Can an electric car survive a 400-mile trek around Central Florida on only one charge?

University of Central Florida researcher David Metcalf put that question to the test this weekend, and he successfully drove a Tesla Model S production electric car from Merritt Island to Lake Okeechobee, through the Florida Panther Preserve, across Alligator Alley and back north.

With his 12-year-old son Adam as co-pilot, Metcalf welcomed the grand challenge made by Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk to be the first to drive one of the vehicles 400 miles on a single charge. Tesla, founded in 2003 by a group of engineers, is based in Palo Alto, Calif. The Model S starts at about $50,000 and has been named the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year for its safety, efficiency and performance.

Until Metcalf’s efforts, the record driven by a Model S on one charge was 311 miles.

“Others have tried the challenge in different parts of the country, but hills and other factors have made it difficult. Florida is flat, which worked to our advantage,” said Metcalf, senior researcher and director of the Mixed Emerging Technology Integration Lab at UCF’s Institute for Simulation & Training.

Metcalf made the 423.5 mile drive in just under 17 hours.

Musk announced the challenge on Twitter in May. Metcalf used social media channels to promote the trip and raise awareness for UCF’s Haiti relief efforts, which work to bring technology to schools and clinics there.

The trip was strategically planned to allow for minimum energy use. For example, Metcalf chose a route ideal for low speeds and a time of year when it’s comfortable to not use air conditioning.

For Metcalf and Adam, who turned 13 yesterday, the trip was as much about father-son bonding as it was about record-breaking.

“We saw lots of wildlife and got to experience Florida’s natural beauty together and at a relaxed pace. It was an adventure for us,” said Metcalf. “Even if we hadn’t made it, it would still have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”