Driving & Charging

What’s the real deal with EVs and road trips?

There’s little to be concerned about taking your EV on a road trip. Fast Chargers line the highways and you’ll have a way smoother and pleasant drive.

What’s the real deal with EVs and road trips?

This is the big one.  The question that holds back a lot of people who could be loving an EV right now.  How is an electric road trip going to work?

Never fear - Link is going to give you the real deal on this key topic, and it is this:

You will never appreciate the smooth ride, silent acceleration and lovely, truck-passing torque of electric driving as much as when you’re in hour 10 on the interstate.  And with automakers adding hands-free driving options to high-end EVs, long drives are poised to get even more pleasant.

But that probably wasn’t what you were worried about, was it?  You’re wondering about charging.  We can cover that too.  (And we include our favorite electric road trip tips)

The starting point for electric road trips is when Fast Chargers really shine, and these are rapidly growing along highways everywhere across America.  This growth will only accelerate, so road trips will continually get easier with every charger that is installed.

The Sweet Spot for Efficient Charging

Just like you never let your gas tank get all the way to empty, you’ll never want to drive your battery all the way to zero.  It’s smart to leave yourself a buffer - we recommend 5-10% of the battery when you’re driving on the highway (10-20 miles in most EVs).  

At the same time, when you fast-charge an electric car, charging slows to a trickle when the battery gets above about 80% full.  To make the best time on a trip, it’s smarter to unplug at 80%, drive to the next charger and recharge up to 80% again.  

Between your 10% buffer and your fast-charging max of around 80%, that’s 70% of your battery that we call the “sweet spot”.  That’s the number that we suggest planning your road trips around.  If your VW ID.4 has a range of 260 miles, you’ll want to charge every ~180 miles to maximize efficiency.  

The Best EV’s for Road trips

Since we look at a lot of EVs and think about these kinds of things a lot, we divide EVs into three broad categories.  

  • Urban Utility: EVs with less than 150 miles of range can be perfect as daily urban drivers.  No knocks against them, especially since they come at a great price point. But on the highway you’ll need frequent stops.
  • Weekend Adventurer: With 150-250 miles of range, you are set for the longest day trips or easy weekend adventures with zero or potentially one charging stop.
  • Road Trip Ready: A growing number of EVs have 250-300+ miles of range.  Taking account of the charging “sweet spot,” above this positions you for a comfortable highway range even if you’re heading out on a multi-day road trip.  

Does this mean a Subaru Solterra with 220 miles of range can’t go the distance if you’re heading a few states over?  Not at all.  We just recommend that if you’re frequently finding yourself on marathon drives, you’ll be happiest equipping yourself with a 250+ mile range.

A Nissan Note of Caution

We hate to criticize the Nissan Leaf.  There were Nissan Leafs starting in 2013 when most of the electric cars available today were not even a twinkle in the eye of car designers.

However, the Nissan Leaf uses the CHAdeMO charging port for fast charging. While there are many CHAdeMO chargers installed already, because other car models do not use this standard there will be fewer installed in the future.

The new Nissan Ariya crossover SUV is switching to the standard “CCS” fast charging port.  But for this reason, we do caution you about getting a Nissan Leaf if you plan to use your electric car for lots of road trips. (The Leaf is still a fantastic option for city driving, day-trips, and longer drives where you know that CHAdeMO chargers are installed - perhaps the most economic option available today!)

Making it Work

You can try out a hypothetical roadtrip using one of a growing number of road trip planners like Chargeway and Plugshare).  EVGo, Electrify America and Chargepoint are just three of the largest of the rapidly expanding networks of chargers.  On the horizon, the Tesla Supercharger network may open to other EVs. 

On a full-day drive, you will likely find your route-planner recommending 1-4 stops, with a variety of options for where exactly you make these stops. Below is a a couple of screenshots from the Chargeway app showing a a suggested route and charging stop for a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a Hyundai Kona EV.

Screenshots from Chargeway showing example trip from SF to LA in a Hyundai Kona EV

For the next few years, even a very fast charge from a low battery level will take 20-45 minutes for most EVs, so the total time for your drive may tick up a bit.  But the only real difficulty you should encounter is where you will get your gummy snacks and energy drinks because you won’t be fueling at gas stations.  (Food and refreshment options tend to be nearby any charger however!)  

