70-something-year-old couple take a 4,600 mile road trip—in their Tesla Model 3

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Mary Bell and Joe Deden were intent on buying an electric vehicle. In the early spring of 2016, the couple stood in freezing weather at the Tesla Minnesota service center to put in their order for a Model 3. They were thirtieth in line and received the first long-range, dual motor, enhance auto pilot, Model 3s delivered to Minnesota in August of 2018. 

Mary and Joe have gotten a lot of questions about the car’s range—just how many miles does it go per charge? And how are they handling their “range anxiety” during cold weather?

They decided to put their Tesla to the test. Every February the couple embarks on a month-long road trip, and this year, Mary and Joe decided to use their Tesla on their 4,600-mile adventure. They directed their GPS south: from Minnesota to Texas, then west into New Mexico, then back up again. When they left Minnesota, the temperature was a cool 4 degrees Fahrenheit and a whopping 0 degrees Fahrenheit on their return.

Mary and Joe relied on “A Better Route Planner,” which they programmed into their car’s computer display. They personalized the planning data based upon their current situation (average watt hours per mile, temperature, wind, road conditions).  Then they set their lower battery arrival level at 20 percent to cover for unknown elevation changes and weather conditions—like temperature, precipitation, and wind. They charged at Tesla Superchargers or destination chargers along their planned route based on those recommendations.

So how did the Tesla do? On average, the couple drove 100 to 150 miles at a stretch (about 2 – 3 hours) which enabled them to keep the car’s battery in the sweet spot between 20 – 80 percent charged. They took planned breaks—stopped for coffee or a little walking, catching a bite to eat or sometimes playing cribbage. Tesla automatically notified them when the battery reached 80 percent charged.

Over the course of their 28-day trip, Mary and Joe supercharged their electric car 38 times. On average, each supercharge took around 30 minutes. Additionally, they intentionally recharged the battery at the end of day when the battery was still warm versus charging in the morning when a cold battery takes longer to charge.  When possible, they plugged the car into a standard electrical outlet to keep the battery warm and pick up a couple extra miles. 

The couple found that Supercharger stations were often near truck stops, eating establishments or lodging facilities. They never ran into the problem of incorrectly parked, gas-powered vehicles in the spots meant for electric vehicle charging. And better yet, they never paid an extra charge for the destination chargers at motels and left their car plugged in all night, leaving their phone number at the front desk in case another car came in and needed to charge! 

Long distance traveling often means meeting new people in different parts of the country. One of Mary and Joe’s most memorable experiences happened when the pair stopped to charge at a truck stop in Texas. A father came up with his 12-year old son and curiously asked if they were the owners of the Model 3. It was the first they’d ever seen. “The son knew everything about the specs of the Model 3 and they both beamed as we them showed our car.  His son’s knowledge, excitement and pure joy in witnessing an all-electric vehicle gave us hope for the future,” says Mary.

Traveling long distances in an electric vehicle is possible! Mary said their charging pit stops were good for her body and allowed her and Joe to move about after being confined in the car, giving them energy for the next leg of their journey. As a 70-something year old couple, it was extra important to stay limber. 

Their advice to electric vehicle owners considering a road trip? “Doing a road trip without range anxiety requires a little pre-planning that is easy to accomplish and achieve.  We absolutely love our Tesla Model 3.  Enhanced autopilot is a game changer and makes the car fun to drive especially for long distances!  Continual over-the-air updates keep the car on the cutting edge.  It is the best purchase we have ever made and we wouldn’t own any other car now!”

Joe Deden was the founding director of Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center and Mary Bell is a food drying specialist.

For another look into life with an electric vehicle, don’t miss Lori’s story. The Saint Paul small business owner bought a used Leaf and charges while out-and-about. Do you have your own clean energy story? Email us at info@fresh-energy.org