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

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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.

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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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