Tesla Model S - Road Trip to Las Vegas
All-electric road trip
from Orange County to Las Vegas via Lake Arrowhead

We joined our extended family for a resort stay in Las Vegas starting from Orange County using my Model S.

With three Supercharger road trips under our belt, one three years ago to San Francisco, one two years ago to San Luis Obispo, and one last year ago to Santa Barbara, plus my Supercharger Table, we had plenty of experience with electrically-powered road trips.

This trip was made more logistically complicated by a rendezvous in Lake Arrowhead at my in-laws' place and coordination of travel with several other extended-family members. From there we take our drive to Las Vegas.

So here's a picture log of our trip in my Model S.

Las Vegas Tesla Model S
Model S Las Vegas Road Trip
Days Charging at
Destination   Supercharger
3 2
Cargo Space
The ample cargo space in the Model S was easily more than enough for this trip. The front trunk held the kids' luggage, my laptop bag, jackets, and shoes. The back trunk carries luggage for my wife and I and snacks for the family. frunk   trunk
Lake Arrowhead Overnight
As we traveled, I logged the time, odometer, and range remaining for every event of interest.

Saturday, June 18, 2016
TimeEventRange Remaining
1:50 pmDeparted Home257
3:47 pmArrived Lake Arrowhead108
Range/Distance ratio: 1.64
Conditions: Traffic, Uphill, 102°F

After packing our things at a comfortable pace, we made our usual up the mountain to Lake Arrowhead, despite some accidents that created some nasty traffic. The built-in navigation helped us choose an alternate route with less traffic.

At the in-laws' house, I use an adapter to a preexisting L6-30 outlet in the garage. It isn't as fast as at home, but it does the job. Here I intentionally charge to only 90% because it's best to leave some room in the battery for recharging while driving downhill.

Tesla charging at Lake Arrowhead
Barstow Supercharger - Northbound
Father's Day 2016

Once we packed up, our extended family enjoyed a pleasant Father's Day lunch in the Lake Arrowhead area, having three fathers in our party. Only then we headed down the hill and north, which turned out to be trickier than we expected, to pass by Silverwood Lake and through Hesperia on the way to I-15 and Barstow.

TimeEventRange Remaining
1:29 pmDeparted Blue Jay223
3:23 pmArrived Barstow Supercharger128
Range/Distance ratio: 1.12
Conditions: Mountain Driving, City Driving, then the Highway

Barstow Tesla Supercharger

After the first couple hours of driving, the kids needed a bathroom break, so we walked in the heat to the local Starbucks for some drinks and snacks as well.

Knowing the kids' limitations, stopping 120 miles away in Primm, Nevada, was already part of the plan, so I knew that I would have all the charge necessary in mere minutes here. As expected the kids needed more time than the car needed. Cost to Charge: $0

Primm Supercharger - Northbound
We didn't expect to encounter four traffic accidents on this leg. An initial crash was fairly far along northbound I-15 that caused a substantial back up and called in emergency vehicles, but that resulted in an earlier four-car crash that we did see, plus one on neighboring Yermo Rd, where many drivers self-diverted. Many of those got stuck in sand attempting to off-road. Then we could see southbound I-15 had an accident and emergency vehicles too. All this in 114°F heat! Tesla charging at Lake Arrowhead

These problems added almost an hour to our transit, and my daughter couldn't stand the unproductive slowness of the traffic for such a long time. It was great relief for all to stop in Primm. (Before arriving the car crossed the 50,000 mile mark.)

TimeEventRange Remaining
4:02 pmDeparted Barstow Supercharger232
6:40 pmArrived Primm Supercharger78
Range/Distance ratio: 1.29
Conditions: Four Traffic Accidents causing Heavy Jammed Traffic, 114°F

After bathroom breaks, we rewarded the kids with some fries and drinks at the nearby McDonald's. The grownups got a few things too.

