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Tesla Model S owner is on a 12,000-mile road trip - and fuel is free

Norman Hajjar is more than halfway through the “Epic Electric American Road Trip” in his all-electric Tesla Model S. His journey will take him to all four corners of the United States without using a drop of gasoline. Here’s why what he is doing is so important.


A common argument against electric cars is their inability to travel long distances, due to a combination of insufficient battery capacity and lack of practical fast charging stations. Although owners of plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR, Ford C-Max Energi, Ford Fusion Energi, Honda Accord Plug-in, Toyota Prius Plug-in and owners of similar upcoming models would scoff at this claim, it is largely valid for pure electric vehicles.

Not for the Tesla Model S, however. Norman Hajjar is a research director at Recargo, an EV software and information services company that makes a popular app called PlugShare that identifies charging locations. He owns a Tesla Model S and is setting a world record for longest distance driven on electricity; his 18-day trip will take him from the Pacific Northwest to Maine, then down the east coast to Florida, and finally back across the country to Los Angeles.

Oh, and did we mention Hajjar will not pay a dime to fuel his car for the entire 12,000-mile journey? He is using exclusively Tesla Supercharger stations, which allow him to recover 170 miles of range for free in less than 30 minutes. Tesla offers access to the Supercharger network (pictured above) as an option on the 60-kWh model, but it comes standard with the larger 85-kWh battery pack.

That Supercharger network is privately funded by Tesla and it is impressive. Currently boasting 84 stations along major interstates in the United States, the expansive network allowed a Tesla team to drive from coast to coast earlier this year. By the end of 2015, Tesla hopes to cover 98% of the U.S. with the high-powered stations.

Hajjar’s journey will go a long way toward proving that electric vehicles can do anything conventional vehicles can. Tesla offers significantly more charging infrastructure and battery capacity than its competitors, though, which is one of the reasons Hajjar hopes to illustrate the need for an improved public DC fast charging network to make such road trips possible for drivers that do not own a Tesla.

However, there is an argument that so-called “corridor charging” doesn’t make sense until pure electrics can achieve 200 miles on a charge. Imagine taking a Nissan Leaf from D.C. to Florida – it just doesn’t make sense, and is not what the vehicle was designed for. For the commuter cars that represent the majority of electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrids that can double as road trip vehicles) it makes more sense to invest in lower-cost workplace infrastructure.

The “Epic Electric American Road Trip” if anything highlights the brilliance of Tesla’s model. Once the company can begin churning out lower-cost vehicles, many more drivers will love the convenience of free fueling at the Supercharger network that by 2017 will be ubiquitous. The fact that Superchargers already do or will replenish energy at rates of 120 kW, more than double that of most public DC fast chargers, makes them even more practical for road trips. Tesla eventually plans to increase that number even more to further reduce charge times.

You can track Hajjar’s progress on this nifty live feed. As of Friday morning he was in Newark, Delaware and had logged over 6500 miles in 130 hours of driving time, charging with 29% renewable energy. If he were driving, say, a Honda Civic (quite a frugal car by most standards) by the end of the trip Hajjar would have paid about $1,000 in gasoline costs. Using a Tesla Model S with the Supercharger network, he will pay $0. Not a bad deal.


Carl (not verified)    April 12, 2014 - 10:14AM

So while the driver doesn't have to pay for the electricity cost needed to charge his car - Tesla does since they're supplying the electricity. Plus, of course, what's his time worth? He gets to drive for 2 hours, and then stop for 30 minutes.

As a proof of concept it's noteworthy. As anything actually worth doing on a large commercial basis - especially since the average consumer (a) can't afford a Tesla and (b) doesn't have the time to waste - it's still worth noting but only as a stunt.

To quote an article headline from several years ago - "Electric cars are the next best thing ... and they always will be".

Kent (not verified)    April 12, 2014 - 2:04PM

In reply to by Carl (not verified)

The Model s is not a cheap car but is obviously an extremely gorgeous, fast, quiet car that requires little to no maintenance or repairs (1 moving part in drivetrain), creates zero emissions and -- even if not using the free Superchargers -- has much lower fuel costs than any gas car. I drive a Volt and have twice driven a Model S. even my twelve year old greatly prefers driving electric. People who criticize electric cars usually lack personal experience with them. Once you drive them most people have no desire to go back. As much as I love fast, sexy cars, i prefer my Volt to any car other than a Model S. this cross country drive is no stunt but an important demonstration of the potential benefits of driving electric (free fuel while driving the best car on the planet). When Tesla is able to produce the Model E at $30-35K which will be able to access the free Supercharging network, the other car companies had better be ready to sell their own electric cars and better have a licensing agreement with Tesla. Otherwise, Tesla is going to clean their clocks with free fuel in an amazing car and the other car companies will have nothing to offer that can compete. Under such scenario, I say they are doomed, doomed, doomed as are the oil companies. Thank you Elon! You are quickly making a better world. You deserve the greatest accolades and rewards for what you have already done to spur the world toward electric power. Few if any other mortal men could do what you have already accomplished. In a few short years, your sense of humor, brilliance and persistence have accomplished the incredible in the face of daunting opposition and ignorance.

