What to consider when planning an electric car trip

What to consider when planning an electric car tripDW Burnet

The all-electric road trip is no longer an entirely new adventure. For years, countless Americans have been making long trips in battery electric vehicles with no problem. But planning an all-electric expedition can’t be done with the same approach you would use to drive a gas-powered car. You have to weigh a few additional variables.

Load stops

Pardon the obvious, but this is the most important. Everyone knows you need to plan for the load, but there are nuances in what needs to be considered. It starts with the charging network.

Your Tesla may be able to plug into other brands’ fast chargers, but you may need an adapter. With an Audi, you know you can’t use Tesla superchargers, but have you installed the secure apps and accounts with charging services to use along the way? An Electrify America account does not cover chargers from any other brands.

Speed ​​and cost are also considerations. Stations that charge by time encourage finding the fastest charger a vehicle can use, while those that charge by kWh will mean balancing cost and charging time. Be sure to read reviews and user comments on charging station finder apps, as some may be in private access areas or paid parking lots. On a trip to New York, a staff member discovered that, when you factor in the cost of getting into the garage that housed the pay-as-you-go fast charger, charging a Chevy Bolt was more expensive than refueling. of a gasoline vehicle.

Also make contingency plans. An EV trip plan shouldn’t assume that every charger will be unoccupied, running, and delivering its rated power. Especially outside of the Tesla network, public chargers in the United States have a well-deserved reputation for imperfection. Don’t plan a route without alternative charging options if the fastest and most convenient charger is offline.

Weather and altitude

Let’s say your electric vehicle can go 200 miles on the EPA test cycle. It’s a good guideline, but it’s a gamble – a big gamble – to plan for 195 miles between charging stops. If you’re hauling hundreds of pounds of furniture or gear, gaining thousands of feet in elevation, or driving in freezing weather, you’ll see a seriously reduced load range. Below zero, assume a penalty of 30%.

Driving style and air conditioning

Using air conditioning or heat in an electric vehicle will significantly affect range. It is therefore vital to minimize the pressure imposed by the two systems. In cold weather, heated seats will help the driver and passengers endure a lower temperature in the cabin instead of blowing hot air. When it’s hot, close the sunshades to reduce the solar load and relieve your air conditioning system. Either way, know where you’re likely to encounter extreme heat or cold, and consider the range that accompanies both. Many EVs will precondition their interior (heated or cooled) before being removed from the home charger as well. It takes less energy to maintain a set temperature than to reach that temperature from an extreme.

The road trip begins with an advantage if the vehicle is prepared for comfort before moving.

Battery preconditioning

As you approach your charging stop, some EVs allow you to precondition the battery for a shorter charging time. This will consume energy in the short term, but will increase the rate at which you can replenish it, so it’s usually worth it. This is especially useful if it’s cold, as batteries don’t like to charge in the cold.

How to spend charging time

If a vehicle is slow to charge, or your journey requires a level 2 charge instead of fast, fast zapping, use that time wisely. Car journeys are tiring and inconvenient. Restocking during load stops is essential.

It’s not wasted time. You can do anything during your charge time, as long as it doesn’t require your car to move. Even if a Charger is further out of your route, it may be worth a visit if it has high-quality dining options nearby, good entertainment options, or places to shop and run errands. A one-hour load block is a great excuse to do things you’ve been putting off, like getting in the mail or renewing your license. Many of these things don’t have to happen near you.

It also gives you the chance to eat a real meal, rather than gorging yourself on beef jerky while cruising at 80. Plan stops near good restaurants, pack a picnic basket with high-quality foods from yourself or stock up on fresh produce at a grocery store.

If you need to waste a lot of time while charging, find a hotel or AirBnb with a charger. Any Level 2 charger should charge even a large battery overnight.

Get the apps

There are many apps for charging and route planning. All major charging networks have their own, and it’s important to know how to use them before you get to the charger. Know the application before relying on it.

There are also brand-independent scheduling apps. A better route planner is the one the R&T staff used for our most ambitious EV road trips, but a search for the best EV route planner apps will yield hundreds of results. Spend some time seeing which works for you, which has the best reputation, and which provides all the information you need. Some apps may be better for specific regions than others. Do some research.

Your best option might end up being the route planner built into the navigation of many electric vehicles. Check model-specific online forums to find out what your vehicle’s brain limits are. Many are useful tools, but few offer the flexibility and insight of a dedicated route planner. It is better to use both to inform and confirm each other.

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