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Below is a recounting of various car events I've attended along the years, from car club meets, autocrosses, track events, and enthusiast drives.

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2016/01/06 Driving from the South Bay Area to Kirkwood in a Tesla Model S 90D
π 2016-01-06 00:00 in Cars, Snow

Introduction

After getting my 90D, I looked into how hard it would be to get in my favourite ski resort around Lake Tahoe: Kirkwood. The problem is that there are no superchargers nearby (Truckee is 1.5H in the wrong direction) and no destination charging. Hell, Kirkwood until recently wasn't even connected to a power grid and made its power from on site diesel generators (not very green if you recharge from that).

The challenge was seeing if I could drive from Manteca Supercharger and back in a day trip without plugging in, and basically even with a 90D, I didn't think it's possible unless you have super ideal conditions (nice and warm, clean roads, drive slowly). Of course, the problem is how much you can trust the power usage simulations vs what's going to happen in real time.

So, I'll give the end of the story first: if you are able to plug into a 110V plug to keep the batteries warm and give them a few extra Kwh while you ski, it is possible to make it from Manteca and back if you charge at 100% in Manteca, in either an 85D or a 90D. If you cannot plug in, it should still be possible (barely) but you'd have to be ready for having to stop in Jackson (4KW charger) or beg the Lockeford Inn for power before you hit highway 99 (100A charger but likely 40A for most of you with single inverters) if you hit unexpected conditions.
Either way, I made it from Kirkwood to Sutter Creek, Amador Transit (just north of Jackson) in 7.7Kwh, and that was driving fast in snow (more rolling resistance) and cold weather (-3C), which means that as long as you have 10Kwh left in Kirkwood, you can make it back down to civilization. Keep in mind that you'll only get 16 miles of range per hour in Sutter Creek, and 26 miles of range per hour of charging in Lockeford Inn. Better than walking if unexpected things happened, but making it back to the Manteca supercharger is better for obvious reasons :)

And back to getting power at Kirkwood, there are some 110V plugs here and there in the underground parkings, most are even the 20A type which will give you 16A charging instead of 12A charging if you buy a NEMA 5-20 plug. Mind you, it'll still charge slowly (I arrived 13:30, left 16:30 the next day, so 27H of charging at 16A. This brought my battery back from 19% to 65% (42kWh of charge in 27H, or 1.5kWh of charge per hour, which is consistent with what you'd get from a 110V at 16A).
In my case, that 65% charge on a 90D was just enough to drive back from Kirkwood to hope with 4% battery to spare (and again, not slow driving, in cold weather and with snow, making the drive less efficient: 46Kwh for 183 miles, including 7000ft of downhill).

Takeaways

You don't like reading, you like cliff notes, well there you go :)

  • if you don't have an 85/90D, it's safer to go through Folsom supercharger, despite the detour. Or, try sleeping at lockeford Inn and charge there.
  • Manteca to Kirkwood to Manteca with an 85/90D is dicy if you can't plug in at kirkwood. On a nice day without snow and warmer temps, t should be doable though, and if you run short, charge at Sutter or beg at Lockeford Inn (charger is supposed to only be for customers).
  • Plugging in 8H during a snow day at kirkwood should be enough to keep the batteries warm and allow Manteca-Kirkwood-Manteca.
  • But getting a plug at kirkwood you're allowed to use in a parking spot you're allowed to use, is problematic if you're not staying the night with an assigned parking spot. If you must plug in, you will manage, but you'll be parked illegally in an underground parking spot that is assigned to someone else potentially, and you risk being towed.
  • Obviously driving in a snowstorm will increase rolling resistance and decrease battery life due to temperatures, be mindful of that
  • Heated windshield wipers did not help keep the windshield clear of snow (disappointing). At times I had to waste battery to blast full heat air on the windshield
  • Distance estimator was very wrong both when I left the Manteca charger and when I left Kirkwood. Both times it over estimated my range significantly, and then adjusted to a better value within just 5 minutes of driving.
  • Distance estimator does not seem to take temperature changes due to altitude and gave me a lot less range on the drive back than I really got, because I'm sure it assumed the temperature would be -4C the entire drive.
  • I'm very disappointed that my 90D shows only 76kWh usable from my battery pack from that drive
  • Regen did a much better job slowing the car down downhill in snow than brakes which engaged ABS almost right away. Plan to never drive fast enough in snow that you'll ever need brakes.
  • 4WD with stock M+S tires, while having not very good traction in the snow, were sufficient for the drive without chains if you drive carefully (basically you cannot brake much downhill and finish all braking before you turn (most important advise, follow that and you'll be ok)).
  • Kirkwood, without recharging there, the easy and direct way: The Inn at Locke House in Lockeford

