top of page

A Tesla owner says she made a 9-day rural road trip through a town without an EV charger by trickle charging from an outlet at an abandoned gas station

Grace Kay

Aug 1, 2023

Kathleen Goforth went on a 9-day road trip to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, California.

The monument didn't have any EV chargers for her Tesla Model Y within more than 50 miles.

Goforth said she got creative and trickle-charged at an outlet in an abandoned gas station with the owner's permission.

Kathleen Goforth said she took her Tesla Model Y on a 9-day road trip through a rural area and had to get creative at one point when it came to charging.

Goforth, a climate-action advocate, detailed her experience traveling to the Carrizo Plain National Monument with her husband in a blog post on Acterra, an environmental-education nonprofit.

"It is remote and almost entirely undeveloped – the perfect challenge for planning our first road trip in our new, all-electric Tesla Model Y," Goforth wrote of the Carrizo Plain, a grassland in San Luis Obispo County, California, that is about 50 miles long and 15 miles wide. "There are no services within or anywhere near the Monument – no food, water, gas stations, and, certainly, no EV charging stations. Could we do it?"

The Tesla owner said she planned her route ahead of time using a Travelocity filter that allowed her to find hotels with EV chargers and Plugshare's Trip Planner, which helped her plot out charging stations along the way.

Goforth said they faced their greatest hurdle once they reached the Carrizo Plain because there were no chargers within at least 50 miles of the location. At their first stop, the couple was able to make use of a Level 2 fast charger, but they had to find other methods to charge at the California Valley Lodge, the only motel that was within 20 miles of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the Tesla owner said. Goforth said the couple had initially planned to charge using an RV hook-up site near the lodge and were a "little nervous" about how it would work. But, they were told the RV hook-up site was no longer available when they arrived.

However, the owner of the lodge told the couple they could use an unused gas station across the street that was also owned by the lodge.

"Although the pumps had been removed long ago and the building was vacant, the electricity still worked and there was an exterior outlet we could use," Goforth wrote of the gas station. "It was only a standard 120V outlet, so we would be trickle charging, not supercharging, but that was sufficient to more than replace, overnight, whatever energy we used on our daily excursions around the Monument. I loved the poetic justice of recharging our EV at a defunct gas station!"

A trickle charge adds only a few miles an hour to the car's battery life, while a Level 2 charger can charge an EV to 80% from four to 10 hours, according to the Department of Transportation. The couple relied on the old gas station to replenish their car for two days while they explored the surrounding area and later used a Level 2 charger and Tesla Supercharger to finish their trip and eventually travel home, Goforth said.

In the blog post, Goforth said she traveled nearly 1,000 miles and saved on fuel costs.

"Now that we've experienced how easy, fun, and economical road tripping in an EV can be, we're looking forward to many more all-electric adventures," she wrote.

Not all EV owners share Goforth's optimism about charging their vehicles on long road trips. EV owners have shared horror stories about trying to find chargers on long road trips, including a road trip where a Kia EV owner had to stop 12 times to charge at slow public chargers and a Mustang Mach-E driver who had to stop at four charging stations while frantically searching for a working one. Earlier this year, another Tesla owner said he faced some "hiccups" on a 6,392-mile road trip but that the carmaker's Autopilot driver assist feature was a "lifesaver." A Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV owner previously told Insider that successful EV road trips needed to be properly plotted out.

Some Tesla owners say they have a distinct advantage when it comes to navigating longer journeys because of the company's ultrafast Superchargers and Tesla's internal navigation system, which helps owners plot paths with multiple charging sites.

An Acterra spokesperson said the organization was working to "dispel the idea that EVs are out of reach for some because of cost, believing that EVs are truly for everyone."

bottom of page