It’s not great that the existence of electric cars has become increasingly politicized, because we end up with situations like the one we had this week, where a somewhat impromptu and poorly planned trip in a rented Tesla Model Y from Fox Business News reporter Jeff Flock ends up in an exaggerated and misleading series of reports that feed the EV outrage machine. We don’t stand for that around these parts, especially since I did this same trip in a Lucid EV in just two stops this summer. Sure, the Lucid has more range especially when it’s warm, but still — it was a non-issue.
First off, here’s the rather hard-to-watch news segment that got us started down this path. It’s about a very straightforward and well-traveled route from Chicago to New York, something that Tesla drivers have been navigating for years.
The segment features ignorant talk about battery mining, and Ted Nugent shows up for some reason — seriously, this is bizarre:
The reporter who participated in the road trip, Flock, is a self-proclaimed EV fan and mostly keeps politics out of his report, thankfully. But if you read the main article about this (not written by Flock), it’s dripping with an agenda:
Fox Business’ Jeff Flock put Biden’s electric vehicle hype to the test, embarking on an 800-mile trip in a Tesla on Tuesday from Chicago to New York, documenting each charge along the way.
His expedition comes as the White House and more than a dozen Democrat-run states push to accelerate America’s clean transportation future. However, the initiative has sparked concerns for long-distance drivers.
This underlined bit is, I think, a reference to the Inflation Reduction Act and the California Air Resource Board’s EV mandate, which has been copied by other states, though not all of those states have Democratic governors so I’m not entirely sure how accurate that statement is. The graphic they use for the first TV hit of this trip is more telling:
As the reporter admits in his own written piece, the amount of money he spent relative to gasoline was a wash, so I’m not sure how he’s “losing green” exactly, and Consumer Reports and others have estimated the fuel cost savings for an EV to be about 60% compared to a gas-powered, but public charging is more expensive than private charging and gas in Ohio, along the route, is particularly cheap at the moment (I was just there doing a drive a couple of weeks ago), so it’s possible that an EV could cost the same (or even more) to road trip, depending on a bunch of factors.
As Flock admits himself, this trip could have been better planned. It probably didn’t help that he apparently wasn’t very familiar with the vehicle, spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how to start it (the car was already on), and even calling it a “Model W.”
This Probably Wasn’t The Best Way To Do This
Flock’s report doesn’t include a lot of details, but based on the dual motor badge on the back of the Model Y in photos it means that he probably rented either a Long Range or Performance trim, which means 285-310 miles of likely range. My best guess is that it’s a Model Y Long Range.
He does say he used the Tesla map to determine where to start after setting off from Chicago in the EV he rented. In an ideal world, you’d want to charge the vehicle before you left on the trip, but maybe Flock was in a hurry and drove it from O’Hare, where he picked it up, to his family.
As you can see above, I mapped the trip using a 2020 Model Y Long Range and only Tesla Superchargers, and it ended up being about 16 hours and five stops, including an almost immediate 15-minute stop to top the car off. This route seems to keep you pretty much always on or near the Interstate, which is why I thought this sentence was weird:
Tesla’s software does a great job of routing you to superchargers, which are the fastest way to charge but may not be the fastest way to get where you’re going.
This is generally true, but for his trip, it shouldn’t be an issue, and it gets me with my biggest gripe with this kind of reporting. He says he stopped in Elyria, Ohio with just 38 miles of range and then went to a Supercharger in Sheffield, Ohio.
When we finished our first day and parked at our hotel in Elyria, Ohio, the vehicle said we had 38 miles of range remaining. When we started up the next morning, we had just 15 miles. The software routed us to the nearest supercharger in Sheffield, Ohio, and when we got there we had just 3% battery left. Whew.
As far as I can tell, Flock and his producer/camera operator started at 219 miles of charge and made it pretty easily to Elkhart (stop #1) and then drove 215 miles or so to Elyria, Ohio. It’s possible they waited to charge the car all the way up to the top. They also could have picked a hotel with a charger or charged during dinner (there are local chargers in Elyria), but instead the choice was made to park the car nearly empty and then they forced themselves to drive out of the way a bit to charge in Sheffield.
Flock sort of admits this:
And in fairness to Tesla, we departed from their route to get dinner the first night, which took our charge down lower than they would recommend.
Ok, fine, it then took them four more stops to get home. That seems high but, if you’re worried about running out of range, it makes a little sense, though because he only wants to stop at Tesla chargers he confusingly admits in one video that he only goes 87 miles at one point in between charges (from Sheffield, Ohio, to Girard, Ohio). It’s also winter and the reporter talks about losing range, which is definitely an issue when driving when it’s cold outside, but if he did lose 46 miles of range, I can’t imagine a scenario where he couldn’t have just driven another 40 or so miles to the Supercharger in Grove City, PA or, even, the closer one in Hermitage, PA.
However, there’s a better way to do this. If you stop at the very convenient Electrify America station in West Unity, Ohio (we realize that EA stations aren’t always the best), this trip can probably be done in just four stops, which is how I think many experienced EV roadtrippers would do it. You need an adapter, and it’s not clear if the rental had one, but anyone who owned one of these cars would likely own an adapter. Is this drive possible in the winter? I think so, but as the reporter experienced, cold weather can negatively impact range.
After all this, here’s how Flock sums it up:
My biggest takeaway: if you stick to their route you’re good. If you prefer a more spontaneous excursion involving exploration off the route, you had better be good at planning.
The good news is that being better at planning than Flock seems to be a low bar to clear.
Fox Business News And Fox News Seem To Add Two Charging Stops That Didn’t Happen
Here’s the weirdest thing, Flock says that he made six stops. If you read the report written by the network, or if you unfortunately watched the wacky Ted Nugent segment at the top of this article, it was suddenly eight stops? From the report:
Throughout the trip, he made eight stops to charge the car and watched the efficiency drop after each stop.
And here’s a screenshot from that segment, The BIG Weekend show, with an anchor and random panelists talking about how bad they think EVs are:
The reality is, yes, of course, renting a Tesla from Hertz for a long-distance road trip is going to take longer. We didn’t need a segment to prove that. It’s possible to make this trip slower than it should be if you really have no idea what you’re doing, take random excursions, and don’t plan at all. The eight stops thing, though, appears to be a mistake from the Fox Business News reporter that was then repeated on Fox News for some reason.
Anyway, it’s all dumb.