Part 4: Mapping Our Journey Home

The final installment of our 1300+ mile road trip in our electric car (Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3 here).

When we first planned our road trip, we weren’t quite sure which route we’d take back home. Because of the possibility of excessive heat and unpredictable wildfires, we left that decision open until it was time to head south. The coastal route is interesting and cooler, but we drove up that way. There are a couple of north/south freeways that offer the shortest and quickest drive, but they are mind-numbingly boring. If we drove further east before heading south, we could visit Mono Lake, something that I’ve always wanted to see.    

When it was time to start home, the temperatures had dropped a bit and there weren’t any active fires, so we decided to head east, then south. This route required some additional planning because, unlike the state’s western corridor, the eastern areas aren’t as populated, and superchargers aren’t as available.

Fortunately, at this point in our trip, we had become comfortable with the apps that located the chargers and with our car’s ability to predict the level of charge we’d need at each one. As we headed east, we drove through mountain passes and pine forests – away from any population centers – but our car told us that we’d reach the next charging station with plenty of juice to spare. Although it can be anxiety-producing to watch the car’s range shrink when climbing hills, regenerative breaking adds most of that range back when driving downhill.

Mono Lake

When we came around a bend in the road and first caught a glimpse of the lake from a view turnout, I was in awe. I had seen pictures of Mono Lake but was thrilled to now see it for myself.  

Our first view of Mono Lake.

Mono Lake, an ancient saline lake located at the eastern edge of the California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is home to trillions of brine shrimp, millions of birds, and the world-famous tufa towers. The lake was nearly destroyed when, in 1941, water was diverted from the lake’s tributary streams and sent 350 miles south to meet the growing water demands of Los Angeles. Fortunately, because of the work of dedicated activists, this practice was stopped, and the lake’s water level is slowly being restored.

The clouds in the background mimicked the shape of the Tufas.
The sun setting behind me lit up the clouds.

The Final Stretch Home

When we got on the road the next morning, our plan was to recharge twice along the way before stopping for the night about halfway home. During the drive, we continued to find charging stations available with no wait, as well as places to eat and “refresh” close by. As we approached the half-way point, we were feeling pretty good, so we decided to continue driving after charging.  

This decision is not unusual for us; we often choose to power through the last stretch because we are anxious to get home and sleep in our own bed again. What was different was how good we felt after driving for over 7 hours. Stopping every couple of hours for a quick charge (charge time averaged 10 – 15 minutes each) made us get out of the car and stretch our legs. When we arrived home after 8 pm that night, we both felt good.

So, not to get too wonky on you, here’s our final thoughts about our 1300+ mile EV trip:

What we liked:

Charging more often but to lower levels not only makes the trip more enjoyable but the total charging time is actually less.

EV owners are nice and full of information so good conversations happen while charging.

Our car had plenty of power, the cabin comfort was outstanding, and we had more than enough storage space for our luggage.

Although it wasn’t our intention, we saved money. Gas prices are high but so are electricity rates at superchargers. Even so, we spent about half as much as we would have at the gas pump (and no stinky hands). 

What could be improved:  

Because charging stations aren’t as prevalent as gas stations, the trip took extra planning, and we had a bit of a learning curve on how to use the tools available. Next time, we’ll be better at it.

California has good charging infrastructure, so we had no trouble finding stations. Although more public chargers are being added all the time, for now, we might need to stick to the main freeways when traveling in certain states.   

The biggest negative for us is the car’s single large screen located in the middle of the dashboard. Although this is a trend for a lot of cars – even gas-powered ones – we don’t like it. We prefer not to have to take our eyes off the road to perform some of the car’s functions or to see how fast we are driving vs. the speed limit. Without a co-pilot, I’m not sure either of us could comfortably drive unfamiliar roads and read the tiny print on the screen, especially with our older eyes.   

Safely home and ready for a good wash.

Now that we’ve been home for a while, we are already thinking about our next EV adventure.

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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.     

Copyright © 2022 RetirementallyChallenged.com – All rights reserved.