Last weekend, my girlfriend and I drove down to attend the Monte Vista Sandhill Crane Festival. It's a roughly 4 hour/200 mile drive from Denver down to Monte Vista, with lots of variation in...
Last weekend, my girlfriend and I drove down to attend the Monte Vista Sandhill Crane Festival. It's a roughly 4 hour/200 mile drive from Denver down to Monte Vista, with lots of variation in elevation. I got a Tesla Model Y last June, and since then haven't really had the chance to go out into the remote mountains of Colorado with it.
This weekend would be my first such excursion. Getting down to Monte Vista is absolutely no problem. At about the halfway point in the trip, there's a Tesla Supercharger. That, combined with the range of the car meant that conserving battery was no problem at all.
I was worried, however, about how the car would fare down in Monte Vista for the three days we would be there for the festival. There are no charging stations of any kind in downtown Monte Vista itself (though there are a couple of slow chargers on the outskirts of town, slow chargers with nothing around them are kind of useless). However, there were fast chargers in the towns nearby! One in Del Norte, and another couple in Alamosa, both a 20 minute drive out of Monte Vista. My plan was to charge up at those every evening while we were down there.
On the trip there, we left Denver at 100% SoC, and the battery and cabin preheated for 30 minutes beforehand. We arrived at the Poncha Springs supercharger with about 17% SoC, plugged in and charged to 90%, which took about 40 minutes. The reason for charging this high was because I wasn't sure what state the non-Tesla fast chargers would be at when we got down to our destination area. My plan was to head from Poncha Springs toward the Del Norte fast charger; arrive at 60% and charge back up to 90% before driving around to look for the cranes.
We arrived in Del Norte at 60% SoC as expected, but we found the one fast charger already occupied when we got there. Thankfully, we waited less than 5 minutes for the owners to get back finish charging, after which I was able to plug in and start charging.
This charger was advertised as a 62 kW charger, but for the hour we spent charging there, the charge rate never went above 30. I'm sure part of this was that I was charging from 60-90%, and part of it was that it was cold out, and the Tesla lacks the ability to precondition the battery en route to non-Tesla fast chargers. We ended up charging there for about an hour to get the same charge that the supercharger gave us in 15-ish minutes.
Luckily, there was a brewery/pizzeria and a neat antique shop just a block away.
At some point in the trip, I became aware through Plugshare that the fast chargers down in Alamosa were being taken down that weekend for upgrades. They were installing more stalls, and I guess that necessitated taking the existing ones offline. Now instead of 3-4 fast charging options in this area, I was down to just one. I was certain that because those chargers were down in Alamosa, many more people would come up to use the single charger in Del Norte. Further, I knew that lots of people came down for the crane festival, and so I was worried that there would be an increase in the number of EVs competing for this one charger.
When we got to our hotel in Monte Vista, I noticed there were outlets near the parking lot. I asked the front desk for permission to charge my car in the lot overnight, but was denied because "it would cost them too much money". I thought about offering to pay for the privilege, but the person at the desk didn't really seem interested in pursuing that line of conversation further.
Overnight, the battery stayed charged at pretty much the same level, only losing 1% indicated charge. We got up at 5 AM in order to see the cranes take off from their roosting location in the wetlands, and go out into the fields to loaf (this is the technical term :D). We spent the rest of the day driving around the back roads and farm roads, watching the cranes in the fields.
The whole day I was checking the charge point app to see if the one fast charger available to us was in use, in order to judge how busy it was, and to plan when we might go charge there. Surprisingly, not once did I see it in use!
Since we had had a great day watching cranes, we decided to leave a day early. We had enough charge to get to the Poncha Springs supercharger, and from there back home with no issues.
I thought I would conclude with a few bullet point takeaways from this trip:
- Range anxiety is real. I spent a lot more time thinking about where to charge and if I could charge enough on this trip
- Being away from the Tesla Supercharger network sucks. A whole set of fast chargers I was relying on was taken down exactly when I needed them. They're slower, you have to worry about them not functioning much more.
- Tesla is opening a supercharger site in Alamosa! They filed for the permit just this week. This will basically erase the anxiety I had last weekend on future trips
- Total energy costs for this 500 mile trip were about $35. That feels pretty cheap to me!