On July 1st at 11:30 pm PT, two friends, Jordan Hart and Bradly D’Souza, left Redondo Beach, California, in a 2015 midnight silver Tesla Model S, and proceeded east. Fifty-one hours and 47 minutes later, they arrived at a garage on E. 31st Street in New York City, claiming to set a new record for the fastest transcontinental drive in an electric vehicle. They say they bested the previous record holder by a little more than four hours.
They tweeted and posted photos to Instagram throughout the trip, both to document the experience and verify locations and the route along the way. Notarized witnesses signed official arrival and departure documents at both the start and end of the trip. Date and timestamped time-lapse video footage was taken of the entire run, as well as timestamped photos at both locations.
That said, there were numerous challenges, such as when to stop and eat, and how use to the car’s air conditioning without draining the car’s battery. (This was especially difficult during the stretch of the trip that took them through the desert, which in direct sunlight hit temperatures of 115 degrees Fahrenheit.)
“We were also VERY focused on our run and only stopped to eat once,” Hart told The Verge in an email. “Even then we told the staff what we were doing and were in and out of the restaurant in about 15 minutes. The rest of the time was healthy low glycemic snacking and a strict nap schedule for whoever wasn’t driving.”
Hart and D’Souza were quick to note they accomplished this feat despite several disadvantages. Their vehicle, a Tesla Model S 85D, was less efficient than the Model S driven by the previous record holders, who used a newer model with improved aerodynamics, a larger battery (90 kwh), and an additional driver when they set their record in 2016.
As Tesla owners, Hart said both he and D’Souza knew how to squeeze every last drop of performance and efficiency out of the vehicle during the coast-to-coast run, like “when to obey or ignore the Tesla software’s recommendations when it comes to trip planning (it may tell you to stop and charge or slow down when in actuality you can go further or charge for less time).”
D’Souza added, “I believe that our knowledge of the limitations and willingness to push the boundaries whenever possible is what made the largest difference.”
The two embarked on the record-setting trip to raise awareness and donations for victims of human trafficking. They netted 50 donations for a few thousands dollars, which was a bit below their expectations. “Since we were using a smaller battery car, I think a lot of people doubted we had a chance at beating the record,” Hart said.
The concept of using electric vehicles for coast-to-coast “Cannonball Runs” is fairly new, and only started gaining popularity when the charging infrastructure started to mature. Some car experts from Edmunds.com did the trip in a Model S in 67 hours and 21 minutes in 2013. Two years later, a California couple beat that time by nine hours and 34 minutes. And then last year, veteran car writer Alex Roy and his team set a new record in their Model S 90D: 2,877 miles in precisely 55 hours. Roy’s team also set a record for transcontinental autonomous driving, using Tesla’s Autopilot for over 97 percent of their journey.
Hart and D’Souza didn’t bother with Autopilot, but they did have a few things going in their favor. “Truly luck was on our side with our trip,” Hart said, “as we hit essentially zero traffic jams, only [four] minutes of inclement weather, and arrived in NYC on a holiday to find the streets almost empty/devoid of traffic.”
Tesla used to be the only electric car of note, but now the marketplace is getting crowded with a variety of high-performing, battery-powered vehicles. But Hart said the choice to use a Model S for their run was never in question.
“Tesla makes the only electric vehicle out there capable of such long distances on a charge combined with the fastest (and free to use!) supercharging network available,” he said. “There is simply no other vehicle or car company that could even come close to offering what Tesla does.”
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