Driving a few laps around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a Tesla Model S can be quite a treat. Driving between Los Angeles and Las Vegas? Sometimes, not so much.

The fine folks at Teslarati had the good fortune of taking the all-electric luxury sedan for a few spins around the racetrack near Sin City, and found that the Tesla handled "quite well" and was able to reach a top speed of 110 miles per hour on one of the straightaways. And the car turned in a best time of two minutes and 17 seconds around the 2.4-mile circuit.

Still, the car started limiting its own power as early as its second lap, and by the seventh lap or so, the car brought down its power capacity to about 25 percent in order to conserve juice. The drivers were able to make do because a Tesla Supercharger fast-charging station was 11 miles away and they could get a good charge in about an hour.

Less of a treat was the car's performance between Vegas and Southern California. Despite being big Tesla fans (the driver writes for Teslarati, after all), the unexpected appearance of 35-mile-per-hour headwinds and the totally expected elevation changes between Las Vegas and Barstow, CA proved particularly problematic. The driver slowed down to 40 mph and dropped the Model S' power consumption to something in the 400-500 wh/m range, but still, our intrepid explorers ran out of juice and were stranded beside the road until Tesla kindly arranged for a tow. D'oh!


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  • 115 Comments
      BipDBo
      • 7 Months Ago
      That world and the worlds of: * Road trips * hot weather * headwinds * future vehicle that may be used for towing * number of battery fires (Any > 0) * cost Granted, I'd rather own a Tesla S than a Chevy Volt. But that's because the S is a RWD, bigger, more luxurious, more expensive, more powerful car. What I'm arguing is that the Voltec hybrid drivetrain concept is a better overall compromise than any pure EV.
      Joeviocoe
      • 7 Months Ago
      It is not about number of stations... it is about 3 things. Location, location, location. The new station is located between the existing station, and Vegas
      Rotation
      • 7 Months Ago
      The fall to 25% power is not to conserve the battery, it's just because the car (presumably motor controller and motor) is so overheated, same as the first reduction in power after one lap. The source article gets this right, ABG's version just gets it wrong. A person on an email list I am on has extensive experience with this. Getting strong headwinds can be a big deal. I had problems with them in the California Central Valley on one trip. I assumed since I could drive East, I could drive back too and this was not the case. I had to slow a lot to make it.
        JakeY
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Rotation
        Over at TMC I think the best guess given is the motor, but given the Model S doesn't have the same temp monitoring facilities as the Roadster, no one knows for sure where the thermal bottleneck is. There's been discussions about ways to push the thermal envelope higher, as the Model S has relatively low radiator surface for aerodynamic efficiency reasons (rather than using an active aero design). And I agree headwinds suck, as your energy consumption is essentially the same as if you were traveling at your current speed plus the wind speed. So for their case of 35mph headwinds, even at 40mph, it's the equivalent of travelling 75mph.
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          JakeY: Yeah, I was watching the electric meter on my Leaf in those headwinds, and it was exactly as you said and a bit scary. It makes slowing down even seem futile the consumption number just go high and stay up there even when you slow down. It was too bad I couldn't arrange the trip the other way, so I was going East during the high winds. Being able to travel at 75 with the power consumption of 40 would be awesome. With those winds and going 65, I could even drive the entire outbound direction of over 100 miles on a single charge, even with the road winding to not be straight downwind the whole way. As to the cooling problem on the Tesla, I agree about the radiator insufficiency. They know few people will track the car, their 0-62 sprints can still be more impressive while not impacting the efficiency as much as a larger cooling system would. When I tell people my automatic-equipped V6 Cadillac CTS will outdo a Tesla Model S P85 on the track over a dozen or more laps they look at me like I'm crazy.
          spannermonkeyuk
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          The Model S has 3 sets of active shutters on the cooling intakes.
          Joeviocoe
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          The car wasn't designed to win on a track for trophies and slips. It was designed for the real world. And it is not even legal to continuously accelerate and hold top speed in the real world.
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          Joeevicoe: I didn't say eventually. I said after a few laps. The power subsides after HALF A LAP. That's not eventually. A car that slows down after only being pushed hard for well under a minute before it slows down merits mention and is impactful. Even if you measure only the first lap time, the effect already showed up on the numbers. If a car looks on paper like it performs like a Ferrari but really barely outruns an Impala, it bears mention. So I mentioned it.
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          IF it's bad now, wait until it's 122 in Barstow-- that's when Tesla will have real problems out there. I-10 to Phoenix from LA will kill them, too.
