Chasing Rockets

From my basecamp in southeastern Missouri, I set out for the Nashville supercharger, some 205 road miles away. Tesla’s navigation software let me know that this route was a questionable endeavor if driven at normal speed.

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Tesla’s navigation software expected only 3% energy at destination if I drove at normal speeds (way too small a margin for comfortable driving).

For such a distance, I planned to use a slow driving speed to extend my range, but soon I came across a massive electric vehicle under transport, and it occurred to me that if I were ever to try drafting, now was the time.

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This vehicle looked more like a cruise ship in size than a semi-truck, and I decided to experiment with drafting since the road was level.

Typically, I burn about 289watt-hours of power per mile when driving at 65 mph on flat terrain, but take a look at what happened when I started drafting behind this big truck.

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Although I started drafting fairly close to the vehicle in front, with an adaptive-cruise-control setting of “2” I discovered I could back off to “5” or even further without a substantial loss in drafting. My energy burn dropped from 270 wh/mile to 245 wh/mile. At this rate, I could keep up my 65 mph speed all the way to Nashville. We finished the route with about 15% of energy remaining in our battery.

I lost the massive electric vehicle at a fork in the road but then caught sight of another likely target and started drafting again.

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This thing looked to be kin to the Goodyear blimp and provided some nice drafting as well.

Truly spoiled in the drafting world, I tried a run-of-the-mill semi-truck and found the drafting advantages were nearly as good. Since drafting can be accomplished from a safe distance behind, I think it is a safer alternative to stretching range than slow driving on highways with significant traffic. More recently, I have discovered substantial range improvements when moving with a flow of dense traffic. I call this “traffic drafting”. I’m very keen to quantify my findings and post in the other tabs as soon as I have more to share.

The Nashville supercharger is located at the Nashville sales and service facility. It is a beautiful building with friendly employees and it was quite busy with getting vehicles prepped for delivery when I arrived. A young man in the showroom had just pulled the trigger on a Model S and I offered my congratulations.

Only 90 miles south of Nashville stands Huntsville, Alabama, the location where Von Braun and America’s other rocket scientists developed the space vehicles that would take us to the moon. It is now known as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. With a full charge, Iceman and I set off for this location. An RV park right next to the space museum awaited us, but it did not offer 50 amp charging. Here is a perfect example of why you want to carry the right 30-TT charging adapter with you when roadtripping in a Model S.

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After parking the Tesla and beginning the charge, Iceman and I walked over to the museum. What a sight: a full-scale replica Saturn V awaited! For those of you who weren’t around in 1969, this is the rocket that carried our Apollo astronauts to the moon.

I have been both a space and aviation nut since childhood, and the sight of this rocket gave me chicken-skin. Wow. Imagine watching this thing launch and feeling the ground shake! The Saturn V put out 7.5 million lbs. of thrust at liftoff, more than any other rocket in history. To put things into perspective, when SpaceX introduces the Falcon Heavy, it will carry more than double the load into orbit than the Space Shuttle could, but the Falcon Heavy does so with 4.5 million lbs. of liftoff thrust. To offer a baseball analogy, the Saturn 5 is the Babe Ruth of rockets.

The next day, Iceman settled into air-conditioned comfort in the back seat of the Tesla while I headed off for the museum. I parked in a shady spot but all the same checked on temperature and air-conditioning performance frequently from my smart phone. The primary museum building offered many fascinating displays and it was evident that the U.S. Space Camp was in full swing with scores of youngsters involved in activities here. I had even seen a dozen of them launching their model rockets near the RV park.

Step outside, and you’re in the rocket park. Here stand actual and the occasional replica of important rockets in the development of space travel. You soon learn that America’s space program really was an offshoot from the primary business of designing long-distance missiles for the military.

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The rocket park offered everything from the small Atlas rockets that blasted the first Mercury astronauts into space to a replica of the Saturn 1 (far left).

The real crown jewels of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center reside within the Saturn V building. Here, on it’s side is an actual Saturn V rocket, split into three stages for your viewing pleasure. Since major events were underway in this building, my ability to visit was questionable, but by asking nicely and expressing my sincere interest, I was allowed in.

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Stage 1 of the Saturn V

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Stage 3 of the Saturn V

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Here’s an F-1 engine that was the type used in the first stage of the Saturn V. Development of this engine begin way back in the year 1960. Are there parallels here with the lead that Tesla has achieved in the EV world? We’ll see.

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A panoramic photo of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Reunited with the Tesla and Iceman after the tour, we set off for Nashville, Chattanooga, and then Knoxville before calling it a day. Ah, the joys of being back on the supercharger network!

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4 Responses to Chasing Rockets

  1. Fred Burger says:

    Good job with the drafting, looks like you had some excellent vehicles to draft behind. Of course you want to maintain a safe distance. The adaptive cruise control would make it easy.

    I also enjoyed your Saturn V photos. I’ve stayed in the hotel next to the Saturn V but did not get to visit the museum.

    If your travels take you through Houston, give us a call (let me know if you need our number). It looks like the supercharger network will route you pretty close.

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  2. papafox510 says:

    Fred, I have your number and will call prior to passing through Texas. Just when is this road trip supposed to become tedious? I’m having a ball.

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  3. Bill Hamilton says:

    As a Tesla road warrior who travels with Razz the wonder dog, a couple of things. First, the app RemoteS has something called “Camp Mode” that keeps the A/C or heat on without needing to reset. Worth the $9 if costs. And second, I printed and laminated a “Notice” explaining that his is an electric car and the a/c is on, so don’t worry about the dog. I’ve had a lady charge across parking lot to accost me about leaving my poor puppy in the car. Put in the rear window.

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    • papafox510 says:

      Bill, I own Remote S and did not know about this feature early on in the road trip, but two of you have now pointed out how nicely this feature works. I’ll be using it in the future! The message re dog and A/C is a necessity, as you say, and my messages were displayed on both sides of the the car. I also included my cell phone number, just in case someone felt inclined to contact me. I’ve never received a call, though. Thanks for comments!

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