How to take a road trip in an electric car without fear of autonomy

This item is reprinted with permission from Nerdwallet.

While early EVs were great for commuting, their limited range – around 100 miles on a charge – kept them close to home. Now, a bumper crop of new electric cars, with bigger batteries and fast charging connectors, is heading into the market, allowing electric vehicle drivers to broaden their horizons.

“Once you see the abundance of charging stations, it takes the anxiety out of taking a road trip with an electric vehicle,” says Dave Nichols, editor of GreenCars.com, which provides information and advice. purchase for hybrid and electric cars.

See: Electric vehicles gain ground – registrations increased 95% in early 2021

Feeling a bit of cabin fever after months of shelter in place, I decided to try driving my new Hyundai HYMTF 2021,
-0.70%
Kona EV in Buellton, CA, about 160 miles from my home in the Los Angeles area. I knew my car, with a range of 258 miles, would need a charge to complete the round trip, and I wanted to see with my own eyes if any broken or crowded chargers or any other unexpected issues would slow me down.

Choose a paid itinerary

Nichols points out that most EVs have a charging station locator in their in-car infotainment systems. But he also recommends downloading a charging network app such as PlugShare that shows stations across the country.

Using filters, you can search for different types of chargers:

  • Level 2 chargers. This is the most common type of charger available to the public, sometimes available for free in shopping malls and government buildings. However, they only add up to 20 miles of range for an hour of charge, according to the Department of Energy.
  • DC fast chargers. If you want to recharge or quickly extend your range, these 440-volt chargers are the fastest way to refuel, delivering 60 to 80 miles of range in an hour.

Bob Sykes, a retired video producer, says finding fast chargers is “the key to taking an electric car trip.” As he drove his Los Angeles area Chevrolet Bolt in Monterey, Calif., About 370 miles, “We stopped for lunch or coffee, plugged in, and it would be 75% charged when we’re done.” .

On PlugShare, I saw that there were two chargers in a hotel in Buellton, so I booked a room there and hit the road.

Related: The cheapest and most expensive states to drive an electric car

Know your limits before you go

The dashboard of an electric vehicle clearly displays estimated range, so you won’t get stuck with a dead battery. However, the actual range will vary depending on several factors including whether you are using the car’s heating or air conditioning and how fast you are driving.

If you are new to the world of electric cars, it is a good idea to calibrate the range of your car. See what the estimated range is, cover a known distance, then measure the remaining range.

And it’s still a good idea to get to know your car a little better before you venture far. You may find that you enjoy an EV even more than a gasoline car.

“They are full of spirits,” notes Sykes. And silent: the only noise at highway speeds is the noise of wind and tires. And with the heavy batteries typically located under or low in the vehicle, even a larger SUV hugs the road.

Found a charger, but can you connect?

The Department of Energy estimates that there are 43,000 public electric vehicle charging stations in the United States, but President Joe Biden plans to build a nationwide grid of 500,000. Until now, you will need to do a few things. procedures.

That is, unless you are driving a Tesla. TSLA,
+ 2.21%
The automaker has built a network of more than 2,500 fast charging stations, but they are only available to Tesla customers.

Drivers of other brands will find electric vehicle charging to be hit and miss, especially in rural areas.

When checking in the receptionist confirmed that they had charging stations. “But they’re a little patchy,” she said apologetically. Sure enough, I found them in a far corner of the parking lot, covered in dust.

But after scanning the QR code and downloading the app, I successfully logged in – for free, worth around $ 30, which saved me from paying $ 4.25 a gallon to walk the same distance. In the morning I had a full charge, more than enough for sightseeing on the way back.

See: Curious about electric vehicles? Here are the answers to common questions about electric cars

These problems that you care so much about

Here are some issues you might encounter and how to deal with them.

  • Chargers in use. Unfortunately, you cannot reserve a charger. To avoid finding all of the busy chargers, choose an area that has multiple charging stations. Use an app like PlugShare to find out when chargers are busy and see what other users have reported. If all charging stations are taken, look for the notes on the windshields. Some EV owners will leave their cell phone number so you can call them and ask them to unplug.
  • Connection problems. Create an account in advance for the most popular paid charging services such as ChargePoint and EVgo, which provide fast chargers. Before a road trip, find a local charger and give it a try to make sure you can connect quickly.
  • Power outages. There isn’t much you can do. However, if you have enough range left to get out of the area, you might find something that works a few miles down the road. And consider that a power outage would affect most gas stations as well.
  • Runs empty. An unexpected power outage is unlikely as there are several warning lights and messages before this point. In addition, many electric vehicles have a “home without backup mode” which saves your battery reserves, allowing you to drive slowly to a charging station.

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Philip Reed writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @AutoReed.

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