Range anxiety often sits at the forefront of potential electric vehicle (EV) buyers’ minds. Despite the fact that EV mileage and charging infrastructure are rapidly improving, the looming fear that an EV will not take you from Point A to Point B persists in public opinion and in the media. Furthermore, some think that even if their EV does get to the nearest charger on time, they’ll have to sit around for hours on the side of the highway, waiting for their car to become operable again.
Last week, my wife and I put these beliefs to the test on an EV cross-country road trip, during which we traveled 1,230 miles in our Tesla from our hometown in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Washington, D.C. We found that these concerns don’t hold any water. In fact, we never had to wait for the vehicle to charge.
Lincoln, NE → Chicago, IL
On Thursday, August 12, we left Lincoln and headed toward D.C. with a 100% charge. We planned our first stop 189 miles down the road in Des Moines, Iowa, and when we reached the Supercharger at the Hy-Vee grocery store, our battery was still at 40%, exceeding both the car’s initial estimate and our expectations. We stretched our legs and went inside to grab coffee and get lunch. We had expected to eat lunch there as the car charged, but since we reached full battery capacity we ended up taking our food on the road. We didn’t spend a single extra minute waiting for our car to charge.
Although we could have made it from Des Moines to our hotel in Chicago without stopping, we decided to make two more pit stops along the way, in Coralville, IA and then in Peru, IL. Both were practical stops to freshen up, stretch, and switch drivers. We charged up during both of these stops – not because we had to, but because we could. When we arrived in Chicago that night it was nice to know that we travelled 523 miles and not once were we constrained by the car.
Chicago, IL → Washington, D.C.
The second leg of our journey covered 707 miles. Our car Supercharged overnight in Chicago near the hotel, and we left the city with a full battery. Though we could have driven for a full five hours, we made our next stop two hours later at a travel center off I-80 in Indiana, arriving with a 50% charge. We were back on the road 25 minutes later with 85% battery, courtesy of a 250kW charger. At 3:45 pm, we pulled into Strongsville, Ohio with a 25% charge, and left 25 minutes later with an 85% charge after our quick break. We stopped again in Somerset, PA for a coffee with 20% left in the battery and embarked on the road after a short charge to 51% – enough to get us home. We made one last, non-charging stop, in Hagerstown, MD before arriving at our final destination of Washington, D.C. In short, between food, coffee, switching drivers and bathroom breaks, we were the time limiting factors on the trip, not the range or charging needs of the vehicle.
Over the course of our 1,230 mile journey, we never waited for charging at any of our seven stops between Nebraska and D.C. As you can see from this example, EV road trips don’t need to take longer than a road trip in a gas-powered vehicle if pit stops are used intentionally. One may envision running the battery down to 0% and then waiting as it charges back up to 100%, but driving for 5 straight-hours straight is just not how the typical road trip goes. Instead, we utilized the stops we would have already taken on the trip to charge our car incrementally. We made the choice to stop when we were ready and decided which of the next 2-3 Superchargers was best for us to stop at and then we charged while we took our desired, practical breaks.
Not only did our EV road trip take the same amount of time that a gas-powered road trip would have taken us, we also avoided emitting an estimated 520 pounds of climate-warming, asthma-causing emissions, and we saved on fuel costs - the whole trip cost us less than $100 in charging costs.
Our electric future has arrived, and the United States needs a national charging infrastructure landscape that is accessible, convenient, and supported by commercialized locations. All Americans should have the right to enjoy the vast environmental, public health, and economic benefits that EVs provide. Congress needs to act now to ensure that all Americans can benefit from a clean, sustainable transportation system.
At a Glance:
Plan your own EV road trip.