I’m cruising up I-75 towards Traverse City, the sun is shining through the windows, my shades are on, the sound system tuned to Yacht Rock, and I’m singing along to “Sailing,” by Christopher Cross.
It’s a Friday in September and I’m on my first solo road trip with our family car, a Tesla Model 3. I’m confident and comfortable that the all-electric car is going to get me and my son everywhere we want to go without running out of charge.
However, I wasn’t always that confident.
When my husband first told me he wanted to buy a Tesla, my reaction was, “no way.” The year was 2018 and there was good reason to be skeptical. It was a year of ups and downs for the car company who saw struggles with financing and production as it worked towards the launch of its Model 3. I worried we were going to buy a car from a company that might not exist in a year or two. And could we trust the technology?
During a recent WDIV Insider Poll, 70 percent said no when asked if they were planning to buy an electric car in the coming years. When asked what the biggest obstacle was to buy an EV, 43 percent said the charging infrastructure, 22 percent said price, 17 percent said range anxiety, and 15 percent said they didn’t want one.
I would have been in that 70 percent category in 2018. However, my husband was well-researched and confident in the purchase. It will make him happy for me to write this next sentence. He was right and these days I’m a believer of electric-car way of life.
It took the pandemic to get me comfortable with relying on an electric car. Since I was driving less for work, my husband suggested I use the Tesla more often to get a better feel for it. Prior to that, I mostly drove my car. I became more comfortable with regenerative braking each time I took a spin, and began choosing the Tesla over my own car.
Related: Michigan plans 1st US electric vehicle charging road by 2023
It is a shift in mindset to be an all-electric car owner. Simply forgetting to plug in your vehicle at the end of the day could pose a problem, especially if you don’t have a quick-charge option on your route.
If you’ve heard the term ‘range anxiety,’ the concern whether you have enough charge to get to your destination, I can tell you it’s real. I’ve felt it occasionally.
I do agree with the WDIV Insider poll that we need a better charging infrastructure; especially now that more auto companies are coming out with their own EVs and the market is getting more competitive.
Tesla has an advantage with its Supercharger system. The company says it has “over 30,000 Superchargers worldwide, with six new locations opening every week.” And it’s easy to navigate to them. You simply build your charging stops into your route and the time to charge is similar to the time you would take to stop for lunch. In fact, Tesla says you can charge up to 200 miles in about 15 minutes. I would say that’s the case nearly every time we stop. While it does add to your overall drive time, it’s not enough in my opinion to make it a deal breaker.
Spring Break 2021 we traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for our family vacation. That was the furthest we ever traveled with the Tesla. From metro Detroit to Gatlinburg, we had to make three charging stops, none of them longer than 30 minutes to get us to the cabin we rented.
We did encounter a challenge once we arrived, the closest Supercharger was nearly an hour away because of the mountainous roads. We didn’t want to spend that kind of time driving to charge the car, so we decided to plug our car into the home we were renting. The charging was slow but gave us enough “juice” for all our daily adventures. We did not need a Supercharger again until we left town at the end of the week.
That trip sold me on owning an electric car as a way of life. It was also the first trip where we noticed the Superchargers filling up, with some drivers having to wait their turn to charge up. It is exciting to see more people driving electric however does make me concerned about the infrastructure catching up with demand.
As a family, we think differently now when it comes to driving. When we plan a trip, we ask ourselves where and how will we charge when we get there? We look to see if the lodging options offer EV charging.
This summer we camped at a Michigan State Park and we plugged the car in at the campsite. At my parents’ home, we plug into the outlet in their garage if we’re staying overnight. And thankfully a Supercharger is never too far away.
My husband has not been to a gas station in three years and five months. He has not had to get an oil change. The maintenance so far has been tires, only. Eventually there will be brake work. When I’m standing outside my car at a gas station in the cold February wind, I’m jealous he no longer has to make getting gas a regular part of his routine.
Back to that first solo road trip, last September, my son and I were heading up to Traverse City for a soccer tournament. I could have taken my car, but I wanted to take my husband’s Tesla. I looked up the Supercharging stations to make sure there was one in Traverse City because our hotel did not offer EV charging and found one at a Meijer.
Many of them are at Meijer. We have stopped many times at the Supercharger in Bay City on the way Up North and grabbed a bite at the nearby Culvers or ran inside to Meijer for the bathrooms and some odds and ends.
This was my first time venturing out solo with the car. It was fun. The Model 3 is a great ride.
I can tell you we made it there and back with no problems, but I did learn a few things. First, don’t assume you know where the Superchargers are, you need to map it out.
I went on memory to get to the Traverse City Meijer instead of mapping it out. When I got there, there was no Supercharger station. I had a small panic attack that there was no Tesla Superchargers in Traverse City. Thankfully I had just gone to the wrong Meijer.
Second, go with your gut. On our return trip, Tesla had me arriving home with just a 10 percent charge. I figured it would be OK, but I still stopped to charge an additional time just in case … I’m not quite over the range anxiety yet. But I’m getting there. Next time I’m going to trust the 10 percent.
And I highly recommend the Yacht Rock … a friend and coworker turned me onto it right before the trip.