          Joeviocoe
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          There already have been plenty of Tesla's which have made the trip back and forth to Vegas and Phoenix.... so there is no doomsday coming as your FUD suggests.
          Joeviocoe
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          They look at you crazy, because "eventually" doesn't really matter. People understand that track runs are merely to test precisely how a car handles in the real world. It is supposed to be an indicator of performance that one might expect when they really need/want it. Such as at a stoplight, or a freeway on ramp. If full power is available when people need it... who cares if that power eventually subsides when on some test track. *unless you bought the car strictly to win trophies*.
          toyolla2
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JakeY
          A 35mph headwind on a 45mph car will not yield the equivalent aerodynamic losse of driving at 75mph as you stated. You will incur the the countervailing force attributable to a 75mph airflow, however this force will be exerted at a 40 mph groundspeed not 75mph so the power needed will only be about half that which you indicated.
      Anderlan
      • 7 Months Ago
      So, even with longer range electrics coming out, I may want to work on that EV trip planner app I keep thinking of that incorporates whether and elevation change. At least until charging stations are as prevalent as gas stations. HEY WAIT. They are. At l east L2 stations. The country side is RIDDLED with L2 stations, and L1 stations are literally EVERYWHERE. So, maybe I shouldn't waste my time. Why didn't these idiots find an L2 port to pull from before they got too low?
        Anderlan
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Anderlan
        Whiskey Pete's at the border has J1772's and Clarke's Mobile Home Park half way between the border and Barstow has 14-50s. My guess is there's more electric refueling stops along the empty part of this leg than there are gas stops ;-)
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Anderlan
        Yeah, I can accept being an idiot for getting stranded. But the truth is that I usually plan very well, just never had experience with such strong head winds before. Also, I did not realize I was in trouble until the last leg of the trip. I ended up being short by only 3 miles. At which point, if you look on Regargo, there aren't many options. When I started realizing my available range was going down faster than I anticipated, I employed the usual strategy of slowing down. I did not even attribute it to head winds at that point but rather to speed and elevation changes. It's only not until I slowed down to 40s and still saw quite significant energy consumption did I realize that it was not the elevation. Having had experience with this now, I will be able to recognize it next time. Hind sight is always 20/20, but in reality I did not feel the effect of the wind inside the car. It's only not until I got out did I realize how strong the wind really was. Lesson learned.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 7 Months Ago
          Yeah, these cars are big, heavy and arrow dynamic so you don't feel the wind like you do in a regular car. Notice when I pass by semi's they don't blow my car,( Tesla) to the side like they did with my PU. My PU weighed more but it was not nearly as arrow dynamic. Even the Corvette does not get blown as much because of the arrow dynamics.
        Joeviocoe
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Anderlan
        Unfortunately, a desert is still mostly desert. Even with a gasoline car, going to Vegas takes some planning and requires that you top off your tank for a serious premium, at one of the few gas stations in that desert. Vegas is an isolated city, which requires many concessions.
        Joeviocoe
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Anderlan
        Unfortunately, a desert is still mostly desert. Even with a gasoline car, going to Vegas takes some planning and requires that you top off your tank for a serious premium, at one of the few gas stations in that desert. Vegas is an isolated city, which requires many concessions.
      • 7 Months Ago
      I love the Tesla and I am curious .....was this trip well planned ?where the charging stations sought out before the trip? Was there a Game Plan beforehand? other people have made long trips with the Tesla Model S with no problems...I need more info to make sense of this situation.
        fairfireman21
        • 7 Months Ago
        You can not always drive where there are super chargers. If that was the case I would have to drive 200 miles just to get to one. So if someone had one of these from Florida to Cal. and wanted to use the superchargers they would first have to go up to the top to go back down that is where they are at the top of the U.S.
          Joeviocoe
          • 7 Months Ago
          @fairfireman21
          Yes, Tesla is not for every trip imaginable... but in about a year and a half... you have to revisit this question, and my find a different answer. So basically, if you are the type to need a particular road trip across the country... don't buy a Tesla... if you like the 99.99% of people who can afford a Tesla, and would rather fly and rent when the need arises.. then Tesla has you covered. The "I CAN'T DO ...." arguments are getting fewer and fewer.
        Actionable Mango
        • 7 Months Ago
        They had 240 indicated miles of charge for a 160 mile trip. It seems they planned just fine, unless checking for wind should be part of every trip plan.
