From the West Coast to the Heartland
Jacob Lowe

Published ● 6 min read

From the West Coast to the Heartland

As an avid road tripper and a proud Tesla Model 3 (Performance) owner, I was excited to take my electric car on a long-distance journey from Los Angeles, California, to Little Rock, Arkansas. While I knew that the Model 3’s impressive range would make the trip possible, I also anticipated some challenges along the way.

One of the most exciting aspects of taking an electric vehicle (EV) on a road trip is the opportunity to experience EV charging networks in the US. On my journey from California to Arkansas in my Tesla Model 3, I had the chance to test out the company’s impressive software and charging infrastructure.

Using the Tesla navigation system, I could quickly locate and plan my stops at Supercharger stations along my route. The system showed me each station’s locations, availability, and charging speeds, making it simple to find the best places to stop and recharge. While I was driving a Tesla, other apps like EVgo can also be helpful for drivers of other electric vehicles.

The ups and downs of a cross-country electric road trip

Overall, my electric road trip from California to Arkansas was a rewarding and enjoyable experience. I took the 40 highway on the way there, and it took me four comfortable driving days to reach my destination, with a detour to visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona. On the way back, I took the 30 and 10 highways, with a stop in Ciudad Juárez, Mèxico. This route took me four days as well.

Grand Canyon

One of the trip’s highlights was the convenience of charging at Supercharger stations. Many of these stations had amenities like bathrooms, food, and coffee; some were even located at shopping centers. While I had to wait for a charging spot at some busy locations, the process was seamless for the most part.

However, there were also some frustrating moments on the road. On one occasion, I had to redirect to a closer Supercharger in Tulsa, Oklahoma because the estimated range of my Model 3 was not enough to make it to my next planned stop. Some charging stations were in less-than-ideal locations, like the museum’s parking lot or the edge of a gas station. These issues reminded me that while the Tesla Supercharger network is extensive, there is still room for improvement.

The future of electric road trips

My road trip was a success. I got home safely, saw some sights, and enjoyed the ride. I will be eager to take more road trips in my cars. It was more structured than the road trips I had in the past since all my stops were planned ahead of time.

The infrastructure of chargers still needs a lot of work, and I hope it’s there in the future. It got me where I needed to go, but sometimes with significant detours. I added two hours to my trip when I was redirected to the Tulsa, Oklahoma, charger. This is a bit frustrating, and I can imagine something that would be even more frustrating if I had a tight schedule to abide by.

I hope that more and more charging networks start opening up and are more accessible. The future of electric road trips is bright, and I am excited to see what the future holds.

Long-distance autopilot

In my EV, I not only have autopilot but am also in the self-driving beta. This was amazing for the road trip. 90% to 98% of this trip was with autopilot on. This allowed me to take in more of the surroundings when sitting in the driver’s seat, and parts of this drive were gorgeous. If you have a Tesla, you already know that autopilot is fantastic, and most of the trip is just that. Self-driving is still rough, and I still don’t fully trust it for long periods. I often found that after getting off the highway, I would take over just because of certain road conditions. I have two issues that seem persistent.

Phantom breaking

One unexpected challenge I faced on my electric road trip was the occurrence of “phantom breaking.” This is when the car starts slowing down for no apparent reason, and sometimes it can break quite a bit. I would check the speed limit to see if it had changed or if something should cause the car to slow down, but there would be nothing. Besides the initial shock of the slowdown, this was the only issue. I would often press the gas pedal to keep the car going, and after a while, the car would take over again. I hope this is fixed in the future.

Attention detection

Another challenge I encountered was the attention detection system in my Tesla Model 3’s autopilot. I received two strikes on my account for not paying enough attention while using autopilot. Sometimes I needed to be more attentive, but I never considered myself negligent.

The first strike occurred while I was in Arkansas. I was driving down a road, and the red steering wheel alert popped up, alerting me to pay attention. I grabbed the wheel slightly to let the system know I was paying attention, but not strong enough to disable autopilot. This did not work for some reason and escalated to the more prominent red steering wheel alert and persistent beeping. My hands were on the wheel the whole time, and it turned off autopilot. It wasn’t registering my pressure on the wheel.

The second time was almost the same, but I also tried scrolling the knobs on the steering wheel, but it didn’t register. I don’t know if this is a bug or if I am doing something wrong. I hope this is fixed in the future. I have made it a habit to exit autopilot if this happens again to avoid another strike.

I also received an alert once that I had a device on my steering wheel to trick the system. I do not have such a device, which makes me think the overall attention detection system still needs improvement.

Should you take and electrified road trip?

Despite the issues, the experience of taking an EV on a road trip was truly incredible. I was able to travel long distances without worrying about stopping at gas stations and spending money on fuel. The Tesla Model 3’s range is impressive, and the Supercharger network made it easy to charge up along the way.

I think that as more and more people start to explore the benefits of electric vehicles, we will see more and more road trippers hitting the highways in their EVs. I’m excited to see how the charging infrastructure evolves and improves over time, and I look forward to taking more electric road trips in the future.

In conclusion, if you are an EV owner and you haven’t taken a road trip yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a unique and enjoyable experience that you’ll never forget. With the right planning and an open mind, you’ll find that electric road trips are a great way to explore new places and have fun while doing it. So pack your bags, charge up your EV and hit the road!

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