Tips for Electric Car Road Trips This Weekend

By · May 24, 2013

LEAF trip

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 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.

Volt trip

Long-range travels in a plug-in hybrid changes the road-trip scenario, allowing for greater distances (but more of those miles running on gasoline rather than electricity).

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.


· · 4 years ago

No mention of a Honda portable generator for the survivalist road warrior, I'm surprised. ;-)

· · 4 years ago

I happen to be hosting, so everyone is coming to me. The farthest I'll be driving is to BJ's club to stock up on burgers and hotdogs!

I think this is a good list for the new EV driver. Don't be a hero, make sure you plan your trip, and bring a backup. It's still early in the game. EVs cannot do the same kind of road trips ICEVs can do (no, not even Tesla's can fully match ICEVs). This is mostly due to infrastructure in the Tesla case, but it is a reality in 2013. Hopefully the landscape will look very different in 2020, but in the meantime we have to be good ambassadors. The more people who buy EVs, the more demand there will be for infrastructure. Let's keep the momentum growing!

· · 4 years ago

This is why I have a Volt instead of Leaf. So, I don't have to worry about point #1, #2 and #3.

But I do my jobs to answer all questions regarding EVs fairly. I do my part on #4. I have received plenty of questions in the parking lots. I have recommended cars from Prius Plugin to C-Max Energi, from Focus EV to Leaf or even eRav4 based on people's use model (even though I don't like Prius Plugin or Leaf).

I agree that the more EVs on the road, the more interests there will be and more people will change their sterotype toward EVs.

· · 4 years ago


Agreed, The longer I have my Volt the more I find it grows on me. The Roadster is the 'very fun' car, but the practical one for all other uses is the Volt. And even though I complain about the all electric range, in the past spring the engine hasn't run at all. The next time I start the thing it will run the engine for 5 minutes since it hasn't run in over 6 weeks at all. In the meantime I've put 928 all electric miles on it.
Reason for that is all longer trips have been in the Roadster.

· · 4 years ago

I picked up my 2011 Leaf exactly two years ago (#1533). Without a question I'm still sold on this car after 30,000 miles. For all intents and purposes it's an urban vehicle (I average 44 miles/day) but here's a link of my two day weekend drive,, utilizing fast charging stations in Cascade Locks (twice) and Newberg. The charging stations I used are part of an infrastructure build out by the State of Oregon (

· · 4 years ago

>>>>>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.<<<<

Not true. The charge rate will be greatest at low State of Charge (SOC). What will limit the charge rate is a high SOC, and/or cold battery. It's also possible that an extremely hot battery may also limit charging speed (over 122F / 50C degrees).

I hope to be taking my long distance drive in just a few weeks, from southern California to Montana, then over the the Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington state, where on June 29, 2013 we will start the All Electric Vehicle Rally, "BC2BC-2013", 1500 miles from Canada to Mexico. I hope to see anybody within EV range to attend kickoff party starting at 9am.

We should have DC CHAdeMO charger and 50 amp 240 volt service on site.

· · 4 years ago

I've bought a 2013 Leaf in March. I love it. I was under the impression that the fast charge (440) could only be used once per day to avoid degrading the life of the battery. True or false?

Of course here in Ohio, there aren't any fast charge stations and only a few 220 stations. We trickle charge at home.

· · 4 years ago

The DC CHAdeMO charger can be used more than once, however with a hot battery (for instance, the car was parked on black asphalt on a 90F degree plus day), it might not be a good idea to charge it at all.

Also, successive DC charging will warm up the battery, even with relatively cool ambient temperatures, since the LEAF has no method to quickly dissipate heat. I personally drove my 2012 Nissan LEAF over 370 miles on June 19, 2012, from the border of California across Oregon into Washington state.

That trip took 10 successive DC charges, and heated the battery to about 130F degrees in 65F ambient air.

· · 4 years ago


I can't think of one EV that limits charge rate at the low end, unless its too cold (my Roadster runs the heater first if the battery is cold, before charging).

There's one of these zingers in every article.

Can you think of any EV that charges slowly when the battery is dead, or the supposed problem of "volt battery degredation'? I can't think of a single example for either.

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