Find the right electric vehicle for you and identify the best charging spots along the route… A simple recipe for an EV trip planner that’ll let you discover the freedom and joy of an EV road trip and experience for yourself why electric vehicles can take you to new places.
Excited about hitting the open road with an electric vehicle (EV)? A good music playlist, fantastic company, and the open road… it is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
To make sure that your road trip is spent enjoying instead of stressing about your EV, be sure to set aside some time to plan. Although the charging infrastructure is growing rapidly, it is still not as robust as the gas stations which cover the nation. So, before your EV road trip, it’s recommended to:
Choose the EV that best suits your needs
Map out your on-route EV charging stations
Stay where you can charge overnight
Choosing the Right EV for Your Road Trip
If you know that you’ll be taking regular road trips, then you’ll likely want an EV with decent range. Most electric vehicles these days come with sufficient battery capacity to drive more than 200 miles. If you are purchasing a used EV, be sure to check the battery degradation to verify if it can live up to its EPA rating. Information on the battery’s health should be displayed on the vehicle’s infotainment system.
Some electric vehicles, such as Teslas, have a built-in EV trip planner that maps out charging stations along the route so that you can be immediately at ease when hitting the road. The route may even display the anticipated battery level when arriving at the upcoming charging station.
Another nice feature to consider is capacity for DC Fast Charging. Although many newer models come with this ability, not all electric vehicles are compatible with this level of supercharging. All EVs come with a courtesy Level 1 charger that can be used in a standard 120-volt outlet, but that will be a very time-intensive way to reach a full charge. Most public charging stations are Level 2 chargers which use a 240-volt outlet that can add about 20 miles of range per hour of charge. DC Fast Chargers can sufficiently charge a vehicle in under an hour.
Mapping Out Your On-Route Charging
It’s nice to know where your next charging station is before hitting the road. No need to fret if your electric vehicle doesn’t have a built-in system mapping out charging stations along your route, there are plenty of apps available for download on iOS and Android.
PlugShare — PlugShare is a free app for EV drivers to connect, find charging stations, and leave reviews. With more than 300,000 active users, PlugShare is one of the most popular EV charging station locater apps and has a database with over 140,000 EV charging stations located throughout the US and Canada.
Chargeway — Chargeway uses a number and color-coded system to help EV drivers easily identify the charging station that meets their needs. Colors correlate to the charger type: the J1772 connection (the most common, and universally used by all Level 2 chargers other than Tesla); the CHAdeMO connector for Level 3 fast charging; and the Tesla connector (Tesla has a unique setup, but their vehicles also come with an adaptor that allows Tesla drivers to connect to charging stations outside the Tesla network). The 1-6 number system suggests the speed of charge, with 6 being the fastest Level 3 charging stations and 1 being the slowest charging options.
EVgo — The EVgo app helps EV drivers connect with the US’ largest network of DC fast charging stations. While not all electric vehicles are compatible with DC fast charging, those that are can get sufficiently charged in under an hour. Using this app, you can also reserve a charging station in advance to reduce wait time. Using this app requires membership, but it is one of the most convenient ways to locate reliable DC fast charging services.
For an optimal pitstop — long enough to eat and charge the vehicle but not so long that the day slips away from you — you’ll want to stop at a DC fast charging station. There are growing networks of DC fast charging stations. There is the Tesla Supercharger Network, which as of now is only available to Tesla drivers (but there are already pilot programs that are opening the network up to non-Tesla drivers). There is also the Electrify America Network and the EVgo Network, both of which have downloadable apps so that you can conveniently find a suitable station for your trip.
When selecting your next charging location, it’s best not to stretch your EV battery range to the limit. Driving style, weather, and climate control use will all impact your vehicle’s range. With that said, it’s recommended to give some breathing room by using a charging station within 90% of your vehicle’s max range.
Electric vehicle battery performance generally works best between 20-80% capacity. With that in mind, many EVs have measures in place that prevent them from charging above certain limits. So, charging from 80-100% could take as long or longer as charging from 20-80%. Using the apps mentioned above can help you determine where your battery level will be at the time of charging station arrival. Plugging in at 20% and only charging to 80% could be a way to save time on charging while also preserving the longevity of the battery.
Stay Where You Can Charge Overnight
It’s easy to find hotels and other lodging that have charging stations. You can find these hotels using PlugShare, or you can even download EVHotels, which is available for $2.99 on iOS and Android and provides a single platform designed to find accommodations that have charging included or located nearby.
Most of these hotel charging stations will deliver Level 2 charging capacity, so you can charge at night and be all set with a full charge in the morning.
Planning out stops for charging does add an extra step to your road trip, but this step becomes well worth it when you realize how fun (and rewarding!) it is to drive and EV.
With an EV that fits your needs, an understanding of your vehicle’s range, and a familiarity with reliable charging-locater apps, you will be just fine crossing the nation on your next road trip.