Our second significant EV road trip

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 17, 2016, 8:18 PM | comments: 0

The weekend before last, we took our second significant EV road trip, the first one being for Thanksgiving of last year up to North Carolina. By "road trip," I mean driving any kind of significant distance that involves staying overnight. I suppose technically that would include my work holiday party last year, which was in Clearwater, but having to stop for five minutes at the Brandon supercharger doesn't really make it an extended drive.

This trip was also to NC, for my in-laws' wedding. They live west of Asheville a bit. The tricky thing this time was some last minute changes to the itinerary. Originally we were planning to drive up the I-95 corridor, stopping in Santee, SC where there's a supercharger across from the hotel. The timing would have put us about 12 hours ahead of Hurricane Matthew, and in the middle of the mass exodus from the coast. That obviously was not going to work. So instead of leaving that Thursday morning, we left Wednesday night and went up I-75 toward Atlanta instead, well out of range from the storm. We stopped in a little town called Perry, GA, and got kind of lucky. It was sold out by the time we got there, as evacuees were even making their way that far west/north without a direct line from the coast. I guess I wasn't entirely surprised, because I couldn't find much of anything in Atlanta, either.

Our first night had stops at the chargers in Lake City, FL and Tifton, GA. The next morning we made what I consider a safety stop in Macon, GA, which we might have been able to skip if I was comfortable with the unknowns around Atlanta traffic. It turns out that this was a good move, because the traffic was terrible, and the navigation redirected us twice before getting into Atlanta proper, where we had lunch in Atlantic Station, a trendy mixed use deal north of downtown. From there we stopped only in Greenville before getting to Maggie Valley, NC. We did actually back track to the Asheville charger the next day while buying shoes, coffee and bedding at the adjacent outlet mall. That charger wasn't open yet last year, but we could top off and slow charge at my in-laws' house (we weren't staying there this time).

For the trip back home, we decided to stick to our original plan toward the coast. In retrospect, this may have been riskier than necessary, because by Sunday/Monday, parts of the coast were definitely far from functional. My biggest concern was Santee, because on Saturday the charger there was down, according to the car's navigation. Indeed, when we arrived, the hotel said they were without power for a bit. The number of giant trees down in the area was staggering, and I've never seen anything like that. The reverse exodus of people heading back home made I-26 slow, but again, the car routed us around the worst of it.

The second day, from Santee to home, also showed how rough things were in places. Kingston, GA, could be a totally optional stop for us, provided we charged very high in Savannah, to get us to St. Augustine. But we wanted to stop there knowing there were a few decent food options. Turns out they were in pretty bad shape there. Cellular service was spotty to gone for both the car and our own phones (which makes sense, because Tesla apparently uses AT&T in the US). Half the restaurants were closed or serving subsets of their menus due to a lack of fresh produce and I'm guessing water supply issues since none of them had soda, only bottled water. I feel like we were lucky that the chargers were up.

All things considered, the network did not fail us. I'm not sure why, but I expect it to be more fragile. We got to see some interesting new places, so that was a plus. We also got to see a Model X in the wild, which probably made Simon's day. The only real trade-off we've had in these trips in an EV is that we have to be specific about where we stop, and plan for it a bit. We don't stop more or less, just in specific places. Oh, and I suppose we need to have a Tesla, which is only a compromise in that it's too expensive.


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