How to Road Trip with an Electric Car
Updated: Jan 10
Road trips are one of our favorite pastimes. The freedom to see the sights and avoid crowded airports is one of the unique advantages of traveling by car. But what happens when you're ready to hit the road in your brand-new electric car? Road tripping with an EV is a very different experience than road tripping in a gasoline car. There are a few nuances to be prepared for before hitting the road.
With some planning, you can make road trips with your EV as easy as filling up your tank on a cross-country journey in a traditional car. In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about planning for and taking long road trips with your electric car.
Our founder, Jason, recently took a 2,600+ mile road trip from Portland all the way to the Grand Tetons, with plenty of scenic stops along the way.
“Never having done a road trip of this length in an EV, even I had a little trepidation about going through rural parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming where the infrastructure for charging was scarce. But you know what? It ended up going even better than we expected.”
Benefits of Road Tripping with an Electric Car
When you think of road trips and electric cars, the first thing that might come to mind is range anxiety. But there’s no need to worry: with proper planning, you can go on a long road trip in an EV without any issues.
In fact, there are several reasons why taking an EV on a road trip may be preferable:
Electric cars require more driving breaks to charge, or rather, slightly more lengthy stops. But a silver lining to that is you get to see some places you might not otherwise have.
“I can’t say I would have been likely to stop in Ritzville, Washington if it wasn’t for the Electrify America station they had there, but I ended up having a beautiful sunset walk with my wife while the car charged.”
Electric cars are more efficient and environmentally friendly than their gas-powered counterparts. This means that they emit less CO2 per mile driven and require less energy per mile driven (thanks to regenerative braking).
Your environmental impact is significantly reduced by switching from fossil fuels to renewable electricity—something that's especially beneficial if you live in countries where most of the power comes from coal or other non-renewable sources.
Planning Your Route
The first thing to consider is your range. How far can you go on a charge? How many charging stops will you need to make along the way?
Most of the electric cars on the market now have a range of ~240+ miles per charge and at a standard fast charger, even the base models will charge from 15%-80% in less than 40 minutes. Just enough time to take a nice walk, or finish the last 30 minutes of the show you are binging on Netflix.
Keep in mind that you’ll use more battery when accelerating quickly, going up hills, driving in cold weather, and when using climate control. Always maintain at least a 10%-15% buffer when looking for chargers.
“The Hyundai Kona EV we were driving had a stated range of 270 miles, but in reality, the farthest we ever pushed that was a bit over 200 miles. With chargers on major highways every 50-70 miles, we always had multiple options for charging between destinations.”
Look for Hotels with Chargers
When you book your hotels, look for ones with charging stations in their parking lots or garages. Hotel charging stations are typically Level 2, which make them ideal for overnight charging.
If they don’t have charging stations, you can ask hotel staff if they have outdoor plug-in outlets you can use. If they’re okay with it, you can use the charger included with your EV to charge there overnight.
“There is nothing better than finding a hotel with a charger! I mean, when is the last time a hotel filled up your gas tank while you slept, and for free at that?! Find a hotel charger and you’ll wake up with full range every morning.”
Pick the Right Charging Stations
Keep in mind that there are three charging tiers that affect how long you’ll need to stop. Level 1 is the slowest and only adds about 4 miles of Range Per Hour (RPH), so these are best suited for overnight charging.
Level 2 is the most common, adding about 25 miles of RPH, so it can take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours to deliver a full charge from empty.
Level 3, also known as DC Fast Chargers, are the fastest option and deliver up to 1000 miles RPH, so these are best for road trip charging. These chargers can put you back on the road with an 80% charge in as few as 30 minutes, depending on your battery size, its level of charge, the weather, and how fast your EV can accept a charge.
All new EVs are with fast charging capabilities, but be sure to know what peak charging speed is for your particular vehicle so you have proper expectations on fast charge times.
The best way to find charging stations? We use apps like PlugShare, ChargePoint, and Electrify America, that show you the status of the charging station (open or occupied), its location, and how much a session will cost. Some even give estimated travel time for your vehicle based on its battery level.
"We relied heavily on Electrify America because they had the most stations and generally provided the fastest charge for the lowest cost. When we got farther into Montana and Wyoming, unfortunately, Electrify America chargers were no more. At that point, Plugshare became our go-to because its app aggregates all the available charging stations across the different brands AND also includes Level 2 chargers on its map.”
Road tripping with an EV is a different experience, but you may find that you prefer it. Longer driving breaks can reduce stress, save money, and offer sights you may not have seen otherwise.
The most important takeaway is to be mindful of your range and ensure that you’ve mapped out your route with enough charging stops. If you have any questions about the planning process or what type of electric vehicle is best suited for road trips, feel free to reach out to our team.