Jim (not verified)    April 12, 2014 - 5:47PM

In reply to by Carl (not verified)

Tesla does pay for it but it's mainly energy using solar energy from solar city so essentially it's self sustainable. But it's free to the consumer....and your problem with free is???
You fail to recognize that this is their first consumer friendly car so yes charging for 20-30 minutes is not "convenient" but in the next few years I'm very confident that that time will drop to 5-10 minutes.

It's good to ask questions but it's people like you who don't help innovation. All you do is bash bash bash. This car is a marvel and will only force people to believe in due time. Just think about the limitations when the gas powered car was first introduced.

Carl (not verified)    April 12, 2014 - 9:16PM

In reply to by Jim (not verified)

I know there were terrible limitations. If you wanted to go anywhere there wasn't a fueling station, you had to carry cans of gasoline with you. Which you could do. I suppose you conceivably could haul a Honda generator in your trunk if you needed to do so.

Of course, when is it due time? It's not like electric cars per se are a new invention, are they? Just think about the limitations when the electric car was introduced - 1889. (Technically it was invented around 1835! Gee - only almost 200 years old ... and it STILL suffers from the same limitations and issues that it first did.) And even in the late 1890's, we're still at the 50 mile range limitation that has plagued electric cars for more than a century.

So ... gasoline powered cars seem to have overcome their limitations, and quite nicely. Considering that they've NOT been around as long as electric cars ... now you see why I say electric cars (regardless of WHO makes them - this isn't me just picking on Tesla, which you seem to think it is) are the next best thing, and always will be. (Okay, if we manage to get Doctor Emmit Browns Mr. Fusion, then an electric powered car would make sense. Otherwise - no, not really.)

mike w (not verified)    April 13, 2014 - 7:56PM

In reply to by Carl (not verified)

Well yes Carl the owner has already paid for the electricity. It is NOT free. you just don't pay when you charge. Tesla adds a $2000 surcharge to the Model S. This $2000 per is used to build the Supercharger stations and pay for the electricity and maintenance ( of the network).
The Tesla model S is the best ALTERNATIVE to gasoline. If you coordinate your bathroom and meal breaks with charging events then there is NO wasted time. Its just a matter of tweaking you travel habits.

Luke Ottaway    April 12, 2014 - 11:47PM

Carl, you make some valid points. But I'd argue that the electric vehicle hasn't truly been around since it was first conceived in the 19th century. The technology, particularly battery technology, got almost no attention once gasoline-powered vehicles took hold. There was no real reason to consider an electric drivetrain, so we got nearly a century of refinement of the internal combustion engine. I think the electric car can fairly be considered as "around" since 2011, when GM and Nissan released the first vehicles that represented legitimate mass-market commitments to the technology. Given that, it isn't so surprising they still face the limitations they do.

Carl (not verified)    April 13, 2014 - 10:23AM

In reply to by Luke Ottaway

Go read the history of the electric car. Prior to about 1920, the electric car outsold gasoline cars in America. And we're running into the same situation now that happened then: "designed for the upper-class customers that made them popular. They featured luxurious interiors and were replete with expensive materials" - from Wikipedia.

It's also not like we haven't had batteries capable of lasting 8 hours on a charge at full speed operation for decades. Anyone who's ever driven an electric forklift knows that. The problem is that for the capacity needed to do so, those batteries weighed in at 4,000 pounds. Every time manufacturers have tried to come out with electric cars, it's been "too expensive compared to equivalent gasoline cars of the time".

Now - if ... and this is a big IF ... you can get a manufacturer who can make an electric car that can sell for $30,000 (WITHOUT subsidies) that gets 300 miles of range, I think you'd have a winner in this country. I'm not saying it's not possible - I mean, when you look at hybrid's today with regenerative braking, independent motors on each wheel (talk about a true all wheel drive) - there's a lot of things possible. But here's what's been the killer.

Is it cost effective to do so? The gasoline engine didn't kill the electric car in the 20's - the assembly line and the road infrastructure did. Our country is spread out. If ALL of your driving is in a metro area, then having a car with 100 miles of range is fine. But if you're in a LARGE metro area - Jacksonville, Dallas - Fort Worth, Los Angeles - you may end up driving 40 miles one way just to get to work each day. (This is also a subsidiary argument regarding mass transit and passenger rail - it works well when your population centers are close together, otherwise not so much.) It's 240 miles from Dallas to Houston - 240 miles from St. Louis to Indianapolis, 250 miles from St. Louis to Kansas City.