How to Take an EV Road Trip
With gas prices climbing, we took one of the market’s least expensive electric cars on a 1,100-mile road trip to get our range anxiety in check.
We set out to understand how to make a lengthy trip, even if the EV doesn’t boast a long range, and write about the journey.
Many people contemplating electric cars for the first time wonder about EV range for out-of-town trips. We wanted to know first-hand how to reach enough chargers along a busy East Coast corridor and then climb winding mountain roads to see how it affects range. We also wanted to experience how hot weather affects battery range and what, if any, charger difficulties we may encounter, and report our findings to you.
These questions were put to the test in the 2022 Nissan Leaf. Our model, the SL Plus, with a starting price of $37,400, came with an EPA range of up to 215 miles.
Continue reading for observations from an EV road trip and tips that can help address some of the key questions and concerns drivers might have about taking an electric vehicle out of town.
1. Make a Charging Plan – and an Alternate Plan
My 6-year-old daughter agreed to ride along on the trip, even though I didn’t have a specific destination in mind. So, we looked at a map and decided on a general route. Then, we picked out sights to possibly see and I worked on a rough timeline. The purpose was to log miles and use various charging stations to experience what an EV owner might encounter during a weekend getaway or when driving to a long-distance destination.
While I prefer lesser-traveled scenic byways, my inaugural EV road trip route stuck to interstate highways. In lightly populated areas, it’s more common to find Level 3 DC fast-charging stations near interstate exits.
A map from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center website pinpoints electric vehicle charging stations. It’s searchable by location, and you can filter results by charger types and connectors to help plan stops for charging. That site and essential EV charging apps such as PlugShare — a user-generated map of public chargers — helped me sketch a route and charging sessions based on the car’s charging connector and range.
The biggest tip for making a road trip in an electric car is this: Be sure to have a backup plan for EV charging, because opportunities aren’t as plentiful as with filling up with gas. Fast chargers can be dozens of miles apart, while the next highway exit may have a couple of convenience stores to choose from.