Part 1: Planning Our EV Road Trip

When my husband and I first talked about taking our electric car on our upcoming road trip, I was a bit hesitant. A gathering for a high school reunion prompted the trip, but we wanted to take advantage of the location to visit family and do some exploring. My concern was that driving our EV might make us adjust our route too much. I’m a big fan of electric vehicles, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to go somewhere because we wouldn’t be able to charge our car.    

Normally, charging isn’t a problem. We plug our car in at home, charge overnight, and it’s ready to go in the morning. The car has plenty of range to last us at least a week with our usual daily driving needs. We had recently taken a couple of short trips that required some charging away from home, and they had gone well. Now that we were about to embark on a 1,300+ mile road trip, we knew that pre-planning would be important because of the multiple charging stops we’d need to make.  Even with California’s relatively robust infrastructure of charging stations – especially Tesla-branded superchargers – they aren’t as ubiquitous as gas stations.

EVTripPlanner.com was a great help with planning our trip.

There seems to be (at least) two philosophies about road trip charging: A) Make fewer stops and charge to 100% each time, or B) Make more stops, but charge to lower levels (60 – 70%) each time. After some research, we like option B best for several reasons:

  1. Each charging stop takes less time. When charging past 60-70%, charging slows way down as it tries to “stuff” more juice into the battery (this is not a scientific explanation, but you get the point).
  2. More stops mean more opportunities to stretch our legs… something we’ve come to appreciate on longer road trips.
  3. Lower stress. By not waiting until the car’s charge level was low before we re-charged, we would have a comfortable range cushion each time we reached a station (sort of like not waiting until your gas level indicator turns red before re-fueling).

The route we planned had us driving about 2 hours between charges and charging to no more than 70% each time. Of course, we could adjust this along the way, but that felt like a comfortable pace.

We only had to wait for a charging station once our whole trip. Usually, we’d find plenty of stations available.

Between our home and our first night’s stay, we stopped at three supercharger stations. While our car charged – a process that took about 10-15 minutes – we entered our next destination into the car’s computer. After some calculations, it told us where the next supercharger was located, how much remaining charge we’d have when we got there, how many stations they had, and how many were available for use (updated real-time).

Morro Rock at sunset.

As we strolled along the waterfront in Morro Bay, California, we congratulated ourselves on completing the first leg of our journey without any issues. Our pre-planning had paid off. We were becoming more comfortable with the car’s systems and confident that we had made the right decision to drive our EV.     

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Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

92 thoughts on “Part 1: Planning Our EV Road Trip

  1. Hope you’re having a great trip, Janis. Here in Aus, until charging stations become common in rural and remote Australia the only realistic option is a hybrid, which allows for more creativity in your schedule as a bonus. We’re planning to upgrade when the purchase price drops below the GDP of a small country. 😉

  2. Ah ha! So you got a Tesla. Are you happy with it?
    I’ve had mine for 2 and a half years and I love it. I usually need to stop (for a bathroom break or for food) well before the car needs to charge, so like you, I plug in when I need to stop, then unplug when I’m finished what I needed to do.
    I love that the car tells me where the superchargers are located. I haven’t used any non-Tesla chargers yet, because the adapter I have is only for the super slow, level 1 chargers, which (to me) are useless unless you are plugged in overnight at a hotel.
    Please keep us informed about your experience.

    1. Believe it or not, the Tesla is my third EV. My first, a Nissan Leaf, was t-boned in an intersection. My second, a Hyundai Kona (which I loved), had battery problems significant enough they bought it back from me. I’m enjoying the advanced technology Tesla offers and the ride is very comfortable. I can’t say that I’m crazy about the one screen (with teeny type) that does “everything.”

  3. This is so exciting. I’m glad to hear your experience, as we are thinking about our next vehicle. We have a Prius and have enjoyed the benefits of a hybrid, but because we regularly drive from SoCal to Oakland I have been reluctant, thinking that maybe the distance was prohibitive with EV. But it sounds like you’ve managed well. I’ll look forward to your Part 2! I do believe EV is a wonderful way to go, and I’m thinking it’s only going to get easier. Congratulations!

  4. An interesting post, Janis. First hand experiences offer many insights. Points 2 and 3 always apply to us, too. You make a good point on how you can adjust your initial plans. Exceptionally stunning photo at Moro Rock. Safe travels and I look forward to reading more about your journey.💕

      1. and the hubs and I were just talking about what folks with EV’s will do during an evacuation – (esp with hurricane Ian in Florida right now and I guess FL and CA have the most EVs) – and will there be enough charging stations along evacuation routes? Hmmm

        1. Interesting question. I would think that, if there was the possibility of an evacuation, you would make sure you had a full charge (giving you a 250-400 mile range, depending on your EV) just like you’d want to have a full gas tank. I think that range would be enough to get you out of harm’s way. Interestingly, if there is a loss of power from your utility, newer EVs are being made capable of providing power back to your home.

          1. Thanks for the reply – and I heard about F150s powering the home like a generator and it really is cool to have these options!

            hope you are having a nice start to the week

  5. Love that photo!! We just bought a hybrid as with a rural life and travel to areas that don’t support the tech needs an EV was not an option, just like the Australian reader above. But super happy with our Lexus Hybrid and feel like we are doing our bit. Bernie

  6. This was very reassuring. My son got a Tesla about a month ago and I worry about the recharging thing. But then I’m always the one who starts worrying at ½ tank and definitely does a fill-up at ¼ tank or sooner. I’m driving (very little) an 11-year-old Subaru and don’t expect to ever get another car. Still, that Tesla is amazing. I call it my son’s Magic Car.

