“Technological Tour de Force”

by Amy Snelling

Can the high distinction of “Best Overall Car” from Consumer Reports really belong to a vehicle with no emissions? Why, yes, yes it can. The revolutionary Tesla Model S has received global praise and according to Consumer Reports’ test rating, “it outscores every other car.”

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Tesla Model S Drives Over Teton Pass!

It has recently come to our attention that there is a Tesla in the Jackson area! The owner’s nephew, Ted Kidd, took it for a ride over Teton Pass and documented the entire trip.

This trip is a great example of regenerative breaking and how mountain driving can work in favor of electric vehicles’ range.

First, what is regenerative braking?

regenerative-brake-diagram

If you are coasting down hill in a vehicle, your wheels accumulate a large amount of kinetic energy.  As you get going too fast, and need to brake, all of that kinetic energy is lost as heat to the atmosphere.   In electric vehicles or hybrids, the electric motor runs backwards to brake the car when you press on the brake pedal.  As the motor runs backwards, it acts as an electric generator, and produces electricity that goes straight to the car’s battery.  So every time a hybrid or electric vehicle brakes, it is essentially charging its own battery.

The following pictures are of the dashboard on the Tesla as it drives from Jackson, WY to Victor, ID and back. It is a perfect illustration of how regenerative braking works.

 

1The Tesla starts out in Wilson with 263 miles of electric power.

3Right as the climb begins, the Tesla has 245 miles of range.

 

4

At the top of the pass, the Tesla has 220 miles of range left. Going up the steep incline decreased the efficiency of the motor and it lost 25 miles of range over a 6 mile driving period.

 

5The drive down from the top of the pass to Victor was 10 miles, but did not decrease the range at all.  In fact, driving and braking 10 miles down the pass added 5 miles of range to the Tesla, bringing it back up to 225.

6After driving around Idaho for a while, they headed back up the pass with 179 miles of range.

 

7Following the long, steep climb up the Idaho side of Teton Pass, there was 149 miles of range remaining by the time they reached the top.

 

8And the back down into Wilson added 10 miles back onto the range due to the regenerative braking! Ending range: 157.

 

Driving an electric or hybrid vehicle up steep mountain passes can decrease the efficiency because you are not driving ‘ideally’.  However, this Tesla trip shows that the effects of regenerative braking negate some of the less than ideal effects of driving up a steep grade.  Overall, the Tesla traveled 110 miles and only lost 14 miles off the “ideal” range.

Now, let’s bring more electric cars to mountain towns!

For more information about electric vehicles and charging visit our vehicles and fuels pages.

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