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How to Plan a Road Trip in Your New Electric Vehicle

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With gas prices near record highs, answering the call of the open road in an electric vehicle (EV) is much less expensive, but you’ll need to do a little bit of planning.

Mapping out chargers and having the right plug adapters can save your trip before it even begins. Here’s how to design a road trip so you’ll know there’s enough juice to get there and back again, conquering any mountain in between.

Step No. 1: Map your ideal route

Use your mapping tool of choice: Google Maps, Waze or a paper road atlas. Keep topography in mind. Identify areas that require special treatment, like mountains. You can look up elevation profiles. While you will regain charge from regenerative braking when you go downhill, you want to have plenty of power to reach the top.

You could also combine this step and the next by using an EV trip planner, which we list later.

Step No. 2: Identify charging stations

You don’t want your charge level to be down to 3% when you stop for power. If one station is fully occupied or out of order, you’ll want to have enough juice to make it to the next. A power buffer also allows you to not worry about hitting empty from taking unplanned snack or restroom breaks. Plan stops for when you’ll have at least 20% of your real-world mileage range or battery capacity left.

What is real-world range? An EV’s advertised mileage range will almost always be higher than what you’ll be able to do in real life. Once you add the weight of passengers and luggage, plus differences due to weather, your real-world range is likely a few miles lower.

EV trip planners do some of the math for you. Input your car model, mileage range, starting point and destination to get route suggestions. Some even automatically take elevation into account.

Here are some EV trip planner options:

Not every site lists every charger, and some states are better than others with EV charger availability. If there are gaps in your trip, if you want backups or if you want to do some of the math yourself, here are a bunch of sites and/or phone apps you can use to find chargers:

  • ChargePoint manages one of the the largest EV charging network in the world
  • Electrify America specializes in showing direct current fast chargers (DCFCs) near highways
  • ChargeHub helps drivers sort out home and public charging
  • Open Charge Map is a public registry of EV chargers
  • EVgo is a network of DCFCs powered by renewable sources
  • EVHotels identifies hotels that have or are near EV chargers
  • Stay-N-Charge lets you find and book hotels with EV chargers

Step No. 3: Refine your course

Compare your car’s real-world mileage range — or 80% of it — to the distance between chargers. Try to avoid a massive elevation increase when you’re low on battery. And look for stations near attractions, like malls or restaurants.

As you look at the charging stations you’ll use, be sure:

You have the right power adapters. Differently branded stations can have different plug shapes. You may need an adapter if you have a Nissan Leaf and all the stations along your way are designed for Teslas. You can easily order adapters online. Check the website of the charging station companies if you have any questions about plugs.

You can pay for the charge. Many accept credit cards directly, but some systems require that you create an account and use either a member card or their app to pay for charging. Others don’t require a membership but encourage it with member discounts and rewards.

How long will you have to wait for EV charging?

  • Level 3 chargers, also called DCFCs, can bump your car charge from empty to full in as little as 20 minutes. While this is the fastest, stations that offer these chargers are also typically the most expensive.
  • Level 2 chargers, which are more widely available and less expensive to use, can fully charge an EV in four to 10 hours.
  • Level 1 chargers are equivalent to plugging your car into a standard, 120-volt outlet at home, taking around 50 hours.

Step No. 4: Hit the road

Get those wheels rolling and enjoy your EV road trip! Ideally, there are plenty of rapid charging stations right off the highway, but going out of your way a little bit may offer a chance for adventure. You can take advantage of needing to stop and charge by stretching your legs, exercising your credit card or checking out a close, local point of interest. Have a good time and make good time on the road by planning.

 

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