7 Things To Know Before Your First Electric Car Road Trip Adventure


Electric vehicle (EV) road trips are growing in popularity for several reasons. First, with gas prices at an all-time high, EVs are cheaper to run than gas- or diesel-powered vehicles. In addition, EVs have fewer moving parts than other vehicles, so the maintenance costs are lower. Add to that the fact that with no fossil fuel emissions, EVs have a lower environmental impact.

While you’ll find many advantages to using an electric car around town, die-hard road trippers may be hesitant to make the switch. For those making their first electric car road trip, range anxiety, the driver’s fear that they don’t have enough power in their battery to make it to their next destination, is real. In addition, they’re concerned about getting stranded and needing a too.

A hybrid electric vehicle charging at Holland State Park

Photo credit: Amy Piper

However, many are considering purchasing an EV because the infrastructure for EV owners is improving. One example is Michigan: In 2022, the state is introducing 30 electric vehicle charging stations in state parks. You’ll find various tools and tips EV experts share to make planning these simple and enjoyable trips. Before venturing on your first electric car road trip adventure, here are seven things to know.

1. Download These Helpful Apps Before Your Trip

Before your trip, take the time to download some of these helpful EV apps. They will assist in finding charging stations and hotels while helping you plan your route to reduce range anxiety.

PlugShare offers over 400,000 charging stations in their database around the world. You can use their trip planner to assist in planning the best route for your trip. The filter feature is helpful as you can filter by the fast charger or vehicle type.

ChargePoint, one of North America’s largest EV charging networks, helps you find charging stations and allows you to pay for them with your smartphone. In addition, the app offers pictures and reviews of various charging stations so that you know what to expect before you go.

EVHotels is an app that combines where to stay with where to charge. It features hotels with charging stations on-site or within walking distance of the hotel. In addition, the app helps you discover hotels with charging stations close by and allows you to customize how far you are willing to walk to a charger. The app has over 25,000 EV hotels and more than 100,000 roadside charging stations.

You already use Google Maps to find restaurants and hotels while on road trips, and the app can also assist with finding EV chargers.

Even if you aren’t a Tesla owner, you’ll still find various Tesla-specific apps helpful in planning your road trip. In addition, Tesla has opened their charging stations to non-Tesla EV owners, so be sure to check out their app too. Finally, you’ll also find the Tesla Road Trip Planner a helpful addition to your EV apps.

2. Plan Your Route

If you’re going on a first-time road trip, get your map and determine a conservative distance you can go on a single charge. EV batteries vary in the distance a typical charge lasts. A variety of factors will also impact the distance. Plan your route around chargers. In rural areas, you’re likely to find fewer Superchargers available.

To make the most of your time, plan your day around your meals, combining your food stops with charging station stops and bathroom breaks. It will take longer to fuel an electric vehicle than it does one that uses or diesel. One example is Hy-Vee grocery stores, where many have charging stations and dining areas to make one efficient stop. You can use your mealtime to fuel up while you eat.

In 2022, Michigan is introducing 30 electric vehicle charging stations in Michigan state parks. You can reach your destination at Holland State Park and spend the day playing while your vehicle is charging. Then, you’ll have a fully charged car for your return home. Planning your road trip route around high-efficiency charging stations is the way to avoid range anxiety and save time.

3. Know The Factors Impacting Mileage

Various weather conditions impact your battery efficiency. For example, cold temperatures affect the range, as you are more likely to use features such as the heating system and seat warmers. Using the car’s air conditioning in warm weather will also reduce mileage.

Wind resistance is another factor impacting mileage, like gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles. For example, if you use a roof rack or a bicycle mount, the additional drag will reduce the miles you will get from a charge. Rain also reduces efficiency.

Packing light is essential for increasing mileage. As with any vehicle, reducing weight increases efficiency, which is true of EVs. However, an additional hundred-pound load will decrease efficiency by 1-2 percent. So only take what you absolutely need.

For example, Tesla’s computer screen shows where superchargers are. While it’s counterintuitive, if weather conditions — wind, high heat or extreme cold, or rain decrease your range, slow down to make it to your next charge. The faster you drive, the more energy your EV will consume.

4. Different Charging Levels Charge At Different Speeds

Not all chargers are created equal. With three charging levels, each with a different speed, it’s most efficient to charge with the fastest charger.

Level 1 chargers are the slowest, but the advantage is they use a standard electrical outlet. Unfortunately, while these outlets are the easiest to find, they are also the slowest, taking between 8 to 12 hours to charge. To use this, you’ll need a Level 1 EVSE cable standard. This cable type has a standard three-prong household plug on one end and a J1722 connector to plug into the vehicle.

A Level 2 charger is usually only available at public charging stations. It will take between 1 and 11 hours to charge your vehicle at these types of chargers.

Level 3 is the fastest charger using a 480-volt AC or DC plug. Chargers at these stations take between 20 minutes and one hour, depending on the rate. You will need a CHAdeMO or Command Charging System (CCS) connector.

5. Get Smart On Port-Charger Compatibility

Every EV manufactured in North America has the same plug you can use in Level 1 and Level 2 chargers. To use the DC charging stations, vehicles manufactured by Mitsubishi and Nissan use the CHAdeMO connector, while most other EVs like Tesla use the CCS connector.

Not all EV chargers are created equal on the fastest, Level 3 chargers. Also, the connector that fits your car may not match the charging station where you’re trying to charge. The good news is there are adapters available. Be sure to take an adapter with you, so you aren’t planning to use a charging station where the plugs aren’t compatible.

Electric vehicle plug on a Chevy Bolt EUV.

Electric vehicle plug on a Chevy Bolt EUV

Photo credit: Amy Piper

6. Keep Your Battery’s Charge Between 20 Percent And 80 Percent

A good rule of thumb for day-to-day driving is to keep your battery’s charge between 20 percent and 80 percent, prolonging the battery life. Depleting it too far is hard on the life of the battery. After reaching an 80 percent charge, the charging slows down so as not to damage your battery by overheating. You’ll want to monitor this during your road trip.

7. Look For Overnight Accommodations With Chargers

According to Michelle Marine, a frequent EV road tripper who blogs at Simplify Live Love, “Since you are already stopped for the night, the goal would be to charge every single night so that you start the day with as much charge as possible.”

Most hotels have something, even if it is just an exterior outlet to charge overnight. The slow charge likely won’t matter as you are parked for several hours overnight anyway. Call the hotel before arriving to confirm that they have a charging station. If not, ask if they have a standard outdoor plug that you could use.

Chargers and adapters vary in speed. For example, if you can only find 110 outlets, you’ll have a charging rate of only about 5 miles per hour — very slow. While a 220 outlet is faster, it only charges about 10 miles per hour. A destination or Supercharger, a Tesla-branded charger, requires an adapter but charges to a full range of 250+ miles in under an hour.

Pro tip: Primarily for hotels, always carry a long extension cord if you need to use a standard outdoor plug. You may need a longer cable to help you reach the electrical outlet from a parking space.

If you want to check out an EV by renting before you purchase or want to save during your next road trip, check out this article on renting a Tesla.

Electric bikes are also popular for shorter road trips. Take a look at these articles on electric bikes.

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