2. Plan for success.
A strategic route and scheduled breaks can make any road trip more enjoyable, but mapping out charging stops and must-sees before leaving is the best way to ensure a safe and smooth electric ride. Planning ahead also ensures that your ride is a good fit for your anticipated trip before you hop in the driver’s seat. A quick calculation of your estimated range and charging speed will let you know if you can make it to each stop as planned and if it might be too far for your vehicle or a too ambitious route.
Apps such as PlugShare and A Better Route Planner will show you compatible chargers on the way to your destination and help you pick the best route. When mapping out your preferred charging stops, Lum recommends being conservative with your range estimate. An EV’s range can vary widely based on weather, road grade, and traffic conditions, and this planned buffer gives you room for fluctuations.
Cold temperatures in particular can decrease driving range because the batteries use more energy to maintain optimal temperatures for driving and charging, and they may also limit the car’s ability to use regenerative braking. The average electric vehicle driving range decreases 12 percent when temperatures dip below 20 degrees fahrenheit, according to a 2019 study from AAA. When the thermometer climbs past 95 degrees, efficiency decreases by 4 percent from the weather alone and an additional 13 percent when the air conditioning is continuously running.
Steep climbs and heavy winds can also drain your battery faster. When you can, take your trip during temperate weather and opt for a flatter route. Otherwise, when driving in a cold or mountainous environment, Lum recommends planning to have 60 percent or so of your stated range just to be safe.
While all EVs will update the range as you drive, Tesla’s on-board navigation system will also make route and driving recommendations based on current battery use and upcoming charger availability. “The [Tesla] navigation system makes [road trips] extraordinarily simple,” says Robert Jardine, an EV driver from Cupertino, California. “You can just get in the car and go.”
But don't be deterred if you don't drive a Tesla; plan ahead, and you can still have a fun, fuss-free EV road trip.