A Road-Tripper’s Guide to the Supercharger Network

There are multiple third party sites that can be used to double check your plans but I think that A Better Route Planner is generally regarded as the best. There you have the ability to check a route using options such as specific model of car, wind speed and other really cool filters.
When I go to check their route, I get a little bit more information.

A Better Route Planner breaks down any areas that may push my battery to it’s limits.

I can see that the stretch from Bismarck to Brandon over the border is going to push the car to it’s limits. There seems to be another route that adds a couple of hours but upon further investigation there is an even longer stretch on that route. Not wanting to get caught in a position where I run out of charge because I am driving too fast or I hit a wind storm, it’s time to check for 3rd party charging.

Double Check

In comes PlugShare, the international database of public chargers. When I check the area in question, I see that there is a Level 2 J-1772 Clipper Creek charger in Bottineau, ND. All Teslas come with an adapter for this connection so this is the perfect place to stop and top off. Range anxiety averted.

PlugShare will show you all available charging options.

I’ll end up arriving at my destination with 10% but that’s if I only charge to 30% at Dryden. Therefore, it will take 20% of the battery. The car will waste 1-2% a day while sitting for the week and I want at least a 20% buffer added on to 40% that the round trip will take. I’ll charge up to 90% in Dryden, arrive at Lake Bamaji with 70%, get back a week later with 55% (from phantom drain) and then be able to make it back to the charger with 35%. That’s enough of a buffer for me to be more than comfortable.

I still want my car to be plugged in while I am away so I called up the outfitters to see if they have an outlet that I can plug into. Luckily, they have a Nema 10-40 outlet available. That means I’m all set!

Welcome to Starbase TX

So here we have a cross country trip that goes up into a more remote region of Canada. The entire thing could be done with the Supercharger Network and only a single Level 2 charger is needed to ease range anxiety.

What about areas with no charging stations?

Now you may say “Art, I’m trying to plan a trip and after checking I couldn’t find any Superchargers or Level 2 chargers to plug into. What do I do?” That’s where RV parks come into play. All across North America, RV parks offer electricity in rural areas for anyone needing to plug in, as long as they have the right type of plug. Tesla sells an adapter kit that let’s you plug into almost any available outlet. This opens up an endless array of opportunities to travel.

Teslas also come with a 110v adapter to plug into a regular outlet for (extremely) slow charging. In the worst case scenario 2% an hour can be added on to give enough energy to get those last few miles.

Are there even chargers in Idaho?

Recap

First Step = Check your resources:
Tesla Nav
A Better Route Planner
PlugShare

Second step = make sure you have emergency charging supplies:
Tesla Adapter Kit

Third Step = Find out if your destination has any type of charging available, even slow charging.

Lodging

PlugShare’s filters are a game changer. Here we can see all the chargers near lodging.

Now that I’ve figured out my route, I have to think about the travel part of the equation. Mainly, where am I going to sleep? The average traveler would most likely choose a hotel where there is a charger they can use overnight. Lucky for us, PlugShare has an amazing filtering system where one can specify amenities needed and lodging is one of them! This allows us to check our route and see which hotels would best suit our needs, specifically the need to charge.

As you can see, there is an abundance of lodging with level 2 charging around our route. In fact, besides the border area that we already looked at above, we would be able to plan the entire trip around hotels with chargers, eliminating the need to stop at many of the places we initially planned on.

Snow even comes to the deserts of Nevada

Car Camping

That plan covers the average driver but there is a growing community that travels throughout the country on a more conservative budget and spending the $100(+) a night for a hotel puts road trips out of reach. Their solution is using their car as a place to sleep. What exactly does that entail though?

Finding a place to sleep.

The first step would be to find a place to sleep and for that I usually use Free Campsites. This is a database of places that one can stay at in their car for a night (or more). Here, you can filter through paid and non paid sites to camp at. The majority of places are publicly owned by the Bureau of Land Management which means that anyone can stay at them for free. I fall into this camp the majority of the time I am traveling and end up sleeping in the car 13 out of 14 nights on the road.

Take me home to the stars

If I can’t find a free place to park from there, I end up parking on the side of a residential street for a few hours or parking in the corner of a Walmart parking lot. Both of these solutions are not the best. There are streetlights to worry about as well as random passerby’s. As a middle aged guy, I can feel safe in most locations without too much worry but other people will have to judge areas with their relative level of comfort. In all the times I have stayed in random spots, I haven’t ever had any negative issues but once the sun rises, people do start their day and notice you. You may wake up to a knock on the window asking if you are ok or what you’re doing there.

Sleeping in the Model 3.

I’ve spent many nights sleeping in the M3 and in hand, have spent a lot of time trying out different ways to make myself comfortable. I’ve come to the conclusion that one person can travel and sleep in a M3 with no issue and two people can do it if they are ok being in extremely close quarters.

When the back seats are folded down, the space is as big as a twin mattress meaning any small travel mattress to be used. This provides enough room for two people to squeeze in the back as long as they don’t have too much cargo. At first I did this nightly, moving most of my gear into the front seat but this got pretty tiring pretty quickly.

Wild horses in the middle of Wyoming

It turns out that when the front seats are laid all the way back, they are almost flat. Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades though so a little bit more has to be done to make this work. What I do, is put one pillow in the crease between the bottom and back of the seat, evening out the angle for my lower back. My legs and feet are still an issue though, so I fill the footwell with pillows for my legs to sit on. Now I am able to sleep comfortably on a regular basis without having to move anything around besides a couple of pillows.

I’ve actually had friends travel with me for up to three weeks with both of us sleeping like this. I never thought that I would live through “two dudes one car” but it surprisingly wasn’t a bad situation at all!

Conclusion

And there we have it, a 2400 mi road trip cross country and into another one. A little bit of planning goes a long way and with it, any road trip is doable in a Tesla.

I’m ready for this trip! Until next time, you can find me on the open road!