Bigger Road Trip Number Two

The next trip was just about twice the distance: the wife and I drove to the Kanto area (home of Tokyo and Yokohama) in mid-summer last year. The plan was to drive to Osaka and spend the night in a hotel, then do the rest of the drive on the second day. We had several things to do in Yokohama and Tokyo, so the timing was good to make the trip by car. We had no hotel reservation for the return drive, so the plan was an all-nighter. I didn't take Tesla photos at each stop, so we'll see how this one proceeds. Here we go...

This trip was different from the previous one in many ways. I had much more confidence in that I understood CHAdeMO charging on the highway and the car much better this time around. Another yuuuge difference was the Tesla navigation system. Yes, after seven months of ownership, I finally had a working navi in the car. After several months of having only a few Superchargers in Kanto and Kansai and nowhere else, Tesla Japan allowed Model S owners to apply through their site for NCS cards; we have these cards until mid-summer this year to make up for the lack of a robust Supercharger network. Unless more Superchargers are installed, I'm hoping for a card renewal. A final difference is that I wasn't alone on this trip.

I started with a range charge; you'll notice that the Rocket doesn't show 400 km. any more. This does not appear to be a degradation of the battery because I could still get 400 km. on a full charge.

I don't show 400 km. any more, but I can still get 400

I don't show 400 km. any more, but I can still get 400

From the post on the last trip, we learned that the Miyajima service area (SA) is 365 km. away; within range on a range charge, or perhaps even less if you don't add a buffer. We also learned that you should always have a buffer because there is no guarantee that a single CHAdeMO will be functioning. For this trip, I set Miyajima as the goal for the first charge. Before we get there, some background might be useful. Typical highway speed limits range from 80 to 100 kph., and penalties are not severe if one drives less than 20 km. over the speed limit. That leaves normal highway speeds between 80 and 119 kph. (I say normal because construction zones can bring limits down to 50 kph.) That means that those 365 km. to Miyajima can take between three and a quarter to four hours. I have to say that is a long time to sit in one stretch after a pot of coffee and whatever else one might have for breakfast.

Fortunately, Japanese highways have parking areas (PA) and SA for restrooms; food and drink; and fuel—or power, in the case of EVs. PA are smaller and have restrooms, vending machines for drinks, and sometimes hot food like a ramen shop or karaage (fried chicken). SA are more full service and have sit down restaurants or food courts, occasionally dog runs, and gas stations. SA are usually where the one CHAdeMO is located. SA, and occasionally PA, have some scenic value, as in the rose garden I mentioned in the last post. That leads us to our first bio break of this trip. We made our first stop at Mekari PA, which sits under the Shimonoseki Bridge connecting the island of Kyushu with the island of Honshu. Mekari clearly breaks the mold of the typical PA because of the view.

Shimonoseki Bridge from Mekari PA

Shimonoseki Bridge from Mekari PA

The view of Shimonoseki, Honshu from Mekari PA

The view of Shimonoseki, Honshu from Mekari PA

From Mekari PA, we made the drive to Miyajima. As I wrote previously, we are limited to 30 minutes at a time on CHAdeMO, but if no one is waiting, I can restart. My technique is to start the charge, take a restroom break, come back and do whatever needs to be done at the car (take pictures, put things away, etc.) For example, here are the data that I captured during the first charge from the run to Miyajima. You can see that I drove 370 km., and although I took the photo after the charge started, I had 32 km. of energy left—402 km. possible. P.S. Tesla, this photo is an example of why some of us like to have the date on our dashboards.

Please excuse the dust and the glare. Having the date on the dash can help jog our memories; I miss some of the old dash set up

Please excuse the dust and the glare. Having the date on the dash can help jog our memories; I miss some of the old dash set up

After 30 minutes, I'll restart if possible, then go get something to eat. With 30 plus minutes still to go, there is time for a sit-down meal. Miyajima SA heading north is is on the opposite side from Miyajima island, which is a small island off the Inland Sea coast of Hiroshima. The waters between the two areas are filled with oyster farms, so a logical choice for lunch was oysters, grilled for the wife and fried for me. Check it out!

Grilled oysters on the top tray; fried on the bottom

Grilled oysters on the top tray; fried on the bottom

Sometime into the meal, 30 minutes had passed. I headed back to the car to check. No one waiting! I got 90 minutes of charge and about 80% into the battery (known as state of charge, or SOC). I don't have any more photos from this day, but we did get to Miki SA, where the CHAdeMO was out of service last time, and we charged enough to get to the hotel near Osaka. The hotel had a Tesla Roadster charger and an adapter for Model S. There was some discussion about moving my car when the charge finished, but I won out when I told them I would be sleeping at 2 am when the charge was scheduled to finish. I woke up to an 85% SOC, and I used the Tesla app to add some more power during breakfast. Doing it this way warms up the battery, which helps save power down the road.

