How to double the time it takes to take a car trip…

Simple: Buy an EV and download a charger-finder app.

Last year, my wife and son took their annual weekend trip to Cleveland to visit some relatives and go to an Indians’ (err, Guardians’) baseball game.

In prior years, the trip from DC to Cleveland took under 6 hours.

Last year it was over 10.

What changed?

Her gas-efficient Audi A4 was left in the garage.

His Tesla hit the road … and  the hunt for EV chargers started.

Apparently, their experience is neither unique nor time-obsoleted.


A recent WSJ article chronicled a writer’s EV travel from New Orleans to Chicago and back in a shiny new EV.

The Goal: Roundtrip from New Orleans to Chicago and back (2,000 miles) in 4 “leisurely” days.


The plan:

Given our battery range of up to 310 miles, I plotted a meticulous route, splitting our days into four chunks of roughly 7½-hours each.

We’d need to charge once or twice each day and plug in near our hotel overnight.

While we’d be fine overnight, we required fast chargers during the days.


Charging Stops – The Dream 

Fast chargers tend to be located in parking lots of suburban shopping malls, or tethered to gas stations or car dealerships.

ChargePoint — which manufactures and maintains many fast-charging stations — promises an 80% charge in 20 to 30 minutes.

That’s  longer than stopping for gas — but, on the bright side, “it’s good for a bite or bathroom break.”


Charging Stops – The Reality

It turns out not all “fast chargers” live up to the name.

At our dealer’s fast-charging station, our dashboard tells us a full charge, from 18% to 100%, will take 3-plus hours.

Fastest charge: 25 minutes.

Longest “fast” charge : 3 hours

While there are already thousands of charging options between New Orleans and Chicago, most were are classified as Level 2, requiring up to 8 hours for a full charge.

And sometimes, charging stations are only open during business hours at, say, gas stations or car dealerships … or, may require an attendant to turn it on.

And sometimes, you get beat to an advertised “open” charging station by another driver — or get shocked by an unexpected “out of service” sign


The Economics

Over four days, we spent $175 on charging.

We estimated the equivalent cost for gas  would have been $275.

That $100 savings cost us many hours in waiting time.

A gas-fueled 2-day trip can be EVed in 4 days, with some white-knuckle situations along the way.


The Urban Divide

This was a surprise to me…

The car’s highway range actually was worse than its range in cities.

Indeed, highway driving doesn’t benefit as much from the car’s regenerative-braking technology which uses energy generated in slowing down to help a car recharge its battery

But, a battery’s charge can be stretched by using cruise control to  reduce inadvertent acceleration and deceleration … and by:

Turning off the car’s cooling system and the radio, unplugging phones and other devices and lowering the windshield wipers to the lowest possible setting while still being able to see in the rain.

In other words, shelve all of the car’s creature comforts.



PS For added color, read the whole article:

I Rented an Electric Car for a Four-Day Road Trip. I Spent More Time Charging It Than I Did Sleeping.

Scroll down the article for an accompanying video The Electric Vehicle Road Test..

One Response to “How to double the time it takes to take a car trip…”

  1. Daniel Fishman Says:

    Hello. I just checked, it is about 360 miles from Arlington to Shaker Heights. Not sure where in CLE your son was going, so I used Shaker Heights. To get from Arlington to Shaker Heights would have 1 charging stop in Somerset PA. The charger pumps out 250 kWh, so the charging stop would take about 25 mins. This is with highway speeds, AC on, passengers and luggage, etc. (

    I read that article. Their EV has a subpar battery size, lousy charging speeds, and 3rd party networks just aren’t up to par. The Tesla network is incredibly good. There is a big difference between a roadtrip in a Tesla and any other EV. Tesla has stated that they will open up their chargers to other vehicles, which will make things interesting. Tesla owners will be annoyed that they have to wait for other EV brands to finish charging on a Tesla charger. Erodes a MAJOR piece of the Tesla brand’s unique value.

    I have a Tesla, but my next EV will be a Rivian. Why pay a Tesla premium when I can use their supercharger in another vehicle?

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