How to take a road trip with an electric car is something many owners of gas-powered cars ask me. Road trips with an electric vehicle require some planning but, once mastered, can be rewarding.
Planning For a Road Trip
Planning must occur whenever you take a road trip with your electric car. I will use our recent trip from Orange, California, to the Grand Canyon national park in Arizona as an example. My wife promised our son we would take him to the Grand Canyon. We also wanted to visit one of our family friends in Mesa, Arizona. While at Mesa, we needed to stay overnight at Mesa and charge our electric car. A wise option is to find a hotel that has a destination charger. A destination charger replenishes your battery at 16 to 40 miles per hour. Most electric cars can replenish their battery overnight, allowing you to resume your trip in the morning. We found a Hampton Inn in Gilbert, Arizona, with three Tesla chargers and two standard chargers.
Use Your Electric Car’s Trip Planner
Once we found our hotel with a destination charger, we needed to figure out how to get to Mesa, Arizona. Our 2018 Tesla Model X gets 237 miles on s single charge, and from Orange to Mesa is 375 miles. So we needed to find what route to Mesa would allow us to recharge our battery.
We used our Tesla’s Trip Planner, part of the car’s navigation software, to determine our route. The trip planner will route a course, calculating which charging stations it will need to stop at and for how long. The trip planner told us we must stop at Cabazon, Ehrenberg, and Buckeye to charge our electric car. Furthermore, the trip planner estimated we would charge 30 minutes in Cabazon, 50 minutes in Ehrenberg, and 25 minutes in Buckeye to reach Mesa.
Fully Charge your Electric Car Battery
You want to start your trip right, so having a fully charged battery is essential. A quick distinction to make on charging your battery is to set it to 100%. For daily driving, electric car owners put their battery charge at 80% to prolong the life of the car’s battery. However, with a long trip, you want to charge your battery to get every mile possible fully.
Watch your Driving Speed
Watching your driving speed and use of the air conditioning will affect how much electricity you use. Think about your miles per gallon efficiency while driving your car. If you drive fast and blast your air conditioning, you will go through your fuel much quicker than driving closer to the speed limit. The same principles apply to an electric car. Managing your speed and ensuring you don’t overuse your air conditioning can help you get the most miles out of your battery.
In our case, we drove quickly, traveling at 70 to 85 miles per hour. Unfortunately, the high speeds resulted in burning through our electricity faster than average.
Charging on the Road
On extended trips where you will be traveling beyond the range of your electric vehicle, you will need to recharge on the road. For example, on our recent road trip, we left the city of Orange around 9 am and stopped at Cabazon an hour into the trip to recharge. The Cabazon chargers are next to a series of outlet stores, so we did some window shopping while recharging our batteries. Our battery was down to 40%, and using Tesla’s network of superchargers, within 30 minutes, we recharged our battery back to 80% and were back on the road. If you are curious how much it costs to charge an electric car on the road, it typically costs twice as much as charging at home, but it is still cheaper than gas.
Extreme Temperatures Reduce an EV’s, Driving Range
When we left Cabazon, the temperate was about 100 degrees and climbing. About an hour and a half later, we had to stop again to recharge in Ehrenberg, Arizona. Of the eight available Tesla Superchargers, we were the only car there. There was a gas station and a Wendy’s next to us, so we took the opportunity to take a bio break and get some lunch. By the time we got our food and used the restrooms, we were bn the car. We ate our lunch and returned to the road with little waiting time.
The temperature at Ehrenberg was 115 degrees and rising. The reason the temperature is of significance is that extreme temperatures will reduce your vehicle’s range. We had to blast the air conditioning to keep the heat at bay. Within 40 minutes, we recharged and were again on the road. We had to run our AC to stay cool for the rest of the trip to Mesa. Due to the heavy AC use, we had used up 10-20% of our range to stay comfortable, but it was worth it. We also want to point out that driving in the snow has similar range reductions as the heat.
Arriving at Mesa, Arizona
After one more stop to charge at Buckhead, we returned to the road and headed to our friend’s house in Mesa. Temperates now had reached 120 degrees. Some cars overheated along the way, but our electric car handled the heat like a champ. Unfortunately, we arrived a little later than expected in Mesa due to traffic.
Reconnecting with Friends
We connected with our friends whom we had not seen since COVID. Our kids swam, played, and we had a nice dinner watching the sunset over Phoenix. Since the temperatures were around 120 degrees when we parked our car, we used a feature in our Tesla called the cabin to overheat protection. Since electric cars are essentially computers on wheels, we had to ensure the heat would not damage the electric components in the car. The overheat protection feature kept the car’s cabin cool enough to ensure no component damage due to heat.
Charging Overnight Using the Destination Charger
At the end of the evening, we bid our friends goodbye and drove to our hotel. We had about 30 miles of electricity left in our battery, and the hotel was a 10-minute drive from our friend’s house. So we drove to the Hampstead Inn in Gilbert and plugged into a destination charger to recharge overnight.
Tips on Taking a Road Trip with an Electric Car
Here are some tips I compiled to help you organize your next road trip with an electric car.
- Plan your route ahead of time: Research and plan your route to ensure that you have sufficient charging stations and won’t run out of battery.
- Account for weather conditions: Extreme heat or cold weather can reduce travel distance. Check for weather conditions and plan accordingly.
- Travel with what your need: Do not overpack. Traveling with more weight will cause you to consume electricity at a higher rate leading to more charging stops and longer travel times.
- Fully charge your electric battery: Make sure your electric vehicle battery is fully charged before starting your trip to ensure you will have a maximum range.
- Keep your battery adequately charged: Throughout your trip, try to make sure your battery does not drop below 20% when possible. Doing so will extend the life of your battery.
- Drive and moderate speeds: Avoid driving at high speeds and rapid acceleration to get the most out of your battery charge.
- Take advantage of your charging stops: Electric vehicles can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how much electricity you need. Get food or drink, walk, and see what is available. Doing so will make for a pleasant trip.
- Have a backup plan: If you encounter unforeseen incidents like road closures or other events, have an alternate plan with adequate charging to reduce stress and downtime.
Parting Words for Taking a Road Trip with an Electric Car
While I shared the example of our Mesa trip using our Tesla, I took steps to apply to any electric car. Planning is vital as electric charging stations are less prevalent than gas stations. Watching your speed, completely charging your battery, and using your trip planner are vital in reaching your destination. Taking a road trip with an electric car requires some planning, but ultimately, it will save you money and reduce your emissions. Road trips in an electric vehicle can be an environmentally responsible and affordable way to see the country. To learn more, visit Electric Driver and let us help you find an electric car that fits your lifestyle.