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Published on January 28th, 2016 | by Cynthia Shahan


10 Tips For EV Charging On Road Trips

January 28th, 2016 by  

One thing I notice when passersby express interest in how long it takes me to charge the Nissan LEAF is that I don’t count minutes — even hours. I don’t pay attention to my clock when charging during a typical week. I stay active. I charge while I am going to the library, the store, the post, or for a walk. The LEAF is most often fully charged when I return. If I do have a long trip and charge more, I finally make the time to read. Or I write — as in this case, about tips for EV charging on road trips.

A road trip is another experience. I’m not working with a Tesla — that is a charging story entirely different with so much more range. Still, whatever kind of EV one drives, here are some traveling and charging ideas.

1. Drive Slower. Driving Fast Increases Charging Time.

Regardless of whether one is driving a Tesla or a LEAF, one thing holds true — the faster one drives, the more energy one uses, the longer time one spends charging. Driving slower to conserve range is not always possible. Traffic dictates this. To be safe, one is wise to go with the speed of flowing traffic, so the choice is limited during rush hour. You can sometimes choose slower routes, though. It is time-saving to “build trees” and regenerate while traveling, rather than speeding along merely to sit and charge.


2. Thinking of a Place to Stay on the Way?

For the outdoorsy type, perhaps invest in one of those hammocks with a roof and sleep under the trees while you charge up. Sounds a bit more healthy that nighttime cat naps in the EV as I have done. Or consider the ground at a safe campsite and soak up some scalar waves for your immune system. There are more blogs to explore if you are prone or interested in the outdoors and camping with an EV. Explore directories and blogs from EV campers for more tips on this front.


3. Pack an Extension Cord

I have not done this yet, but I have read of others doing it. It sounds doable — possibly a conversation piece. An interested but not-yet-sold EV enthusiast may ask why you are running a cord out of the window of you lodgings, and then you can go from there waxing poetic on the benefits of EVs. Talking with interested and potential EV drivers is generally a positive thing. I had a young student come up to talk to me about the LEAF just yesterday. The pre-driving-age person is already finding out the particulars and desiring to drive EVs. He was quite impressed when I started the LEAF and we heard nothing but the quiet of our conversation. Think of relaxed lodgings where they won’t mind the cord running from your room (hostels, B&Bs) — or plan to stay at someone’s house on route to charge overnight.

4. Build Your Relationship To The Range of Your EV; Know Your Car

Don’t think someone else’s experience is yours. Building your relationship to the range of your car means paying attention to the car’s response. Know what driving saves range, what driving regenerates range, and what sucks it all up. Becoming in tune takes a few weeks or more. I was so conservative initially that my typically 84-range LEAF was charging to a projected 120 miles due to my driving style. Things have changed, as I drive the high-speed interstate here and there along with climbing a steep bridge more often now. Again, if planning an out-of-town trip, try to go the smaller roads and regenerate range, but also find out if there are hills, bridges, and high-speed routes on your way that may make saving range difficult — so you plan to charge sooner. And, perhaps most importantly, get familiar with what such routes will do to your estimated range.

5. Make Sure Your Apps are Downloaded and Working

Apps such as ChargePoint, PlugShare, and Greenlots make it so easy to plan. Just keep your phone charged, and make sure your apps are working well beforehand, because you may need to use them while on the go….

6. Find Several Charging Options around any Location Where You Plan to Charge

Consider that you may get to your first choice for EV charging at a given point along the route and suddenly discover it has been decommissioned. Or the spot is full of other EVs. Or someone in a gas car has parked there. Or someone in an EV which is not even charging is still there. Don’t be down to the end of a charge without charge to get to another station. (Also, make an effort never to park in an EV spot more than one’s charging time, so you don’t put others in such a situation.)

Check out several nearby PlugShare charging stations before choosing a charging option. Read the logs to note if they are working. Call EV spots to check if there’s not enough info on the app.

There is a helpful log of users who keep you aware if the charger of your choice was working during their last check-in. If you need to be sure, there are generally phone numbers to call and check ahead of time, to make sure it is working if you are low on the charge without driving to the exact spot.

7. Try Not to Go below ~15 Miles of Range

That is about 20% battery range on a new LEAF. While it helps to speed recharging rate if you are low on battery, it’s generally better to not have to stress or, potentially, even run out of charge.

8. Try a Tricky Charger Several Times if it Does Not Work the 1st Time

A few times, I had to try a couple of times to start a charger, and it did finally get a response. Usually, there is a number you can call with someone on the other end who can solve the problem as well — if you don’t get a charge from a charger. Be persistent.

9. Practice EV Etiquette.

Neatly return the cord to the charger port. Wind the cord up if necessary, and make sure it is not laying where someone might trip on it. Again, don’t park for longer than necessary at a charger, and if your car has the capability to be unplugged by someone else, leave a note that someone can unplug you when you’re done charging if you’re not around.

10. Choose a CHAdeMO DC Fast Charger or Other Fast Charger, if Possible, to Save Time on Trips

Choose a route to take advantage of the faster chargers if they are on the way and your car is compatible with them.

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Related Stories:

PlugShare 101 (EV Obsession Video)

Recharging Electric Cars In RV Campgrounds — A Look At Costs

New Report Outlines Policy Pathway For Northeast & Mid-Atlantic States To Get More EVs On The Road

Charging A LEAF At Charging Stations — Level One, Level Two, & CHAdeMO DC


  1. Cynthia Shahan — Dash of Nissan LEAF that has driven 30 miles, regenerating about 21 miles on the way.
  2. Rupa Panda (Peace and Solitude) via Foter.com/ CC BY-SA
  3. All remaining images by Cynthia Shahan

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan is an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

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