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How to Take a Road Trip With an Electric Car

 

How to take a road trip with an electric car is something many owners of gas-powered cars ask me. Road trips with an electric car require some planning but, once mastered, can be quite rewarding.

Planning For a Road Trip

Whenever you take a road trip with your electric car, planning needs to occur. I will use our recent trip from Orange, California, to the Grand Canyon in Arizona as an example. My wife promised our son that we would take him to the Grand Canyon. Along the way, we wanted to visit one of our family friends in Mesa, Arizona. While at Mesa, we needed to stay overnight and also charge our electric car. A wise option is to find a hotel that has a destination charger. A destination charger replenishes your battery at a rate of 16 to 40 miles per hour. Most electric cars can replenish their battery overnight, allowing you to resume your trip in the morning. We found a Hampton Inn in Gilbert, Arizona, with three Tesla chargers and two standard chargers.

Use Your Electric Car’s Trip Planner

Once we found our hotel with a destination charger, we needed to figure out how to get to Mesa, Arizona. Our 2018 Tesla Model X gets 237 miles on s single charge, and from Orang to Mesa is 375 miles. So we needed to find what route to  Mesa would allow us to recharge our battery along the way.

We used our Tesla’s Trip planner, which is built into the car’s navigation software, to figure out our route. The trip planner will route a course calculating which charging stations it will need to stop and for how long along the way. In our case, the trip planner told us we would have to stop at Cabazon, Ehrenberg, and Buckeye to charge our electric car. Furthermore, the trip planner estimated we would have to charge for 30 minutes in Cabazon, 50 minutes in Ehrenberg, and 25 minutes in Buckeye to reach Mesa.

Road trips with an electric car starts with using your trip planner
We used our trip planner to figure out what route to take from Orange, California, to Mesa, Arizona. The planner figured out what charging stations to stop and for how long to get us to Mesa.

Fully Charge your Electric Car Battery

You want to start your trip right, so having a fully charged battery is essential. A quick distinction to make on charging your battery is to set it to 100%. For daily driving, electric car owners put their battery to charge at 80% to prolong the life of the car’s battery. However, with a long trip, you want to fully charge your battery so you can get every mile possible.

 

Watch your Driving Speed

Watching your driving speed and use of the air conditioning will affect how much electricity you use. Think about your miles per gallon efficiency while driving your car. If you are driving fast and blasting your air conditioning, you will go through your fuel much quicker than driving closer to the speed limit. The same principles apply to an electric car. Managing your speeds and making sure you don’t overuse your air conditioning can help you get the most miles out of your battery.

In our case, we drove at a quick pace traveling at speeds of 70 to 85 miles per hour. The result of the high speeds was burning through our electricity faster than average. 

Charging on the Road

On extended trips where you will be traveling beyond the range of your electric vehicle, you will need to recharge on the road. For example, on our recent road trip, we left the city of orange around 9 am and, an hour into the trip, stopped at Cabazon to recharge. The Cabazon chargers are next to a series of outlet stores, so we did some window shopping while recharging our batteries. Our battery was down to 40%, and using Tesla’s network of superchargers, within 30 minutes, we recharged our battery back to 80% and were back on the road. If you are curious as to how much it costs to charge an electric car on the road it typically costs twice as much as charging at home but it is still cheaper than gas.

Recharging our Tesla Model X at Buckhead, Arizona
At Buckhead, we recharged our electric car using a Tesla SuperCharger. Having food and restrooms nearby helped make the best use of our pitstop.

Extreme Temperatures Reduce Range

When we left Cabazon, the temperate was about 100 degrees and climbing. About an hour and a half later, we had to stop again to recharge in Ehrenberg, Arizona. Of the eight available Tesla Superchargers, we were the only car there. There was a gas station and a Wendy’s next to us, so we took the opportunity to take a bio break and get some lunch. By the time we got our food and used the restrooms, we were back in the car. We at our lunch and were back on the road with very little time to wait.

 

 

 

 

The temperature at Ehrenberg was 115 degrees and rising. The reason the temperature is of significance is that extreme temperatures will reduce your vehicle’s range. We had to blast the air conditioning to keep the heat at bay. Within 40 minutes, we had recharged and again on the road. For the rest of the trip to Mesa, we had to run our AC to keep cool. Due to the heavy AC use, we had used up 10-20% of our range to stay comfortable, but it was worth it. We also want to point out that driving in the snow also has similar range reductions as the heat.

Arriving at Mesa, Arizona

After one more stop to charge at Buckhead, we were back on the road and headed to our friend’s house in Mesa. Temperates now had reached 120 degrees. Along the way, some cars overheated along the road, but our electric car handled the heat like a champ. We arrived a little later than expected in Mesa due to traffic. 

Reconnecting with Friends

 We got to connect with our friends which we had not seen since COVID. Our kids swam, played, and we had a nice dinner watching the sunset over the city of Phoenix. Since the temperatures were around 120 degrees when we parked our car, we used a feature in our Tesla called the cabin to overheat protection. Since electric cars are essentially computers on wheels, we had to make sure the heat would not damage the electric components in the car. The overheat protection feature kept the car’s cabin cool enough to ensure no component damage due to heat.

Charging Overnight Using the Destination Charger

At the end of the evening, we bid our friends goodbye and drove to our hotel. We had about 30 miles of electricity left in our battery, and the hotel was a 10-minute drive from our friend’s house. So we drove to the Hampstead Inn in Gilbert and plugged into a destination charger where we could recharge overnight.

Destination Charger in a Hampton Inn Hotel in Gilbert Arizona.
While staying at a hotel overnight, we used the hotel’s destination charger to recharge our electric car.

Parting Words for Taking a Road Trip with an Electric Car

While I shared the example of our Mesa trip using our Tesla, the steps I took to apply to any electric car. Planning is vital as the availability of electric charging stations is not as prevalent as gas stations. Watching your speed, completely charging your battery, and using your trip planner are vital in getting to your destination. Taking a road trip with an electric car requires some planning, but in the end, it will save you money and reduce your emissions. Road trips in an electric vehicle can be an environmentally responsible and affordable way to see the country. To learn more about electric cars, visit Electric Driver or visit our EV selection guide.