Trusted Road Trip Tips

To ensure you have the smoothest time possible, here’s a few of our tips for the best road trip experience:

  • Start the day full: A growing number of hotels have medium-fast (Level 2) EV chargers in the parking lot.  If you’re on a multi-day trip, you can save yourself an entire charging stop if you stay at a hotel or AirBnb with the ability to charge overnight.  This allows you to start with 100% battery.  Check Chargeway or Plugshare to find this.

  • Camp & charge: It’s not just hotels that have EV chargers.  A little known secret is that EVs can easily charge at fast speed from the large outlets that are found at RV parks nationwide. If you bring your own a 240V charge cord, you can plug into any of the NEMA 14-50 outlets at an RV park to recharge as fast as a Level 2 EV Charger and fill up overnight.  Stop for an hour or stay the night!  This massively expands the map for rural charging options. (Most RV parks will allow you to pull through for an hour or two of charging for a few dollars - just inquire at the desk). 

  • Get on the Apps: You can pay by credit card at Electrify America and EVGo stations, but before your trip, download their apps (plus Chargepoint).  By using the respective app, you can do a quick check before you head out to reconfirm that the stations you’re planning to stop at are fully operational (and not, for example, still under construction).  You can also confirm live availability before you pull off the highway to plug in. 

  • Explore and Enjoy: The options for charging are getting more varied - and isn’t seeing the country the best part of a road trip?  Rivian has announced that it will put medium-fast (Level 2) chargers at Colorado State Parks and a growing number of National Parks have them at Visitor Centers.  (Expect more of this soon with federal government investment in EV chargers.)  You may find chargers in charming small towns or outside unique family restaurants.  These chargers aren’t as speedy as the Fast Chargers on highways but you know what might be even better than a 30-minute stretch break in a parking lot?  A topped-up battery after a beautiful hike.   

Still not convinced that an EV can work for all the road trip you’re going to go on? Then set up a consultation with an EV expert and we can help understand your specific situation to see if we can find the perfect EV for you.

What’s the real deal with EVs and road trips?

This is the big one.  The question that holds back a lot of people who could be loving an EV right now.  How is an electric road trip going to work?

Never fear - Link is going to give you the real deal on this key topic, and it is this:

You will never appreciate the smooth ride, silent acceleration and lovely, truck-passing torque of electric driving as much as when you’re in hour 10 on the interstate.  And with automakers adding hands-free driving options to high-end EVs, long drives are poised to get even more pleasant.

But that probably wasn’t what you were worried about, was it?  You’re wondering about charging.  We can cover that too.  (And we include our favorite electric road trip tips)

The starting point for electric road trips is when Fast Chargers really shine, and these are rapidly growing along highways everywhere across America.  This growth will only accelerate, so road trips will continually get easier with every charger that is installed.

The Sweet Spot for Efficient Charging

Just like you never let your gas tank get all the way to empty, you’ll never want to drive your battery all the way to zero.  It’s smart to leave yourself a buffer - we recommend 5-10% of the battery when you’re driving on the highway (10-20 miles in most EVs).  

At the same time, when you fast-charge an electric car, charging slows to a trickle when the battery gets above about 80% full.  To make the best time on a trip, it’s smarter to unplug at 80%, drive to the next charger and recharge up to 80% again.  

Between your 10% buffer and your fast-charging max of around 80%, that’s 70% of your battery that we call the “sweet spot”.  That’s the number that we suggest planning your road trips around.  If your VW ID.4 has a range of 260 miles, you’ll want to charge every ~180 miles to maximize efficiency.  

The Best EV’s for Road trips

Since we look at a lot of EVs and think about these kinds of things a lot, we divide EVs into three broad categories.  

  • Urban Utility: EVs with less than 150 miles of range can be perfect as daily urban drivers.  No knocks against them, especially since they come at a great price point. But on the highway you’ll need frequent stops.
  • Weekend Adventurer: With 150-250 miles of range, you are set for the longest day trips or easy weekend adventures with zero or potentially one charging stop.
  • Road Trip Ready: A growing number of EVs have 250-300+ miles of range.  Taking account of the charging “sweet spot,” above this positions you for a comfortable highway range even if you’re heading out on a multi-day road trip.  

