posted on July 13th, 2017


Electric cars, like the sports cars created by Tesla, are better for the environment than your basic, gas-powered automobiles, but they’re not normally known for their distance-driving capabilities.

Even the new Model S 100D, released earlier in 2017, only offers a range of 335 miles per charge.

While this is the highest range currently available on the market, you would still have to recharge your car between eight and nine times for a cross-country drive from Los Angeles to New York City, begging the questions — is it possible to drive a Tesla across the country?

Charging requirements

First, it’s important to note that while you can plug your Tesla into just about any outlet with the adaptor that comes with the car, it takes hours to charge on a standard power outlet. On average, it charges 52 miles of range per hour — meaning that charging the new Model S we just mentioned would take upwards of six hours to fully charge. That’s not useful for a road trip — it’s designed for overnight charging in your home — but it is better than being stranded.

However, Tesla Superchargers are popping up all over the country and can charge approximately 70% – 80% of the car’s capacity in 30 minutes — much more road-trip friendly. You can plug your car in, go get lunch, and be ready to go by the time your car is charged. It can also make road trips more comfortable because it encourages you to get out of the car and stretch your legs during the charging cycle.

Tesla even has an app that syncs with your vehicle. It will let you know when your vehicle is done charging or when it’s received enough power to continue your journey, based on your destination and the other available superchargers along your route.

Planning your trip

So where do you want to go? For the purpose of this experiment, we’re going to use the same trip we mentioned before — Los Angeles to New York City, a distance of 2,797 miles according to Google Maps. According to Teslarati, a website that shows you the location of all nearby Superchargers and Destination Chargers, there are no supercharger stations in downtown LA, so we’re going to start assuming that the car, a Model S 100D for the range it provides, is fully charged and ready to go.

Your first stop will be close to home — the superchargers in Burbank, California. You’ll stop again at the superchargers in Barstow and Needles before you make your way out of California. You’ll stop twice in Arizona, four times in New Mexico and twice as you cross the northern part of Texas.

You’ll finally start to turn north in Oklahoma, stopping in Oklahoma City and Catoosa before you continue northeast through Missouri. Three stops later, you’ll make your way into Illinois — one stop there, another in Indiana, two in Ohio and one in the very northern tip of West Virginia.

Then, two more stops, one in Somerset and one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and you’re in the home stretch. You’re just a hop, a skip and a jump from New York City. While there are no superchargers in New York proper, there are plenty of places for you to plug in an electric car overnight, so if you’re staying a while, you’re in good shape.

This is all based on a variety of different factors, of course, such as the model of the car, the temperature both inside and outside of the car and the amount of weight your car is carrying. If you’re hauling luggage or other heavy materials on your road trip, the distance between superchargers may be shorter as your car has to work harder to keep you moving.

Trip timeline

According to Google Maps, the trip from Los Angeles to New York is 2,797 miles and should take approximately 41 hours to complete. (Note — this doesn’t take into account breaks for food, bathroom trips, or sleep.)

In a Tesla, the trip takes slightly longer. First, the distance becomes slightly longer due to having to plan your trip around the location of the superchargers — add a little less than 100 miles to your total, which brings your driving time up to around 44 hours.

You also have to take your charging time into consideration. With the number of stops we listed above (23 stops), you’re adding anywhere from nine to 11 hours of charging time to your total trip time — your total trip will probably take somewhere between 52-55 hours.

This is also a straight drive between LA and NYC. If you’re planning an actual road trip and not just a drive cross-country, chances are you’re planning to visit some attractions along the way, and that will obviously increase your travel time. We’re not taking those stops into account because we have no idea what you want to see while you’re driving across the country.

Questions answered

Now we come to the question we mentioned at the beginning — can you drive cross-country in a Tesla?

The answer is a tentative but resounding yes. Currently, there are 373 supercharger stations across North America and Mexico, with 2,636 superchargers total. Tesla is also working on doubling the number of superchargers in the country during 2017, making cross-country road trips even easier.

It’s not unlike filling your car with gas. Tesla owners get credits for free supercharger recharges, but after those run out, owners are charged a small fee — it is much cheaper than gasoline, though.

Our yes is tentative right now, simply because whether or not you can complete a cross-country road trip in your Tesla depends on what you want to see. You do have to plan your trip around charging availability — whether you’re charging overnight in your hotel parking lot or parking for lunch at a supercharger depends on your location.

There are plenty of tools available, from websites like the ones we’ve mentioned above, to apps for your phone, to help you plan your Tesla road trip based on charger availability.

Don’t let yourself get stranded — you can’t have someone bring you a spare battery like you would a can of gas for an empty tank, and towing fees from remote areas can get expensive!

So, overall — yes. You can drive cross-country in a Tesla. Just make sure you plan your trip carefully and always know where the next or nearest supercharger station is.

Charging into the future

At the rate technology continues to change and adapt to consumer demands, it’s entirely possible we’ll see Tesla vehicles capable of driving distances well over their current maximums in the future. The company has already been toying around with futuristic tech concepts like self-driving and mirrorless vehicles since 2012, so who know what they’ll develop in the next few years. The limits of Elon Musk’s imagination seem nonexistent.

Kayla Matthews is a writer who enjoys playing around with the latest travel apps and gadgets. You can find more of Kayla's work on MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, VICE, and