Stopping at a Supercharger was a great relief to us so that we could take care of ourselves.

Cost to Charge: $0

What if?
What if we skipped Primm and kept going? Reading ahead, the next leg took 51 miles of range. We arrived here with 78 miles of range, so clearly the car had enough range to make the entire Barstow-Las Vegas leg despite four car accidents, 114°F heat, and horrible traffic without stopping at Primm.

We stopped not because we needed to charge. Our decision to visit the Primm Supercharger is a clear example where humans' limitations, not the need to recharge, necessitated a stop. For our family a rapid "gas up and go" road trip is simply unbearable in any vehicle we've driven.

By the way, the rest of the extended family, in their rented gas Suburban, had to stop for the same human reasons too.

TimeEventRange Remaining
7:05 pmDeparted Primm Supercharger178
7:44 pmArrived Las Vegas127
Range/Distance ratio: 1.28
Conditions: Fast

Being late on a Sunday, traffic in Nevada to Las Vegas was easy until we reached Las Vegas Blvd. and "The Strip".

Destination Charging at The Mirage
The Mirage is one of a couple dozen Las Vegas hotels with Tesla Destination Charging, an arrangement where Tesla provides the charging equipment for free to those who install the equipment and provide the electricity so that any Tesla owner can charge for free. This way I can charge at the hotel overnight just like I do at home.

So I checked at the Mirage's North Valet, and asked them to plug in my car. Since I knew I would only do a little bit of local driving in Vegas, I configured the car to charge only up to 90%. From my phone I could verify that it did early the next morning.

Mirage charging status   Mirage charging location

The night before our return, I spoke with the valet staff to ask them to charge my car one more time, sometime that night. Meanwhile I set the car to charge to 100%. Late that night I could see the valet had done so, and where on the property (red triangle) they had done so, and the battery was nearly full.

Cost to Charge: $0 (included with the stay like other amenities such as WiFi)

Viva Las Vegas!
With many things to celebrate, including three birthdays, a graduation, and an anniversary, our extended family enjoyed the big pool at the hotel, the dolphin and tiger exhibits at The Mirage, the excellent food at many restaurants such as The Peppermill, the massive buffets elsewhere on the strip, the High Roller large ferris wheel at night, a Criss Angel magic show at the Luxor, and some shopping.


Thursday, June 23, 2016
My daughter was having so much fun with her cousins, so much so she expressed her disapproval to me when I asked her to leave the pool. Girl sticks out tongue    The family couldn't resist having a final lunch buffet at the Bacchanal followed by shopping at the Forum by other family members, including my daughter. trunk
Valet parking at Caesar's Palace

With so much eating and perusing to do, our time grew late. Then we had one last stop in Vegas: the Las Vegas sign, with its enormous line.

Primm Supercharger - Southbound
So it was a while before we were leaving Las Vegas.

TimeEventRange Remaining
4:15 pmDeparted Las Vegas sign249
4:57 pmArrived Primm Supercharger199
5:40 pmContinuing Charge257
5:59 pmDeparted Primm Supercharger260
Range/Distance ratio: 1.35
Conditions: Fast, 110°F

Primm Tesla Supercharger Girl napping at Primm

My daughter fell asleep on the way to the Primm Supercharger, so I stayed in the car while my wife, son, and the rest of the extended family explored the nearby Primm Outlet mall. It wasn't long before the car was fully charged with my daughter still asleep, so the Supercharger was essentially powering the air conditioner. Just before 6 pm she finally woke up, at which time I drove the car close to the family. Cost to Charge: $0

Barstow Supercharger - Southbound
With the final bit of shopping behind us, we could make our way home again. Fully planning to charge in Barstow, I knew it was implausible that we would run out of charge by then, so I punched up the speed.

