Issue #26: 🚗Watts & Wheels: My Thanksgiving EV-enture 🦃 — Thoughts on Tech & Things

Howdy 👋🏾, I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving! This year has been trying with the loss of people near and dear to me, but Thanksgiving gives us all an opportunity to stop, pause, reflect, and look around at the many reasons to be thankful.

For close to a decade, I travel south to my older brother’s house in North Carolina, where tons of family, friends, and strangers all descend for a feast including gumbo, crab cheesecake, stuffed redfish, turducken,  and a rum cake that will knock you on your butt.

This year, my trek to North Carolina had a new twist; I traded the familiarity of an internal combustion engine for an EV. Venturing 700 miles roundtrip—my longest journey so far—I was faced with planning the required stops to recharge its 272-mile-range battery.

Six months into my EV transition, I’m adjusted to ‘charging life.’ At the same time, other charging stations can be a nightmare. I’ve found genuine ease using Tesla’s impressively convenient supercharger network, but this trip is different. It’s a trek into the unknown, away from my home’s charger and the charging stations I know, with little sense of how far or close we might find EV chargers, especially if we veer off the pre-planned route. So, to start, I visited by plotting the trip with Tesla’s trip planning tool.

Our trip was smooth sailing despite some reroutes, rain, and charging anxiety. Autosteer, Tesla’s autonomous cruise control, proved indispensable while charging stops were conveniently located and ahead of the curve. The bottom line is that EVs can totally handle road trips these days!

So, for all of you folks debating an EV or wondering if it might work for you, here are my observations:

Autosteer Makes Highway Driving a Breeze

Cruising down I-95 in a torrential downpour, I put Tesla’s Autosteer system to the test. This souped-up cruise control automatically adjusted my speed and braked based on traffic. I could relax while the car handled the driving! However, the heavy rain repeatedly forced me to take control when visibility got too poor for the cameras. In some cases, the car would suddenly begin to reduce its speed, but even with those issues, I found Autosteer proved indispensable on this road trip.

Charging Stops Are Surprisingly Seamless

I expected a mad scramble to find random, sketchy charging stations on my route. Instead, Tesla routed me to well-lit Superchargers with food, retail, and restrooms at shopping centers. There were always open chargers, and the car would recommend the least amount of time I needed to charge to get to my next destination with a bit of buffer, often 5-20 minutes. That may sound like a long time, but after grabbing food, using the restroom, and stretching our legs, we managed to juice the car beyond the recommendations, and a 30-45 minute charge got us pretty close to a full charge. The network is way ahead of the curve compared to my expectations.

From what I can tell, Tesla supercharger stops fall into three categories: premier stops at large shopping districts full of options, smaller strip malls with one fast-casual and one or two fast food restaurants nearby, or those at a Wawa or Sheetz-type gas station (which may differ by region). As you might expect, the premier stops were much busier and more aggressively enforced holiday congestion pricing and max charging caps.

Rerouting Happens and its Annoying

When you set a destination, the car will automatically add charging destinations to the route. I plotted our trip and looked at each charging station to scope out potential food stops. Still, the station recommendations can change based on your actual battery usage or attempts by Tesla to avoid sending me to an overcrowded station. In our case, driving above 75 MPH, using heavy heat or cooling, or other variables can impact the battery estimates and potentially change the recommended stops. The first time this happened, it surprised me, as the rerouting happened without a noticeable visual update, and we ultimately ended up at a fine charging station, just not the one I planned and with a very different set of eating choices.

On our trip back to Baltimore, the car rerouted us from a station I was excited to visit due to the nearby dinner options, but it rerouted me to avoid a 5-15 minute wait. Annoyingly, I had to cancel my destination and select the charging station to override the car’s decision manually, and on arrival, the station had several empty charging stalls.

I appreciate this proactiveness, but anyone with kids knows that where you stop is super important, and surprise food options can cause unexpected stress on long drives.

