Jeanee James Photography
Last spring, Tesla Motors speculated in a blog post that “it could even be possible” to drive a Model S more than 400 miles on a single charge and offered an unspecified prize for the first person to do so. Last weekend, the challenge was met by a father-and-son team in Florida.
David Metcalf, a senior researcher at the University of Central Florida, and his son, Adam, achieved 423.5 miles in their Model S Signature model (with the larger 85-kilowatt-hour battery) on a trip that took them — slowly — through the Everglades and around Lake Okeechobee. The journey was documented by Tesla, which tweeted its congratulations.
Shanna Hendriks, a Tesla spokeswoman, said in an interview, “At Tesla, we’ve set the bar about what an electric car can be, and this is verification and proof of that. Range anxiety is not something our owners need to be concerned about.”
A slow, steady pace was the key to the Metcalfs’ achievement, which has not been independently verified. Mr. Metcalf said in an interview that he averaged 25 or 26 miles an hour, with a top speed around 37 m.p.h. The pair set off from their home on Merritt Island soon after midnight on Saturday to avoid traffic and concluded the trip in just under 17 hours. They also drove on slightly over-inflated tires with the climate control off in an effort to increase range.
Mr. Metcalf uses his Model S mainly for a round-trip commute of more than 100 miles and has had no problems other than a faulty door handle. The car, he said, “is incredible, absolutely incredible — everything is either to spec or better.” Mr. Metcalf said that for the record trip he chose rural roads that were less likely to be crowded with traffic and that this “allowed us to see some fascinating parts of wild Florida, including Alligator Alley.” Adam, 12 at the time but now 13, sees the trip as a great birthday present. “It was a lot of fun, and I had a great time with my dad,” he said.
The car might have gone slightly farther without Adam’s added weight, though the pair was right around Tesla’s recommended limit of 300 pounds of vehicle load. Mr. Metcalf says he thinks 450 miles of range is achievable with such changes as 19- instead of 21-inch wheels and better conditions. Their trip was hampered by 4.5 hours of rain and some construction delays, as well as a takeoff from their congested home neighborhood.
Add in some other performance enhancers, like drafting behind another car or choosing a largely downhill route, and Mr. Metcalf sees the possibility of even greater glory. “I’m wondering if 500 miles isn’t possible,” he said.