As air travel goes down due to Covid-19, people begin to come back onroad trips, and there seems to be a great increase in the sales of electric cars. The question then arises, are electric cars good for road trips?
Taking an electric car on a road trip is different from using a gasoline-fueled car. Those who don’t know much about electric cars may be deterred if they don’t know about their range.
Buying an Electric Car for Road Trips
When buying an electric car, you need to ensure that it is suitable for road trips. Hence, you should check out the range, among other factors.
You need to buy a car that has a longer range for road trips. If you will be making 100 miles road trips then you should not buy an electric car that has a range under 100 miles.
The range of the BMW i3 is about 150 miles. So it is a good choice for road trips. For longer road trips, you will have to make a few stops along the way to charge the car.
If you do not want to charge too frequently, you will have to consider electric vehicles with a longer range like the Chevrolet Bolt or Tesla. These vehicles can travel over 200 miles on a full charge.
With such vehicles, you will have to make fewer stops for charging. However, these cars also cost more. Even in the used car market, you will find that long-range vehicles cost more.
If you are serious about road trips, you should avoid vehicles like the Mercedes Benz B-class and the Fiat 500e. Not only do these cars have a range under a hundred miles, but range extenders are also not available.
Hence, you will have to charge frequently on longer road trips. These vehicles are not suitable for road trips where there are no chargers along the route.
Plug-in Hybrid and Range Extended Vehicles
For road trips, you could think about buying a model that is not completely electric. Two main options are available to you. They are range-extended vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
Plug-in hybrids have full-sized gas tanks and are capable of being externally charged. The electric range of these vehicles is between 15 and 50 miles.
You won’t be able to enjoy a fully electric driving experience with these vehicles. Also, there is no option for fast charging. These cars are less fun to drive even in electric mode.
However, thanks to their gasoline-powered engines, they are suitable for long road trips.
Range-extended vehicles are electric cars that have a small gas motor. When traveling long distances, the motor can charge the battery so that the range is extended.
The BMW i3 is an example of such a vehicle that has a range-extended option. This option can be useful if you find that there is no public charger nearby.
Range extended cars feel more fun to drive than plug-in hybrids thanks to the electric driving mode. These cars often have options for fast charging and feature specific to electric vehicles.
Also, many plug-in hybrids can’t be driven in fully electric mode. Hence, they feel like conventional gasoline-powered cars. You won’t find such an issue in range-extended vehicles since they are driving all the time on electricity.
Read quickest charging electric cars
DC Fast Charging for Road Trips
If you plan on taking frequent road trips with your electric vehicle, then you should make sure that it has a fast-charging option.
You can now find more fast chargers everywhere and more of them are popping up across the country.
Here is the difference that fast charging can make. DC fast charging can charge the BMW i3 from 0 to 80 percent in about 45 minutes.
DC fast chargers are also called Level 3 chargers. They can charge your vehicle quickly in less time because they charge at a relatively high 50kW.
But if your vehicle lacks DC fast charging capability, then it will only be able to make use of Level 2 chargers. These charge at a rate of 11 kW.
Although this is still faster than charging via ordinary electric outlets, it will still take plenty of time for your vehicle to charge.
The BMW i3 will charge from zero to 80 percent in about 3 hours with Level 2 charging.
From this, you can easily see why DC fast charging is important for road trips if you will be driving an electric vehicle. You don’t want to wait for hours every time your batteries start running low.
If you have to wait for hours each time the battery needs a recharge, it will take you a very long time to complete the trip.
DC fast charging is more acceptable since you have to wait for just 45 minutes. This will give you enough time to have a small lunch break and relax.
Most range-extended cars and fully electric vehicles have fast-charging capability these days. This option is not present in some older models though.
So you should always ask about DC fast charging when thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle for road trips.
Examples of cars that don’t have DC fast charging include some Nissan Leaf models, the Fiat 500e, and older BMW i3 models.
