How to Travel Across the US in an Electric Vehicle
Summer EV Road Trip Special
Few things will make your heart sink deep into your stomach quite like missing an exit to a Tesla Supercharger with only a few percent of battery life remaining. Range anxiety is real, especially when the battery icon turns from green to yellow and, soon after that, to red.
For those living in the city with easy access to charging stations, commuting in an EV can be a great way to save money on gas and maintenance. But can you take a cross-country road trip in an EV?
Has it been done?
Yes, it has! In 2019, seasoned road-tripper Wade Anderson took a 19,000-mile road trip around North America in a Tesla Model 3, and you can watch all 67 days of his journey on YouTube! While he tweeted that this was by far his best trip ever, there were legs when he barely made it to a charging station. On several occasions, especially while traveling through the northern Midwest, he had to plug in at RV parks and campgrounds, which were very slow-charging.
Unfortunately, range anxiety doesn't just happen on cross-continental drives. When Alex, our CEO, took his Tesla Model 3 on a much-shorter 257 miles drive from Vancouver to Kelowna last year, he also experienced range anxiety firsthand and had to recharge a few times along the way to be safe.
Things you wish someone had told you about road tripping in an EV
Luckily, range anxiety is easily and quickly overcome. As you spendmore time driving an EV, you will become much more relaxed electric drivers with an intuitive sense of what your car needed to go where you wanted to go in no time. And, of course, there are many apps you can download to help you find charging stations.
But there are things that you wish someone had told you before you embark on your EV-road tripping adventure:
Don't entirely rely on your car's range estimator
As you spend more time driving your EV, it will pick up on your driving style and habits and calculate range estimates. But, if your road trip is very different from your day-to-day driving, the range estimate might not be as accurate as you wish. Always build in some buffer to your charging range planning.
The faster you drive, the shorter the range
You should know before you fly down the highway in an EV that an EV's consumption increases as speed rises. Unlike gas-powered vehicles, whose highway efficiency consistently exceeds the city numbers, EVs have higher city range ratings. Coupled with increased aerodynamic drag, your EV will perform less efficiently on the highway.
To AC or not
Au contraire to an EV's heating system, the air conditioner has minimal effect on range. So if it's hot outside, run the air con so you so you can stay cool. We strongly recommend pre-conditioning: cool off your EV while you're still plugged in so you don't have to come back to hot car and have to crank the AC. And if it's that hot out, avoid fast charging. Or if you have to, don't fast charge at the hottest times of the day and only aim for 80% charge.
One thing that many people don't realize is heat can bring thunderstorms, and EVs, like other electronic devices, can be affected by power surges. All EVs have some form of surge protection built in so they're no more sensitive than any other device in your home. In the event you're stuck in town because of a thunderstorm, it might not be a good idea to plug in your car.
EVs in mountain passes
Did you know that the range on your EV would drop in mountain passes on the ascent? While watching the range drop in a free fall can be a little stressful, the saving grace is, you do gain some range on the descent.
Not all charging stations are the same
A charging station that looks available on an app might be incompatible with your car, out of service, or already in use upon arrival. Yes, some charging stations aren't cared for like gas pumps. In the days before your trip, check how often EVs are checked in to the chargers in your trip plan, are they in order, what time of day is busiest, etc., to plan accordingly. Keep in mind that EV chargers can get backed up on holiday long weekends, especially the free ones. If possible, consider traveling at off-peak times or using the less popular pay chargers.
Ways to optimize the range
The faster you go, the more energy you consume. The Department of Energy says you'll use 14% less energy by reducing your speed by 10 mph. But if you're on the highways, it easier said than done.
Instead, try these tricks to optimize your EV's range:
Maximize regenerative braking
Whenever possible, leverage your EV's energy-recovering regenerative braking function as you come to a stop, and use the brakes only when necessary. Enable your car's maximum regenerative setting to send extra power back to the vehicle's batteries while decelerating. Make sure you leave enough space for it to slow you down before you need the brake.
