Autel Energy Presents EV 101: Planning An EV Road Trip
Whether you’ve made the switch from a traditionally-fueled vehicle to an electric, or are just thinking about it, there is one question we frequently hear, “Can you road trip in an EV?”
The answer is absolutely yes, with a little planning.
Graphic: Heat map of Tesla chargers in North America
Tesla vs. Every Other Brand
Thanks to Tesla’s dedicated Supercharger Network and Destination Chargers, road-tripping in a Tesla is easy.
Paul H., a Tesla Model Y owner, told InsideEVs, “Before a road trip, I charge at home to have 100% max range before I head out. I can easily drive 280 miles before I need more juice.” Paul continued, “Using my car’s nav system, all I have to do is press a single button to find Superchargers along my route, or near where we’re staying. It’s really simple.”
Road trip recharging is easy across Tesla’s 5,600+ Supercharger locations that provide a combined 48,000+ individual charging units. Owners just plug in. The system recognizes the vehicle and charges the owner’s account. No credit card swipe required.
The brand’s Level 3 Superchargers are strategically placed in urban centers, retail areas, and along major highway routes, and add significant range – 140-175 miles – in under 20 minutes. Charging from 10% to 80% typically takes less than an hour. (Check out Autel Energy’s “Learning To Speak EV” to get familiar with electric vehicle and charging terminology like Level 3.)
Currently, Superchargers in the US are only open to Tesla owners, but Tesla is piloting a program in the EU that opens its Superchargers to non-Tesla vehicles.
The Tesla charging network also includes Destination Chargers. These lower-power Level 2 chargers are open to Tesla and non-Tesla vehicles alike. Depending on the vehicle, expect to receive 18-40 miles of range per hour of charging depending on the power (apm rating) of the charger.
Graphic: ChargePoint Station Heat Map
Non-Tesla Brand Road Trip Charging
According to data aggregated by evadoption.com, there are approximately 27,000 charging locations and 70,000+ individual stations available to non-Tesla EV drivers. While this doesn’t equate to a gas station on every corner (there are approximately 140,000 gas stations in the U.S.), the EV charging infrastructure is growing.
ChargePoint, Blink, SemaCharge and EVgo are national networks. Each offers an app that helps with trip planning and charger finding (in and out of their respective networks) when you’re on the road.
There are also tens of thousands of unaligned chargers in parking structures, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Hadley H. drives a 2023 Chevrolet Bolt that provides a max range of about 250 miles in ideal conditions. Hadley told InsideEVs, “My Bolt does not have the factory navigation system, so I use my ChargePoint app to find a charger location, and then pin that in Apple Maps. Apple Car play puts it on the center display and the whole thing is easy and seamless.”
“Because the Bolt’s practical range is 200-225 miles, route planning is important, especially when it’s cold,” Hadley continued. “When we road trip, we plan lunch or shopping stops by Level 2 chargers and can pick up 35 miles in an hour.”
Brands Helping Make It Easy
Many EV brands including Mercedes-Benz and Kia, integrate charger location information into their brand apps and in-vehicle navigation systems. MB’s partnership with ChargePoint even includes free 30-minute charging sessions for two years after purchase.
To simplify finding charging stations when you’re on the road, MB and Kia place a dedicated button on their navi screen (like Tesla) to identify chargers (filtered by type) near you, on your route, or at your destination.
Charging Is Not Yet Universally Available
If you’re visiting popular urban destinations, it’s likely you’ll have access to recharge, but there’s a catch for non-Tesla brands. While the number of DC Fast Charge stations is growing, Cincinnati, OH for example, shows only one Level 3 unit available. In the entire city! And it’s at a Hyundai dealership by the way.
More Level 2 chargers are available in the Cincinnati metro area, and many offer no-cost charging. The tradeoff is charge speed; an hour on a Level 2 nets you a couple dozen miles vs. as many as 175 in 15-20 minutes on a Level 3.
The best advice is to research before you go.
Powering Up On The Cheap
Many municipalities, shopping destinations, restaurants and hotels offer free or low-cost Level 2 charging. In-car and third-party apps help you find individual charger locations.
When planning where to stay on your road trip, websites for Hilton and Hyatt hotel brands enable you to filter hotels by amenities, including on-site EV charging. While Marriott does not offer this filtering option, many of their properties do offer on-site Level 2 charging.
Regarding finding lodging with EV chargers, Hadley H. noted, “We recently vacationed in Hocking Hills, OH and to our surprise, many rental cabins had Level 2 chargers. Who knew?” Now you do.
Chargers like these allow you to arrive at your hotel with a nearly depleted battery and recharge overnight or while you’re unpacking.
Driving Conditions Make A Difference
If your route takes place when it’s exceptionally hot (90°+) or cold (below 40°), your vehicle’s range will drop. The colder or hotter, the more the range decreases.
Speed also makes a difference. EVs are less efficient at highway speed (compared to city driving), and as you drive faster, range falls further because of aerodynamic drag. You can’t beat physics, so plan around these realities to enjoy a much better road trip experience.
More On EVs
To learn more about EVs in articles written for everybody, check out our library of EV 101 stories:
- Charging and Battery Basics; An overview of charging your EV at home.
- Learning to Speak EV; A quick primer on electric vehicle terminology.
- Driving Your EV; Answers the question, “How differently do EVs drive?”
- EV Care & Maintenance; EVs are simpler to own and maintain