Check Battery Condition If You Are Buying a Used Car
If you plan on buying a used electric car, you will have to first check the battery condition just to make sure.
You will have to see how much the battery has degraded because like all batteries, electric car batteries also start losing their capabilities through use.
Although some battery wear is normal, excessive degradation can make your road trip very hard. To check the battery status, you will have to see the infotainment system of the car.
The battery warranties of electric vehicles are often quite good. Most vehicles have an 8 year/100,000 miles warranty. If during this time, the battery degrades by 30 percent or more, then it will be replaced for free.
Planning a Road Trip With An Electric Car
Going on a road trip in an electric car needs some planning. Hence, it is somewhat different from taking a road trip in a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle.
The planning required is not too hard once you get accustomed to it.
You will have to charge the electric vehicle in the middle of your road trips. You should plan your road trips so that public chargers are available near the route you will be taking.
You will have to charge the battery before it runs out of charge. Or else you will have to call in roadside assistance.
The range of electric cars is unfortunately variable. There are certain conditions under which the battery power is consumed more quickly for example, when accelerating, activating climate control, and driving up hills.
One way of dealing with this is to keep a margin of 10 percent for reaching public chargers. What this means is that if your car has a range of 100 miles, the next public charger should be no more than 90 miles away.
When you are traveling on the road, you should try to make sure of fast chargers. This way, you will not have to wait hours before your car charges. You will then have to wait around 45 minutes or so during which you can take a break.
It is possible to plan your trip manually. But you can also use an app such as PlugShare. It is basically a crowdsourced directory that can show chargers that are located near you.
The app has a route planner that can save you a lot of time when you are planning road trips that will have stops for charging.
Hotels with Electric Car Charging
You can save time taken to charge your vehicle by stopping over at hotels that have electric charging available in their parking areas. These are becoming increasingly common. You can often charge for free.
The charging cost may be included in the parking cost. In general, Level 2 chargers are available at hotels, so you can leave your car to charge overnight.
But what if there is no Level 2 charging point at the hotel? You can ask hotel staff for an outdoor electrical outlet that you can use for your vehicle.
Electric vehicles have a Level 1 charger that you can use on any electrical socket. You should take the hotel’s permission to charge your vehicle using their electrical outlet.
But since this is Level 1 charging, the process will be very slow. But if you leave your vehicle to charge overnight, there will be enough charge to hopefully reach the next charging point.
Apps for Finding Public Chargers
You now have a better idea of planning road trips with your electric vehicle. You need to know where public chargers are located.
There are multiple charging networks across the US. Electrify America and ChargePoint are some networks that you can use.
You can also make use of public chargers that are not on any network. These are located in parking garages as well as city streets.
You should know about certain apps that can help you to find public chargers. You should install these apps so that you can get help planning road trips with your electric vehicle.
PlugShare is a community-based app that you can install for finding electric chargers. This app can help you find electric chargers on networks and those that are not on any network. Using PlugShare, you can also find home chargers available to the public.
You can find chargers by different criteria like their connector type, speed, and whether or not they are free of cost. This can help you a lot when you need to find fast chargers along your route.
There is a trip planning feature in PlugShare that you can use easily to find chargers on your road trip.
You just have to enter the destination and the app will display chargers that are available nearby. You also have the option of entering your car’s range for route planning.
Tesla vehicle owners can use the ChargePoint app. It shows all chargers on the map that are compatible with Tesla. You just have to toggle the Tesla connector on the app and you will find chargers.
ChargePoint is a large network of Level 2 and 3 chargers across the US.
You should install ChargePoint along with PlugShare so that you can see all charging stations close to you.
You may also like:
- Is It Worth It to Buy an Electric Car?
- Are Electric Cars Better for Environment
- Are electric cars expensive to maintain?
- How to Make Your Battery Last a Long Time
- How Much Power Does an Electric Car Consume?
Now that you know the answer to ‘Are electric cars good for road trips?’ Research well and plan your road trip accordingly.
My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.