I had a chance to head to Las Vegas to the AWS (Amazon Web Services) conference, Re:Invent. Generally, for a work trip, I would fly. At the time, we thought we would visit my in-laws in Phoenix after the conference. So my wife decided to tag along, and we drive to Vegas from San Diego.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, our plans for Phoenix dropped. Since it was close to when we were going to leave, the plane ticket to Vegas was a bit high for us, so we decided we’ll just keep our plans to drive there!
The last time we drove between San Diego and Las Vegas was in 2017. I had my Honda Civic. This was my first time driving an electric vehicle outside the state of California. In this post, I’ll deep dive into our trips to and from Vegas. I will also compare this trip with the one I did with my Civic in 2017.
The city of San Diego sits pretty low, it has an elevation of 62 ft above sea level. In contrast, Las Vegas has an elevation of 2,181 feet above sea level. So I’ll mostly be heading uphill driving to Vegas, which has an effect on my efficiency.
As you can see, my efficiency increased a little over 4% coming home. I used about the same amount of my battery, 109.95 kWh vs. 103.12 kWh. It’s not much of a gain in range to make a difference. My Performance Model 3 has a 75 kWh battery. The math would suggest that we would only need to stop once.
So how did it fare? Well, I ended up hitting 3 Superchargers before reaching Las Vegas. But we only need one Supercharger on the way home. I’m going to break down the difference in our driving approach to and from Las Vegas.
Viva Las Vegas
We decided to leave on Sunday, I was able to trickle-charge my car to 100%. So we were ready to hit the road first thing in the morning. We were using A Better Route Planner to plan our to Vegas instead of using our Tesla Navigation.
If you used the Telsa Nav, typically, this would calculate when your car needs to charge and tries to get you at your location as efficiently as possible. This can mean we could reach Vegas with a near empty battery pack from my location. In this case, it would be bad for us. Park MGM’s garage was one of the few that did not have a destination charger in the garage. So we knew we needed enough State of Charge (SoC) to sit in a public garage for 5 days.
I wanted to arrive in Vegas with enough SoC because I wanted to keep Sentry Mode on while parked. While Sentry Mode keeps my car safe by always recording events around my car, it also keeps my car awake. Which means, my car is silently on. So if it’s on, it can’t put itself to sleep. And if it can’t put itself to sleep, you’ll see a more significant battery drain, especially if there are recorded events.
The goal was to reach with enough SoC that I didn’t have to worry about the large phantom drains. In our case, we set to reach our destination with 60%. Though the garage at a casino is probably relatively safe, I wanted to be safe than sorry. Also, to note, Sentry Mode will shut itself off once the battery reaches 20% to conserve the battery.
Our trip estimated for 5 hours and 41 mins. In reality, it took us 6 hours and 42 mins. Why did it take us an hour more? Well, we kinda made an unexpected stop. Since we left pretty late, we had to make an early lunch stop. Also, it’s not common for us to drive for almost 3 hours straight, we needed to stop somewhere in between.
Our first stop was San Bernardino Supercharger. It was an Urban Supercharger at a mall. We decided to use this as our bathroom break; however, nothing in there seemed appealing to eat. I saw that there was a Taco Bell nearby, but I got turned around, which added an additional 10 mins to our trip.
Because of this stop, stopping at Yermo was too soon for us. Decided to push it out to Baker. This was a massive 40 stall Supercharger out in the middle of nowhere California. It’s a tiny town of roughly 711 people. Not much to do there. But we used this time to get some stretching in, logical bathroom stop, and grab some snacks for the road while we charged.
From there, we had enough charge to make it to Vegas. However, I saw we would reach a little over 20%. This is well below the 60% that I was aiming for. So we decided to hit the Supercharger at Primm, NV. This was just a quick bathroom stop and a fast charge to ensure we can achieve our goal. The other option was to use the Supercharger at The Linq in Las Vegas. But after driving that long, we just wanted to go to the hotel room and relax.
