Road tripping: A few important things to know if you’re considering an electric vehicle

Electric vehicle charging. (Photo by Kindel Media.)

It seems as though we’re seeing more and more electric cars on the roads. It’s not surprising, seeing how the vehicles are not only better for the environment, but can reduce fuel costs dramatically.

As we approach the summer months, and we begin daydreaming about the places we can travel, road trips are a relatively easy way to arrive at your destination. Perhaps you’ve considered purchasing or renting some type of electric or hybrid vehicle and wondered what that might look like on a day-to-day basis and on road trips.

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There are a few noteworthy things when it comes to the vehicles, as well as how road tripping might be impacted.

There are different kinds of vehicles.

“Electric vehicle” is kind of a blanket term when it comes to the vehicles that are out there. There are actually a few options, all of which use electricity to improve the car’s efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. They are:

  • Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Powered by an internal combustion engine, these vehicles have an electric motor that uses energy stored within a battery. The vehicle is fueled with gasoline to operate the internal combustion engine, and the battery is charged through regenerative braking, not by plugging in.
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). These vehicles are also powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy that’s stored within a battery. Different from the HEVs, these can operate in all-electric mode. It does, however, require a larger battery, which must be charged by plugging into an electric power source.
  • All-electric vehicles (EVs). Also referred to as battery electric vehicles (BEVs), these have a battery that is charged by plugging the vehicle into charging equipment. All-electric vehicles operate in all-electric mode 100% of the time. There is no fuel required.

How far they’ll go

When hybrid electric vehicles are on the move, they use the fuel source. It is when you brake or stop that the vehicle doesn’t consume as much energy. Since the battery doesn’t need to be charged when it’s stopped, the gasoline engine turns off and you stop burning fuel. So, unlike your typical cars, which get better gas mileage on the highway, the HEV gets better gas mileage when it has more opportunities to use less energy, such as in town, when it’s making more frequent stops.

Plug-in hybrids typically drive 10 to 50 miles on electricity before they begin using solely gasoline, then can drive for about 300 miles (depending on the gas tank size).

Most current all-electric vehicles can drive anywhere from 150 to 300 miles on a charge. Teslas can go about 350 miles on a charge.

Electric vehicle makers have said they plan to produce electric vehicles that will be able to drive longer ranges.

Charging up

One thing you’ll want to consider when using an electric vehicle is how you will charge it. Currently, about 85% of people who own electric cars have charging stations at home or work. Though ideal, the price on them can vary greatly, and maybe you don’t want to spend that money immediately after purchasing on the car.

For anyone without a charging station at home or work, there are public stations across the country. Public stations might be free, pay-as-you-go or subscription-based, with prices set by networks or property owners.

Here’s the thing though, as it relates to travel: There might be fewer charging stations than you anticipate. And it’s smart to plan ahead and map out your stops, since the charging stations won’t be nearly as abundant along roadways as gas stations are.

Below is an interactive map that shows where you can find public charging stations across North America, some of which are super-charging stations:

Loading alternative fueling station locator...

There’s no doubt that electric vehicles are becoming more popular on the roadways. If you have one, what kind of tips do you have for someone new to the game, who might be planning a road trip? Let us know in the comment section below.

About the Author

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.

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