Sophie Says: Trade worry for caution

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A Winters Express opinion column

By Gerald Taylor
Special to the Express

Gramps Says
Like most drivers of conventional gasoline automobiles I have viewed electric powered cars from afar. I tend to hold back on new technology and models until the second or third generation and after the bugs have been worked out.

My friend David offered to help me close down our family cabin for the winter and do a little fly fishing as part of a three-day trip. He suggested that we drive up in his new Tesla and I was curious to learn more about what all the fuss is about.

Of course my first concern was fuel as we were heading into the Sierras. Every city or town in America that is worth its salt has three basic services: a grocery store of one size or another, a bar and a gas station. It is likely that electric charging stations will be added to that list in the near future, but it is not the case today.

Under ideal driving conditions the range of a fully charged battery is about 270 miles. Including the drive up and back and side trips to streams I figure that we drove about 450 miles. This is where Tesla drivers become strategic analyst.

Here’s how it played out. We drove north on Interstate 5 and pulled into a Tesla Supercharge Station in Red Bluff. We had a small lunch at a restaurant conveniently located near the Supercharge. ‘Topping’ off the battery took all of 17 minutes. Then we headed East up the mountain. We siphoned off a trickle of juice from the 120 Volt outlets at the cabin during the two-night stay and dead headed home on the third day.

What? That’s it? No excitement? Where‘s the story? The story is we worry too much. The word worry should be traded for caution.

For example you will not get the optimum mileage when driving 70 mph on Interstate 5 nor on a mountain road at any speed. Caution dictates that a reserve is maintained on the battery. We should also be cautious enough to know the locations of the Tesla Supercharge Stations on our route. These locations are found electronically and GPS will guide us there.

This leads us to a unique feature of the Tesla. There are no gauges or dials on the dashboard. Everything that you need to know about the function of the car, including battery charge level and estimated mileage is displayed on monitor screen. Your speed, your current location on a map or even your position in a traffic lane and vehicles in adjacent lanes can be displayed.

There is a certain feeling of security in a car that is so quiet and handles so smoothly and effortlessly. The seats of the Tesla folded down in such a way as to create a platform on which we loaded all the gear that we needed with room to spare. Most importantly a fully rigged nine-foot fly fishing rod fits inside the car. No need to stick it out the window.

Sophie Says
The car was great but Gramps didn’t mention that the fishing trip was a bust. He has lots of excuses, the water was high and muddy on Mill Creek from early snow melt off Mount Lassen. Hamilton Branch fishing season was closed early this year. Deer Creek was too low and too clear.

I’ve heard it all before.

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