EV Trip Planner: Guide and Tools

Tesla charging station at night.

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So, you have a sweet new EV you’re hoping to take on that epic road trip you’ve been talking about. EVs can make awesome road trip vehicles, but they do require a little extra prep. You have to take some steps to make sure you don’t end up stranded on Route 66 with a dead car battery and no charger for miles. 

This guide covers all the basics you need to plan a successful EV road trip. From charging tips to emergency prep, here’s what every EV driver should know:

Can You Take an EV on a Road Trip?

Charging infrastructure is the main challenge you’ll have to deal with on an all-electric road trip. Unfortunately, EV chargers are not as common as gas stations, although more are being built every year. As the EV trip planner, you’ll need to map out your route from one charging point to the next. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a great road trip with an EV, though! 

Just take a look at the series Long Way Up on Apple TV. In this road trip show, actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman drive 13,000 miles across South America using only electric vehicles. The electric trucks used in the show are prototype Rivian R1Ts, which are one of the coolest next-gen cars on the market today. 

So, don’t let charging concerns stop you from taking your EV on a road trip! EV trip planning is easier today than it used to be, too. There are many EV trip planner tools and apps available for free that you can use to find chargers along your route. 

How to Prepare for an EV Road Trip

The first step for any EV trip planner is understanding the vehicle you’re working with. Make sure you know what kind of chargers your vehicle can use, including how much power it needs, estimated charging times, and the type of plug it requires. 

You’ll also need to know your EV’s average range. Keep in mind, driving your EV at high speeds for long durations will reduce your range. So, round down when it comes to estimated range between chargers. Range can also be impacted by some weather conditions, such as severe cold. It’s a good idea to check the weather along your route ahead of time so you can be prepared for potentially diminished range. 

Allow at least a 50-mile buffer in your range estimates between charges. For example, if you are driving a Tesla Model S Plaid with an estimated single-charge range of 350 miles, plan to never attempt more than 300 miles between charges. 

Charging Adapters

As the EV trip planner, it’s also your job to make sure you have the right charging gear on hand. There are several different types of chargers and plugs available. Your EV won’t be compatible with all of them so you will probably need at least one adapter. As of 2022, the standard J1772 plug is the most common in U.S. chargers. If your EV does not use this type of plug by default, it’s a good idea to invest in a J1772 adapter. 

There are plenty of EV charger adapters on the market today, which can greatly increase the number of chargers you can use. For instance, Tesla is great about expanding their charging infrastructure. So, if you don’t have a charger, it’s really convenient to have an adapter for Tesla-brand chargers on hand. These are helpful even if you’re not going on a long road trip. 

EV Trip Planner Apps and Websites

There are a number of purpose-made EV trip planner apps and websites you can use to simplify the process of mapping out your route. In fact, your EV’s manufacturer might even include a charging network map in their app. For instance, Tesla users can view a map of charging stations on the same app they use to manage their vehicle. These apps are a great starting point. 

For a more comprehensive view of available charging stations, try a third-party EV trip planner app. For example, EV Navigation allows you to input your specific vehicle model, starting point, and destination. Then it will show you a map of your projected range, including turnaround range and full-battery range. You can also view chargers within both ranges. 

The free PlugShare app is great for mobile users on either iOS or Android. This app provides detailed info for EV charging stations, such as the type of charger and the fees at that charging station. Other users can also review charging stations on PlugShare so you can see if a particular station has frequent technical issues. The app can even show you specific chargers that are available or in use at a given time. 

ChargeHub has a similar charger map for desktop users as well as a mobile app. This EV trip planner has a helpful feature that allows you to see charging stations that are “coming soon” so you can potentially include those. 

All of these apps and websites are fairly similar, so you can simply use the one that you like best. It’s a good idea to have at least one mobile EV trip planner app handy, though. You’ll want a way to find chargers on the road, even if you have a clear charging point route planned out. 

Emergency Prep and Precautions

Finally, the last step every EV trip planner should take is making precautions for emergency situations. You should do this before any road trip, but there are a few special considerations when you’re driving an EV. 

For example, have towing service contact info handy for key points along your route. It might be a good idea to call some towing companies ahead of time to confirm that they have a portable generator. This is what you’ll need to get your car going again if you get stranded with a dead battery. 

Additionally, before leaving, make sure your EV’s software is fully updated. Software updates often include important patches for things like cybersecurity and controls. You don’t want to encounter a software bug on the road where you might not have Internet access. If your EV’s manufacturer has an option to add cell service to your vehicle itself, this may be an investment worth considering. 

If you are concerned about getting stranded far from an EV charging station, you may want to purchase a portable charger ahead of time. Some portable EV chargers are fully-fledged generators. Others are special adapters that allow you to plug your EV into a standard wall socket to charge. This can take over a day to go from zero to full but it’s better than needing to call for a tow. 

You may not need a portable charger, but it can relieve the anxiety that comes with searching for charging stations on the road. An important part of avoiding dead batteries is paying attention to your EV’s battery status. Never ignore battery warnings. Be careful about taking unplanned detours or excursions, as well. Always check for charging stations before breaking away from your planned route. 

EV Trip Planner: Your Guide to an Electic Road Trip

It’s natural to be concerned about using your EV for road trips, but charging networks all over the world have expanded significantly over the past few years. EVs can be great for road trips. You just have to take a few extra steps in your planning process to make sure you have a good time on your trip. The EV trip planning tips in this guide will help you get started mapping out an epic road trip for your electric car, truck or motorcycle.

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