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How to Plan an EV Road Trip

by Staff

When electric vehicles (EVs) first hit the mainstream a decade ago, their driving range was dismal. For example, when the Nissan Leaf debuted with the 2011 model, it traveled a mere 73 miles on a fully charged battery.

Things are different these days, and EV battery range has improved enough to make these vehicles suitable for road trips. Here are some tips for planning a road trip with your EV.

Drive the Right Vehicle

The electric vehicle you choose to drive can have a significant impact on the quality of your road trip. Some EVs can take a road trip in stride easily, but the experience will be more challenging with others.

EVs are more popular than ever; some households have more than one, so you may have a choice regarding the all-electric transportation used for your adventure. Consider the following factors when deciding whether an EV is road-trip friendly:

Driving Range
There’s a wide margin in driving range among today’s EVs. And there are many older EVs on the road; the margin grows even wider if you take those models into account. As you’d expect, the vehicles with the lengthiest driving ranges are the best road trip choices.

DC Fast-Charging Capability
DC fast charging is also known as level 3 charging. A vehicle built for this type of charging can replenish its battery to 80 percent in 20 minutes to an hour. Cars that don’t offer DC fast charging come with level 2 charging; adding power to the battery via that method can take four to 10 hours.

A car with DC fast-charging capability can make charging the battery on your trek easier. Most new EVs come standard with DC fast charging, but some older models have level 2 charging that can cost you time on your road trip.

Plan Your Route Based on Charging Station Availability

If you have an EV, it’s probably clear that charging stations aren’t as widely available as gas stations; there’s no guarantee you’ll find one at each highway exit. For that reason, it’s vital to consider public charging station availability when planning the route for your road trip.

Image Source|Getty Images

Various websites and apps can help you locate charging stations when planning your journey. For example, ChargeHub and PlugShare offer maps that list available stations. And some resources track stations in real time, letting you know while you’re on the road whether a station is being used by another driver or out of commission for repairs.

Schedule Charging Stops Around Other Activities

Charging an EV can take 20 minutes or more. You can use this time best by scheduling your charging stops around other essential activities. For example, if you choose a charging station that’s near a shopping center, you may be able to take a restroom break or grab a bite to eat while your car’s battery gets the juice it needs to continue your journey.

Taking this approach can reduce or eliminate the extra time that EV charging adds to your trip because you’ll be using that time to do things that would have been necessary even if you were driving a gas-powered vehicle.

Have a Backup Charging Plan

You may find that the charging station you plan to use is fully occupied. Or maybe the station is inoperable for one reason or another. Those scenarios happen much more often than you might imagine.

In one study conducted by Cool the Earth, a nonprofit dedicated to minimizing carbon emissions, only 72.5 percent of surveyed charging stations were operational. Therefore, it’s vital to have a backup charging plan when mapping your route.

This involves ensuring there’s more than one charging station in the vicinity when planning stops for your road trip.

Pack Light

Added weight can negatively affect your car’s driving range, so it’s wise to remember this when packing.

Avoid including items that aren’t essential for your road trip. Doing so will lighten your load and help you optimize the distance your car travels on a full charge.

Consider Weather When Estimating Driving Range

Every EV comes with an EPA-estimated driving range. This range is vital in helping you plan charging stops, but it’s crucial to remember that weather can reduce these estimates dramatically.

All cars lose range in cold weather – even gas-powered ones – but the effect can be more pronounced with EVs. And the dip in range varies from one EV model to the next. Recurrent, a company that tracks EV battery life, published a study that found some EVs lose just 3 percent of their driving range in frigid weather. Others see driving range drop by as much as a third when the mercury dips.

Extreme heat also has an impact. Recurrent found that battery range decreases by an average of 5 percent at 90 degrees and 31 percent at 100 degrees.

Select a Hotel Offering EV Charging

Blink EV Charging Network

Blink Charging

Blink EV Charging Network

Many hotels these days offer EV charging to their guests. If your road trip includes one or more overnight layovers, choose a hotel with a charging station on its property.

Doing so will allow you to fully charge your vehicle while you catch up on your sleep. It can hasten your road trip by reducing the number of stops you need to make for recharging.

Taking this approach requires some research to find hotels that provide EV charging. When we wrote this article, there was at least one app available that mapped hotels offering EV charging stations, so there are resources available that can help you find this information easily.

Drive Efficiently

Driving efficiently on road trips is always a good idea since it can save you money on fuel costs. But the value of driving this way increases exponentially with an EV since doing so can positively impact your driving range.

Driving at a higher speed can reduce efficiency, so go a little below the speed limit if it’s safe. Many EVs achieve the best range at around 50 mph, but driving at this speed may not be doable on the typical highway.

Also, activating your car’s friction brakes can hurt efficiency. If your vehicle has a one-pedal driving option, use it to recoup energy. Doing so will require you to think ahead and anticipate your stops, but it’s worth the effort for its positive impact on maximizing range.

Next, avoid aggressive acceleration. One way to do this is to use cruise control whenever possible. Keeping your vehicle at constant speed can improve efficiency.

Finally, be mindful of your car’s tire pressure. If the tires are inflated below manufacturer specification, it can negatively impact the distance your car travels on a full charge.

Choose a Suitable Destination

Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll eventually need to charge your vehicle for the drive back. If your trip takes you to the middle of nowhere, you may have difficulty finding a place to replenish your car’s battery. Urban environments are more likely to have ready access to charging stations than rural ones. Keep this in mind as you plan your journey.

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