Range Anxiety in 2014: Reports from an All-Electric Road Trip


There are some 122,000 gas stations in this country while there are only 8,500 electric car charging stations and a somewhat better 20,500 public charging outlets. As Tesla Motors looks to release their new Model 3 sedan — a cheaper, approximately $35,000 all-electric vehicle coming in 2017 — it leads to a big question: Is range anxiety still alive and well? To find out, we took a Tesla Model S P85+, the company's top-of-the-line sedan with an 85-kW-hr battery capable of a 270-mile range, from Manhattan to Kennebunkport, Maine to see how it could handle on one of the country's busiest corridors.

The drive from Manhattan to Boston — our first stop — was easy enough: Connecticut, Greenwich, Darien, and Milford all house Tesla's dedicated network of Superchargers, which allow a rapid fill-up of charge at rest stops. Easy to map out via the vehicle's in-dash computer screen, including exact mileage distances and turn-by-turn directions, we made one stop in Darien (45 miles from NYC) for a 30-minute charge before heading to East Greenwich, Rhode Island (170 miles from NYC), home to Tesla's last Supercharger along the I-95 corridor.

Maintaining a cruise controlled 60 to 70mph on the highway helped conserve energy. And even with the A/C on high, the Tesla sipped charge so frugally that in Boston we skipped the pre-planned (and dreaded) trickle charge stop at Tesla's non-Supercharger equipped Watertown Service Center and made our way to Kennebunkport, where Tesla maintains two charging stations (as well as one universal) at the Nonantum Resort.

Free to resort guests and patrons — or to passersby for a $20 fee — this permanent station (there's also one in nearby Ogunquit) is part of a brand new Tesla partnership with resorts across the U.S. to create a network of "Destination Charging" locations. While not Superchargers, they do allow a full charge overnight or a "charge of convenience" as one has dinner or attends a function at the resort.

Tesla's popularity in California — home to the majority of its owners and where it now has a sizable 15 Superchargers — is a no-brainer. There are 16 Superchargers along the entire Eastern seaboard by comparison, but in addition to home charge stations, and PlugShare — a network that allows Tesla owners to connect with one of over 50,000 nationwide charging stations (residential, public, and high power) — the charging options for electric cars are fast growing even in the cold northeast. 

As convenient, easy and flawless as it was to charge the Tesla during our 700-mile road trip, range was still a shoulder devil during much of the trip. Driving an all-electric in 2014 still takes planning, schedule adjustments, and patience. But with more fun and affordable electric cars coming to market — and an expanding charging infrastructure — electric anxiety may soon be a thing of the past. 

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