Avoiding Range Anxiety with an EV Road Trip Checklist

This is the fourth blog in a series about our Midwest electric vehicle adventure.

Drivers considering buying electric vehicles (EVs) often mention range anxiety, the perception that EVs cannot be driven long distances reliably, as a source of apprehension.

One of the main reasons we’re going on an EV road trip is to bust that myth.

EV battery technology has advanced significantly over the past several years. Many EVs can drive around 200 miles a day without a problem (and without anxiety). We’ve already learned a lot about driving electric, and we’ve picked up tips and tricks to make our electric car work for us. 

The Midwestern EV drivers we’ve met with emphasize the difference that recent technological improvements have made in their decisions to drive electric. They also mention the same learning curve we’ve experienced, but they all reach the same conclusion: driving electric is incredibly fun, easy, and reliable.

Driving long distances in an EV is different than driving to and from work, home, and local destinations. If you’re thinking about an EV road trip or long-distance drive, we hope this infographic will help you prepare and simplify your learning curve. We’ve sorted our tips into three categories: (1) getting an electric vehicle (2) staying charged and (3) everything else (read: fun). Hopefully, you’ll soon see for yourself how easy and enjoyable it is to drive electric.

Credit: Illustration by Jessica Russo

Category 1: Getting an Electric Vehicle

Do you own an electric car? If yes, you’re set. Jump to Category 2. If no, it’s time to find a rental.

If you’re traveling in Canada or Europe, you may be able to find an electric rental at a mainstream agency. In the United States, it’s much more difficult (nearly impossible—this needs to change). Fortunately, there are other options. One is Turo, which is like an AirBnB for cars. Turo ended up being the best choice for us. It’s a good fit for trips anywhere in the United States. You just search by city and date, and then select an “electric” option under the “green vehicles” search filter. Many EV owners offer nice add-ons like unlimited mileage or one-way trips for extra charge.

There are also local options. If you just need a ride for a day, startups may suit your needs. Maven operates in nine cities and has EV options, and other companies like BlueIndy and BlueLA offer city-specific EV rentals. Look out for our blog about new transportation options and innovations in Indianapolis coming soon.

Category 2: Staying Charged

First things first: sign up to charge. Unfortunately not all charging stations are free, and not all take credit cards without a membership. Look up which major charging chains operate in the region you’ll be driving in. Big charging players like EVgo, Greenlots, Sema Connect, ChargePoint, and more all require memberships, even if signing up is free. Sometimes you can connect with your phone, but sometimes you’ll need a physical card from the charging station. It’s best to know in advance.

Look up your range. You’re going to want to have a rough estimate of how far your clean car can drive on a single charge (and how that changes under certain conditions—like really cold temperatures, heavy cargo, and big hills). 

Then you’ll need to figure out where to charge to get you where you want to go. Thankfully, there’s an (m)app for that. We used PlugShare, ChargeHub, Open Charge Map, because you can sort by charging speeds—known as levels—and plug types, which depend on your car. You can search cities ahead of time if you’re the planning type or while you’re on the go.

On Google Maps, you can search for “charging stations” and see the real time availability of chargers operated by most major charging companies. Using EV Trip Planner, you can get the big picture right away by sorting for your car make and model and entering your destination. It’ll suggest routes with charging stops based on range.

Another good option is staying overnight at a hotel, motel, or rental with a charger. Doing so allows you to leave your car plugged in overnight, leaving you with a full charge in the morning. You can use your preferred map app to help you find charger clusters near your accommodation.

Lastly, plan back ups. Sometimes a charger is broken, being used by another EV, or being blocked by an internal combustion engine car. If possible, prioritize routes that feature a cluster of chargers (not just one). Better safe than sorry.

Category 3: Everything Else

Make a collaborative playlist. It turns out electric cars tend to be technologically advanced in several ways… and have great sound systems! Highlights from our playlist include soon-to-be EV road trip classics like “Electric Avenue” by Eddie Grant, “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson, “Electric Feel” by MGMT, and “Long Way Around” by the Dixie Chicks.

Get a sassy bumper sticker. “This car stops at no gas stations,” “Honk for Clean Air,” and “100% Electric” are our favorites.

Enjoy the accelerator. Driving an EV isn’t just about the tailpipe-free life. It’s also about a really, really smooth drive.

Join the online EV community. Most map apps give you the option to check in and/or leave a review of a charging station. These check-ins can be incredibly useful (like, they tell you if that fast charger you were eyeing is at a business that turns it off after 5pm, or if it’s broken), informative (what to eat at the restaurant next door), and hilarious (just see for yourself). Leave a review to help the next clean car driver like you!

Bring a book. If you need to charge during the day, you may want to bring a book, a downloaded movie, a game, or some friends to help pass the time! Or, find a charging station in a cool part of town that you can explore while your car recharges.

Enjoy your ride!

We went on a Midwest electric vehicle road trip to talk about transportation policy, highlight the already booming benefits of electric vehicles to local economies, and shatter stereotypes about what it means to be an electric vehicle driver. We’re blogging about our findings, including tips for other aspiring roadtrippers and policy suggestions for further progress.

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