘Summon’ feature (v7.1) – the car self-drives and autoparks itself into the garage. I had Saara parked beside my SUV in the garage with the garage closed, enabled the ‘auto open/close garage door’ feature in my Model S. Once I activated the auto-park feature, Saara, automatically opened the garage, self-drove and parked itself on the driveway and closed the garage. And I also did test the other way – Had the car parked on my driveway with the garage closed, it opened it, self-drove itself into the garage before it closed down the garage. CLICK this 3 min demo VIDEO of the ‘Summon’ feature – Tesla Model S Summon Feature Demo Video

The car very carefully and safely drives out of and into the garage while maintaining a safe distance around it. Fully automated cars are a long way to go and Tesla made a huge leap into that arena and kudos to that!  Tesla still calls this version as a Beta version of the Autopark, but still is very impressive. The instructions manual suggests to use Summon only on flat driveways. Mine was a flat driveway with a little raised floor right at the garage’s entrance, but the car manages to pull itself into it with minor adjustments. I also did try the ‘Summon’ at one of my friend’s place who has a sloped driveway – the car did fine going down the slope but it refused to move upslope. Overall, watching a 4700lbs beast or beauty, whatever you want to call it, move into your garage by itself amazes me (maybe it creeps out others in someway) !!!

So far, Tesla has continued to amuse and amaze me with its frequent software/firmware updates…hopefully it goes on!

2015-11-04: Short video on Autopilot v7.0

Tesla Autopilot 1

I recently tried out the newly released Autopilot feature (v7.0) and am simply blown away – the car autosteers, does lane changes, takes care of blind spots, slows down/picks up speed, etc all by itself – I took a quick video on the main features – https://youtu.be/LZP0h6Urp44

Please note that in the video the driver’s hands are off the wheel after the autopilot feature is on and that is only for demonstration purpose while shooting the video. Tesla always recommends hands on the wheel after activating Autopilot.

2015-09-09 – 2015-09-17: 4000+ Miles Austin/New York Cross Country Roundtrip

Preparation/Planning
This trip is our longest drive trip so far since we bought the Tesla: 4000+ miles roundtrip. Being a hardcore tennis fan, I always wanted to go watch some high-class tennis at a Grand Slam. Since we now own an EV which is perfectly designed for long drives, I decided to take it all the way to NY and enjoy the zero emission cross-country journey. On the way, my wife and I also planned to catch up on several of our friends who we have not met for more than a decade. The whole trip involved crossing 13 states: TX, LA, MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, MD, DE, PA, NJ and NY.

Total Payload (700lbs)
– 2 adults
– 3 kids – ages 10, 7 and 7
– 1 huge suitcase
– 2 cabin luggage
– several small bags
– a duffel bag
– a cooler
I used only my trunk’s 26.3 cu.ft rear cargo space for the whole trip (I did not use the frunk at all)
2015 New York (1)
Route
An ICE car’s trip from my home in Austin, TX to the hotel in Flushing, NY would have been 1750 miles whereas Tesla’s Nav app’s calculation came to 2032 miles which was 282 miles more. Below listed are the superchargers route with a total of 15  stops along with distance between each of those stops:Route - Tesla Nav App
Most of the above suggested route was fine except for the one between Auburn and Glen Allen. The distance from Auburn to Glen Allen via 85N and 95N via Atlanta/Charlotte is just 650 miles, but the the distance suggested by Tesla’s Nav app was 775 miles and 2 hrs more driving distance. Given a payload of 700lbs, the 250 mile stretch between Atlanta and Charlotte without a charge was too much to handle for the S85, so I looked for alternatives on that route and found a CHAdeMO charging option at Greensville, SC where I would need to pay a $2 parking fee but $0 for juicing up the car. I also planned to stay at a hotel in Durham, NC that offered free CHAdeMO charging for patrons. Please note that to use the CHAdeMO charging station, you have to have a CHAdeMO adapter that you can buy as an accessory from Tesla. The final route that I decided to take had 14 supercharger and 2 CHAdeMO stops:
Route - Modified
Highways on Route
71E, 10E, 12E, 10E, 65N, 85N, 95N, 495E
Trip Details/Statistics
The whole trip comprised of 2 overnight stays  on the way – one in Alabama and one in North Carolina – both the ways. On the way, we met some friends of mine. At New York, we had a great experience in watching world-class players like Federer, Djokovic, Hingis, Mirza, Pannetta and Vinci – my highlight was watching my idol Federer play. I did almost 90% of the drive on Autopilot and TACC (Traffic Aware Cruise Control) which was a pleasure and a joy during the 4100+ mile long trip. The smooth acceleration and deceleration during the Autopilot/TACC mode just amazed me on how much effort Tesla had put in to make the ride a joy ride.
I consolidated the details of the whole trip into a spreadsheet format: Austin to New York Trip Details. This spreadsheet has 2 sections – Onward Journey and Return Journey. Each section has details on each leg of the journey along with start and end locations and distance between them, start and end times, remaining battery charge at start and end times and comments.
Below are some pictures that were taken during the trip.
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At North Houston Tesla Service Center – where we had our lunch while supercharging
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Navigation screen on front display showed a nice Tunnel figure while driving through a tunnel in NY. Sorry the pic looks a little shaky!
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Lift used to move Saara from the ground floor parking to basement parking at the NY hotel
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World No. 2 Roger Federer at practice session
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World No. 2 Roger Federer at practice session
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Vinci during US Open Women’s Singles Finals
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Pannetta during US Open Women’s Singles Finals
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Pannetta wins US Open Women’s Singles Finals
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US Open Women’s Doubles Finals – No.1 pair Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis on the left
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at practice session
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at practice session
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at US Open Men’s Singles Finals
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World No. 2 Roger Federer at US Open Men’s Singles Finals
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic wins US Open Men’s Singles Finals
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Being a ‘House of Cards’ fan, how can I not stop the car when I see this?!
Summary
Total miles driven:4112.4
Total energy consumed (kWh): 1327.7
Average energy consumed (Wh/mi): 323
Total amount paid during trip for charging: $0.00
Toll fees (starting from north of Maryland to until New York and the same during return journey): $100
Lessons Learnt
Since this was my first long drive with a couple of 200 mile stretches between supercharging and as I was also traveling with my family, I had to be a little more conservative and did have range anxiety during our onward journey and could not trust Tesla’s Navigation/Energy app’s estimation/prediction of remaining charge on the battery (for each leg of the journey), so I had to do some intermediate charging at places between superchargers. But, on the way back, I totally got adapted to trust the car’s prediction which made our return journey much smoother and relaxing than my onward one. The longest 2 stretches between superchargers during our onward journey were 141 and 156 whereas the longest 2 stretches on the way back were 200 and 215 – shows that I got more comfortable and started trusting the car’s Navigation/Energy apps during the return journey.
Tips/Bottomline
Based on this trip’s experience, given a payload of about 700lbs on the car, driving within 5-10mph above the highway speed limit, Model S can drive comfortably up to 235 miles on a full charge and one can totally trust the car’s Navigation/Energy app in doing its job! While charging whenever the Navigation app was on with the next destination on it, the Charging app pops up a message like “you have enough energy to continue on your trip” as soon as the car determines that the current charge on the battery is enough to make it to the next destination.
Charging app shows a message on when to continue
While charging when the Navigation app is on with the next destination in it, the Charging app shows a message on when to continue
Whenever the above message popped up, I did not immediately continue the journey, but waited until the estimated remaining charge on the battery went up to atleast 10%. The least remaining charge that I waited before I resumed my journey was 12% (during the longest leg of 215 miles between superchargers in Lake Charles, LA and Columbus, TX).
Before the longest leg of the whole trip – 215 miles between Lake Charles, LA and Columbus, TX – Energy app estimates the remaining battery charge to be 12% on reaching the destination.