    I didn't do this, but if your schedule allows, drive the night before to The Inn at Locke House, make sure of their 100A Tesla charger to fill up and leave at 06:00-06:30 (or 07:00 if there isn't snow on the road) the next morning. You'll get to kirkwood before 09:00 with enough power left to drive back to Manteca supercharger for your drive home (if you have an 85-90D).
    If you have a 70D, you can drive from Lockeford to Kirkwood, but if you cannot charge in Kirkwood, you may only get back to Jackson/Sutter and you might have to charge there (at a slower speed) since it's not clear you'll make it back to Lockeford, or even less so the Manteca supercharger.

    Kirkwood, without recharging there, the easy and longer way: Folsom Supercharger

    If you have a 65 or 70, this is likely the only really safe option for you. If the weather is nice, it's not a huge detour (well, still a 1h detour)

    Going to Folsom is the obvious thing people mention, but Manteca to Kirkwood is 109 miles, 2h19. Google Maps says going through Folsom is 170 miles, 3h21mn if you cut through SR49 back to SR88, or 182 miles and 3h13 if you go up hwy 50 to south lake and turn back at SR89 to kirkwood when you arrive in Meyers/South Lake Tahoe. Don't be fooled though, during a snow storm, this isn't going to be 1 extra hour, it will be at least 2 extra hours, and often more.
    If you are going through Folsom in a snow storm, don't get tricked by little roads that cross from 50 to 88, especially if the snow line is low. Those roads are not plowed and people get stuck on them every year with non one to help them for a while. My recommendation is SR49 from hwy 50 to SR88, it'll be much faster than going to south lake via 50, and back to kirkwood via 89, 88.

    Kirkwood, without recharging there, the easy and even longer way: Truckee Supercharger

    I'll mention it because it's there, but:
  • it's really a long detour
  • during snow storms, i80 is the first road to close (before 50 and 88)
  • driving SR89 around the lake is scenic, but during a snow storm, not a fun drive or SR89 could just be closed
  • Bay Area to Kirkwood: 183 miles, 4h50 drive with a 1h supercharger stop in Manteca

    If sleeping in Lockeford and charging there isn't an option for you, this is your next option.
    I drove in a snow storm and made no attempt to drive slowly to conserve battery (on the contrary). I did however not use cabin heating unless it was required to defog the windshield, or later in the trip to deice the windshield when the heated windshield failed to do its job.

    Here's the actual trip:

  • 08:40: Departure with 90%
  • 10:00: Manteca Supercharger with 55%
  • 10:55: Left Manteca Supercharger: 0 miles with 95% (trip router claims I'll arrive with 29% battery)
  • 11:35: Passed by Lockeford Inn: 31 miles with 76% (losing 19% for just 31 miles was both weird and disappointing, by now trip router says I should arrive with 21% battery only)
  • 12:08: Passed by Pine Grove: 67 miles with 57% (by now I'm going uphill a lot in a snowstorm, but thankfully arrival battery estimate has stabilized at 20%)
  • 13:26: Arrived in Kirkwood: 115 miles, with 20% left (this means a 70D wouldn't quite have made it)
  • Notes from that trip:

  • the car drove great in the snow despite the M+S tires having limited traction in the snow (as expected). I did have to use my race driving skills not to end up understeering in a snow bank (although driving 25mph only would also have taken care of that, but that option was less appealing).
  • I'm pretty worried about the car losing 19% charge for only 31 miles that weren't really uphill. Either something is wrong with my batteries, or the percent meter (arrival at Lockeford around 11:35)
  • Trip router telling me I'll arrive with 29% battery when I'm at the supercharger, and then 22% just 6 miles after I left the supercharger, that's not good.
  • On the plus side, I drove fast, uphill, in a snow storm (i.e. low temps and severe rolling resistance), and arrived at Kirkwood with 20%. That's much better than I expected. So the trip planner wsa likely conservative, which is good (on the trip back, same thing, I arrived home with more battery than I should have for the driving I did).
  • Battery went from 95% to 20% means 75% battery gave 57.4Kwh. Mmmh, that means 100% is only 76Kwh, that's not good :-
  • Charging your car at Kirkwood

    I wrote this post because driving to Kirkwood is the worst case scenario of the entire Tahoe area. It's a long drive up a state route with no cell phone coverage for about 1H of driving, and virtually no life until you reach destination, which itself does not have destination charging, and no real publicly accessible 120V plugs. The nearest superchargers are Truckee (72 miles away, but big detour), and Folsom (82-90 miles, 1h+ detour, 2h+ if snowing). You however want to make it back to Manteca if you can (109 miles).

    Kirkwood does have some 120V plugs in parking lots, but to use them, you'd have to be illegally parked in reserved parking spots for condos. At this time, there is no proper way to use those spots. If you end up using them during a weekday when the parking lots are near empty and you're going to leave right after 16:00 when the real owners of those spots might arrive, put a note on your windshield with your phone number, and keep in mind that your car can technically be towed for being parked there.
    What I did was stay overnight and worked with Pyramid Peak Properties who hooked me up with a parking spot next to a plug. Note that this is not something they officially offer, they just nicely hooked me up when I asked them and they might be able to help you to if you reserve a rental with them (please don't ask them for a plug if you're not staying with them, providing one is already non trivial if you do stay with them).

    That said, my trip calculation shows that after just 4H of charging during the day (i.e. finding a plug you're not really supposed to use, and parking somewhere you're not supposed to park), I had enough power to get to Folsom and Manteca. The trip estimator said:

  • Folsom: 4%
  • Manteca: 0%
  • Lockeford: 12% (a backup if you find out that you won't make it to Manteca)
  • Note that this was just with 4H of charging, and that my actual downhill driving despite being aggressive and in the snow, beat the estimate from the calculator (see below). With 8-9H of charging, you should be better of (but remember that I used a 16A plug NEMA 5-20) that gives 5 miles per hour of charging, if you use a regular 12A plug that only gives 3 miles per hour, adjust accordingly.
    As explained above, if you cannot charge at kirkwood, keep in mind that your battery is actually going to lose non trivial charge by trying to stay warm. This means that going from Manteca to Kirkwood back to Manteca without plugging in at kirkwood, is very unlikely to happen. Lockeford to Kirkwood to Lockeford should be possible, and if you are in trouble, you could stop at Sutter Creek (just north of Jackson) which I was able to reach by only using 7.7Kwh while driving fast downhill in the snow.
    So if you have an 85 or 90D and cannot charge at Kirkwood, you should be able to drive from Manteca to Kirkwood and back to Sutter Creek to top up if you can't make it to Lockeford (Manteca direct seems unlikely unless there is no snow and it's not cold), but I think you got my point now that finding a plug somewhere is in your interest (not only to keep the batteries warm, but also because regen won't even work when you leave kirkwood if the batteries are cold). There are some around, but probably none of them are really meant for you to use, so I can't recommend that you use any specific one unless you get a parking spot assigned you by Pyramid Peak Properties, or maybe Kirkwood Lodging (but when I asked them, they weren't able to give you a specific parking spot next to a plug if you're not renting that exact numbered condo/room).

