Day 12

Thursday, October 31st, 2013
419 miles
Charging stops:

  1. Burlington, NC – Tesla Supercharger
  2. Glen Allen, VA – Tesla Supercharger

Day 12

I forgot to mention how much I like the little touches in this car, like the way the cruise control works. Tesla really looked at the scenarios of what a driver need on a long road trip, which is exactly when you tend to use cruise control. Being trained as an industrial designer, and having worked as an interaction designer for 15 years, it’s so refreshing to see great design make it into products. How do you know when it’s great design? When you use something and it not only works the way you would expect it, but it exceeds your expectations and fulfills needs you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. This is the case with the cruise control on the Tesla Model S.

Here’s what I mean. As I would drive along either the highway or back roads, eventually I would come to a city or town where the speed limit decreased. On the highway speeds would typically go from 70 mph down to 65 or 60 mph as I would approach a city. In most cars I would have the cruise control set to 70 mph and engage the “coast” mode to let the car slow down to the lower speed limit and then let it go once it’s at that speed. Until now, that seemed totally reasonable. But now that I’ve experienced how the Model S does it, this seems totally dumb. 

In the Model S, I would have the cruise control on, usually set to 65 mph. When the speed limit would decrease to 60 mph, all I would have to do is bump the cruise control lever down one time and it would automatically decrease the set point 5 mph from 65 to 60 mph. And with the regenerative braking, it would slow down to that speed limit automatically. This is especially nice when driving on back roads when the speed limit is 60 mph and suddenly drops to 45 near a town. In that case I would just bump the cruise control lever down three times (5 mph for each “bump”), which would decrease the cruise set point down 15 mph to 45. Having heard multiple stories of local police setting speed traps near towns and catching people speeding when the speed limit would decrease, I was sticking to the speed limit fairly strictly. Also, I’ve noticed that speeding in an electric car really does you no good. The time you gain by speeding is offset by increased charging time once you reach your destination, resulting in leaving the charging station at the same time regardless of how fast you drive to get there.

Once I would pass through the town and the speed limit would go back up to 60 mph (or 65 on the highway) all I would have to do is bump the cruise lever up one time for every 5 mph increase in speed and the car would be set to the new speed limit. If I didn’t hit any stoplights going through a local town, bumping the cruise control lever down and back up would be all I would have to do in terms of controlling my speed through the town. I mean think about it. Speed limits are ONLY set in 5 mph increments. Period. I’ve never seen a speed limit of 62 or 48 mph anywhere. So if that’s the case, why not make it easy to change cruising speed in 5 mph increments? And that’s just what Tesla did.

The other nice thing about the cruise control in the Model S that I haven’t seen in other cars is that once I would increase the speed back up from 45 to 60 mph, the car would accelerate up to the new speed at a reasonable rate. In every other car I’ve driven, to use the cruise control to increase speed I would have to hold down the accelerate mode until the car reached the new speed limit, which sounds fine on paper. The problem is that when I would press accelerate in the other cars I’ve driven, the cruise control system seems to tell the car to accelerate as fast as it can. It’s like flooring the accelerator, which not only isn’t necessary but it’s bad for gas mileage. I’ve never understood why gas cars do this. The same goes for if I have the cruise control set to 65 mph, hit the brakes to slow down for a while, and then press Resume to go back to the previous cruising speed. The gas cars just flog the engine to get back up to that cruising speed. Why? If I really want to get back up to my original cruising speed that fast I can floor the accelerator myself and then engage the cruise control once I get to the speed I want. Honestly, I never really thought about this much until driving this car. Now that I have, all other cars seem pretty lame with regard to cruise control management.

Okay, enough geeking out on the cruise control. As with all of the other days of driving, this one too was a pleasant, easy, three hour drive to Burlington, NC. Once I had charged up completely, I headed over to see a friend of mine from high school who lives with her family in Raleigh, which was right along my driving route. I arrived at her house around 4 PM. We hung out and played baseball with her three boys in their front yard, had dinner and went trick-or-treating with the kids. The weather was so nice, around 65 degrees – perfect trick-or-treating weather. We went to her old neighborhood to trick-or-treat because there were a lot more houses and they were closer together. Plus her kids would get to go out with their friends from their old neighborhood, which was nice. We stopped along the way to talk with several of my friend’s former neighbors. I asked one of them what they were giving out and the things she listed off weren’t anything I liked. She said she didn’t like them either, but the kids did. I asked her why she would get candy she didn’t like and she replied “this way I won’t eat the leftover candy.” It was at this point I had been doing it wrong all these years. I would buy candy I like so that I COULD eat the leftover candy. In fact, I would secretly hope that no trick-or-treaters would come by so that I could have all of the candy to myself. But if I buy candy I don’t like, I won’t eat any of those empty calories. Brilliant!