Based on this trip’s experience with S85 so far, one with family and kids can cover at the rate of 50mph (500 miles in 10 hours) including all breaks – charging, lunch, restrooms, etc. which is not bad for long trips like this, if planned well.

2015-08-21: Wheel Alignment at a non-Tesla center

Saara’s mileage is almost 9000 miles now and she definitely needed a wheel alignment. The Austin Tesla service center charges $240 for an alignment which I think is insane given what it takes to do it. It is not much of a difference in doing an alignment for an ICE car v/s Tesla. A well established place like Firestone does it for about $80 for an ICE car, but unfortunately they do not handle Teslas atleast for now (as of 8/21/15). Please note that Tesla’s yearly recommended service plan does not include wheel alignment, which not many people know!

I enquired around and found a fellow Austinite who also is a Model S owner who recently started an automotive business where they do wheel alignments on Teslas for $80. Even though the business owner owns a Tesla, given the fact that it is a new car with new technology, I was pretty sure that not every technician there would be aware of how to handle a Tesla, so I decided to have the alignment done only if they have me watch them do their whole process. Meanwhile before I went there, I did a fare amount of research online on how an alignment is done on a Model S.

When I took her there, I asked the shop guys if they would let me into their garage while they work on my car and they gladly obliged. Below listed are the steps that were involved during the alignment process on my car. Please note that I am neither a technician nor an expert on cars but have listed as much details as possible to the best of my knowledge:

1. Car was parked on the rack and the technician drove a little back/forth to park the wheels right over the markings on the rack floor so that the alignment can be measured.

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2. Rack was raised to the appropriate height.

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3. All 4 wheels were hooked up to a Hoffman alignment machine and the alignment was measured. They noticed a slight misalignment in 2 of my wheels (one front and one rear).

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Front wheel hooked up to the Hoffman alignment machine
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Rear wheel hooked up to the Hoffman alignment machine
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Hoffman alignment machine with monitor in front of car

4. When one aligns wheels on a rear wheel drive, the rear wheel is aligned before the front one is. This is where the inexperience of the technician kicked in! I am not going to get too technical in here but am aware that in a Model S, rear is camber, toe and max thrust angle and front is toe, camber & caster. To do the alignment on the rear, all the technician had to do was to locate the available opening near the rear wheel to reach out to a bolt and then use a ratchet/wrench to loosen it before adjusting the toe gradually to match it to the Tesla factory specs by looking at the monitor. The first technician who was assigned to the task did not know how to access the bolt directly, instead he was thinking about removing the underneath floor panels to reach out to the bolt. He then had a discussion with a 2nd technician.

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Underneath floor panel
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Opening (near left rear wheel) to access bolt to adjust alignment
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Opening (near left rear wheel) to access bolt to adjust alignment

5. I had earlier read somewhere that the floor panels need not be removed for doing an alignment so I explained that to them.The technician figured out on how to reach the bolt without removing the floor panels and from then on, there were no hiccups and he wrapped up the work for the rear and the front wheels.

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Measurements display on monitor before alignment
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Measurements display on monitor after alignment

Size of ratchet/wrench used to adjust wheels:
Rear: 19/19
Front: 25/19

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Ratchet and wrench used to do alignment
Wheel Alignment Specs and Report
Wheel Alignment Specs and Report
Tips
If taking your car to a non Tesla shop, do your own research and gather/have the instructions ready for the technician to save time and to avoid doing unnecessary work on the car.