    Kirkwood back home: 182 miles straight without charging, 3h15 or so

    After 27H of charging at 16A, I got my car back up to 65% (from 19%, and that includes doing some four wheel drive drifting and donuts in the snow with slip start turned off when the parking lot was empty the first night :) ). The Router claimed that I would arrive in Manteca with 37% or directly home with 7%. However this dropped to 1% as soon as I got on the road, likely because the car sensed the difference in temperature when I got out of the parking lot.
    14 miles into SR88, it then told me I'll arrive home with -8%, and soon after, -18%. My guess is that despite my not using much enegery to drive downhill, it didn't like the temperature (the trip planner should have gotten it from internet weather forecast, and should be computing that it'll get 2C warmer for each 1000ft of altitude I drop, but my guess is that it does not).
    I did take a break for food on the way, but I ended up arriving home around 21:00 with a full 4% of battery left :) (it went from 7% to -18% and back to 4% during the drive). Obviously I could have stopped at several superchargers on the way, but since I didn't need to, I didn't.

    Useful info:

  • 7.7kWh (11% used): Sutter Creek. Although I didn't need to, I stopped at the Sutter Creek Amador Transit charger (just north of Jackson), to which I arrived with just 7.7Kwh used. I only charged a few minutes to try the charger and find out it was only a 4KW charger (200V, 22A)
  • 13.5kWh (18% used): Lockeford
  • 20kWh (27% used): Manteca Supercharger
  • 46kWh (38.3k+7.7) (61% used): Home (127 miles away)
  • Be wary of the distance calculcator in trip planner, it was wrong twice in my case by not counting the temperature before I left (from 7% left at destination to -18% left), and then not counting again when temps got warmer (causing the battery left to back from -18% to 4% when I arrived).
  • On the trip back, I got 61% used (65% to¬†4%) and the car showed 46.0KWh used. This means 100% capacity is only 75.4Kwh, again strange and disappointing for a 90D if that number is correct.
  • Picture for posterity
    Picture for posterity

    Below, some screenshots/pictures that may be helpful.

    Bay Area to Kirkwood: 183 miles, 4h50 drive with a 1h supercharger stop in Manteca (pictures)

    Here are a few pictures and notes from the trip up:


    25mn of charging, but I was not comfortable with anything but near full
    25mn of charging, but I was not comfortable with anything but near full

    In just 18mn, I alledgely had enough to arrive in Kirkwood, but again, not enough margin or power to get out
    In just 18mn, I alledgely had enough to arrive in Kirkwood, but again, not enough margin or power to get out

    Sadly getting close to full power takes a long longer.
    Sadly getting close to full power takes a long longer.

    52mn after I arrived, I finally got to 95% (didn't want to wait for the last 5%)
    52mn after I arrived, I finally got to 95% (didn't want to wait for the last 5%)

    Alledgely, I should have 29% when arriving (in real life, I had 19%, so make sure you have a good margin)
    Alledgely, I should have 29% when arriving (in real life, I had 19%, so make sure you have a good margin)

    Oh boy, just a few minutes later, it now days I'll arrive with 25%
    Oh boy, just a few minutes later, it now days I'll arrive with 25%

    And just 2mn later, it says I'll arrive with 22%. By then I was getting very worried with the trend :(
    And just 2mn later, it says I'll arrive with 22%. By then I was getting very worried with the trend :(

    The router is buggy, why would it pick a longer street over hwy 99?
    The router is buggy, why would it pick a longer street over hwy 99?

    WTF, why is it insisting to take that slower and longer road?
    WTF, why is it insisting to take that slower and longer road?

