This Tesla (barely) climbed Mt. Washington

Our Boston-launched Tesla Model S P85D on the summit of Mt. Washington.
Our Boston-launched Tesla Model S P85D on the summit of Mt. Washington.

A Tesla Model S recently drove from Los Angeles to New York in just under 59 hours, relying on a string of Tesla Superchargers, which allow the vehicle to regain 170 miles of range in as few as 30 minutes. But they aren’t everywhere.

And while that is certainly an impressive show of how the Supercharger network supports the car during long one way trips, here in New England, we make day trips. Day trips outside of the current Supercharger network. Day trips for bumper sticker badges of honor.

So we put the Tesla P85D to the ultimate New England day-trip road test, for any car: climbing Mt. Washington.


Here is a timeline of our recent ascension, complete with an anxiety meter gauging how nervous we were that we’d run out of juice.

8 a.m.: Tesla departs Boston, on its way to pick me up, fully charged.

9 a.m.: Slight detour off of I-93 North in Salem, New Hampshire to assemble our entire crew, including’s social media director, Matt Karolian, his fiancée, and myself.

10:30-11:20 a.m.: Supercharging in Hooksett, New Hampshire. We leisurely have a cup of coffee and depart 100 percent charged. Elon, take the wheel.

11:21 a.m.: Our Tesla-recommended route predicts we will have 49 percent of our battery power when we arrive at the foot of Mt. Washington. Uh oh. Not quite enough for a round trip. +1 to range anxiety.

11:45 a.m.: Estimated charge on arrival at Mt. Washington drops to 47 percent. We call the Indian Head Resort on a rumor they have a Tesla Wall Connector charging station, which could add just under 60 miles of range in an hour. The special dual charger installed in our vehicle would allow us to get two times that range in one hour. Front desk confirms. -10 to range anxiety.

12:30 p.m.: Arrive at the Indian Head Resort for a “top off,’’ if you can call it that. As it turns out, the station is a regular Level 2 EV charger, which is incompatible with Tesla’s dual charger and maxes out at approximately 26 miles of range per hour.+3 to range anxiety.


1:30 p.m.: Depart the Indian Head Resort, back up to 47 percent on arrival, which still is not enough for a round trip, but every drop of power counts.

1:40 p.m.: Matt misses the exit for Rt. 3. Only by one exit, but still. +5 to WTF Matt.

2:25 p.m.: Navigation gets creative and takes us down “Dolly Copp Road.’’ We see a sign indicating it’s closed in the winter. The road turns to dirt. A man mowing his lawn looks at us like we’re nuts, so we turn around. +25 to range anxiety.

2:50 p.m.: Arrive at the Mt. Washington Auto Road Welcome Center with 37 percent battery, not 47 percent. We get a charge off a Level 2 station that usually charges the center’s Smart Car, pictured above wrapped in the glorious vistas of Mt. Washington State Park. It’s a little faster than the Indian Head Resort charger, but it won’t get us where we need to be for this to be our last stop. +100 to range anxiety. We’re off the chart, people.

3 p.m.: Lots of planning and searching for cell signal. We stop looking at charge percentages, in favor of the only metric that matters now: miles until zero battery.

3:55 p.m.: We decide to abort the mission with 137 miles of range. It’s 130 miles to the Hooksett Supercharger and the Auto Road closes at 5 p.m. This car will not climb Mount Washington today. -1,000 to morale.

4:00 p.m.: We change our minds. We start up the mountain anyway. +2,000 #@&% yeah.


4:10 p.m.: Other than the precipitous drops around us, the Model S might as well be on Storrow Drive. The Energy Consumption readout spiking off the chart is the only indicator that we’re climbing 4,700 feet in just 4.7 miles. Our car is handling the ascent better than its occupants.

4:25 p.m.: THE SUMMIT! I’ve lived in New England all my life and never actually made this trip. We aren’t the first, but it’s hard to suppress the feeling of triumph.

4:42 p.m.: 90 miles of range. Return journey planning begins. 4:45 p.m.: We could shave 23 miles off by going south on Rt. 16, and there’s a Tesla charger in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Why isn’t our navigation letting us choose this? Why didn’t it suggest this route on the way up? Tesla Navigation abandoned, we turn to our phones.

4:50 p.m.: Back down the mountain. Thanks to the P98D’s regenerative braking, which recovers energy by slowing the car when it is moving without the use of the accelerator, we can hope to regain some of our range. Let’s get back some of those 47 miles we spent climbing up.

5:00 p.m. We’re getting miles back. Everyone else is burning brake pads. +19 miles to regenerative braking.

5:15 p.m.: At the base of the mountain with 109 miles at our disposal. Enough to get to Wolfeboro confidently, not so much to Hooksett. -100 to range anxiety, -100 to evening plans.

5:35 p.m.: Hey, Storyland! +1,000 to nostalgia.

6:45 p.m.: Arrive at the Wolfeboro Inn, plug into one of the two Tesla chargers there, and head to dinner. A little disappointingly, the Tesla Wall Connector is operating at just 30 amps.

8:10 p.m.: Depart Wolfeboro, with estimates getting us to Hooksett with almost 20 percent to spare on our battery.

9:10 p.m.: Hooksett, we have a Supercharger.

10:35 p.m.: Back in Boston, tired but triumphant.

The P85D, while a gem of a vehicle, earned its bumper sticker just barely. The Model S may be able to make cross country runs with the full support of the Supercharger network, but without those dots to connect the experience, it can be unforgiving and downright inconvenient. But hey, convenience might not be the selling point of a vehicle equipped with “insane’’ mode.

Next time we’ll take the mini-van.

(No bumper stickers were actually slapped on any Tesla Model S P85Ds in the making of this story. We aren’t monsters.)

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