EVs Cause Neurotic Charging Habits

I obsessively avoided my phone battery dropping below 50%, but running my old gas car near empty was no big deal. I knew her and how far I could get on empty. This trip has made me rethink range anxiety and my obsession with devices that are always mostly charged.

Before this trip, anything below 20% battery felt risky, but it was not abnormal for the mapping to suggest I roll into a charger with 3-5% battery life. Maybe it’s the psychology of percentages or fears of those sudden battery drops that many of us have become used to on our laptops or phones, but something about that percentage feels like a guess, not a promise.

I have a problem and an irrational desire to be at 100% charge, like my smartphone constantly. We EV owners need a 12-step program for charging zen!

Destination Charging Is A Problem

That Wednesday, we arrived at my brother’s house with more charge than expected, around 30%. At first, I figured I would plug the car into a standard outlet using the mobile connector, but it promised a charge rate of 3 miles an hour, so instead, I made a late-night trip to a charging station to push it closer to an 80% charge.

No matter what we did, trips around North Carolina to Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham area drained the battery, and we rolled into my brother’s yard every evening with under 30% power and no real way to charge the vehicle quickly.

Bottom Line: EVs Can Road Trip with Ease

I used to think EVs were best for short urban drives. But after successfully covering 700+ miles roundtrip for Thanksgiving, I’m convinced electric cars can road trip just as smoothly as gas-powered ones thanks to the reliable fast-charging infrastructure. Range anxiety begone! My EV passed the test in the rain, reroutes, and all. Who wants to plan a cross-country electric road trip extravaganza? 🚗🌄

I used to think EVs were best for short urban drives. But after successfully covering 700 miles through rain storms and reroutes, charging stops, and battery neurosis, my EV passed its longest road trip test to date, and I’m convinced electric cars can road trip just as smoothly as gas-powered ones. Range anxiety begone! Now, some thoughts on Tech & Things:

⚡️ So Sam Altman is back to being CEO of OpenAI, but no one seems to know what freaked the board out so much! One rumor says an internal project named Q* (pronounced Q Star) that taught AI to do math is the thing that caused all this mess… but you know what gets me? OpenAI has yet to update its website to say Sam is CEO! I guess priorities on a holiday after a coup, right?

⚡️ AWS re: Invent kicked off Monday, and like always, we should expect tons and tons of announcements on new AI and cloud products—next week. I’ll be sure to compile the highlights, but if you have time, be sure to catch the free keynotes online.

⚡️ Do you still lug around keys? It’s time to switch to a digital key future, and your thighs will rejoice! I went keyless this year, and I love it! I can’t wait to see more standardization make this a reality for everyone. Join me and ditch those staby metal thigh cutters.

⚡️ Ignore all the crazy talk about Apple’s new NameDrop feature; it’s safe and a huge delight for those who network frequently.

⚡️ CES 2024, the Consumer Electronics Show, is almost here! I love this conference, and I’m excited to see how AI takes center stage as every company in the world embeds it deeper and deeper into their products. Will we see AI TVs, new robots, advanced VR/AR headsets, or something from left field? Who knows! What I do know is that I will be there, and I’m planning more coverage than in years past, but check out 2023’s Instagram recaps. If you’re planning to attend, drop me a line. I would love to see you.

The experts recommend that at home, EVs should only charge up to 100% right before a long trip. Otherwise, keep it between 80-90% charge to prolong battery life. I get that logically, but when I wake up and see 80% charge left, my anxious brain still wonders, “What if I suddenly need to drive from Baltimore to New Orleans at a moment’s notice?”

Realistically, I rarely drain more than 20% of my battery on my daily drives around Baltimore. And a chunk of that is just my car’s hungry security system, recording hours of unnecessary sentry mode footage that rarely watch.

-jason

P.s. I tremble when I see someone out in the world living life with a phone battery at under 10%, and I wonder if this is just me or a generation thing. Jim Gaffigan, whose excellent Hot Pocket piece is one of my favorite skits of all time, makes me afraid for our charged feature with his OpEd on his family’s complex charging habits. Just imagine these kids with EVs…