EV Road Tripping
Tips for a good tripLong-distance EV travel is in its infancy in many ways. With the exception of Tesla and perhaps the Chevy Bolt, most EVs available today are not designed to be taken outside of major population centers. That doesn't mean you can't do it! One thing that can make or break a road trip is preparation, and for EVs this is a very important component. Because EV infrastructure is limited, it's best to prepare well to avoid being stranded or unnecessarily delayed.
1. Plan your route
Traveling far on a whim is not yet reality for most EVs, because available charging is not as ubiquitous as the gas station. So you need to plan how to get where you're going, and how to charge along the way. PlugShare is a great resource for finding out where you can charge, and by what means. PlugShare has a trip planner to help show you what charging options you have on your route, and you can also use Google Maps or Apple Maps to get directions, keeping your car's range in mind to plan for stops. Sometimes a good route for EVs might be different than for a gas car due to charging concerns, but this can also lead to new adventures, visiting places you might not otherwise have known about.
2. Check your stops
Due to the public nature of many EV charging stations, they can be prone to problems with availability. Inadequate shelter from bad weather, security concerns during off hours, and vandalism can lead to a charger you may need being unavailable. It's a good idea to re-check your planned stops during your trip, preferably within a day of arrival. Reviews on PlugShare are good for confirming that a charging station is still online, and for RV park stops it's good to call ahead to confirm there is space available.
3. Know your car's range
Since most EVs have a fairly short range, you need to be familiar with your own car's capabilities to ensure a good trip. Is your car's range estimate generally accurate? This is something you should keep an eye on during everyday use, to get an idea of how your car will perform on a trip. Just because your car says it has a range of 90 miles, that doesn't mean it does under your specific driving patterns. Find out the actual distances that you drive every day - using your odometer or directions in Google Maps or Apple Maps - and take note of how much range your EV uses on those trips compared to the actual mileage. Speed and changes in elevation are much bigger factors in EV range than they are for gas cars, so don't be surprised if your 30 mile trip on the freeway uses 40 miles of range. The good news for traveling Route 66 is that speeds are generally lower than interstate highways, meaning your range will be better than it is on the freeway.
4. Know your car's charging
How fast can your car charge? Unlike filling a gas tank, charging speed can be more dependent on your car than it is on the electric 'pump' you want to use. The AC chargers that are built into electric cars vary in how fast they can pull power, and you should know about the one in your car. Check your car's manual (or Google) for its charger specifications in kW. The manual may have charging time estimates as well. If not, use our EV Charging Basics page for some general information on charge times. EVSE maker Clipper Creek created a wonderful PDF chart showing vital stats for almost all recent EVs.
5. Bring your connectors
Being prepared for many circumstances is good advice for any traveler, and for an EV driver that includes bringing along any connectors that you have. There are many ways to 'plug in', and you'll want to keep your options open. If your intended charge stop doesn't go as planned, it will be well worth the small amount of space you made for a connector or adapter that saves you from an extended charging stay or from being stranded.
6. Bring your contacts
Today's world is very connected but getting online when traveling can't be 100% guaranteed, so you should have contact information available for your intended charging stops, regardless of your internet connection status. In the western U.S. especially, there can be periods on the road where you won't have any cell phone signal, or have enough signal for calls & texts but no data. A good backup of important names, numbers and addresses on paper or in a local file on your smart phone is not a bad idea. Even paper maps still have their place as a good backup.
These basic tips are a good starting point for EV travel. Of course, most aspects of road-tripping are the same with EVs as they are with any other car. So if you've got some road trips under your belt in a gasoline car, congratulations! You're already well on your way to a great EV road trip.