    Pine Grove, climbing in snow at over 600Wh per mile, arrival battery left stabilized at 20%
    Pine Grove, climbing in snow at over 600Wh per mile, arrival battery left stabilized at 20%


    Projected Range looked correct
    Projected Range looked correct

    Nice weather, the car handled well enough in snow with its stock 19 inch M+S tires
    Nice weather, the car handled well enough in snow with its stock 19 inch M+S tires

    Windshield Wiper heating didn't work well, ice accumulated anyway. I didn't otherwise heat the car
    Windshield Wiper heating didn't work well, ice accumulated anyway. I didn't otherwise heat the car

    Carson Spur, almost there...
    Carson Spur, almost there...

    And there we go, made it, 57.4Kwh used from Manteca, 20% left
    And there we go, made it, 57.4Kwh used from Manteca, 20% left

    I arrived way too late for a powder day, but made the best of it :)
    I arrived way too late for a powder day, but made the best of it :)

    Charging your car at Kirkwood (pictures)

    A few pictures from the kirkwood parking lots showing charging and estimated ranges:

    Nice Warning
    Nice Warning

    Found a 20A plug in an underground parking lot
    Found a 20A plug in an underground parking lot

    The one issue is access to plugs is only with reserved parking spots allocated to units that rent out
    The one issue is access to plugs is only with reserved parking spots allocated to units that rent out

    Obviously I'm not going to get a full charge with 2kW
    Obviously I'm not going to get a full charge with 2kW

    4H later, moved my car to an assigned spot courtesy of Pyramid Peak Properties, got 7% in 4H
    4H later, moved my car to an assigned spot courtesy of Pyramid Peak Properties, got 7% in 4H

    Alledgely, I could have made it back to Manteca with nice driving if I were capable of it :)
    Alledgely, I could have made it back to Manteca with nice driving if I were capable of it :)

    Thanks to Jon Wehan for hooking me up with this 20A plug
    Thanks to Jon Wehan for hooking me up with this 20A plug

    Condensation got inside the headlights, I asked Tesla support and they said it was ok
    Condensation got inside the headlights, I asked Tesla support and they said it was ok

    Kirkwood back home: 182 miles straight without charging, 3h15 or so (pictures)

    A few relevant pictures of the drive back, showing estimate changes and the Sutter Creek charger:

    This is good, now I have many options
    This is good, now I have many options

    Apparently, I can get home with 7% left if I drive slowly, but I'm not going to :) and also it doesn't account for the snow on the road
    Apparently, I can get home with 7% left if I drive slowly, but I'm not going to :) and also it doesn't account for the snow on the road

    Just as I leave kirkwood, I'm now told I'll arrive home with 1%
    Just as I leave kirkwood, I'm now told I'll arrive home with 1%

    And a few minutes later, this drops to -8%
    And a few minutes later, this drops to -8%

    And later, it continues to drop to -18%
    And later, it continues to drop to -18%

    Using 76Wh/mile downhill, not bad, -3C temperature
    Using 76Wh/mile downhill, not bad, -3C temperature

    Now only using 34Wh/mile downhill, temperature back up to 4C
    Now only using 34Wh/mile downhill, temperature back up to 4C

    Arrived in Sutter Creek just to try the charger
    Arrived in Sutter Creek just to try the charger

    my car said bad wiring for that charger, so only 4kW/22A
    my car said bad wiring for that charger, so only 4kW/22A

    Arrived in Lockeford with 47% left, or 18% used which was about 13.5kWh used from kirkwood
    Arrived in Lockeford with 47% left, or 18% used which was about 13.5kWh used from kirkwood

    Home sweet home. 301Wh/mile is high but linked to the temperatures, snow rolling resistance, and speed driven
    Home sweet home. 301Wh/mile is high but linked to the temperatures, snow rolling resistance, and speed driven

    Happily charging for the next time :)
    Happily charging for the next time :)


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