Taking Long Winter Road Trips in an EV

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Driving an electric vehicle (EV) is a delight. They have instant, powerful, and smooth acceleration. There is almost no need to go to a mechanic for maintenance, and it’s so easy to just plug the car into the outlet in my garage and walk away, rather than shivering in the cold as the tank fills up with gasoline. On the other hand, we never had to worry about having to find a gas station within a reasonable distance, whereas as of now, there are relatively few high speed charging stations. As a result,  we all can suffer from range anxiety – or charger anxiety –  especially before a long trip in the colder months.

We took a winter trip to Ithaca NY, a distance of 332 miles from home. It was clear that we could not get there without recharging en route. And we also had to factor in the reduced range in winter, especially for highway driving. In summer months, driving around town, I can drive well over 300 miles before recharging , but in winter, driving at highway speeds, the range of my car is reduced to about 225 miles on a full battery (much less than the EPA estimated range of 259 miles for my Bolt EV).

Once we figured out the likely range of our car, the next step was to find out where the fast charging stations were on my route, which is easy to do with apps such as PlugShare. Fast chargers use direct current (DC) and high voltage to charge the battery and can add about 100 miles of range to my car in 30 minutes. However, when the battery gets to 80% capacity, the charging rate slows because it takes more effort to push the electrons into the battery as it gets closer to capacity.  

In the app, we found that there are several fast charging options in Albany, NY, which is about 170 miles from where we live, so that was well within our estimated range. The next option was in Oneonta, another 80 miles down the road. That was too far away from home in winter, but knowing it was there could be useful if we needed an extra stop on the way. And in Ithaca, we found a Chevy dealer with a fast charger not far from where we were staying. So, we concluded that with these fast charging options, we would be able to make the trip with a minimum of range anxiety. That being said, we were surprised by the relative lack of fast charging options available on this route. 

However, confident that we knew how far we could travel before recharging, and knowing  where we could charge , the journey went smoothly. We stopped in Albany at aWalmart Supercenter where Electrify America has installed a bank of fast chargers. Then, after about 45 minutes of charging we drove on to Oneonta, where we stopped for about 20 minutes at an EVolve NY bank of fast chargers while we made use of the bathroom and picked up a cup of coffee before driving on to Ithaca through pretty countryside and gently falling snow. 

Altogether, everything went well and we had a very pleasant Christmas celebration with family and friends. On the way back, we again stopped at Albany, this time for about 45 minutes. From there we drove to the Auburn Shopping Center, where there is another bank of Electrify America chargers, just to give the battery a boost to drive the last few miles to Cambridge to drop off family members and then home to Concord. 

This trip was longer than we had ever done before in an EV. But by finding convenient places to charge before we began, our range anxiety was non-existent and we were happy we made the trip. Luckily, things will get easier, as more and more fast chargers are installed across the country. For example, the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $5 billion to help states install EV chargers along interstate highways. Individual states are stepping up to the mark, too. Massachusetts has deployed grants worth $13 million to install 306 fast charging stations throughout the state. Concord received one of those grants, which will help fund the installation of a fast charging station at Rideout Park by summer of 2023!