Electric vehicles (EVs) change everything, and that includes your summer travel plans. Because gas stations are almost everywhere, it’s relatively easy to travel in an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. When you travel with an EV, though, you must be more meticulous with your planning as chargers can become more difficult to find outside urban areas. If you’re taking a roadtrip in an EV this summer, follow these six helpful guidelines to make your travel easier.
1. Know your electric vehicle’s range and charging times
Perhaps an obvious first step, but when you are venturing outside your home territory and the comfort of reliable charging, knowing your vehicle’s range is important. Beyond knowing your vehicle’s range, you should also know how that range is affected by different weather (both cold and hot), and have an idea of the approximate amount of time it will take to charge your vehicle from any given battery capacity (i.e. empty, half-full, one-quarter full, etc).
According to an experiment by Consumer Reports, warm weather seems to provide the longest range for EVs. While this is good news, a number of factors can affect range. In a blog, Consumer Reports wrote, “Weather, hills, speed, traffic, cargo, passengers, and climate settings have an impact [on battery range],” so be sure to take this into consideration.
2. Plan your route accordingly (and temper your spontaneity)
We get it. Spontaneity and going where the open road takes you is an amazing and freeing feeling. And you can still be spontaneous (to a certain degree) in an EV. But, the fact is that until more EV charging infrastructure is built in the United States, it’s best to plan out your route during an EV roadtrip to ensure you will be able to charge your vehicle enough to make it to the next charging opportunity.
Pick your destination and figure out where you can charge along the way, and how long it will take to charge your vehicle enough to get to your next charging spot in a timely manner. This is where it pays to know how long your vehicle takes to charge from 0% or 50% and how that range may be affected by temperature and different driving environments.
Don’t forget: while all plug-in electric vehicles can use a Level 2 charger, not all EVs can use a DC fast charger. Plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) cannot use DCFC at all, and not all DCFC stations are compatible with all fully-electric vehicles.
3. Find EV charging stations along the way
The good news is that it should be relatively easy to find charging stations along your route thanks to tools like the Blink Charging Mobile App, PlugShare, Google Maps, and Apple Maps which show you available chargers in the area you specify. With the Blink app, you can filter for Level 2 versus DC fast chargers, check live station availability, view pricing, get directions, and even find nearby amenities!
4. Make sure all your hotels have EV chargers
When you’re traveling in an EV, remember your ABCs: Always. Be. Charging (to 80%).
EV drivers cannot afford to stay overnight somewhere if there are no charging options available. Check your preferred EV charging app, and/or call your hotels to make sure there are Level 2 chargers you can use on premises, or nearby public charging stations. In an emergency, you can use a 110V outlet if you have your Level 1 charging cord from the vehicle manufacturer, but, depending on your vehicle, this trickle charge may take 12-18 hours to receive a full charge.
Many EV drivers top off their batteries whenever they stop for a meal, shopping center, or other excursion. EV batteries charge up to 80% relatively quickly, but after that point, it’s best to unplug and take advantage of regenerative braking to recapture energy while driving. Many EVs have settings that allow you to cap charging at 80%.
Writing for US News and World Report, automotive journalist Steven Loveday likens DC fast charging to filling a glass with water. You can fill most of it relatively quickly, but you need to slow the speed of pouring as it gets closer to full to make sure it doesn’t overflow. Loveday suggests charging to 80% most of the time on road trips because filling the final 20% of the battery with a DCFC can take just as long or longer than filling it up to 80%. While you can charge to 100% using a Level 2 charger, it is not recommended with a DCFC.
5. Ask your roadside assistance provider about mobile EV charging
Electric vehicles are becoming mainstream, but not all roadside assistance programs are ready yet to help stranded EVs. Even if you belong to one of the major roadside assistance programs, and they are able to bring a portable Level 2 EV charger out to your vehicle, this may not be the case everywhere. In more rural and remote areas, where your provider may have to contract vehicle rescue out to a local third-party roadside assistance provider, that third-party provider may not have portable charging solutions. Always remember to watch your battery levels to prevent needing to tow your vehicle to a public charger.
Be especially mindful when renting or off-roading
If you’re going to fly or take a train somewhere unfamiliar and then rent an electric vehicle to travel by road once you’re there, ask locally about available charging and research your destination. Ask your rental provider if they have a roadside assistance provider that is capable of EV rescue.
6. Consider carrying windshield washing supplies
Because you won’t be stopping for gasoline in an EV, that also means you won’t be privy to using the windshield washing equipment that gasoline stations keep on hand. As the dead bugs inevitably pile up on your windshield, you may need to stop at a gas station once in a while to make a purchase and use their squeegees. Alternatively, add cleaner and a squeegee to your vehicle supplies kit in your EV frunk!
Like most things in life, the key to enjoying a summer roadtrip in an EV is to be prepared. Research your route, call ahead to inquire about the state of chargers and what is available, and bring enough physical cash that you can pay for any services you may require on the spot in case you run into a “cash only” service provider. While the federal NEVI program is bringing EV charging to highways across the country, it is still important to search for hotels with EV chargers and plan for charging along your route. And you haven’t, don’t forget to download the Blink Charging App so you can always top up on power or find businesses with EV chargers off the beaten path.