Does this mean a Subaru Solterra with 220 miles of range can’t go the distance if you’re heading a few states over?  Not at all.  We just recommend that if you’re frequently finding yourself on marathon drives, you’ll be happiest equipping yourself with a 250+ mile range.

A Nissan Note of Caution

We hate to criticize the Nissan Leaf.  There were Nissan Leafs starting in 2013 when most of the electric cars available today were not even a twinkle in the eye of car designers.

However, the Nissan Leaf uses the CHAdeMO charging port for fast charging. While there are many CHAdeMO chargers installed already, because other car models do not use this standard there will be fewer installed in the future.

The new Nissan Ariya crossover SUV is switching to the standard “CCS” fast charging port.  But for this reason, we do caution you about getting a Nissan Leaf if you plan to use your electric car for lots of road trips. (The Leaf is still a fantastic option for city driving, day-trips, and longer drives where you know that CHAdeMO chargers are installed - perhaps the most economic option available today!)

Making it Work

You can try out a hypothetical roadtrip using one of a growing number of road trip planners like Chargeway and Plugshare).  EVGo, Electrify America and Chargepoint are just three of the largest of the rapidly expanding networks of chargers.  On the horizon, the Tesla Supercharger network may open to other EVs. 

On a full-day drive, you will likely find your route-planner recommending 1-4 stops, with a variety of options for where exactly you make these stops. Below is a a couple of screenshots from the Chargeway app showing a a suggested route and charging stop for a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a Hyundai Kona EV.

Screenshots from Chargeway showing example trip from SF to LA in a Hyundai Kona EV

For the next few years, even a very fast charge from a low battery level will take 20-45 minutes for most EVs, so the total time for your drive may tick up a bit.  But the only real difficulty you should encounter is where you will get your gummy snacks and energy drinks because you won’t be fueling at gas stations.  (Food and refreshment options tend to be nearby any charger however!)  

Trusted Road Trip Tips

To ensure you have the smoothest time possible, here’s a few of our tips for the best road trip experience:

  • Start the day full: A growing number of hotels have medium-fast (Level 2) EV chargers in the parking lot.  If you’re on a multi-day trip, you can save yourself an entire charging stop if you stay at a hotel or AirBnb with the ability to charge overnight.  This allows you to start with 100% battery.  Check Chargeway or Plugshare to find this.

  • Camp & charge: It’s not just hotels that have EV chargers.  A little known secret is that EVs can easily charge at fast speed from the large outlets that are found at RV parks nationwide. If you bring your own a 240V charge cord, you can plug into any of the NEMA 14-50 outlets at an RV park to recharge as fast as a Level 2 EV Charger and fill up overnight.  Stop for an hour or stay the night!  This massively expands the map for rural charging options. (Most RV parks will allow you to pull through for an hour or two of charging for a few dollars - just inquire at the desk). 

  • Get on the Apps: You can pay by credit card at Electrify America and EVGo stations, but before your trip, download their apps (plus Chargepoint).  By using the respective app, you can do a quick check before you head out to reconfirm that the stations you’re planning to stop at are fully operational (and not, for example, still under construction).  You can also confirm live availability before you pull off the highway to plug in. 

  • Explore and Enjoy: The options for charging are getting more varied - and isn’t seeing the country the best part of a road trip?  Rivian has announced that it will put medium-fast (Level 2) chargers at Colorado State Parks and a growing number of National Parks have them at Visitor Centers.  (Expect more of this soon with federal government investment in EV chargers.)  You may find chargers in charming small towns or outside unique family restaurants.  These chargers aren’t as speedy as the Fast Chargers on highways but you know what might be even better than a 30-minute stretch break in a parking lot?  A topped-up battery after a beautiful hike.   

Still not convinced that an EV can work for all the road trip you’re going to go on? Then set up a consultation with an EV expert and we can help understand your specific situation to see if we can find the perfect EV for you.

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