Can You Take a Road Trip in an Electric Car?
As a city dweller, one of my weekend escapes is taking some time off my phone and driving to the nearest beach.
And if you're someone who's feeling a little burnt out from your 9-to-5 routine, I highly suggest you do the same.
Trust me; it'll do wonders for your mental health.
And physical well-being too - our lungs deserve some fresh air after inhaling all the air pollution (invisible killer) in the city.
But with soaring gas prices, making a biweekly or even a monthly retreat to the countryside is a bit of a luxury these days.
For electric vehicle owners though, there's something else looming in the distance - range anxiety or the fear of not having enough power to make it to your destination.
While you can always charge up at home overnight before taking the road, EV charging stations can be too far and few between in some areas.
Just your luck if you end up somewhere in Louisiana.
Filling up at a charging station is still incomparable to getting a full tank at a gas station if we're talking about waiting time.
Now don't be so fast in dismissing electric vehicles when it comes to road trips.
You can still go on a long drive with an electric car. We'll tell you how.
Is it possible to take an electric car on a road trip?
Like it or not, electric vehicles are slowly taking over our roads from internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
Old-school traditionalists may see this as an end of an era, while for progressive drivers, this is the start of a greener, more environmentally -friendly automotive industry.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of electrification, EV drivers can expect plenty of perks starting from upfront costs to the car's longevity.
In terms of maintenance, EVs have lesser moving parts than gas-powered cars, meaning fewer trips to the service center and lower maintenance costs throughout their lifetime.
Electric cars are also known to provide a smoother ride compared to gas cars.
While EVs seem to trump their gas-powered contemporaries in every aspect, there's one thing that the latter has over the former - long range.
For the longest time, cars have been synonymous with long-distance travel.
The comfort of driving for hundreds of miles in your own car is what buyers are paying for.
And when you run out of juice, there are gas stations conveniently located along major thoroughfares where you can always pull up for a quick refill.
As the technology for electric vehicles is still in its infancy, the same level of convenience can't be expected.
In the US alone, there's a significant discrepancy in the number of EV charging infrastructure in major cities vs. in smaller cities.
California has the most EV chargers available, yet you still see long lines queues of cars waiting for their turn at charging stations.
In recent years, car manufacturers have developed EVs with extended ranges so as not to rely too much on on-the-road charging.
Lucid Motors, for instance, released the Lucid Air with 516 miles of range on a full charge - the longest range available in an EV today.
To put that into perspective, you will have enough charge to drive back and forth from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (Roughly 8 hrs of driving).
An even more powerful EV is currently in the works - Mercedes-Benz's Vision EQXX battery electric vehicle is said to have up to 621 miles of range.
But let's be honest, not every one of us can afford luxury EVs with outrageous battery ranges.
The good news is, road trips are still possible even with an EV with just 200 miles of range.
There's a lot of fun—and a little more planning—involved
How to plan a road trip with an electric car?
1. Make a charging plan. Listen, I'm with you on taking the roads less traveled for some scenic highway driving, but you have to take into consideration the availability of charging stations on the road, specifically, DC fast chargers (Tesla Superchargers for Tesla drivers and CCS fast chargers for other vehicles). While charging up using a DC fast charger may not be as instant as refueling a gas-powered vehicle, it's significantly faster than Level 2 chargers. These are some of the fastest chargers available on the road, taking EV batteries from 0% to a full charge in less than an hour.
If you happen to be in a lesser-populated area, it's more common to find DC fast chargers near interstate exits.
Many EV chargers on the road are Level 2 chargers. Unless you're charging overnight at local hotels, you might not get enough range within a half hour of charging.
A great help in locating fast charging stations and other public chargers is the U.S. map plotted by the Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center.
It can be accessed via a website and can be filtered by location, charger type, and connector.
Check if the route you're planning to take has accessible charging stations.
2. Know your EV's maximum range. Carmakers often provide an estimated range of their EVs, and you'll be surprised how it compares to real-life use.
Don't rely on the remaining miles of range or DTE (Driving Time Estimate) indicated on your dashboard.
Your driving behavior, road conditions, and even the weather could significantly affect your car's battery life.
If you're driving in the middle of a heavy downpour, you might notice a decreased battery range.
This is because EV batteries have to work harder in cold temperatures, causing them to drain faster.
The same decrease in performance can be observed if you're driving during a heatwave, as blasting the air conditioning system eats up a significant amount of power.
3. Prepare to use different charging networks. Some shopping centers and hotels offer Level 2 charging in their parking lots.
If you're making an interstate road trip and need to spend the night, consider hotels with charging amenities.
