Summer is a time for vacations, family outings, and road trips. My EVtripping site has seen a huge spike in new users and trips planned (over 50,000) this summer and our turn for a road trip came up.
We live in Massachusetts, had a skating competition to go to in Lake Placid, NY, then we had to go to the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA for a graduation party then back to Massachusetts. The path from Lake Placid, NY to Pittsburgh, PA goes by Niagara Falls and we’d never been there so we made that an additional stop for our trip.
Planning a trip like this in any vehicle can be a pain with hotels and timing. With a Tesla it’s a bit more work. I built EVTripping just for this purpose and so it was my first stop when the planning started.
The trip was over 1,400 miles and we planned to do it over 6 days.
While Tesla’s in-car Navigation system can get you from point A to point B and take you to any needed Superchargers along the way, it can’t handle waypoints, stopovers and other types of things you’d want to do when planning a trip like this. It also can’t show you a trip from point A to point B if you’re not already at point A.
The planning showed that I could make the trip in my Model S which was a great first start. But, from experience, I knew there was another level of detail I needed to think about – Destination Charging.
Once in the Pittsburgh area, I needed to be able to do a bunch of running around for the graduation party. That requires power and I would be staying at a hotel in the area that had no destination charging (none do close to family). The family house in the area had no accessible options other than a standard 3mi/hr plug which wouldn’t do it. I used PlugShare to check the options near my destination. My options were a Supercharger 40 minutes away or a lone CHAdeMO charger 10 minutes away.
While the Supercharger was free and faster, it would be an extra hour of driving and I’d need the extra power (to and from) to support that in addition to my driving around and I’d likely need to do that each day for 3 days. I decided to go with the CHAdeMO.
CHAdeMO adapters are $450 from Tesla and many Service Centers have them in stock. I called my SC the day before my trip to check that it was in stock and made the 2 hour round trip buy it. The adapter is quite a beast:
Armed with my adapter we took off on the trip.
Lake Placid, NY was beautiful and we made the drive up the mountain in the Model S even though the weather was not cooperating:
From there we headed west to Niagara Falls in Canada. The drive there was beautiful and a lot of fun through the mountains. The falls were fantastic and definitely worth visiting once.
We felt a zipline along the falls was in order so we fit that in too:
We explored the local area in Canada for a while and then headed to the Pittsburgh, PA area. We had a family gathering to get to and a dinner to make.
We made dinner on time thanks to Tesla’s great estimated arrival time including charging stops and I dropped the family off at the hotel afterward so I could go charge up for the next day. I arrived at the CHAdeMO charger I’d found via Plugshare with a very low charge:
This charge level wouldn’t have been enough to make it to the closest Supercharger and the CHAdeMO was literally my only reasonable option.
This particular charger was at a Dunkin Donuts, right next to the drive through ordering area:
CHAdeMO charging is not free. Prices can vary, but this one was $5.95 session fee plus $0.20/min. I swiped my credit card and plugged in the monster adapter and started charging.
CHAdeMO prices can vary, try to find the fine print on the terms.
The first thing I noticed was that it was much slower than using a Supercharger:
While CHAdeMO is capable of much higher speeds, this one was 99A @ 334V or 33kW. The Tesla Superchargers can regularly get over 100kW in the early part of the charge and around 70-80kW as they slow down. So this was about 1/3 to 1/2 the speed.
CHAdeMOs are often much slower than Superchargers – 1/3 to 1/2 the speed.
My next surprise was that the charging stopped partway through. I didn’t get any kind of notification from the car or the CHAdeMO charger (it asks for your phone # for notifications). So, while I was sitting in Dunkin, my car had stopped charging and was just sitting there. This added a lot of extra time. It did that twice for my on my first charging session and I had no idea why, or how the “per session” fee would work.
I went back there again the next day after a lot of running around for another charging session. Each session was at least an hour with multiple restarts of the charging. I finally called the CHAdeMO operator (EVgo) and asked them about it and found that charging sessions are limited to 30mins. Each new charge start is a new per session fee then the charge per minute. So this means for a 30-minute charging session you cost is $11.95. So the energy rate is $0.362, or about double what my high electricity price is in Massachusetts.
CHAdeMO vendors are in business for a profit.
I ended up spending $57.15 and about 3 hours of sitting around at Dunkin time for a few days of running around power. I would have spent less money but used more time had I tried to use the Supercharger which was further away (and the first day I couldn’t have gotten there).
While the CHAdeMO was the only “fast” charging option in the area, I was left with the following conclusions:
- The adapter is overly expensive
- CHAdeMOs charge at a much slower rate than Superchargers
- CHAdeMO pricing is pretty high
CHAdeMO charging is not very convenient or a good option for most Telsa owners.
After the family gathering, we headed back to Massachusets and added another stop along the way in NJ to visit more family and eat some great Thai food.
The trip was a success and we managed to go to places where I could never have gone in my Model S when I first took delivery. The Supercharging network has come a long way and other options, while not as convenient, now also exist for the gaps in the Supercharger network.
As EVs continue to take off, destination charging options are the key to real expansion. Not just in the cities, but also in the rural areas. Slow, time limited chargers like this CHAdeMO are not the answer. We need chargers at the hotels, in the towns where you can leave your car for hours/overnight and start with a fresh charge the next day. While Tesla seems to understand
We need chargers at the hotels and in all the towns. These chargers should be in locations where you can leave your car for hours or overnight and start with a fresh charge the next day. While Tesla seems to understand this with their destination chargers program, those chargers are at luxury resorts and special vacation destinations — they’re not at your local Marriott in the suburbs and so are missing the mark.