How to Road Trip in an Electric Vehicle
Electric vehicles (EVs) have become increasingly popular for daily commutes and running errands. They eliminate fuel costs and reduce your carbon footprint. But what about drivers planning to head out of town? Can an EV maintain its range over long distances, and do enough charging stations exist to get you from point A to point B?
The answer is yes, you can most definitely road trip in an EV — you just need to adjust your mindset and driving strategies to make the experience as seamless as possible. At Capistrano Volkswagen in San Juan Capistrano, California, we want to provide you with the following tips.
Before you hit the road in your electric vehicle, map out the route from San Juan Capistrano to your destination. Then, compare it to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center map to find electric vehicle charging stations along the way. This map reveals all the public stations in the U.S. and Canada, which you can filter by connectors and charger types. It even has an alternative fuel corridor feature that lets you set your starting and ending points and then creates a route for you based on the distance between stations along the way.
You can also download a charging station location app, such as PlugShare, to your smartphone and use it to guide your road trip. Many of these apps provide useful information, including whether stations are functioning properly and how many plugs are in use. Plus, don’t forget your EV’s navigation system is designed to identify the closest charging systems. Armed with all these tools, you should easily be able to map out your trip, as well as identify an alternate route just in case your desired charging stations aren’t in operation. We recommend always having a backup route.
Plan to stick primarily to interstate highways, which are more likely to have fast-charging stations along their exits. While country roads might be more scenic, they might stretch the miles you must travel between charges.
Underestimate Your Range
Don’t take the estimated miles of range on your EV’s dashboard display as gospel. Various road and weather conditions can impact your vehicle’s true remaining range. Going up steep inclines and driving at high speeds, for instance, can drain a battery faster than expected. Heavy traffic and weather conditions, such as blinding rain, can slow your progress down considerably. So, when pinpointing your next charging station stop, make sure you choose one with plenty of miles to spare on the current battery charge.
You can take steps to conserve your battery’s charge, such as using your EV’s eco-driving mode, using one-pedal driving, and not using the air conditioning. Also, keep an eye on a real-time traffic app so you can tweak your route to avoid battery-draining delays. Importantly, know your car’s range and the factors that can affect it. Plan your next recharging stop when you have at least 50 miles of range left so you can account for out-of-order stations or a lower-than-expected driving range.
Overnight at EV-Friendly Hotels
If your road trip calls for an overnight stop, book a room at a hotel that has a parking lot Level 2 charging station. Some of these are free for guests while others are not. If you can find one, however, take advantage of the opportunity to charge your EV overnight. You can locate hotels with EV charging through apps such as EVHotels. It’s good practice to call ahead to ensure the charger is actually in service.
Find Creative Ways To Pass the Time
Admittedly, one of the downsides to road-tripping in an EV is the time you spend charging your vehicle. Build extra time into your trip for charging, and try to see the positives in these breaks from behind the wheel. In the 30-45 minutes it typically takes to charge your EV to 80% at a fast-charging station, you can enjoy a quick meal, take a bathroom break, go shopping or sightseeing, walk to a park, or stock up on snacks at a nearby grocery or convenience store.
You do want to stop charging at 80% (or the owner’s manual’s suggested capacity) to prolong your battery’s life span. This is because DC fast chargers can stress your battery if you charge to 100%. Plus, it typically takes significantly longer to do so.
Make the most of your charging stops without wasting more time than necessary by knowing how long the process will take. Not all charging stations and chargers are created equal, so have an understanding of your vehicle as well as the charger so you can get back on the road within the appropriate time.
Pack plenty of diversions so that when your planned route goes off course or a charging stop takes longer than expected, you’re well prepared. For example, bring snacks, water, reading materials, smart devices, and games. This step can be particularly important if you’re traveling with small children or teenagers.
If you go on enough long-distance trips in your EV, you’ll inevitably encounter broken or inaccessible charging stations and equipment. Help the EV community out by reporting these issues. You can do so through the charging station’s service number, which is typically manned 24 hours a day, so the problem can be repaired as soon as possible. You can also report malfunctioning charging stations through your charging app of choice.
While reporting nonfunctioning charging equipment might not do you any good in the short term, it can hopefully benefit fellow EV drivers who show up at the same station in need of a charge.
Are You Planning a Road Trip?
If you’re considering jumping on the EV bandwagon and have started shopping around, know they’re just as road-trip-worthy as any other vehicle. You just have to plan ahead and prepare to be flexible. Before you hit the road on your next adventure, consider getting your Volkswagen EV serviced. Our team here at Capistrano Volkswagen in San Juan Capistrano, California, can help you with all your needs, from scheduling a service appointment to test-driving a vehicle from our latest inventory.