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Friday, March 31, 2023

Electric Daytrip to Mount Lemmon


On Sunday, October 30, the Scottsdale Electric Vehicle Association joined the Tesla Drivers Club for a drive event—a day-trip to Mt. Lemmon (elevation of 9,159 feet), the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson. Our group included 3 Tesla Model S’s, 5 Tesla Model 3’s, a Tesla Model X, a Jaguar i-Pace and a Chevrolet Bolt. In all, we had 25 attendees.

The trip to Ski Valley atop Mt. Lemmon via Interstate-10 and the Catalina Highway is a 288-mile round trip at highways speeds (75-MPH) with an altitude gain from Tucson along the 27-mile Catalina Highway (35 MPH) of over 6,000 feet. We departed from the Tesla Supercharger at Arizona Mills in Tempe at 9:10 AM, which also has an Electrify America DC Fast Charger for our non-Tesla EVs. We arrived at the v3 Tesla Supercharger in Tucson on West River Rd near Interstate-10 around 10:30 AM and the non-Tesla vehicles charged at the Electrify America Station at Tucson Premium Outlets about 6-miles away.

After charging up to about 80%, we departed for the Catalina Highway, the road to Mt. Lemmon. The 30-mile trip across north Tucson took about an hour. The Catalina Highway, also known as the Sky Island Scenic Byway, is a 27-mile twisty-turny drive up the mountain, where the speed limit is 35 MPH. Our first stop was at Windy Point Vista at 6,634 ft (approximately 18 miles into the drive), for a photo  op, and then for lunch at the Sawmill Run Restaurant at Summerhaven (elevation 8,200 ft), a family-owned restaurant where the food is great and the portions are large. Although crowded at lunchtime, we found ample parking for our EVs. After a relaxing lunch, we drove up the hill a bit further to the chair lift at Ski Valley. The mostly full parking lot afforded us space for another photo op with a backdrop of golden aspens, a nice taste of Autumn.

Most took the chair lift, which is a 20-minute ride to the summit for the outstanding views of Tucson and environs. A few of us stayed in the parking lot and answered questions from tourists and others about owning an EV.

On the way down, we demonstrated the value of regenerative braking, where lifting your foot from the accelerator pedal reverses the electric motor, which slows the vehicle and recaptures energy used on the way up the hill. Peter Culin (2018 Tesla Model 3 rear-wheel drive), stated “at the start of the descent down Mt. Lemmon, my Model 3 was at 53% state-of-charge. By the bottom of the mountain, I had gained 9% and was sitting at 62%, gaining about 27 miles of range while driving downhill!”

We stopped again at the Supercharger at West River Rd for a bathroom break and short add-on charge, though we would have easily made it home without charging.

This kind of trip demonstrates that a 389-mile range Tesla Model S Plaid ($128,000) and a 259-mile range Chevy Bolt ($31,500) can easily enjoy travel together at highway speeds, fast-charge at convenient highway charging stations, and climb to near the top of a 9,000+ foot mountain.

Mt. Lemmon Roadtrip
Courtesy of Windy Point Group

If you want to keep up on EVs, see a variety of models, talk to owners and perhaps even test drive their EVs, go on cool electric road trips around the state with us, and become an electric vehicle influencer, then please join us.

Join the Scottsdale Electric Vehicle Association (Scottsdale EVA) at https://www.myeva.org/memberships and choose the Scottsdale chapter.

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