Tips for Electric Car Road Trips This Weekend
Memorial weekend is finally here, which means an extra day to finish that D.I.Y. project, visit family and friends, or take a road trip out of town. For many new EV owners, this weekend will provide an opportunity to leave behind the predictable work commute, and venture into the unknown with their new car for the first time.
With that in mind, here are some tips and must-have items for your first mid- or long-distance EV trip. Follow them, and your trip should be smooth sailing.
1Don’t Be A Range Hero
It doesn’t matter how far someone else is claiming they drive an identical electric car. Initially, you should be conservative about your car’s range capabilities. This is especially important if your route involves a lot of hill climbing, stop and go traffic, or high-speed freeway stretches. It’s always better to know before you even leave that you’ll reach your charging stop or final destination with miles to spare, rather than face the discomforts of range anxiety.
As your experience grows, so will your confidence in your car and reading its range capabilities. This will allow you to confidently make trips to the edge of your car’s range without worrying about running out of charge. Many Nissan LEAF drivers, for example, completely ignore the car’s on-board range prediction, preferring instead to use their own estimations based on how full the car’s battery pack is.
2Plan More Recharging Than You Need
If your trip goes beyond the range of a single charge, plan multiple places to recharge. Not only does it break your trip up into more manageable segments, but it ensures that you’re not stuck if the charging station you plan to use is on the blink, in use by another driver, or a gasoline car is blocking access.
Recharging before your car's battery pack falls to about 20-percent of its capacity—when there’s about 15 or so miles of estimated range left for most mainstream EVs—will also help speed up recharging speed, since most cars have to reduce charging speed at low states of charge to protect the battery pack.
There’s one more benefit to planning extra recharging and keeping a reserve capacity in your car: detours. Having some spare range is useful to avoid snarl-ups and accidents in busy traffic, and to allow other last-minute re-routing.
The most important thing is to know where you plan to stop and recharge before you leave home. PlugShare, which keeps a log of recent use of chargers, is now directly available on PluginCars.com. Or if possible, call ahead to one of the charging station networks to make sure the desired charging location is working. This is especially important if planning to use a DC Quick Charger. Take it from me: nothing stops your EV fun more quickly than a busted charging station when you’re 60 miles from anywhere.
3Pack An “Emergency Recharging Kit”
It's only necessary if going off the beaten track, but keeping an emergency recharging kit in your car is a smart move, especially in areas with limited public charging.
A kit is simply comprised of a portable E.V.S.E. (which comes with your car), a decent extension cable, and various power adapters. These items can get you out of a sticky situation and give you enough range to get to a quicker charging station if you need it.
In addition, taking your own recharging equipment with you means you can give your car an overnight charge at your friend’s house or hotel, even if there isn’t an official EV charging station.
4Remember You’re An Ambassador
Regardless of how new you are to EV driving, remember you’re an ambassador for plug-in cars. Unless you live in an area with high EV uptake, people are likely to stop and ask you questions in parking lots, at charging stations and even the stop light.
Be polite and share what you’ve learned so far. You could help someone else make the transition from gasoline to a zero emissions vehicle.
Where Are You Going?
I myself have a busy weekend of LEAF-powered chores ahead of me—followed by a week-long odyssey visiting family across the U.K. in a plug-in Prius. What are you planning to do this Memorial Weekend? What stations are you going to use? How far are you going to push, or stay comfortably within, the limits of your electric car? Please share your plans and experiences with our growing community of electric drivers.
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