Tips for Visiting Our National Parks with an Electric Vehicle

Yosemite National Park

With the school year complete, my family decided to take a summer vacation. We planned to drive from California to Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park, but our plans changed with the recent flooding. So instead, we set our sights on Yosemite National Park, located in the middle of California. We decided to visit Yosemite National Park using our electric vehicle to take advantage of the lower driving costs.

Planning Your Visit to a National Park

One of the first things you need to figure out when planning a trip is how you will get to your desired national park destination. The best way to plan your road trip is to use your electric vehicle’s trip planner to determine what route to take and what charging stations to stop at along the way. Sometimes, you may use a third-party mobile app like Plugshare to find EV charging stations. In our case, California has some of the best EV charging infrastructure in the nation, so our vehicle’s trip planner sufficed. 

Know Electric Vehicle Range Limits

Once you know how long your trip will take and your charging locations around the park, the next step is understanding your desired National Park size. In our case, Yosemite is 1,187 square miles in an area with high elevation and valleys. Therefore, traveling across Yosemite to some of the hiking spots in our electric vehicle battery was impossible without stopping to charge. Before committing to your trip, figure out what location of the National Park you want to visit. Find what charging infrastructure is available inside the park if the distance is an issue.

Find Electric Vehicle Friendly Accommodations

Once you have your plan, the next step is to find accommodations while visiting your desired National Park. Find lodgings near DC fast chargers or Superchargers if you are a Tesla owner. The advantage of staying near fast chargers is that you should have no issues charging your electric vehicle. If no lodgings with fast charging are available, look for accommodations with a level 2 charger. The downside of level 2 chargers is they typically take several hours to recharge an electric vehicle. If a hotel has level 2 chargers, they will only have a few available, meaning you may have difficulty charging. 

On our first night at Yosemite, we stayed at lodgings and had four level 2 chargers. Since the hotel was booked for the night, we had difficulty getting an open charging spot. For the remainder of our vacation, my wife secured us lodgings at Tanaya Lodge, which had eight Superchargers. Having accommodations next to fast charging meant we had no problem getting charged. I recommend staying close to fast charging.

Plan for the Possibility of No Wi-Fi Connectivity

On our third day, we decided to visit Tenaya Lake in the east of Yosemite. The Trip to Tenaya Lake would take us two and a half hours to reach. Our drive started at an elevation of 5,062 feet, took us down into Yosemite Valley at 4,000 feet, and finally to Tenaya Lake at 8,150 feet. Halfway into the drive, our Wi-Fi connectivity stopped working on all our devices, including our trip planner. When we started the trip, our trip planner told us we would reach Tanaya lake and return to the hotel with 20% of the battery left. 

When our Trip planner stopped working, we were at about 50% of our battery and were eating through electricity; we stopped to confirm with some Park Rangers how far we had left to Reach Tanaya Lake. The Rangers said we were about 20 miles out, but our battery was draining fast due to the hilly terrain. Once we reached 40% of our charge and were not making as much progress as anticipated, range anxiety kicked in.

My wife wanted to continue and made the point that we would be OK with the declines on the way back. However, I was concerned about how much electricity our electric vehicle burned through the steep terrain. So we sided with caution and turned around.

Have a Fall Back Charging Plan

One of the options my wife and I discussed before we turned around was finding an EV charger in Yosemite Valley. The problem was that we were low on battery charge and did not know the specific locations of the chargers. The other issue was the chargers in the valley. Only a handful of chargers took several hours to charge and fully replenish an EV battery. We also heard from a fellow electric vehicle owner that three chargers were not working the previous day. Yosemite Valley was at capacity and high season, so we opted to go to another trail and return to the hotel at the of the day without the risk of emptying our battery. The lesson is to develop a fallback plan and know precisely where your backup chargers are in the national park. 

Rivian Electric Vehicle Chargers at Yosemite
Rivian EV Chargers at Yosemite | Electric Driver Image

Before I moved on the way back, with all the steep elevation drops, we made it back to the hotel with over 40% of our battery charge. We could have made it to Tanaya Lake. The next day we searched for the chargers within the park and found some Rivan-branded chargers. The rest of the day was spent hiking and enjoying the outdoors and the scenery Yosemite offers. Our next trip will be to drive to Yellowstone National Park later next month. I am sure there will be some new tips from that trip that I can share.

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