Monday, March 18, 2013

Our First Tesla Road Trip!

We took our electric car on its first road trip!  Maybe I should start with: We have an electric car!  Ever since we first watched the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car, I've been waiting for the chance to support electric vehicles.  Luckily, I'm married to someone who also prioritizes the environment (and happens to appreciate really nice cars) because now we're proud Tesla owners.  It's one of the only all-electric cars on the market, and I love opening the door to the garage and seeing it plugged in.

Charging in Milford, CT.

Anyway, back to our first electric car road trip.  There's a super-charging station in Milford, CT, twenty minutes from my brother's family, so when we were invited down for my sister's birthday dinner, we knew we had to go and take Tess!  It was our first time driving our all electric car out of the state, knowing we'd need to charge it on the road before we came home.

It's 138 miles to my brother's house in CT, making it 276 miles round trip.  For environmental and battery life purposes, the Tesla normally charges to about 80% capacity, or about 220 miles.  This is more than sufficient for Greg's daily commute and lunchtime excursions.  For our road trip, we set it to do a maximum capacity charge the night before, giving us an EPA estimate of 262 miles for a max range.  That meant that we'd only have to stop and charge at a super charging station for a little while in order to make it comfortably round trip.

Electric cars are like gas cars in that your estimated mileage is very much impacted by how you're driving, how much is in the car, etc.  For our road trip, we knew that we weren't going to be driving at the ideal speed of 55 miles per hour, because that's under the speed limit!  With two car seats and kids in the back, two pack and plays, twelve bottles of wine, and some additional toddler gear, we had Tess pretty loaded down.  It was also cold, and batteries don't really like cold.  I also crank the heat for myself and the kids, reducing our efficiency even more.

That said, we still managed to drive at 75% - 80% of the maximum range.  (If it estimated the maximum mileage we could get in ideal circumstances and speeds was 20 miles, we'd go 15, etc).

That was perfectly fine with us, since we only needed to hit 50% in order to make it to the charging station in Milford, CT.  We made it there with no issues, and in the time it took us to change two kids' diapers and outfits and grab ourselves some iced teas, Tess had charged enough so that we weren't even sure we needed to stop on the way back.  We thought about hanging out for a full charge since it'd only take a few more minutes, but decided that since the charging station is directly off the highway and someone always needs a bathroom break or a diaper, we'd just stop quickly on the way home if we needed to.  We did stop, and we made it home and did the math and realized we hadn't needed to.

This made me feel cool. (It doesn't take much.)

The charging station at the super-charge is a Tesla specific station, reserved for electric vehicles, and it charges about four times faster than our home!  It charged at 364 volts, and you could sit in the car and watch your estimated mileage go up in real time.  (Kind of cool.)  Also, it was free, which is kind of fun when you think about how much it'd cost you to go 276 miles in a gas powered vehicle.  (My car gets about 28 miles per gallon best case, meaning I'd need about ten gallons, which is anywhere from $35-$40 lately.)

The screen in Greg's car, showing our charging progress.

The charging station in Milford is right at a big rest stop, so we went inside to change the kids and grab iced teas, and Greg could actually check his phone to see how much Tess had charged before we decided to leave!  We didn't even take time to sit down with our drinks.  The same iphone ap will let him see exactly where his car is, its temperature, how fast it's going, and its estimated remaining mileage, all with the click of a button.  (Maybe we WILL let the kids drive this car...)

Greg's iphone let's us know Tess' charging progress.

The verdict for me?  I'd definitely take Tess on a road trip again.  I have two small children who don't like being cooped up in a car for more than a couple hours, and definitely need to stop and get changed and fed and stretch their legs.  The fact that Tess needed to charge for twenty minutes was practically immaterial.  (A full drain to a full charge would mean you'd need to stop for a real lunch - more like an hour.)

I think it'd be tougher if we hadn't had a well placed charging station for our trip, but in general, as more charging stations pop up in places, I don't think it's so bad to plan to have lunch somewhere while the car charges.  You can drive three to four hours without stopping, which is probably longer than we're able to with small children.  The kids' car seats fit in the back with no trouble, and there was plenty of cargo space, and it was a super comfortable and fun ride.

My only complaint is that it sort of slows you down on the highway when people keep boxing you in to check out your car.

Tess getting delivered right to our house in January, 2013.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Back from St. Martin! - Vacationing with a baby & toddler

My parents heading out for a sail!
We did it!  We packed everything from swim diapers to paperback story books for the plane and we hauled all our stuff, a one year old, and a two and a half year old through airports and planes and car rentals and island traffic to the French side of St. Martin in the Caribbean.

Ok, so we cheated.  REALLY cheated.  We had two sets of grandparents with us to help entertain children on the plane, haul stuff from place to place, and help out while we were there so we could have some dinners to ourselves and time to relax on the beach.  They are awesome and it was awesome.

That said, here are some of the tips I read that helped me the most, and that might be more helpful for traveling parents of small children than "grandparents!"

1. Have a convenient way to secure and transport each child.  We brought just one stroller for the two kids, but also had the ergo baby carrier with us.  That meant that when the two year old was tired, or we were dealing with ticket counters and couldn't risk him running off, we could put him in the stroller and the one year old in the backpack carrier.  Then when we were through security with time to kill, he could walk around while our backs got a break because we moved the baby to the stroller.  The ergo is great because it's hands free, didn't bother my back even when I carried Andrew for over an hour in it, and folded up small enough to tuck into a backpack or bottom of the stroller.  We've even used the ergo with Will when he was almost two to carry him from place to place on our vacation in Cape Cod - in a pinch, it beats carrying a toddler and not having your hands free for luggage or risking them running off while you're handling suitcases.

2. The travel experience and interacting with you are a great source of entertainment.  Everyone recommends an activity bag with some new books and toys for the plane.  Absolutely a great idea - but also remember not to pack too much because you've got to lug it, and honestly, most of the time Will was more entertained by looking around, asking questions about the plane, talking to us about everything he saw in the airport, and looking through the in-flight safety information. Snacks are also great time killers and mood-boosters, but think about whether you need to bring more than a few or if you can buy them as you travel to save weight and space.  Jet Blue offers great snack boxes with lots of variety including one aimed directly at kids complete with raisins and squeezy applesauce pouches.

3. They sense your mood.  If you're feeling impatient, they sense it.  If you try to enjoy every aspect of the trip "Ooh, now we're waiting for the rental car... we're so close to the airport we can see the planes going by!  What kind of a tree is that?  Let's look at the leaves while we wait!" then your kids will take your lead.  Also, I actually enjoyed traveling more because it really was an adventure each step of the way.  Did you know that a lot of airports have little plane motifs on their floor tiles?  Yeah.  I didn't.  They do.  If you have time, you can count them pretty high.

4. Avoid the trifecta. When you're traveling, you might have to skip a nap, or wait longer than normal for lunch, or get a little too hot or cold as you switch climates.  One is ok.  Two might be ok briefly... but don't let your kids get tired and hungry and hot or cold.  I found that by making sure I was thinking ahead about their food intake and what they were wearing, that those were the easiest to control even when they might be too excited to sleep on the plane.  If you're ordering food at a restaurant, don't wait until the kids are ravenous to find a place and order, careful planning and leaving really early for lunches and dinners can make a big difference.

5. This is not your honeymoon.  Have realistic expectations!  Oh, and bring the grandparents so you can go out to a nice dinner ;)

Los Calmos Cafe