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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Traveling Oregon in a Tesla - Photo Journal (Part 1 - Painted Hills)

This is the first summer that I've owned a Tesla. Our Model X 90D arrived in October and we've put about 12,000 miles on it since then. To put this into perspective, most years I only drive about 8,000 miles. This vehicle is a lot of fun and we've been using it.

Our first trip vacation trip was to eastern Oregon to see the Painted Hills. We found lodging in Prairie City that has Tesla destination charging (and charging for other EVs too). It was not too far from the Painted Hills, and it had nearby bike paths and hiking.

From Beaverton to Prairie City 
The trip planner said that we could make it to Prairie City with just a single charging stop in The Dallas. I was less certain. We had our CHAdeMO adapter and connectors to plug into RV campgrounds if things didn't go as planned. I decided to play it safe and head to Pendleton instead. This allowed us to arrive with more charge remaining. If there were any issues with the destination charging, we'd still have enough charge for our next day's plans. It added some time to the drive, but better safe than sorry.

The trip was an easy drive. We stopped in The Dallas for a late lunch while we charged. We headed to Pendleton and had a bathroom break and a drink while we charged. That evening, two thousand dead bugs and 360 miles later, we arrived in Prairie City. We checked in, plugged into the destination charger, and made our way to our room.

The next day we were charged up and after breakfast, we headed to the Painted Hills.
Tesla Model X w/ Bike Rack at The Painted Hills in Oregon

The hills were great, a part of nature that's a rare sight. I'll spare you the description of the cause, if you're interested, feel free to google it.

From here we went to the Little Pine Cafe in the town of Mitch. As we parked and my daughter opened the falcon wing door to get out, one of the locals asked if our car was a Dodge. I told him it was a Tesla, to which he replied, "That's the future right there."

Cowboy Boots in Mitchell Oregon

We stopped at the nearby fossil museum and learned a few things about the massive weather pattern changes to the region over the eons. The next day we explored Prairie City and John Day on foot and bike. The visitors center in John Day has level 2 charging with places to explore and eat nearby.

On day 3 we drove into the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness area.Traveling Oregon in a Tesla - Photo Journal (Part 1 - Painted Hills) https://buff.ly/2w88EVS

It was a dusty drive.

From the parking area, it's a hike to the lake.

The next day we packed up to head home, we were fully charged thanks to the destination charging at the hotel. This time, I was confident that the navigation system was correct and that we'd make it to The Dallas on a single charge. The bikes on the rack on the back mean that it is not accurate and I would just need to have a little buffer, but the nav system said that we'd have more than 30 miles left when we arrived. You can always stretch the range a little by slowing down a little if needed. So we headed north.

Going home we passed through the town of Fossil, Oregon. The town's name has nothing to do with fossil fuels, but I quipped that they'll need to change their name to Renewable, Oregon if they want to survive. Speaking of renewable energy, on the drive back we passed through the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm, as you can see below.

We made it to The Dallas with about 20 miles of range left. From there, after lunch and some charging, it was an easy drive home.

Look for parts two and three of southern Oregon and the Oregon coast coming soon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Towing w/ A Tesla

Yesterday I moved my camper to a new storage facility. The trip was only about 45 miles and mostly on Interstate 5. This gave me a chance to see the range impact of towing on the Tesla Model X.

2016 Tesla Model X towing a Coleman Tacoma pop-up camper 
Before connecting the camper, I had to go buy a trailer ball mount and ball. The Tesla tow package only comes with a hitch receiver, not the complete tow kit. This is standard in the industry since they don't know what you may be towing and what type of tow kit you'd need. Perhaps you are just getting this for a bike rack and the receiver is all that you need.

Here is the installed tow ball.
Tow Kit Installed in a Tesla Tow Receiver
Now the part of the story that you've been waiting for: How much did this impact the range? Here is the energy data from the Tesla when we finished the trip.

Trip energy info from the binnacle display at the end of our towing trip 
Let's unpack this a little. I usually see around 335 Wh/mi, so 458 is a 27% increase in "fuel" consumption compared to my typical driving. Using just quick math, at 458 Wh/mile with a 90 kWh pack (85.8 usable in the 90D) results in 187 miles of range. Compared to the 257 miles of range rated by the EPA, this is a 27% reduction in range. A 27% reduction in rated range is not bad, I was expecting a ~40% reduction.

To be clear, this was not an EPA range test, it was one short drive on a mostly flat part of I-5. I may not even get the same results if I were to reverse the trip, but it is one example that can give you a good idea of the scope of the range impact.

187 miles is plenty of range for the places where I typically camp and if it is farther, there are Superchargers to extend the range (although this may be complicated with the camper attached). Also, assuming there is service where we're camping, I'll be able to use an RV outlet (NEMA 14-50) as a "destination charger" to recharge the car overnight.

Before signing off, here are three misc. things I learned on while towing for the first time in the X. One, the car automatically switches into tow mode when it detects something plugged into the 7-pin outlet used to control the trailer lights and braking. Two, when the X is in tow mode, Autopilot is not available to be enabled. You have to actually drive yourself when you are towing (#FWP). Third, our X has smart air suspension and it adjusts the suspension height as you drive and it also undoes this adjustment after you have been stopped for a few minutes. We were unhooking the trailer when the car decided to lift up a couple inches. This was annoying and a little dangerous as I was unhooking the camper at the time.

Stay safe, have fun, charge on.

UPDATE: I was informed by a reader that the tow kit shown above has a 2" drop and that is not recommended by Tesla. According to the reader, the ball can be straight or have up to a 3/4" rise. Luckily, the mount kit shown above is reversible and when reversed, it goes from a 2" drop to a 3/4" rise. I have now moved the ball and flipped it over. Next time I pull the camper, the trailer tongue will be 2 and 3/4" higher.