How did my car fair with Sentry Mode on? Early I was steadily losing about 12 miles a day. But by Wednesday, I started losing about 17-18 miles a day? Why the difference? During these two days, folks on Twitter were stating that they were seeing a software update.
Since my car was always on, I suspect that I, too, received it early. However, since I was in a parking garage and not connected to WiFi, I couldn’t download the update. So the car keeps checking, which would cause the battery to drain further.
The Drive Home
I decided to do the Software Update while eating and while we decided to do a little more gambling at the casino. We then left for The Linq Supercharger, where we charged and walked around a bit at the strip. We only charged our car to 90%.
As mentioned before, we were not concerned about our arrival State of Charge heading home. On A Better Route Planner, I set the arrival charge to 1%. Several Twitter users mentioned that we needed to stop at Yermo. We decided this would be our single Supercharger spot on our way back.
I only expected to charge to 90%. However, our dinner took a little longer than expected. I had to bump it up to 100% to make sure I don’t get charged. The Supercharger was relatively empty, so I wasn’t blocking anyone. 55 mins later, we got back in the car just as it reached 100% SoC.
The critical thing to note here, we didn’t have to wait in our car to complete charging. We actually ate dinner and checked out EddieWorld while we were at it. In fact, it was not until I looked at the data that I realized 55 mins had passed.
At 100%, we had more than enough to reach home. We had another 3 hours left to our drive. As I mentioned before, we don’t typically drive 3 hours straight. Funny enough, we stopped at a gas station in Temecula to take a bathroom & stretch break.
The drive with 07 Civic EX
Let’s take a look at my drive from 2017 when I drove my Civic. I had a device called Automatic that captured the car’s data. On both the first leg of the trip, we made two stops. Since there’s no concept of filling up at home, we had to stop at San Bernardino to get gas. We later had to stop for food. We can’t do these together.
On the way back, we were able to go right off the bat. We were able to make it to Baker, CA. We lucked out because we were able to eat and fill up the car at relatively the same location, albeit we had to move the vehicle. We took a little longer to eat as there was a lot of traffic heading back. There were also long lines to the gas station here, as it was right after Memorial Day weekend.
In both cases, fill-ups were quick. Usually, when comparing trips, this is what people focus on. But when we add all the time spent changing locations to fill-up and eat, those minutes add up. The trip with my Model 3 was about 13 hours vs. 11 hours 44 mins with the Civic.
First, I didn’t live in the same place as I did in 2017. I now live about 30 mins South. Also, if I had chosen a hotel that had a destination charger, I could have eliminated the Primm & Linq Supercharger stop. That was an additional 51 mins, which would have put the trip closer to what we did with the Civic.
In fact, all but one of my Supercharger stop coming to Vegas could have been eliminated if I hadn’t been ultra-conservative with my approach. If I decided just to drive, the time to get to Vegas from my current home would have taken the same amount of time!
Cost of Gas vs. Electricity
Finally, the last thing I wanted to highlight is the cost. In 2017, I spent $72.50 on gas! As we know, gas prices have increased since then. So if I were to do this with a gas car, I would have paid a lot more, probably closer to $100, if not more, on the Civic.
Now, if you have a Tesla with free Supercharging, you have a free trip. With my recent referrals, this was the case for me. However, if you have to pay for Supercharging, the cost is cheaper than gas. It would have cost me $49.68!
The thing to know is that California Superchargers charges based on the kWh added. Whereas Nevada charges per minute. As mentioned before, had we chosen a destination with a charger, we could have easily eliminated the Nevada chargers. In that case, the price would have been closer to $34.92, which is over half the price of gas in 2017!
Overall, I think this trip is reasonably comparable to driving an ICE. And as more V3 Superchargers roll out, you’ll see the charging times decrease. And if you add destination chargers, you won’t have to plan out your SoC in advance. Also, had I had the Long Range Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3, I would have gone further than my Performance Model 3 as it’s more efficient.
The other advantage that my car has over a gas car is that I now have autopilot. This makes my drive extremely easy. I can’t go back making road trips with an ICE car anymore right now. As the software and infrastructure improve, going back is genuinely prehistoric.
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