Second Day Driving: Even though I had a new navigation system, there are seemingly a million roads around the Nagoya area. I somehow missed the exit to get on the more direct highway past Nagoya. I ended up driving through several toll booths, which raised the cost of the trip a bit. Coming home, we crossed a couple of different bridges and went through fewer toll booths. Driver beware! We stopped at the Hamamatsu SA, which I had heard about in many places. This SA seems to be a must-stop for EVs. It turns out there's a very nice food court, brand-spanking new restrooms, and a 50 kW CHAdeMO. That is the highest-power CHAdeMO available, so now I understand Hamamatsu SA's popularity. I had some chicken, Nagoya style, I believe, while the car got some juice.

A picture is worth a thousand words

A picture is worth a thousand words

Here are some of the data from that charger. I'm going to have a post about these data and the others I have from various CHAdeMO chargers.

It doesn't get much better than this on CHAdeMO. Hamamatsu SA's is top-of-the-line. Our next stop was the Yokohama service center's Supercharger. Check out the early numbers from that charge.

This is fairly early in the charge

This is fairly early in the charge

Compare that to the ramp up of the Supercharger.

Wow!

Wow!

Keep in mind this was taking place mid-summer. All that power was going into the battery. Guess what else was running at full tilt? Yep, the air conditioning. It was on in the car while we sat, but the cool air was not going into the cabin. It was all directed at keeping the battery cooled down. I have never heard so much noise coming from my car. Once I figured out what was going on, I relaxed. We had to get out of the car for some fresh air. Here is what we saw.

We spent the night in Yokohama because I had an appointment to have a couple of things checked out in the car. The next day, I brought the Rocket back here. While they worked on the car, I took a peek inside the garage. Guess what I saw? My first look at a Dual, a P85D, when they had not yet been released in Japan. They were waiting approval from the Japanese government. I asked if I could test drive it, but was told it wasn't available yet. Bummer.

The rest of the trip was spent hanging around Tokyo, doing some of the things we needed and wanted to do. Fresh seafood on a bed of rice, eggs Benedict, Mexican food, and a nice aquarium were some of the highlights. I was told to bring the car back in on the way home, so we stopped off again at the service center. They went way out of their way to take care of a rattle that had developed. They found it, after we took the car out on a shake down drive, and fixed it. Thank you again! While we were waiting for our final charge, another red S stopped by. Sorry for the overexposure of my car (the kids might call it Tesla porn).

From the service center, we had a 1,208 km. drive home, and we did it in one shot.

We pretty much did the reverse of the trip to Kanto, minus the hotel stay. Keep in mind as I write this, these are not the same rest stops. They are on the opposite side of the highways; each PA or SA is not accessible to the opposite side. We stopped at Hamamatsu SA for food and charging. We went through Nagoya with me making only one wrong turn. We got some fast juice at the Osaka Supercharger; some guy next to us had his stereo on full blast! We charged somewhere along the way before stopping at Miyajima. That one has a Starbucks, but it wasn't open yet. It was 6:30 am, and I really needed some good coffee at that point. Our final stop for charging was at the Dannoura PA, which is on the opposite side of the Shimonoseki Bridge.

You're looking at the northern tip of the island of Kyushu

You're looking at the northern tip of the island of Kyushu

We left Yokohama around 4 pm and arrived home around 10 am the next morning, about 18 hours of driving, charging and napping. We're going to do it again soon, so I hope you can see how much fun it can be to travel by EV.

Takeaways from this trip: new Tesla owners often ask whether the car is capable of driving for long distances and how far can you go. The answer is going to depend on weather, terrain, your charging options, and how you drive your car. I'm here to tell you the only way to know is to drive your car, charge it up, use different chargers and charger companies, spend the night, drive all night, whatever kind of driving you are used to doing. Start off slow, and stay in areas you know. Sign up for whatever cards your country or area uses. If you don't have Superchargers around, get a CHAdeMO adapter. Despite all the work Tesla has put into creating its cars, they are still thinking people's cars.

I didn't talk about the wife's ride above because I thought this section was more appropriate. My wife basically sleeps when on a long drive in the front seat. She finds the ride quite comfortable and relaxing. We have the textile seats and both of us love them. The back seats are another matter; the headrests jut forward, making napping impossible it seems (I haven't spent much time back there except for cleaning). In the next iteration of the car, Tesla might consider some adjustability or at least have them set back a bit. The car is relaxing; people are going to want to snooze. 

Be prepared to teach the folks in charge of your destination charger how it is used. Twice now I've met unreasonable expectations regarding a slow, overnight charge. The staff in Osaka was very nice, but insisting that I move the car in the middle of the night is just odd. The other instance was recently at an onsen (hot spring) that had two J1772 chargers. To get back the 90% SOC that I had when I started from home, the car showed that I needed 14 hours at 3 kW of power. The man helping me maintained that one hour was plenty. After two hours of this, he finally called the number on the charger whose operator taught him how to change the settings. Once the charger was set up, I was able to control the charging from my app. I added some more in the morning to heat up the battery and get us home. As a side note, the man helping us clearly did some homework the night I stayed. When we were leaving the next morning, he asked me a ton of questions about Teslas.