TimeEventRange Remaining
6:36 pmDeparted Primm Outlets258
8:15 pmArrived Barstow Supercharger76
Range/Distance ratio: 1.52
Conditions: Fast, 105°F

Barstow Tesla Supercharger

The whole family took a bathroom break at the local Chili's, and soon we took our goodbyes, since our vehicle was heading home in Orange County while the rest were returning to Lake Arrowhead. Cost to Charge: $0

But my kids demanded a meal at Chipotle. Using my Supercharger Table, I knew that 160 miles of range was easily more than enough to get home, so we unplugged and drove to the Barstow Chipotle.

TimeEventRange Remaining
8:38 pmDeparted Barstow Supercharger166
9:21 pmDeparted Barstow Chipotle164
11:05 pmArrived Home28
Range/Distance ratio: 1.13
Conditions: Fast, Hills, 95°F

Leaving so late, I knew that we wouldn't reach home until after 11 pm. I intentionally drove faster to reach home with low range to help rebalance the battery pack. I drove faster enough to make the navigational computer predict we would arrive with 10% of range. It turns out we arrived with 28 miles, which is above 10%. A full charge the next morning reached 260 miles of range, higher than when we left home.


As expected, the Model S is a fabulous road trip car. Traveling without the extra engine and transmission noise, creating an low-frequency rumble and roar that shakes one's innards, makes possible a very relaxing driving experience. I no longer experience the fatigue I had in gas cars before.

Fighting unexpected extreme traffic was the worst part of the trip. We had the air conditioning on and were charging our phones with outdoor temperatures well over 100°F. Fortunately the long range of Model S in combination with a well-deployed Supercharger network made it easy to work around these unexpected difficulties. As before, humans (children being antsy or napping, family members shopping, other drivers crashing cars) were the bottleneck on our speed, not Tesla technology. Except when we reached home, the lowest state of charge of the car reaching a charging location was 76 miles, an enormous margin of error when each leg is child-limited to 120 miles. Of course when I'm home after 11 pm and a long drive, of course I want to sleep at home, so 28 miles is plenty there too.

Unlike our trips using a single charge, I very much did not drive efficiently! That was intentional, and the mathematically-astute may notice that in the numbers. I studied the numbers in advance and, given the 120-mile-leg child-mandated limit, found that the spacing between Superchargers made it possible to drive as inefficiently (due to greater wind resistance) as I cared, even with air conditioning in 114°F heat. Already I've proven over and over that I know how to drive efficiently. On this trip, I was testing my own ability to predict both this electric car's consumption and the time needed at each Supercharger to replenish the car after such brazen consumption, both in advance and while enroute. I was pushing a different limit: how energy-sloppy can I be and still be safe on a real-world road trip? With over 76 miles of safety margin per leg, I'm convinced I was still pretty darn safe so long as the Superchargers were working, which they were. I knew how many minutes I needed at a given Supercharger station to make it to the next and beyond. This experience gives me the confidence I know how to use Tesla's technology for an even more ambitious trip. Tesla Model S at Luxor

Another lesson learned here: rushing from place to place without delay, as some critics presume, is not a lifestyle we should expect. Maybe uncommitted single people and truck drivers can live that way, but the pace of a family, especially an extended family, works best at a considerably slower pace. It so happens that Tesla designed its cars and Supercharger network to fit that real-world human pace very well.

Thanks to Tesla Motors and The Mirage in Las Vegas, the cost to refuel on this 635-mile trip was $0. Sweet!

Dean E. Dauger holds a Ph. D. in physics from UCLA, where his group created the first Mac cluster in 1998. Dr. Dauger is the award-winning author in multiple American Institute of Physics' Software Contests and co-authored the original, award-winning Kai's Power Tools image-processing package for Adobe Photoshop. After founding his company, Dauger Research, Inc., its debut product, Pooch, derived from Dr. Dauger's experience using clusters for his physics research, was soon awarded as "most innovative" by IEEE Cluster and continues to revolutionize parallel computing and clusters worldwide with its patented technology.

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