After the kids were worn out from trick-or-treating, I said goodbye and headed up to Glen Allen, VA. Little did I know that the side trip to my friends and over to the old neighborhood for trick-or-treating would leave me with barely enough to get to Glen Allen. I kept the cruise control on set to 65 mph, which kept my actual range just over the rated range. I arrived in Glen Allen with about 15 miles of rated range left. Not the closest I’ve cut it, but also not leaving much wiggle room for the unexpected either. The Supercharger was about a quarter mile from the hotel, so I charged up for about a 20 minutes. Once I had about 100 miles of range on the car and the batteries were back into the middle area of their capacity, I headed over to the hotel to check in. It was late and I was tired. Also, I wanted to charge the car up in the morning so that it wasn’t sitting at full capacity overnight. And with that, I was just one day’s drive away from my goal of getting to South Jersey for my reunion on Nov. 2nd. Barring any disasters, it looked like my original planning from two weeks prior would work out as I had hoped.

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11 thoughts on “Day 12

  1. Haeze says:

    Another great thing you will (or may have already) notice(d) is that when you set a speed, the car STAYS at that speed. In an ICE once you start going downhill the car will coast up to 5-7mph over the set limit before engaging an engine brake. Similar behaviour going uphill… it will dip 5mph below the set limit before finally downshifting and accelerating. Between the regen braking and impressive torque of the Model S, it can hold its speed no matter the conditions, effortlessly.

    • Ken Coleman says:

      Good point, Haeze. That can be an annoying aspect of cruise control with ICE cars. More than once I’ve come down a hill and had to hit the brakes because I can see a cop up ahead and don’t want to get a ticket for just coasting too fast down the hill. Of course, hitting the brakes cancels the cruise control, so I used to hit resume once I passed the police car, which as I mentioned would cause the car to accelerate as fast as possible to get back to the cruising speed.

      Not in the Model S though. It just stays within 1-2 mph of the cruise speed no matter what. Absolutely zero stress about getting a ticket, and no need to manually manage it going down hills.

  2. Kevin Pheiffer says:

    Ken,
    I just missed you and your trek in your Model S…..

    I left Dallas the evening of October 29, crossed the deep South toward Marietta (where I charged during the day in the Servie Center), then South toward Savannah, up toward Yemasee, then Charleston SC.
    I had reservations at Shreveport Hilton Garden Inn, and they DID NOT have the 14-50 outlet, so I spent most of the trip using RV parks.

    I needed to be in Yemassee on Friday night, for a Saturday tour.
    Spent an extra day and night there.

    Most mileage I did in a single day without Superchargers was 495 miles.
    Went on to Charlotte after Charleston, over to Burlington for a Supercharge, on to Durham, then back to Burlington for second Supercharge.

    Ended up West of Asheville in an RV park, stayed in a KOA Kabin.

    Returned going thru Tennessee, and Arkansas, home to Texas on Nov. 8.
    Just shy of 3,000 miles, in just over 9 days.

    If I would have had full access to Superchargers, I could have shaved about 3 or 4 days off the trek.
    Oh well, maybe next time.

    Hope you are still mad traveling in your Model S!!!

    Take Care,
    Kevin

    • Ken Coleman says:

      Wow, great trip, Kevin! The Shreveport Hilton Garden Inn DIDN’T have the 14-50 outlet? Strange. It was right on the back of the building, just left of the main air conditioning unit in the middle of the building when I was there. It’s just a cable coming out of the back wall with a 14-50 plug enclosed in a plastic weather guard. Bummer you weren’t able to use it.

      I am still “mad traveling” in my Model S. I just drove up from my brother’s place in Boynton Beach, FL, to my parents’ who are just northwest of Atlanta. I used the superchargers through Florida, but had to stop for the night in Tifton to charge up (not to mention get some sleep). I finished the drive up today. I’ll be going back across the South to LA, then back up to Seattle, hopefully along the coast, but I haven’t planned that out yet.

      Thanks for the comment and happy travels!
      Ken

    • Ken Coleman says:

      I know, I need to get on it and finish posting. Thanks for the prodding – I’ll finish writing day 13 ASAP and post it. And I’m still on the trip, so there’s more coming! 🙂

  3. Brian H says:

    More trip! Bonus! Very enjoyable write-up. Don’t try to be terse; verbosity is a virtue in these postings. Add anecdotes, observations, etc. to your heart’s content or capacity.

    BTW, is it possible to make the pix embiggen-able? Wanted to see details. Still would if you can go back and link to originals, etc.

    • Thanks Chris! Sorry, I had the latest post written, but somehow instead of publishing the page I scheduled it for next December. :S Now that that’s been figured out, the page has been posted completing the trek to my high school reunion, but the story isn’t over yet… I still have to drive back. 🙂 I’m on my way back now, and there’s lots more to tell. I’ll try to get it all posted as soon as I can.

  4. Carlos says:

    Btw on the cruise thingy I believe there are 2 stops on the lever in each direction the first is 2mi and the next is the 5mi one you referred to. It is easy to miss the first stop.

    • That’s a good point. It works kind of like the turn signal in that there are two “stops” when pushing the stalk up or down. Push it until there’s resistance and let go and you’ll go up or down by 1 mph. Push it there and hold it and you’ll increase or decrease speed until you let go. Push it past the resistance point and you’ll increase or decrease by 5 mph.It pretty much covers all scenarios. 🙂

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