Ensure your tire pressure is at the optimal level to reduce unnecessary rolling resistance that decreases efficiency and range.
Wheel size affects range
Big alloy wheels look great, but they increase your rolling resistance, therefore reducing your efficiency and thus your range. Smaller wheels with thicker profile tires mean longer ranges.
Reducing a vehicle's weight is the easiest way to boost its efficiency. Get rid of the junk in the trunk, and if you don't think you need it on your road trip, leave it at home. The same goes for exterior accessories like roof racks, and cargo carriers - the aerodynamic drag these items create will cause added energy consumption at higher speeds.
Plan a less draining route
The highways might get you there faster, but try a route that allows you to drive steadily at lower speeds for the most optimized range. Also, avoid areas known for heavy traffic, as well as hilly or mountainous areas if possible.
Ways to extend your battery longevity
If you're unsure whether there's a "right" way to charge your EV — or whether charging it too long, too often or too fast can damage the battery — you're not alone.
Here are some tips to keep prolong your EV's battery life:
Don't overcharge it
Just like laptops, keeping your EV fully charged and plugged in all the time can damage it. Even though a full charge will give you the maximum operating time, it is never a good idea for your battery's overall lifespan. Manufacturers recommend keeping your state of charge between 20% to 90%; battery experts recommend 15% to 80%. Advice varies, but the rule is don't overcharge it or let it go completely flat.
Park in a shady spot on a hot day
EV batteries have a built-in thermal management system to keep them cool. Exposure to extreme heat while parking unplugged will needlessly drain your batteries to keep the temperatures down for optimal efficiency.
Minimize fast charging
Yes, there are times when you need a top-up in a hurry, and because they can give you a quick boost of up to 80% in a short space of time will be invaluable to road trippers. However, don't rely solely on fast chargers to keep your EV topped up - it presses so much current into the batteries in a short period which strains your EV battery and wanes them faster. Slow charge (aka. Level 2 charging) whenever you can, especially if it's cold outside.
Wait before charging
Avoid charging your electric car immediately after a spirited drive. Give the batteries a chance to cool down first.
What to do when your EV runs out of charge?
If the EV has stopped, then the best option is to call for roadside assistance. Several providers have vehicles equipped to facilitate as much as ten minutes of fast charging, enough to get you to a charging station. However, even without this equipment, the assistance vehicle should be able to carry your vehicle on a flatbed to a charging point.
Do keep in mind that many manufacturers do not recommend towing an EV as the car's electric motor is mechanically linked to the wheels and can't be placed in neutral. Towing can cause damage to the car's powertrain.
Under normal circumstances, you are highly unlikely to run out of charge on your EV because of the sophisticated and insistent warning systems. You will have ample opportunity to find a charging station before their battery goes dead. As charging point infrastructure grows and battery technology advances towards longer ranges, this problem is unlikely to become a matter of much concern.
Electric vehicles are more than capable of taking you and your family on a road trip cross-country. Thanks to companies like Electrify America, EVgo, and Tesla, the public charging network across the country is expanding rapidly, offering robust and well-located EV charging options along most major highways.
Are you thinking of taking your first EV road trip this summer? Whether you plan on driving your car or renting an EV, bring a dash cam along to capture the drive! But don't let an accident or a hit-and-run ruin your summer road trip. Talk to us today to find the best dash cam for all your summer driving needs, and with free Rocket Fast Shipping, get your new dash cam before your upcoming road trip.
The Cellink NEO comes with an integrated smartphone app that lets you quickly see the battery percentage, as well as the power draw. These battery packs are the perfect solution for drivers who want the maximum parking surveillance and protection, but without wear-and-tear on the vehicle’s own battery. Powered by LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate), this battery pack is designed for summer road trips! A fully-charged Cellink NEO can power your 2-Channel dash cam up to 25 hours, or double that with the NEO Extended Battery.