Some might even offer free charging with a room booking.
Commercial charging networks are usually located along major highways, but several supermarket chains and convenience stores have partnered with electric vehicle infrastructure companies to offer EV chargers on-site.
Most of these charging networks have their own dedicated apps to help you locate the nearest working charger and make it easier to pay for a charging session.
Luckily, charging networks are now more open to other EV drivers, thanks to the availability of charger adapters.
Gone are the days when the Tesla charging network is exclusive to Tesla EVs.
If you're driving a J1772 EV, you can now drive straight to a Tesla charging station and just whip out your Tesla to J1772 Charging Adapter, plug it in, and start charging
4. Make good use of charging breaks. Whether you need a bathroom break or a quick food run, you can always use the charging delay to do something productive.
Thankfully, modern EV charging stations are usually in commercial spots.
As a way to increase foot traffic, business owners are now putting restaurants and convenience stores side-by-side with charging stations.
So, while waiting for your car to fully charge, you can grab a bite or stock up on some snacks for the road.
5. Pack your home charger as a backup. There are times when all four chargers in the station are unavailable. Or maybe, there aren't any charging stations available at all. In times like these, your best option is to find any 120V or 240V outlet where you can sneak in a few hours of charging.
The good thing is there are portable chargers with a NEMA 5-15 or NEMA 14-50 adapter that plugs directly into a standard wall outlet.
Best tips for getting the most out of an EV road trip
Drive in a way that maximizes your range
Whether you're driving a high-end model with a 500-mile-long range, like the Lucid Air, or a Chevy Bolt with 259 miles of range, it's important that you use your range wisely during road trips.
Climate control, like air conditioning and heating, dramatically affects your battery range.
You might also want to go easy on the accelerator and use regenerative braking to slow down to save power.
If you're in a cold climate, the first thing that the car does is to bring the battery to its ideal operating temperature, which is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
This process uses a lot of energy, so experts suggest that you do it while your car is charging in your parking garage.
Plan charging stops around activities or meal breaks
EVs typically take 15 minutes to up to 24 hours to fully charge, depending on the type of charger to be used.
DC fast chargers take less than an hour to charge your battery from 0 to 80%.
You can make use of the wait time by taking a meal break, going shopping, or exploring downtown.
If you're traveling with bikes or roller-skates, you can use the empty side of the parking lot to kill time.
Use available apps and map out your mileage in advance
Most charging networks have a dedicated app to help you locate the nearest charging station.
These maps can often be filtered by location, charger type, and connector.
These apps are incredibly helpful, so you're not shooting in the dark, driving aimlessly, looking for the next charging station.
Consider signing up for EV charging memberships
Signing up for EV charging memberships is a great way to save money as you get special rates.
Fast charging could be expensive in some areas, so having a membership helps you travel cheaper for long distances.
Can you travel in the US with an electric car?
Yes, but you have to come prepared. If you're used to going on long drives using the traditional ICE car, you will need more preparation other than getting a full tank, curating a playlist, and loading up on snacks. Since electric vehicles don't have an unlimited supply of power, occasional stops at charging stations are necessary. Map out your route and take note of the nearest chargers. You also have to take into consideration the factors that affect battery range, such as climate control, acceleration, road conditions, and even the weather.
Do electric cars last longer on the road?
No, electric cars still pale in comparison to gas-powered cars when it comes to long drives. As previously mentioned, EVs are limited to how much range their batteries are capable of supplying in a single charge, as well as the availability of charging stations. As of writing, the longest-range EV is the Lucid Air at 516 miles of range. Meanwhile, a typical ICE car can travel 350 to 450 miles on a full tank. Considering an EV's charging time vs. filling up a gas tank, ICE cars still win.
Can you do 1000 miles in an electric car?
As of writing, the longest range an electric car can travel is 516 miles (Lucid Air), but Mercedes-Benz's Vision EQXX is looking to top that at 621 miles.
How much does it cost to charge an electric car on a road trip?
The cost will vary depending on the type of charger and the location, but the average cost to charge an EV on the road is between $10 and $30.
How long can you drive with an electric car?
The longest an electric car can drive on a single charge is around 500 miles.
Are electric cars good for road trips?
Electric cars are better suited for urban drives as chargers are concentrated in cities.
Which electric car is best for long-distance driving?
The Lucid Air is currently the best in class when it comes to long ranges.
How long does it take to charge an electric car when on a road trip?
This will depend on several factors, including the EV model and the type of charger. DC fast chargers can charge EVs from 0% to 80% in 20 minutes, while Level 1 trickle charging can take more than 24 hours.