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Your electric car is more than capable of an extended road trip, but your travel plans will be different in many ways, including battery maintenance, recharging stops and accounting for different weather conditions. It’s entirely possible to use an EV for your next road trip now, and this Tesla trip planner is here to help. Here are some must-know tips to make your electric car road trip go as smoothly as possible.
Know Your Range
The first step in the Tesla trip planning process is to review your range. While there are more charging stations popping up virtually every day, they’re still far less common than gas stations. You’ll need to know how far you can go between charges to plan the best route.
EVs today have an average range of 234 miles, and many newer models can go farther. The 200-mile mark can provide a solid baseline, but be sure to check your owner’s manual for your specific car’s range.
Keep in mind that these figures are maximum ranges, so you may be unable to go that far between charges in practice. Take your car’s range, subtract 50 miles and use that figure to plan your charging stops just to be safe.
Remember that things may not go according to plan. There could be heavy traffic, some routes may be shut down and some charging stations may be temporarily unavailable. These unexpected situations can throw a wrench in your plans, so have some backups and be ready to adapt if necessary.
Protecting Your Battery
Charging needs and availability are the focus of any good Tesla trip planner. Protecting your vehicle’s lithium-ion battery will be the most challenging part of your EV trip. Its battery life will fluctuate depending on many factors, including your driving habits and the outside temperature. Let’s start with some basic tips for planning your charging stops and keeping your battery in good health.
Rest Your Battery Before Charging
When you’re done driving for the day, turn off your EV and let the battery rest for 10-15 minutes. The battery has been working hard, so you need to allow a brief recovery period before hooking it up to a power source. This step helps prevent the battery from overheating or overcharging, preserving its long-term health.
Don’t Charge to 100%
Charging to 100% isn’t always good for EVs, or any electronics for that matter. EVs that constantly get charged to 100% often have shorter life spans because they work harder to contain that much power. You’re already straining the battery on your electric car road trip to begin with, so you should avoid charging to 100%.
Whenever you pull over to recharge, aim for 80 to 90%. EV batteries tend to operate better at medium-high power than at full or low. The device is less likely to overheat, and as a bonus, you’ll spend less time at each charging station.
Charge the Slow Way
Today’s EVs have access to direct current fast charging (DC fast charging) stations, which can charge the battery from 0 to 100 in just 20 minutes. This feature seems convenient for long road trips, but it could decrease the car’s range and force you to make more frequent stops.
It’s better to charge the slow way. Your EV is more accustomed to the steady power surge of the standard charging method. However, you can still use the fast charging mode when no other options are nearby during your trip.
How to Plan Charging Stops
Planning your charging stops is the key to your road trip’s success. EV charging stations fall into three levels, each with their own costs and charging speeds.
- Level 1: operates at 120 volts and charges about three to five miles per hour. It’s too slow for charging in most road trip situations.
- Level 2: creates 208 to 240 volts of power. Hybrid vehicles can go from 0 to 100 as quickly as one hour, while it takes four to 10 hours for strictly electric vehicles to charge from 0 to 100.
- Level 3: charges up to 20 miles per minute using direct current (DC) voltage. This level is the most common option at public EV charging stations.
Level 2 chargers should be your top priority during your road trip. Level 3 might be quicker, but you have to remember the downsides of DC fast charging. Your battery’s long-term health is more important than spending less time at the station. Only use level 3 chargers if you’re pressed for time or can’t access another location.
Because you can’t predict your battery’s range each time, you should use an EV travel app to find nearby charging stations and map out the fastest route. Some apps also have price and wait time comparison features, which can prove extremely useful on a long road trip. Remember that you don’t necessarily need a dedicated charging station to recharge your EV. Some AirBnBs or other lodging areas may let you plug your car in to charge it overnight.
EV-Friendly Driving Habits
vulnerable to outside influences, you can still practice efficient driving habits to maximize the battery’s range and keep it healthy. Some also apply to gas-powered vehicles:
- Avoid sudden braking or acceleration.
- Use your EV’s regenerative braking function to save power.
- Keep your tires properly inflated.
- Pack light so your EV carries minimal weight.
- Use the air conditioning sparingly.
- Take the most direct route possible to reduce the battery’s runtime.
- Park in cool, shady areas
While EVs require less ongoing care than gas cars, they still need some regular maintenance you should take care of before leaving. Ensuring everything’s in top condition will help you get closer to your maximum range. Your electric car road trip will go swimmingly if you stick to these habits and keep the battery in good shape. However, extreme weather conditions can throw a wrench in your plans.
Watch Out for Extreme Temperatures
Extreme heat and extreme cold can drastically affect your EV’s performance. Here are the standard protocols for driving your EV in these adverse conditions.
EVs can lose up to 20% of battery range when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you blast the car’s heating system to stay warm, this mistake also drains precious power. It’s better to bundle up and drive with the heat on low — or off altogether — rather than cranking up the heat. Look at expected temperatures along your route for the time of year you’re planning to drive. Accounting for any range drops ahead of time will save you a big headache when you hit the road.
Extreme heat affects your EV’s performance in a similar way, draining the battery’s energy faster than usual. The only thing you can do to combat the heat is to park your car in cool, shaded areas. Parking garages are the most ideal places. Keep these spots in mind every time you stop, whether it’s for food or a bathroom break.
You should also avoid using too much A/C because it is a huge battery drainer and will make you stop to recharge much more frequently. Tolerate the heat and keep the A/C on low.
Drive Your EV With Confidence
Your electric car road trip might have unfamiliar maintenance and travel requirements, but they’re nothing you can’t handle. With this Tesla trip planner at your side, you can plan the best EV road trip possible. Whether you’re taking your own EV out on the road or renting one, turn to this guide to make sure you get where you want quickly, safely and while having fun. Keep these tips in mind and you can drive your EV with the utmost confidence in its performance.