FL man tests new network of charging stations with trip west
If all has gone according to plan, Forest Lake resident Lee Bakewell and two of his car-enthusiast buddies should be driving into California on Thursday, Feb. 6.
A mid-winter trip from Minnesota to the West Coast is usually unremarkable, but not the journey the three men are making this week. They left the Twin Cities in Bakewell’s new car Monday morning and have yet to stop for gas.
That’s because their group is among the first to utilize Tesla’s network of electric-car SuperCharger stations, which on Jan. 26 expanded to the point that owners of the luxury vehicles can cross the country on the stations’ free power.
Bakewell purchased the 2014 Tesla Model S last month and quickly hatched the idea as a way to test the car’s 85-kilowatt-hour battery – not to mention his own sense of adventure.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve never traveled to California for free before,’” he said. “To go from Minneapolis to Los Angeles and not stop at a gas station is really quite a thing.”
He secured the company of the first two friends he thought to ask, automotive engineer Jukka Kukkonen and car dealership owner Pavel Zhuravlev, and they hit the road from Kukkonen’s home in St. Paul at 8:30 Monday morning.
Bakewell said Kukkonen is the brains behind the westward trip. The Finn owns an electric vehicle marketing and technologies consulting company and has each day’s legs charted by time, distance and energy consumption.
The traveling trio quickly found encouragement and excitement Monday in South Dakota. A deli employee in Mitchell noticed Bakewell’s Tesla hat and informed the group that Tesla representatives had passed through to use the local SuperCharger just days before and talked to him about how big of an impact this “electric highway” could have on his town.
West 140 miles, Bakewell’s team nearly hit a speed bump, as the first two SuperCharger docks at the station in Murdo did not work. With snow falling, the sun long set and only 19 miles of range remaining in the battery, the men were grateful to see the third cord produce blue and green lights, indicating a charge. They hit their destination for Monday, Rapid City, at 11 p.m.
They were set to travel through Wyoming and Colorado on Tuesday, and Utah, New Mexico and Arizona on Wednesday before reaching Palm Springs, Calif., today. They plan to drive to Los Angeles on Friday and tour Tesla’s factory in Fremont on Monday.
For Bakewell, the Tesla purchase and the expedition are more about conserving energy than burning rubber.
“I had a Prius for a long time. Before that I had another Prius. Before that I used to drive my motorcycle because it got better gas mileage,” he said. “I’ve always been kind of an energy nut.”
He owned a 2012 Tesla but found its 60-kilowatt-hour battery restrictive.
The new ride features a range of 265 miles when fully charged in Bakewell’s garage. He leaves it overnight to reach full capacity, but the SuperCharger stations can do the trick in less than an hour.
Tesla is adding stations all over the country and developing a smaller and cheaper model car. Bakewell believes the company is laying the future of automobile transportation.
“I think it’s a revolutionary car because I think everybody’s going to be driving these in another five, 10, 15 years,” he said.
Gas-free to California
Follow along as Bakewell’s crew journeys to the West Coast. Daily journal entries and photo galleries are being posted at http://www.pluginconnect.com/electricroadtrip.html.