A year ago, I had an epic adventure in a Tesla Model S - here's what happened

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Tesla Road Trip 2016 Matthew DeBord/Business Insider Oh sure, everybody is happy now.

Tesla officially became a mass-market automaker this month, as it rolled the first Model 3 vehicle off its California assembly line.

The $35,000 Model 3 was designed to open up Tesla ownership to a much wider range of people than the relatively expensive Model S and Model X.

New Tesla owners will quickly discover than electric cars have one major difference from gas-powered vehicles: they have to be charged up. The Model 3 has a range of 200 miles, superb for an EV, but it will need to be rejuiced, and if you're used to refueling in five minutes, EV ownership required some advance planning and behavioral changes.

Fortunately, Tesla operates a network of Superchargers that make longer trips possible (the automaker asks owner to do their everyday charging at home). The company has also worked with partners to install even more charging locations that offer slower charging than what's available at Sueprchargers but provide a gap-filling fallback.

I've spent a lot of time driving EVs. In 2015, I drove one of my kids to camp in a BMW i3, an extended-range electric vehicle that at the time was rumored to be a basis for the Apple Car.

The trip went great, so last year I decided to make our annual camp sojourn to the scenic Catskills in upstate New York a regular EV-paloooza. And what better car to serve as our futuristic chariot in 2016 than ... the Tesla Model S?

And not just any Model S, but a P90D with Ludicrous Mode - at the time the baddest, fastest, coolest Tesla in all the land (until the P100D arrived in early 2017.)

The idea was to see if this four-door luxury "family car" with supercar-beating acceleration - zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, claimed - could handle a journey of decent length (about 240 miles round trip) involving two adults, three kids, and gear for a pair of campers for two weeks. Quite a test, eh? And with a few scheduled stops to dine, take in the sights, and recharge the battery.

Our adventure began on a pleasant Sunday in July and all initially went according to plan. Until it didn't. Read on to learn all about our most excellent misadventure with the world's most famous electric car.

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We made it home in style, and I returned the Tesla to its Brooklyn home. Let me just state for the record: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT THAT I RAN OUT OF JUICE. Tesla had abundant charging options all along my route, so there was really no excuse. Live and learn!

We made it home in style, and I returned the Tesla to its Brooklyn home. Let me just state for the record: IT WAS ALL MY FAULT THAT I RAN OUT OF JUICE. Tesla had abundant charging options all along my route, so there was really no excuse. Live and learn!

Tesla makes it abundantly clear how charging its vehicles works. You can look it up ... in the car! We explored — unintentionally — three choices: 120V slow charging, destination partner charging at a faster rate, and Supercharging. My takeaway? ALWAYS START WITH A FULL CHARGE. And then plan to hit a partner charging spot or Supercharger along the way, with some margin for error — say, 50 miles of range.

Tesla makes it abundantly clear how charging its vehicles works. You can look it up ... in the car! We explored — unintentionally — three choices: 120V slow charging, destination partner charging at a faster rate, and Supercharging. My takeaway? ALWAYS START WITH A FULL CHARGE. And then plan to hit a partner charging spot or Supercharger along the way, with some margin for error — say, 50 miles of range.

This doesn't change with the Model 3, or for that matter ANY electric car. Since 2016, I've had the chance to try out the rival Chevy Bolt, which has about 200 miles of range per charge. The same general rules about planning ahead and keeping a nearly full charge in the battery apply.

In fact, the rules will apply to all EVs launched over the next few years. In this respect, Tesla has an advantage in that it's invested so much in the Supercharger network, which is coast to coast and enables Tesla owners to take long road trips to most locations without ever worrying that they'll run our of juice.

... and so did the Model S. Yep, almost a full charge for what's left of the drive.

... and so did the Model S. Yep, almost a full charge for what's left of the drive.

I got myself fully fortified for the remainder of the trip ...

I got myself fully fortified for the remainder of the trip ...

.. and they used it to make one of these. Really tasty, some of the best I've ever had. This is my new favorite Tesla Supercharger location.

.. and they used it to make one of these. Really tasty, some of the best I've ever had. This is my new favorite Tesla Supercharger location.

They have one of these ...

They have one of these ...

Cosimo's restaurant is right there, and it's time for lunch.

Cosimo's restaurant is right there, and it's time for lunch.

Bzzzzz ... electrons in, at high velocity! Go Supercharger, go!

Bzzzzz ... electrons in, at high velocity! Go Supercharger, go!

One hour on a Supercharger will get us a whopping 206 miles of range.

One hour on a Supercharger will get us a whopping 206 miles of range.

I'm thrilled — and finally relieved. Our excellent adventure had become a misadventure. But the car handled everything fantastically well: It was fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable, roomy, and the navigation was flawless — and the infotainment options kept us entertained.

I'm thrilled — and finally relieved. Our excellent adventure had become a misadventure. But the car handled everything fantastically well: It was fast, smooth, quiet, comfortable, roomy, and the navigation was flawless — and the infotainment options kept us entertained.

