This is a pretty long story…
My wife and I had an interesting road trip to Salida, CO this past weekend, going to the Colorado Brewer’s Rendezvous. We drove down from Parker, CO on US-285, which was 151 miles. I had a range-charge in my P85 before we left, and we arrived in Salida with 107 miles of rated range remaining, despite quite a bit of elevation change on the route. This was my first time past “bingo fuel” in the Model S, but I was not worried since I had planned out the trip.
I had looked online, and found no public charging stations in Salida, and I did not find any motels that mentioned having charging stations either. Using the RVParky website, I had found several RV campgrounds within 10-15 miles of Salida that had 50 Amp service, so I called one and asked about charging my Tesla. At first, they were a little unclear what I wanted, but after I explained, they said I could pay $5.00 plus whatever my actual electrical usage was (at 15 cents/KwH). This seemed like a very good deal, so I made a reservation to charge for a few hours starting Sunday morning. I also made a motel reservation at the Gateway Inn & Suites, on Hwy 50 in Salida. This is a relatively modern motel on the east side of Salida, next to Hwy 50.
My hope was to at least charge at 120V, 12Amps over Saturday night (at 3 miles of range/hr), and then drive to the RV campground on Sunday morning at charge at 240V, 40 Amps (at 26-30 miles of range/hr) until I had enough range to get home with a safe reserve. After I made my online reservation, I sent an email to the motel, asking them about charging, as shown below:
“I have booked a reservation though Booking.com, checking in on July 13 and checking out on July 14. I drive a Tesla Model S, which is an all-electric car. I was wondering whether there might be some place at the motel where I can plug-in my car from about noon on Saturday until we check out on Sunday? I would be happy to pay extra for this service, whether it is a 120V, 20 amp circuit or a 240V, 50 amp circuit. Please let me know. Thanks!”
Unfortunately, I never got a response to that e-mail. I later called and asked about charging, but the person I talked to did not know anything about EV charging.
After the Brewer’s Rendezvous was over, we had dinner and took a walk along the river, and then drove about a mile to the motel and checked in at about 6:30PM. Our room was Room 305, which was about 100 feet away from the motel office. We were able to park two spaces to the left of our room door, which was just a little too far away for my UMC cable to reach.
This is where I made my first mistake. There was a grounded, 120V outlet in the room under the front window, and I had a short, very heavy duty extension cord that would easily reach. I decided to use the extension cord and plug-in, running the cord through the open window, past the edge of the screen. I sat in the car for a few minutes and watched it happily charge at 120V and 12 Amps, getting 3 miles/hour of range. There was no warning about a voltage drop or a long extension cord from the Tesla. I also felt the extension cord to make sure it was not warm, even though I had used this same extension cord to charge at home for a couple of weeks (before I got my NEMA 14-50 outlet).
Thinking everything was fine, we read for a little while and then went to bed. Then, at about 11:30PM, we were awoken by a loud pounding on the door. I opened the door to be met by a very angry man who starting yelling about me damaging the wiring and burning down the motel. He also yelled that I had two minutes to unplug the car or else he would call the fire department and the police. He also threw in a comment about how “$#cking ridiculous it was to charge an electric car from a hotel room”.
I was a little shocked by all of this, but I immediately unplugged the UMC cord from the extension cord, and then unplugged the UMC cord from the car and put it away. The guy was still yelling about how they had security cameras to make sure I did not plugin again later. I tried to explain that the car was only drawing 12 Amps which was perfectly safe, and we had used about 4KwH of electricity. I asked him to feel the extension cord to see if it was warm, but he refused, and then walked away towards the office. No circuit breaker in the room had been tripped.
After this, I went back inside. only to get a phone call from the front desk. I asked to speak to manager, but the woman on the phone told me that the guy I had talked to was the manager. Next, she said that they were going to turn off the circuit breakers for our room for the night. Hearing this, I said, “If you do that, I will have to write a negative review of the motel”. Of course this angered her even more, so she demanded that we leave the motel immediately, and she wanted to know when we would be gone. I said “in the morning”. After this, she threatened to call the Salida Police, and I said that was a good idea.
Next, the manager came back and pounded on our door again, demanding that we leave immediately. I told that I was going to call the Police myself, and asked him what his name was, which he refused to give me.
A few minutes later, a Salida Police Officer showed up and talked to the manager and front desk clerk for a couple of minutes, and then came over to talk to me alone. I calmly explained what had happened, telling him how the Tesla monitors the incoming current and limits it to 12 Amps on a 120V 20 Amp circuit. I also showed him the extension cord, and explained how little electricity we had used over the past five hours of charging.
I also explained that we lived in Parker, and did not have enough range to get home until we could charge at the RV campground in the morning. Because of the Brewer’s Rendezvous, there were unlikely to be any vacant rooms in any other motels in Salida that night. The officer was very understanding, and left to go talk to the manager some more.
When the officer came back, he was very apologetic, but said that he was sorry, but we would have to check-out and leave, although we were going to get a full refund. So, we packed up, got our refund and left, but not before the officer told me how sorry he was, and that they had had previous similar situations with this manager at the motel over kicking people out in the middle of the night (but not related to EVs).
We were basically screwed, with not enough range to get home without a charge, and no where to stay for the night. By this time it was a little after midnight, so I tried calling the RV campground we had a reservation at The SugarBush Store and Campground, hoping they might have someone on duty.
Unfortunately, I woke up a very nice woman, who agreed to meet us when we got there and let us plug in for the night. We apologized for waking her and thanked her profusely (and I also gave her a nice tip when we got there). Their 50 Amp circuit worked great, putting out a steady 240-244V at 40 Amps, so we were getting 27-29 miles per hour of charge. We left the campground at 6AM with a full range charge, and drove back home without any more excitement. I averaged 282 Wh/mi for the trip which was quite good.
So to recap, I made a few mistakes here:
- I should not have charged without explicit permission
- I should not have used the extension cord to charge
- I should not have threatened to write a negative review of the motel
On the other hand, the motel manager made a number of mistakes:
- He should have called us first, and asked us to unplug and/or explain what we were doing
- He should have let me explain what I was doing and actually investigated to see if it was a problem
- He should not have used profanity towards a motel guest
- He should not have called the police over the incident
- He should not have evicted two guests in the middle of the night
If they had been willing to calm down and listen to me, I am sure we could have resolved the situation. I could have let them keep my UMC cord for the night, or I could have paid some excessive fee for the roughly $1.00 of electricity I would have used by morning. As it was, there was no damage to the motel, and they lost my $129.99 room rate for the night (which was nearly double their normal rate due the Brewer’s Rendezvous).
I am curious what people think of this whole situation?