Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip – PART 4: Summary and Pontification

The first three episodes of my latest travel blog, documenting our recent Road Trip with our electric Tesla (carrying our electric bikes) to Utah and Arizona, described the trip from beginning (April 21, 2022) to end (May 10, 2022). In this final post, I’m adding a map with a list of our stops along the way as well as some details about the performance of the Tesla that may be of interest to those who have either considered travelling cross country in an EV or have dismissed the idea as impractical.

First, the map:

Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip — the Route

The list includes every stop we made at a Tesla Supercharger and every Airbnb or hotel/lodge location where we stayed. It does not include all the places we visited on tour buses or shuttles, but those are described in the previous posts. The highlights were the Road Scholar golf school, Pat’s biking in St. George, and our visits to the canyons – Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Parks as well as Antelope Canyon. The beautiful scenery during our drives as well as stops at many miscellaneous roadside scenic overlooks that I have not mentioned in the blog posts was definitely icing on the cake. We thoroughly enjoyed the Eclectic Electric Road Trip and will not hesitate to do another one with our Tesla in the future.

Here are some statistics about the electric car’s performance:

  • The trip encompassed a total driving distance of 3,659 miles.
  • We made a total of 33 stops at Tesla Superchargers and charged overnight at 5 destination chargers. Superchargers are the most expensive way to charge the car, and destination chargers are free to use. With better planning, we could have made more use of free chargers. However, the prevalence of Superchargers makes then the most convenient option for a road trip.
  • During those charging stops, we did not encounter a single instance where all the chargers were in use – in fact, we were often the only car charging at a station with 8 or 10 chargers.
  • Our total electricity cost for the trip was $452, for an average of 12 cents per mile. By comparison, the average electricity cost over the life of the car so far (including this trip) has been 5 cents per mile.
  • This cost difference was due in part to an estimated 25% increase in energy consumption due to carrying the bikes, as discussed in the previous posts. Without that extra drag, we would have spent about $339 for electricity, or 9 cents per mile. In other words, it cost about $113 to lug the bikes for all those 3,659 miles. Pat rode hers for about 8 to 10 hours, so we still probably saved money relative to renting – or more likely, she wouldn’t have ridden nearly as much if she had to rent a bike. Throw in my 15 minutes of riding in Williams and we were way ahead. (Yeah, right!)
  • However, the high electric cost was mostly due to our heavy use of Superchargers. While Supercharger costs can vary from about 28 to 35 cents per kWh, charging at our condo costs only 15 cents per kWh and at our summer cabin costs only 5.5 cents per kWh. Also, on our previous long road trips when we had both the Tesla and our RV, we were often able to charge the Tesla for free at RV parks. However, when driving long distances every day, as we did on this trip, these cheaper options don’t work, and increased Supercharger use is necessary.

Here’s a summary of electric charging costs for the Tesla and a comparison of fuel costs for vehicles powered by internal combustion engines:

Electricity Costs for the Tesla and Comparison with Fuel Costs for ICE vehicles

The ICE fuel costs are based on driving the same 3659 miles as we did on our Eclectic Electric Road Trip and using rough averages of gasoline and diesel prices that we observed on the trip. As you can see, fuel costs for the Road Trip with an ICE vehicle would have been higher unless the car was very efficient and got 40 mpg or more. And for fuel hogs getting only 10 mpg, like the 4×4 pickups that raced past us at 85 miles per hour on the freeways or big, diesel-powered RVs, the fuel cost for this trip alone would have been significantly more than the total we have spent to charge the Tesla in its first 23,000 miles! Of course, the cost of ownership for a vehicle is much more than just the fuel costs, and gas and diesel costs are not going to remain as high as they are now forever. But other costs for an electric vehicle are also lower. For example, there are no oil changes or tune-ups, electric motors are highly reliable and require essentially zero maintenance over the life of an EV, and there is virtually no wear on the brakes due to regenerative braking. (I’ve probably stepped on the brake pedal less than twenty times in those first 23,000 miles.)

It is undeniable that an electric car is perfect for a city or suburban dweller who typically drives 50 to 200 miles per day. Such a driver can easily recharge overnight with a home charger or just the standard charger that comes with any EV. A 240 Volt Level 2 charger adds about 30 miles of range per hour, and a 110 Volt Level 1 charger adds about 5 miles per hour of charging. Many utilities also offer greatly reduced rates for off-peak charging. For example, Arrowhead Electric, the utility that supplies our summer home in Grand Marais, located 270 miles from Minneapolis, offers a fixed rate of 5.5 cents per kWh for EV charging between 11 PM and 7 AM. In that 8-hour period, I can add 240 miles of range, enough for a round trip to Duluth or Thunder Bay, ON. There are also free Level 2 chargers at many State Parks in Minnesota, so I can add a little bit of range while hiking at Tettegouche or Gooseberry State Parks along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The complaint I hear most often from EV opponents is that, while they may be fine for city life, they are not convenient for long road trips. It takes a lot of planning to find chargers, and who has the patience to stop 33 times for a half-hour during a 3600-mile trip? And if the chargers are all in use, you’ll have to wait even longer. Stopping at a gas station only takes five minutes, and you find them everywhere, without any planning. An EV driver wastes precious hours planning and then even more precious hours just waiting for the car to charge.

I would offer three counter arguments. First, with a trip planning app such as ABRP, it literally takes only a few minutes to plan any trip, and there are enough chargers all over the country to go almost everywhere, except the most rural, little-visited areas (though this may not yet be the case for non-Tesla EVs). And, as I stated above, we did not encounter a single wait at any Supercharger. Secondly, most EV chargers are located in places you don’t mind stopping anyway – near hotels, shopping malls, truck stops, restaurants and the like. There are places to eat, shop, go to the bathroom – all things you would do even if driving an ICE car. So, you can’t simply compare a five-minute gas stop with a 30-minute charging stop. You have to think about the amount of time you would be stopping for all those things, and you’ll realize you are not wasting anywhere near as much time as you may think.

But my most serious argument is this. Whether you want to believe it or not, our precious Earth is warming, and ICE cars are one of the biggest contributors to climate change. EVs are the wave of the future – even the auto industry realizes that, and all of the car companies are making a major shift in that direction. Is saving a few minutes during a road trip a good enough reason not to go electric and help save the planet? Pat and I have shown that it is not just possible but extremely easy to have an awesome road trip in a Tesla (even when burdened by energy-sapping bicycles). I hope this will encourage more of you to ditch your ICE cars and go green!

OK, I’m done preaching now. Thanks for your interest in Pat and Dave’s Eclectic Electric Road Trip! We live in a beautiful country – let’s get out there in our EVs and enjoy it.

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