At last! Superchargers! We should have been here a whole day earlier.

At last! Superchargers! We should have been here a whole day earlier.

Some of the route was over unimproved roads, so we saw how the AWD system performed — and it performed just fine.

Some of the route was over unimproved roads, so we saw how the AWD system performed — and it performed just fine.

It's about 50 miles away, in Newburgh, New York.

It's about 50 miles away, in Newburgh, New York.

With 76 miles in the battery, we can comfortably get to the nearest Supercharger.

With 76 miles in the battery, we can comfortably get to the nearest Supercharger.

I couldn't resist messing around with some of the high-tech Easter eggs, including the famous Lotus submarine goof from the James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me" (Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a big Bond fan).

I couldn't resist messing around with some of the high-tech Easter eggs, including the famous Lotus submarine goof from the James Bond flick "The Spy Who Loved Me" (Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a big Bond fan).

The Tesla, meanwhile, stayed connected to its power supply. Tesla has set up these partner charging sites to provide relatively fast charging in more places and to fill in some of the Supercharger gaps. A Tesla vehicle can find them all using GPS and can calculate the state of its charge at all times so you never end up like unlucky, stupid me. Trust the car!

The Tesla, meanwhile, stayed connected to its power supply. Tesla has set up these partner charging sites to provide relatively fast charging in more places and to fill in some of the Supercharger gaps. A Tesla vehicle can find them all using GPS and can calculate the state of its charge at all times so you never end up like unlucky, stupid me. Trust the car!

Later, Dante reconnected with the modern world.

Later, Dante reconnected with the modern world.

My wife took in the scenery.

My wife took in the scenery.

... where I taught Dante the art of the hustle.

... where I taught Dante the art of the hustle.

After breakfast, we retired to the billiards room ...

After breakfast, we retired to the billiards room ...

But most important for me ... a bottomless cup of coffee!

But most important for me ... a bottomless cup of coffee!

And pre-internet distractions.

And pre-internet distractions.

Art!

Art!

The decor is soothingly old-fashioned.

The decor is soothingly old-fashioned.

There's an alluring spread of breads, bagels, fruit, jams, and preserves, as well as heartier breakfast fare.

There's an alluring spread of breads, bagels, fruit, jams, and preserves, as well as heartier breakfast fare.

The inn beckons.

The inn beckons.

But this time, we're charging much faster. In a few hours, we'll have enough power to get to the closest Supercharger location.

But this time, we're charging much faster. In a few hours, we'll have enough power to get to the closest Supercharger location.

... and drawing power again.

... and drawing power again.

We're plugged in ...

We're plugged in ...

Bingo!

Bingo!

It's located at the charming Inn at Lake Joseph.

It's located at the charming Inn at Lake Joseph.

Off we go!

Off we go!

By the next morning, at a charging rate of 3 miles per hour, we have enough juice to make the closest partner charging location.

By the next morning, at a charging rate of 3 miles per hour, we have enough juice to make the closest partner charging location.

Still lookin' good, Model S!

Still lookin' good, Model S!

And once again plugged into a basic outlet.

And once again plugged into a basic outlet.

We retired to our quaint, blue-doored room.

We retired to our quaint, blue-doored room.

I enjoyed a delicious specialty of the house, small Russian dumplings covered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, sprinkled with dill, plus a side of sour cream. Totally hit the spot.

I enjoyed a delicious specialty of the house, small Russian dumplings covered in sauteed onions and mushrooms, sprinkled with dill, plus a side of sour cream. Totally hit the spot.

My son Dante had endured a long, rough day. He conked out over a plate of chicken tenders and fries.

My son Dante had endured a long, rough day. He conked out over a plate of chicken tenders and fries.

And beautiful views of the Catskills heavens.

And beautiful views of the Catskills heavens.

There's a café and store.

There's a café and store.

The Blue Hill Lodge was nearby.

The Blue Hill Lodge was nearby.

A few hours, a few more miles in the battery, and we have enough to head back through the lovely scenery to find lodging — and charging — for the night.

A few hours, a few more miles in the battery, and we have enough to head back through the lovely scenery to find lodging — and charging — for the night.

... but we'll be getting only 1 mile per hour of charging! That's mega-slow.

... but we'll be getting only 1 mile per hour of charging! That's mega-slow.

... and the Model S looks plenty sharp ...

... and the Model S looks plenty sharp ...

We are charging away ...

We are charging away ...

This one was down by a maintenance shed.

This one was down by a maintenance shed.

No exactly the most scenic location. We had to ask the camp maintenance staff to find us an outlet that we could use.

No exactly the most scenic location. We had to ask the camp maintenance staff to find us an outlet that we could use.

You plug into this small charging port at the left rear of the Model S.

You plug into this small charging port at the left rear of the Model S.

There's a cable in the truck of every Tesla that enables you to charge on the fly. But there are no high-speed charging options up here in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills. So we had to resort to the slowest option, good old 120-volt, wall-socket-level rejuicing.

