road sign for EV charging station

Although charging an electric vehicle (EV) at home or work can be very convenient, plugging in while on the road has some additional benefits. Most new models of EVs have ranges of at least 150 miles per charge. Charging on the road increases the range of the vehicle, making it possible to go longer distances.

For drivers of plug-in hybrid vehicles (that run either in electric or gas mode), charging on the go allows you to use the all-electric mode for longer. Many of these models have all-electric ranges of less than 30 miles per charge and rely on gasoline to fill in the gaps. Depending on driving habits, charging while on the road may be essential for driving primarily in electric mode — and reducing gas consumption.

Most public charging stations are Level 2 EV chargers that use 240-volt currents. These units typically provide 10 to 60 miles of charge for every hour of charging time. It is crucial to find a charger that is compatible with your vehicle. In many cases, the chargers are located in priority parking spots, offering an additional perk for using the EV chargers.

Download EV Charger Apps

Easy-to-access charging information is indispensable when you’re on the road, especially when traveling to lesser-known areas. Smartphones can be very helpful in gaining this information. Alternative fueling station locators help drivers plan trips around available chargers, and several apps can connect drivers to local information on chargers while they’re on the road.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory charging app provides useful information for iPhone users. The PlugShare and ChargeHub apps are popular for Android and iPhone users. Some Tesla models have an in-car navigation system that includes information on charging locations.

Plan Out Long-distance Trips With EVs

Long-distance trips will require stops to charge if the distance is longer than the range of the electric vehicle. So, when driving outside of the EV range, it is helpful to plan your route around charging locations. You can often find EV chargers near shopping centers, entertainment areas, and restaurants. Whenever possible, plan your meals, shopping trips, visits to attractions, time outdoors, and coffee breaks around EV charging locations to avoid wasting time.

In general, big cities tend to have more chargers than rural areas but this trend is gradually changing. Also, keep in mind that some cities are more friendly towards EVs than others.

Find a Hotel With an EV Charger

Charging your EV overnight is extremely convenient. As a result, some hotels are trying to fill in the gaps in the charging infrastructure by offering EV chargers for guests. For example, more than 3,000 Marriott Hotels have EV chargers, and more than half of Destination Hotels participate in Tesla’s destination charging program.

“We regularly receive positive reviews from incoming visitors that use the charging stations, whether it’s simply to dine at our restaurants or guests staying overnight,” said Jamie Sabatier, CEO of Two Roads Hospitality, the parent company of Destination Hotels.

Be Realistic About Your EV’s Range

Although your car has a stated range, it might be shorter in real-world conditions. Cold weather, in particular, can shorten your EV’s range. A recent study by AAA shows that vehicle range could drop by 41 percent when the temperature was 20 degrees and the cabin heater was used. The range dropped by only 12 percent at the same temperature when the heater was off, but this could be uncomfortable for drivers and passengers, especially without weather-appropriate clothing.

“As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range,” says Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering.

Do you have tips for charging an electric vehicle on the road?

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.