  7. Wow, this is super interesting, Janis. I love our Prius plug in , but it only goes 27 miles on a charge. That is super around Prescott, but we always have the back up of a gas engine. Our Fiat went 80-100 miles on a charge, but at the end, if you didn’t make it to a charging station, you were towing it. So it wasn’t good for long trips. It is exciting to see how you planned your trip. Well done!

      1. We plug ours in at home. We have free electricity in our garage through our condo. But we never charge it anywhere else. We can do all our errands on one charge.

  8. Interesting analysis of the pros and cons of driving your vehicle on vacation. I like the idea of more stops to charge and stretch your legs. Your planning paid off– both for peace of mind and a good blog post.

    1. We thought it was interesting that fewer stops and higher charging levels could actually end up taking more time overall. As it turned out, each stop took about 10-15 minutes and then we were back on the road with plenty of charge to get us to our next destination. Easy peasy.

  9. Thanks for sharing, Janis! I met a woman driving a Tesla while we were both waiting for a little ferry (island life, amiright? 😉) and she said much the same…you get used to planning your trip like you would plan where you would stop to buy fuel for trip with a gas-powered vehicle. A few differences but if you plan ahead, no biggie.

    Deb

  10. This is so hopeful to know that charging stations are more available. Saving my nickles and dimes for that car.

    1. There are a few great apps and websites that locate charging stations along your route (and that you can look at to help you determine if an EV is right for you). Also, since most (all?) EVs have this info built into their nav systems, you can find each charger location easily.

  11. Thank you for sharing your planning and your trip with us, Janis. I have been curious about road trips with an EV. 10-15 minute stops aren’t so bad. I was thinking they would be more like 30-60 minutes. Your photo of Morro Rock is absolutely stunning. Happy travels!

  12. You make it look so easy, Janis! The software seems to be a huge help in trip planning, and you clearly make good use of it. Thanks for sharing your plans and how well it worked. Happy Travels.

  13. That’s a great pace for a road trip. Only having to “wait” for fifteen minutes to get enough charge is nothing! That’s what we usually spend at a gas station each time we fill up. But I’m sure our cost is higher. 🙂 I assume the charging stations charge for the electricity? I have no idea what something like that costs.

  14. Thanks for sharing your experience, Janis. It is very topical now as many readers look to be considering a purchase of an EV soon or in the future. Even though there aren’t so many chargers here in Australia, there may be more than the comment indicates above, at least in my state. They have added them so that one can travel from Brisbane to Cairns every 200 km or so. – something an EV could achieve, in fact one of my neighbours recently did that in a Kona.
    There has been some criticism here about Teslas so it is good to hear that you are really happy with it. Apparently you can wait 12 months for one here and then sell it on the facebook marketplace fo about $30,000 more than the initial purchase price, after it arrives. Such is the demand…..

    1. I know there is a wait for a Tesla, but I’ve heard that for other cars too because of supply issues. Crazy about the re-sale prices. There are pros and cons for Teslas, and I have a few issues with them, but they are good cars overall. As time goes on, there will be more and more EVs on the market to choose from.

  15. Have a great journey. You have to explain the journey after return.

    Trip with family is always special. Typing all trips with my family is flashing through my head.

  16. Interesting! I’ve wondered how someone with an EV would manage a road trip; there aren’t a lot of charging stations in our area. (Of course, there may be more than I’m aware of since we *don’t* have an EV.)

    1. Since charging stations aren’t on every corner like gas stations, they are easy to overlook. We were surprised to find them in large and small towns along the way. Even though they aren’t as common as gas stations, we were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to wait to use one.

    1. When I got my first electric car back in 2012, the range was about 90 miles. That was fine for just getting around town but not much else. There also wasn’t the level of charging infrastructure we now have. Now, typical ranges are usually between 250 and 400 miles and there are a lot more charging stations. I think the technology will continue to advance rapidly.

  17. Morro Rock at sunset is beautiful Janis. Truthfully, I’ve never seen a photo of a charging station so had no idea what they looked like. My car is 13 years old and yesterday I crossed the 10,000-mile mark, so that gives you an idea how much I drive. I also thought charging on the road would take much longer and this was no inconvenience at all!

    1. We usually don’t drive very many miles either, so an EV fits our day-to-day lifestyle very well. Fortunately, the prices are coming down so even a very light driver can afford them. We saw a two-seater at an EV event yesterday that would be practical on most days. I’m excited to see what the future holds.

      1. At the recent Auto Show which returned for the first time since before the pandemic, the EVs were very big, especially the “Lightning” truck with enough battery power to use as a generator for your home during a power outage. I think they are here to stay.

  18. Good on you for going all-electric, Janis. I can’t wait to get rid of my IC engine and join you in the 21st century. If there ever was a trend, it is the continued advancement of EVs and expansion of charging stations. At some point, we will all be driving battery-operated cars, and Mother Nature will be very thankful.

  19. Good on you two, Janis. Enjoyed reading about your planning and now I will head to the next installment. Nothing quite like a good roadtrip to blow away a few cobwebs.

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