This Team Just Broke the EV Cross-Country Record in the Tesla Model S

The secret ingredient? “Fruits and nuts.”

byJonathan Schultz|
Electric Vehicles photo

Alex Roy is an American gentleman racer, enduro superstar and raconteur. He is also the former record holder of the unofficial fastest time for a trans-America drive, which he accomplished in an E39 BMW M5 with “Polizei” scrawled on its flanks. He can be spotted on occasion in Manhattan pushing his Morgan 3-Wheeler through traffic. Also, he’s not camera shy.

This is all to say Roy doesn’t do quiet particularly well—which made his involvement in a cross-country speed-record attempt in a hushed Tesla Model S P85d electric sedan intriguing on many levels. Unofficial time: 57 hours, 48 minutes, besting the previous record of 58 hours, 55 minutes set earlier this year by Roy’s co-drivers, Carl Reese and Deena Mastracci. Distance? 2,995 miles.

The Drive caught up with the near-catatonic but demonstrably euphoric trio just outside the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan’s Murray Hill on Oct. 21.

The Drive: When did you last sleep?

Alex Roy: Sunday. I think I just got my seventh wind.

Where were you when you got your fourth?

Roy: I’m not entirely sure. This is unlike any other cross-country drive I’ve done, because every two hours you’re stopping to charge. Physically it’s harder by far than doing a real Cannonball.

Were there logistical issues above the typical route-plotting challenges?

Roy: Well, Carl arranged all the logistics. He and Deena invited me along. Let me be clear that this wasn’t the Alex Roy Show; we shared in the driving the whole way.

Reese: We had a support vehicle in the spring, which made this attempt a lot different. We did use our data from that drive on this one, but the Autopilot component on this drive obviously was new.

How did the team's driving divide out?

Roy: Deena did 10 shifts, Carl did 10, I probably did 8 or 9.

What proportion of the drive was done with Autopilot?

Reese: Ninety-six point one percent. It's intended for highway use, where there are well-defined lane markers. It's a very, very unnerving feeling to take your hands off the wheel. But I was very impressed. Very impressed.

Were there any wash breaks?

Roy: Well, I was restricted to very healthy foods. Fruits and nuts. I look healthier and skinnier than I’ve ever looked. And the car looked quite good at the end, too. That was another difference from previous drives. At the end of my drive in the M5, it was filthy, there were lots of cigarettes… here Carl and Deena were even able to build in some sleep at the Superchargers, because you’re waiting there for a bit.

Has this drive changed your feelings about the Tesla?

Roy: Before this week, Tesla was not really on my radar because of the range anxiety. But after spending 57 hours in the thing it’s very hard to argue against the driving experience. I still have critiques about the central computer screen, and the fact that there’s still that range anxiety. But if the Model X or anything can solve it, and we start seeing real miles pile up, that’ll make me deeply impressed.