Tips for Stress Free Charging on Road trips with EVs

Before you begin the trip

Successful preparations begin before you even leave on the trip.

Sign up for Charging Networks

We can use either credit cards or charge card or phone NFC or app at most chargers.  So why not use credit cards?  In my experience, at a lot of the chargers’ credit  card readers don’t work or broken.  So having the charging app on your phone can be very useful.

Sign up for the network and download the app.  You can start charging and manage charging right from your phone.

Also keep your credit card handy too.  Some charging locations won’t have good cell phone coverage, so you won’t be able to use the app.  Swipe your credit card to start charging.

In US, these are the most common fast charging networks

And install the charging apps on your phone

and make sure you can log on.  Last thing you want is be at a charger and not being able to log in to the app 🙂   I use the amazing password manager 1Password – so I never have to remember another password.

Do a local test charge

Before hitting the road, it is highly recommended to make sure you can access the charging networks.

Go to a local charger and do a test charge.

Trip Planning Apps

This is an important step in getting a sense of charging options for your trip.

These apps are highly recommended

I really like to use Plugshare website, to map my route.  And only show ‘fast chargers’.  This gives me a sense of my charging options.

Let’s see an example.

On left we have the overall view from San Jose to Lake Tahoe.  This route has tons of fast chargers!  Hwy 80 has more chargers than Hwy 50.

On right you see San Francisco to Los Angeles.  Hwy 5 (a popular route) has plenty of chargers along the way.  Hwy 99, which traverses California Central Valley seems to have more chargers.  Hwy 1 seems to be very sparse.

 

Fast chargers San Jose to Lake Tahoe

 

Fast Chargers from SF to LA (Hwy 5, 101 and 99)

 

On the road

Ok, so you have done the prep and you are on the road.  Here are some tips during the trip.

Choosing a Charger

Number of chargers

When choosing a charging stop, choose a spot that has more than a single charger.  More the merrier.  Because more than often, chargers can be out of action, or not available (some one is charging).  It is good to have choices.

Plugshare app will list how many chargers are available on a location.

Location

Fast charging can take anywhere from 30 mins to an hour.  I like to choose locations that may have a cafe or restaurants nearby.  So you can get a drink or bite to eat, while the car is charging.

I use Plugshare app to see what is around.  It also has user comments on charging locations.  Use them.

When to Charge

Most cars charge the fastest from 30% to 80%.  When choosing a charging location, plan to arrive at the charger around 30-40% charge left.

Even though it may be tempting to arrive with low charge (below 20%), I would resist that.  What if the chargers are not working and you have to drive to next charging location.

Most fast chargers will significantly slow down charge speed, after 70-80%.   So charging beyond that isn’t probably worth the time spent.  Plus most fast chargers might charge a time-based fee, so you will end up paying for too little extra charge.

While Charging

There are some tricks to use while charging to maximize your charging experience.

For example, on cool winter times, turn up the heater to heat the car, while charging.  Heating will use a lot of energy.  So maximize the heating while charging, so you can run the heater less during driving, and save energy.

Likewise, on hot summers, turn on the AC while charging.  Make the car a little extra cold, so you can run the AC less during the drive.

Most electric cars have option to remotely start the car and adjust temperature controls.  So you can do this, even when you are at a cafe or restaurants.

Efficient Driving – Mind the Speed

Most EVs efficient driving speed is 55 mph – 60 mph.  How ever this might be too slow on interstate high ways.  For example, on Hwy 5 (From SF – to LA) most people drive at 70mph + (some even 100mph + 🙂 .  And you don’t want to be driving at 55 mph while a semi truck is barreling down on you 🙂

Here are some driving tips:

  • If you have time to spare, drive a little slower.  Strive to drive around 55 mph – 65 mph.  But please don’t hold up traffic
  • Move to slower lane and drive a bit slower
  • Don’t speed up / brake suddenly.  Try to drive as smoothly as possible.  Anticipate slowdowns ahead and coast to slow down.  EVs have great regen braking and the battery will recharge.

Conserving Battery

In addition to driving conservatively you can save power by following the tips below

Heating

Heating uses significant energy. Here is how you can save on heating

  • minimize the use of cabin heating.  If only one person is driving, it is kind of waste to warm up the entire cabin
  • Use seat heater; it uses much less energy than heating up the entire cabin
  • wear warm cloths 🙂
  • And crank up heating to ‘pre-heat’ the cabin while charging

Cooling / AC

  • crank up the AC during charging, to ‘pre-cool’ the cabin

To sum it up

With all these tips, you can enjoy a smoother road trip!

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