Tesla tour of four Swiss mountain passes

A recent tweet about a tour that we did with 30 Tesla of the Swiss Tesla Owners Club and German Tesla Club has received an almost viral (for me at least) storm of feedback. Actually, the same trip has been done in previous years before but it was the first time that I took part.

I wasn’t so sure whether a Model S 70D with a range of 350 km (218 miles) could manage a tour of about 330 km (205 miles) while also climbing four steep Swiss mountain passes, i.e. Susten, Grimsel, Nufenen, and Gotthard on a single charge. So, I invested a little money and paid Tesla for the upgrade to a 75D and charged her to 100%. If you want to know whether we made it home, keep reading.

We started out in Beckenried (435 m, 1427 ft) at one of the most beautiful places for a supercharger. This is the morning view of Lake Lucerne.

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We left at 8:30 and created a convoy on the Swiss autobahn. Passengers of other cars passing us already had their cameras out. Driving in a huge convoy needs a little practice: if you haven’t done it in the past, you need to adjust to the other drivers in order to not drive too close or too far apart. We noticed early on that some drivers weren’t too comfortable driving in such a convoy. It would have been so easy: just switch on Autopilot and let the car do the rest. But in this case it was a Tesla Roadster whose driver let the distance to the car ahead of him grow too big. Then he made a mistake and left the autobahn – and all cars following him as well.

After a while we managed to get back on the autobahn and resume our trip. Now, we had split into two groups: one that would be able to reach the midday goal on Grimselpass to fork off to the Oberaarsee on time and the other that wouldn’t. At the planned exit, we then left the autobahn to drive up in the direction of the Sustenpass. The road became narrower and the turns tighter. We observed that some drivers were not used to driving a wide car like a Tesla on this type of road while at the same time motorcycles were flying past and in between their cars. Since it was a Saturday and the first day of summer vacation in some states, the traffic was higher. Not only vehicles were on the very narrow roads, but also some sheep. As they walked to their next feeding ground, we waited and enjoyed the beautiful Swiss mountain scenery.

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We made it onto Sustenpass (2224 m, 7296 ft), re-grouped the second group, and had a short break. This setup of our parked cars wasn’t planned – it just happened. Isn’t that a great line-up?

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Back together again, we drove down to Innertkirchen (625 m, 2050 ft) and went right back up to Grimselpass (2164 m, 8000 ft) where we caught up with the first group again.

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From there, one can take the route to Furkapass and pass the famous Hotel Belvedere and the remaining rest of the once gigantic Rhone Glacier. Check out James Bond Goldfinger from 1965 to see how that area once looked like. But, we didn’t take this shorter route back to Andermatt, but the other direction down to Ulrichen (1346 m, 4416 ft) where we ate lunch. After lunch we drove up to Nufenenpass past meters of snow that were still melting from the last winter.

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When we reached Nufenenpass (2478 m, 8129 ft), which is one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland, we noticed that it was still quite cold up there. We managed to fill up unofficial parking lots left and right of the road, quickly.

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After that break, we went down to Airolo (1175 m, 3854 ft) on the south side of the Swiss alps where the weather was better and temperatures a lot higher. We had a short break to re-group and prepare the convoy to drive up to the Gotthard.

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In Airolo, there are multiple ways to get across the Gotthard: you can take the train tunnel, the tunnel by car, the newer pass road, and the old, cobblestoned Tremola. Choose wisely. We took the Tremola. We actually came across a historic, very beautiful stagecoach that probably crossed the pass from the other side. What a trip for them!

Just below the top, we blocked the road, stopped the traffic (two other cars) for a short time, and took the important picture of our cars to remember this great event. No one is in too much of a hurry when taking this old road.

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The picture shows the new pass route on the other side of the canyon. When we reached the Gotthardpass (2107 m, 6912 ft), my Model S had unbelievable 136 km (84 miles) of range left and that was on top of the mountain! We just had to drive through tight streets of the famous town of Andermatt and cause quite a scene with 30 quiet Teslas.

Driving on and just before reaching Lake Lucerne, the range of my Tesla was back up to 156 km (97 miles) and to go around the lake would not be an issue at all. Lake Lucerne has such beautiful viewpoints from every angle. It is so gorgeous with the mountains sides beginning almost directly at the water level. It is a must-see. We stopped shortly in Brunnen and Küssnacht and returned to our starting point at 19:30.

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When we arrived back in Beckenried (435 m, 1427 ft), I was very much surprised that my Model S had only used 152 Wh/km (243 Wh/mile) for the 325 km (202 miles) trip that took us over 6744 vertical meters (22126 vertical feet).

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Of course, there are reasons for these low numbers: the other traffic, the size of the convoy, the sheer number of hairpin turns, and the sheep on the road. All this resulted in a rather low average speed of 41 km/h (24 mph). Using recuperation as much as possible, and not using the brakes added to the low use of power. So, this day trip and the vertical meters can be done easily by a 70D without needing to recharge the battery.

I still find it fascinating and encouraging that almost everyone turns their head when a convoy of Tesla vehicles passes by. You should have seen the other people when 30 Tesla went past! They were shooting videos and taking pictures of us. Almost everyone took positive notice. Of course, there were those other drivers of ICE cars and motorcycles that must have felt personally offended because we showed them the future.

And there were those riders that showed us the future even more: They zipped past everyone on electric bikes.

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