How to Plan a Road Trip With an EV

What to consider before you hit the highway

Family loading up the EV for a road trip.

Maskot/Getty

Counting down the preparations for a long family road trip usually involves packing suitcases, loading up on snacks, tossing in a few pillows for comfort, and gassing up. If you’re driving an electric vehicle, of course, you can strike the gassing-up part and just be sure the battery is charged up nicely to get you where you’re going. Wait: EVs can make road trips?

It’s true: Today’s EVs are able to drive longer and longer distances due to ongoing improvements in batteries and other EV features. Still, there are a few things to know before you hit the road that are a bit different from road tripping in a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Road Trip Range Planning

There are plenty of benefits to traveling a long way in an EV—you’ll save gas, of course, but you’re also helping the environment by not burning fossil fuels along the way. In certain states, you can even take advantage of HOV lanes, and the storage in an EV is usually at least twice that of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Plus, when it comes to EVs, a road trip can be a lot further than most people think. Many EVs today can actually cover long distances without excessive worry. Whether the battery power dictates that your ride is limited to a range of 100 miles or 300 miles, you can always be ready to meet the unique situations you might encounter by doing a little homework before you go.

To plan your road trip, keep these things in mind: 

  1. Know where charging stations are along your route and consider using a rapid charger.
  2. Pack light for maximum range. 
  3. Use hotels with on-site charging stations. 
  4. Enjoy the ride.
A group of six EVGo fast charging stations.

EVGo

Planning Your Route: The Charging Conundrum

Let’s pretend you’re driving from Buffalo to Boston for a long weekend to grab clam chowder, New England style. It’s just under 500 miles each way, and your new EV has a range of 250 miles when fully charged. You’ll need to make at least one charging stop en route but thinking ahead can easily make your road trip successful.

Set Up Your Charging Route

While you can plan any route you like, always consider how you will manage your EV’s range before you turn the key. That means charting the charging stations along the way to plan for both scheduled and unscheduled stops. The best way to do this is to use an EV app that can help you track battery usage and find charging stops with compatible chargers. 

You need to know what kind of charger and/or plug will accommodate your specific vehicle, too. If you’re unsure, you can check your car’s manual or the manufacturer’s website before you hit the road. 

Use an EV Travel Planning App

A map of charging stations according to the PlugShare app.
There are more than 25,000 EV charging locations offering 78,500 charging points in the U.S.

Some of the EV travel apps are built-in to electric vehicles while others are apps you can easily use on a laptop or smartphone. These apps help you plan routes, locate the stations, offer pricing information, and even tell you if there’s a wait to plug in.   

Our favorites include: 

EVHotels helps drivers find hotels with charging stations and notes free public chargers as well as those available only for hotel guests. (iOS only)

Google Maps has a special built-in for some EVs, this version of Maps lets you estimate your car’s battery charge on arrival at your destination and help you select charging stations along your route.

PlugShare lets you search for free and paid charging stations by area, network, and type of charging connection. You can pay for your charge through the app and plan trips, too.

ChargeHub uses a community of EV owners to help you locate the closest public charging station, regardless of network. 

Electrify America offers fast chargers across the country, with a few that also support Level 2 chargers. The app gives you access to members-only pricing and special features. 

Open Charge is a crowdsourced map of charging stations that claims to be the largest in the world. 

Chargeway works with multiple charging networks, only shows stations that will work with your specific EV and helps you plan road trips by providing estimated charging times along the way plus information about nearby shops and restaurants to use while you’re waiting. 

EVgo is a charging network with an app that helps drivers find available charging stations in real-time and pay for them through the app. 

Stay Flexible

If you’re anxious that the stations on the route you planned yesterday might not be compatible with your EV cable, you can always use your app to change your route as needed or find new stations.

As you plan your travels, prioritize finding a Level 3 station that uses DC fast chargers, perhaps in a mall or near a restaurant so you can eat or shop while waiting. If you can find one of these chargers along your route, getting your vehicle’s battery up to 80 percent or more typically takes less than an hour.

Less efficient Level 2 chargers can take up to eight hours for a full “fill” and are better suited to overnight stays; Level 1 chargers really won’t help you get where you’re going and back again very quickly unless you plan to stay several days in one location.

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