How to Take a Road Trip with Electric Cars

Tesla battery charging station at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, USA.

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Road trips in electric vehicles (EV) are getting easier every year as national charging networks improve.

The average EV range approaches 300 miles. But drivers may still be anxious about running out of battery.

With proper planning and sensible driving, however, it's possible to overcome any range limitations. Electric vehicle owners may even encounter some surprising road trip benefits.

Estimating Battery Time

Your battery is impacted by your driving patterns. While one of the joys of EV driving is the rapid acceleration, putting the pedal to the metal puts more strain on the battery and will reduce your range. Set your vehicle to economy mode, which increases the amount of regenerative braking and energy efficiency. 

EVs are most efficient when driving in cities or traffic, so you are unlikely to reach maximum range on the highway. Depending on your vehicle, driving at a constant 70 miles per hour may result in a lower range than the official EPA estimate, which assumes a 45% / 55% mix of city and highway driving.

The weather can also impact your battery life. EV batteries perform better in temperate weather than in the cold. Under one test, EVs lost an average of 18.5% of their range in temperatures below freezing, at -2 degrees C (28.4 degrees F). 

But keep in mind that Norway has one of the highest rates of electric purchases in the world. You can take a road trip under any weather conditions that you can in a gas-powered vehicle: you just need to plan accordingly.

Planning Your Route

Plan ahead to identify charging stations along your route before you hit the road. Teslas come with their own route planner, and you can use apps like A Better Route Planner or PlugShare. Google Maps can also be filtered to highlight EV charging stations. 

However, plans don’t always match reality. Charging stations that are part of networks often require their own app or RFID cards, and may not accept credit cards. Alternatively, you can arrive at a charging station to find it in use, out of service, or occupied. 

Charging on the Road

EV charging station with different types of chargers

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Here are some planning tips to make sure you have a smooth charging experience on the road.

  • Have an alternative charging option at each step of your route. 
  • Try to find charging stations with local accommodations, like restaurants or grocery stores, to make the most of your charging time.
  • Select hotels with charging stations. It's often free, and you don't have to go looking for a gas station in a strange city. Completely charging an EV battery from almost empty to full usually costs about $10.00, so it’s worth paying a little extra.
  • Bring your charging cord, an extension cord, and adaptors if you have them. 
  • Don’t try to fill up your battery at every charging station. Just get enough juice to get you comfortably to your next stop, so you can spend time enjoying your trip.

Unconventional Charging Options

Electric car charging at a campsite

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Borrowing or renting an EV for a road trip is a great way to gauge your interest in buying one. A rental agreement might even come with charging, essentially granting you free fuel. Be sure to read charging plans carefully, as they will specify where and how you can charge on the road.

If you are staying with friends or family, you can try charging by plugging into their grid. However, since this will cost them money, consider offering to reimburse them or return the favor. 

Another option for road trip lodgings in an electric vehicle is RV parks. There are often sites in or near national parks and they often come with 240-volt hookups that give the same power as Level 2 charging stations. Just make sure that the RV park you're interested in has hookups available, as many of those in national parks do not come with electricity hookups.

EV Road Trip Benefits

Don't let range anxiety prevent you from taking a road trip in an electric vehicle. Recent EVs have ample range to get you to your destination if you plan wisely and drive rationally. You may even find they can take you on unexpected adventures.

EV road trips may be novel, but they offer benefits over gas-powered cars when it comes to comfort and safety. 

EVs are uniquely suited for highway driving, even if they are less than optimally efficient. The instant torque of an EV's motor allows drivers to accelerate more quickly than a gas-powered vehicle. Quick acceleration improves safety by making it easier to enter highways, pass other vehicles, and avoid dangerous driving situations.

Electric vehicles also enable comfortable sleeping in your car. Plug in your EV at a campground or public charging station, set the climate control to a comfortable sleeping temperature, fold down the rear seats, and you don't need to look for lodging.

However, running the climate control all night will slow down battery charging, so you may not have a full charge in the morning. If you can, set the climate control so that it uses less power once you're asleep. Or bring an electric blanket that you can plug into your EV so that you can sleep comfortably without climate control.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How many miles can you go in an electric car on one charge?

    Most electric cars can go 250 to 350 miles on a single charge.

  • Are electric cars better for city or highway driving?

    Contrary to gas-powered cars, EVs are far more efficient in the city than they are on highways and other high-speed roads. So, as often as possible, travel slow on road trips.

  • Which electric car travels the furthest?

    As of 2022, the electric vehicle with the longest range is the Tesla Roadster, able to drive 620 miles on one charge.

  • What is the best app for finding EV charging stations?

    PlugShare is a free app that helps its more than 300,000 active users find public charging stations by reading other user reviews. It features some 140,000 charging stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Another great resource is EVHotels, specifically for finding hotels with charge points.