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          As the NYT guy found out--- the "range meter" simply cannot be relied upon in extremes of cold, heat, grades or headwinds. A 747 pilot has to plan 'reserve allotments' of JP4 before flying off to Tokyo-- if the Tesla is so smart, why shouldn't it factor in range calculation margin, too?
        Joeviocoe
        • 7 Months Ago
        Read below, the driver commented
      • 7 Months Ago
      sorry but the tesla still isn't practical enough, elec. cars need 1000 mile range to work, it needs a tiny generator or soemthing like the bmw i3 just incase things like this happens
        Warren
        • 7 Months Ago
        The entire automobile culture has their heads up the 19th century. http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/may/nasa-uci-study-indicates-loss-of-west-antarctic-glaciers-appears-unstoppable/#.U3NhV4FdWSo
        Joeviocoe
        • 7 Months Ago
        Practical enough for 35,000 people per year... with whole lot of practical people waiting in line.
        Mark Schaffer
        • 7 Months Ago
        I am sure you are demanding a thousand mile range for ICE vehicles...
        fairfireman21
        • 7 Months Ago
        Sorry but the i3 will not do better unless the range extenter is on board. Standard i3 is not range extended like the Volt.
      Actionable Mango
      • 7 Months Ago
      I think this is why PHEVs are a necessary step for many (not all) until the charging infrastructure is better.
      Joeviocoe
      • 7 Months Ago
      http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla_model_s Awesome cartoon about Tesla Model S
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 7 Months Ago
      Obviously, they did not take their receding range number and energy consumption numbers into consideration soon enough. That and if you know you are heading into mountains well lets just say, god gave you a brain for a reason, in this case god gave you a brain so you would not have to call a tow truck or walk. When you are using 2.5 gallons fuel equivalent to make this trip to LA from Vegas with a luxury sedan you better pay closer attention to the numbers and gauges much like you would if you were driving a ICE PU truck with 2.5 gallons of fuel in it on a trip to the grocery store.
      GreenDriver
      • 7 Months Ago
      My daily driver is a Volt which I just took on a two day 900 mile road trip with nary a hitch. While I love my Volt, I'm thinking of trading up to either a Tesla or an i8. I really want to support the home team Tesla but stories like this are pushing me towards the i8, even with it's paltry 23 mile AER.
        GreenDriver
        • 7 Months Ago
        @GreenDriver
        Vote me down 3x! Fine I'm getting the P1, that'll teach you ;)
        • 7 Months Ago
        @GreenDriver
        If you have a Volt why would you downgrade to the Tesla and start worrying about charging stations again? Wait for the Cadillac based on the Volt-- is rumoured to be very nice for less $$ than a Model S.
          Tweaker
          • 1 Day Ago
          You really are a moran, all these posts and you don't even know that Cadillac has been for sale for months. Get out much or did Mom leave her computer on?
        purrpullberra
        • 7 Months Ago
        @GreenDriver
        Do you need the ICE in the Volt? It's heavy to carry around if you don't use it much. Same with the batteries. Just one perspective. ModelS could easily do the trip, it was just in this case that they could've done better. Don't let this scare you. The i8 is going to be insane fun, buy one if you can. If you can afford a P1 too, damn, I want to hang out and see your awesome cars! Get a ModelS too!
          GreenDriver
          • 7 Months Ago
          @purrpullberra
          Cool! You'll find me breaking lap records at either VIR or Summit Point!
      2 wheeled menace
      • 7 Months Ago
      Why is it that this is story worthy, and hundreds of gasoline car drivers getting stranded out in the middle of nowhere on road trips is not? Seems like someone's singling a certain car maker out...
        • 7 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Uh, because Elon Musk claims such a thing can't happen with all these 'free' SuperChargers around... Poor Danny-- is Musk going to personally attack him now too?
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Day Ago
          Danny (ABG) is one of many repeating the story. He did not drive the Model S. Also, the driver has commented here several times already... he admits that planning on his part could have been better, and in no way blames Tesla. So you obviously don't even know what happened here, or with the previous stories.
        Actionable Mango
        • 7 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        We all know ABG is also known as the Tesla news channel.
        Anderlan
        • 7 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        A quick glance at Plugshare indicates there are might well be more L2's along the empty part of I-15 from LV to Barstow than there are gas stations. So I don't get it either.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 7 Months Ago
      Not really Rotation, you must wait for 40 mins for tow truck at times. In 40 mins they could have 15 miles range off a L2 with 30 amp draw.
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