There's a cable in the truck of every Tesla that enables you to charge on the fly. But there are no high-speed charging options up here in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills. So we had to resort to the slowest option, good old 120-volt, wall-socket-level rejuicing.

I've screwed up my range calculations. We don't have enough to make the closest partner charging station. The car was warning us of this, but we needed to get the boys dropped off on time. So we took a chance and ended up ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF GAS, er ... ELECTRICITY!

I've screwed up my range calculations. We don't have enough to make the closest partner charging station. The car was warning us of this, but we needed to get the boys dropped off on time. So we took a chance and ended up ALMOST RUNNING OUT OF GAS, er ... ELECTRICITY!

We arrive! But there's just one problem ...

We arrive! But there's just one problem ...

Happy Meal, happy kid.

Happy Meal, happy kid.

What road trip is complete without a stop at McDonald's? Sadly, this burger has been discontinued by the chain.

What road trip is complete without a stop at McDonald's? Sadly, this burger has been discontinued by the chain.

Some threatening clouds along the route. Little did I suspect that there was some dramatic foreshadowing afoot.

Some threatening clouds along the route. Little did I suspect that there was some dramatic foreshadowing afoot.

And away we go!

And away we go!

Gorgeous weather to start!

Gorgeous weather to start!

... which can display various types of data.

... which can display various types of data.

The Model S has Tesla's simple digital instrument screen ...

The Model S has Tesla's simple digital instrument screen ...

And classic rock!!!

And classic rock!!!

Ample storage for gadgets and chargers.

Ample storage for gadgets and chargers.

... as well as the old-school versions.

... as well as the old-school versions.

We had Tesla's innovative, redesigned cupholders to keep us company ...

We had Tesla's innovative, redesigned cupholders to keep us company ...

The Model S when fully charged has 270 miles of range, enough to comfortably make the journey up and back. But we wanted to investigate the charging options along the way, so we didn't top off before departing. Still, almost 200 miles of range! Plenty, right? My plan was to get to camp, then head over to a Tesla destination partner charging site, get enough juice to make a Supercharger station on the return route, and be home by early evening.

The Model S when fully charged has 270 miles of range, enough to comfortably make the journey up and back. But we wanted to investigate the charging options along the way, so we didn't top off before departing. Still, almost 200 miles of range! Plenty, right? My plan was to get to camp, then head over to a Tesla destination partner charging site, get enough juice to make a Supercharger station on the return route, and be home by early evening.

The trip would cover 117 miles, one way.

The trip would cover 117 miles, one way.

We'd rely on Tesla's massive center touchscreen for all our infotainment and navigation needs.

We'd rely on Tesla's massive center touchscreen for all our infotainment and navigation needs.

Oh yeah, lucky hat!

Oh yeah, lucky hat!

It would shield me from the rays pouring in through that humongous sunroof.

It would shield me from the rays pouring in through that humongous sunroof.

I even pulled out my lucky hat.

I even pulled out my lucky hat.

My lovely wife was psyched.

My lovely wife was psyched.

The trio in the back was joyful.

The trio in the back was joyful.

We were all smiles as we saddled up in 2016.

We were all smiles as we saddled up in 2016.

In 2015, the BMW i3 got us to our destination, but it did so at a lower sticker price, about $50,000 less than the Model S P90D, and with less cargo space. We only had one camper's gear to deal with for that trip.

In 2015, the BMW i3 got us to our destination, but it did so at a lower sticker price, about $50,000 less than the Model S P90D, and with less cargo space. We only had one camper's gear to deal with for that trip.

James also dug the frunk!

James also dug the frunk!

And here's what we got into the "frunk," a front trunk that's there because the Model S doesn't have a conventional engine.

And here's what we got into the "frunk," a front trunk that's there because the Model S doesn't have a conventional engine.

... meeting my son James' approval.

... meeting my son James' approval.

But enough about the fancy stuff. Can this ride handle a lot of gear? Well, here's what the rear hatch swallowed up ...

But enough about the fancy stuff. Can this ride handle a lot of gear? Well, here's what the rear hatch swallowed up ...

... and door handles that retract flush, but present themselves to you when you get close by.

... and door handles that retract flush, but present themselves to you when you get close by.

The P90D is loaded with sexy extras, like this carbon-fiber spoiler ...

The P90D is loaded with sexy extras, like this carbon-fiber spoiler ...

Just in case you needed a reminder: all-electric equals no tailpipe emissions.

Just in case you needed a reminder: all-electric equals no tailpipe emissions.

... in P90D trim. The "P" for "performance," the "90" for the 90 kWh battery pack, and the "D" for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup.

... in P90D trim. The "P" for "performance," the "90" for the 90 kWh battery pack, and the "D" for a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive setup.

Our Tesla was the Model S sedan ...

Our Tesla was the Model S sedan ...

My Prius was intimidated.

My Prius was intimidated.

The pearl-white Tesla, equipped with everything, landed in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test car HQ.

The pearl-white Tesla, equipped with everything, landed in the driveway of our suburban New Jersey test car HQ.
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