A few months ago I received a phone call that I didn’t expect. A television producer friend of mine asked if I’d like to be involved in a cross-country electric vehicle competition called Charge Across America. As it happened, I was quite interested in the idea, and rang up Porsche to see if it had a Taycan in New York that I could deliver to Los Angeles for them. As it happens, this standard model rwd model was just coming off a long term loan to Motorweek, and I could use it for the 10-day 3,000-ish mile drive. Score! So my wife and I flew to New York prepared to be on television and hang out in a car together all day every day for a week and a half.
I won’t give away too much of the series, but the rules are incredibly complex, so I’ll give a brief explainer right here. There were five teams in the competition, including another team in a similar spec Taycan. We were given a starting point and an end point to each day, and we had to try to get there as quickly as possible without speeding, which means we had to manage our efficiency and our charging strategy. Points were awarded based on daily finishing order and bonus points could be gained for philanthropic work, buying food from local restaurants instead of chains, and scavenger hunt discoveries. It was fun, but the competition was extremely close and the whole thing was extremely stressful.
First of all, if you’re interested in catching the show, you can see it premiere on NBC Sports on Tuesday the 21st of December at 10PM Eastern.
So, ten days in the car, what did we learn about the Porsche Taycan, the charging infrastructure of the United States interstate system, and ourselves?
1. The Taycan Is The GOAT
I have extensive experience in Porsche’s electric sedan, and I love every single one of them. My favorite, well until I had time in the GTS, was the standard RWD model. I don’t say this lightly, but the Taycan is the best car that Porsche has ever made. Bar none. It’s incredible at everything, it’s fun, it’s comfortable, and it’s a tremendous driving experience. Of everything currently at a Porsche dealership, the only thing I would even consider buying is the Taycan. Not only can it be used every day, but it’s an incredible sports car. Prior to this I have only had a day or a few hours with a Taycan, but ten days in and out of the machine, using it not only as a daily, but a road trip car, a competition car, and storage for all of our luggage, really pushed things to a new level. Great car, no notes. The future of electric Porsches is bright, because they’re only going to get better from here.
2. Charging infrastructure still has a long way to go
There is a reason Tesla is still the dominant electric car manufacturer. The Tesla charging infrastructure is pretty much flawless. They’ve got it figured out, and it’s proprietary, so nobody else can use it (right now). Porsche uses the shared CCS standard, which is serviced by a dozen different charging companies across the country. Not only does this mean you need an app like PlugShare or A Better Route Planner to track down all of the chargers on your route, but you also need each of the apps used for payment on each of the companies. For this trip we needed no fewer than six apps to help us charge.
Technically Porsche offers a charging planner from the factory navigation, but it is meant for a leisurely road trip, not a competition in which you’re trying to get somewhere as quickly as possible.
3. Headwinds are no joke
On the final day of the event, right when we needed everything to be perfect, we ran into some hellacious headwinds crossing the Coachella Valley, which caused our range calculations to fall extremely short of where we could make it. Not only did we charge enough that the computer said we’d have several percent left when we got to the next charger, but we had to stop about 20 miles early at a slower charger just to get enough juice to hop to the fast charger we’d intended on getting to in the first place, only to roll in to that charger with 0.0 miles of charge remaining.
So, if you’re going to cross somewhere windy, have a backup plan ready, and a full charge on hand.
4. Plug and Charge rules
Porsche has a deal with Electrify America where you can pull up to a charger, plug in, and not have to mess with billing or apps. It’s a really convenient way to charge, and it’s modelled after the Tesla plan. You just keep your card attached to the car’s VIN, and it all gets handled on the back end. Honestly, this is the future, and the way all charging should be. Your car should be your charge account.
5. Porsche Intelligent Range Manager is awesome
When you’re working with Porsche’s onboard navigation, you can remove charging from the equation and plug in a destination to determine exactly how much battery you’ll have left when you get there. While the onboard computer will calculate miles-to-empty based on your recent driving characteristics, if you have the navigation plugged in, it’ll actually calculate it based on upcoming elevation changes, which is extremely helpful across the Rockies where chargers are few and far between. Not only did this allow us to know we would have enough range to make it to our destination, but it helped us to calculate exactly how long we needed to be stationary at a charger to get the juice needed to make the jump to the next station.
6. 270 kW charging is incredible, when you can find it
A Taycan charging up at full speed is a really quick thing. More often than not, I barely had enough time to run in to use the restroom and come back before the car was charged enough to get us to where we needed to go. The people who complain that charging speeds are too slow have never experienced the proper quickness of a Porsche Taycan plugged into a well-maintained Electrify America 350kW charger. It’s like magic.
7. RV parks work in a pinch
If you happen to be in the middle of nowhere with a low state of charge, and you aren’t going to make it to your destination, the best thing you can do is search for the nearest RV park. The thing about RV parks is that they tend to be in the middle of nowhere, because that’s where people with RVs want to go. So once, when we were desperate for juice, we popped in the 220V charger found in the trunk of the Taycan, and paid for an RV spot for an hour or so. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.
8. It’s technically possible to fit a grown man in the back seat
For the process of filming the rally, each car was outfitted with a videographer in the back to capture our every move. For ten days. In a Taycan. I’m a large person at 6’2″, and one of the video guys was also well above 6′. I think he was even taller than me. And for that entire day he had to sit on the passenger side in back. So when my wife was driving, he had to sit behind me. I don’t envy him, because it didn’t look particularly comfortable. Now if we’d had a Taycan GTS Sport Turismo, that would have been a whole other story, because he would have had the additional headroom that comes with the wagon. That really is the ideal car.
9. Chargers can brick the car
The unfortunate part of the charging infrastructure, particularly in places where they don’t get much use, is that they’re quite poorly maintained. I’d venture a guess that one in ten of the chargers we attempted to use were either outright broken, needed a reset, or were charging far slower than they should be.
One charger in particular really screwed us over, however. In the middle of Kansas, there was an Electrify America charger that flat out kicked us in the butt. As soon as I plugged it into the car it wouldn’t accept a charge, and I had to call to reset the machine. I tried another machine and it also wouldn’t charge. After getting in the car to move it to a slower charger down the lot, I found that the car was absolutely immobile. It wouldn’t go into drive or reverse, and there was a yellow screen that said a high voltage charging fault had occurred.
After several attempts to get the car to re-set, we finally got it moving again a couple of hours later, but by then our day was already completely screwed. I’ll always regret plugging in to that charger. We lost good points that day.
10. I really love my wife
She’s a great road-trip partner, even when I get incredibly uptight about the competition and she’s still trying to be mellow about it. I can’t imagine having done this competition with anyone else. We work really well together, even if the competition involves a little screaming at each other. You’ll see what I mean when the show premiers next week. Ten days is a long time to spend in a car with anyone, but we came out the other side even stronger. I’ll probably look like a jerk on TV, but hey ho, I’ve made my peace with that.