When Tesla began installing its supercharger network in 2014, they made bold claims about Tesla drivers being able to go cross country without running out of charge. Now, nine years later, with a bit of planning and a good charging app, virtually any electric vehicle (EV) can criss-cross the United States without range anxiety.
Before you go on your EV roadtrip
Whether you’re heading to a national park, to visit family or just taking in some wide-open spaces, here are the keys to a smooth EV road trip.
Know your EV's range
The most important pre-trip piece of information you can have is your EV's true highway range capabilities at the speed you’re planning to travel. It’s extra helpful to know how that range is affected by using your heating or air conditioning, and by long stretches of uphill driving.
Check the in-dash display for the car’s average range. Sometimes that will be shown simply as average range, other times it will be average miles per kWh. If it is, just google the make and model of your car and “kWh” to find your car’s battery size, then multiply that by the average miles per kWh.
If you want to get a bit more detailed, you could multiply that number by 0.8 to tell you about your average range at 80% charge—that’s an important threshold for public charging we’ll go into more detail on later in this post.
Say you’re driving a 2023 Nissan Leaf. Your calculations would look something like this:
3.33mi/kWh average * 40 kWh battery * 0.8 = 106 miles of range on an 80% charge
If you’re renting a car for your EV roadtrip, the best way to figure out its range with climate control on or across steep grades is to search around on the internet. Reputable sources like Car and Driver are constantly testing EV range when subjected to these conditions.
Get comfortable with an EV charging app
Download and familiarize yourself with the Enel X Way App; it will make everything much easier. Especially if you’ve never paid to charge at a public EV charger, the app will be your best friend on the road. The Enel X Way App takes your car’s make and model and filters stations by compatibility, saving you from a lot of guesswork and googling. By inputting payment information before you go, you can pay to charge with a single tap as soon as you pull up to an available charger. The app will also store your payment history, so you can track how much filling up cost across your trip.
Plan your route
The Enel X Way App lets you input a route (e.g., Chicago to Milwaukee) and suggests charging stations along it based on your starting charge and range. If you have enough range to drive a full day without recharging, plugging in where you’re staying overnight is the least hassle. You can find free Level 2 charging included with hotel and resort rooms all across the country, and the Enel X Way App can help show you available ones along your route.
Similarly, iOS 17 will allow iPhone users to input their EV make and model and preferred charging network in Apple Maps to see real-time EV charger availability. While in beta mode it only shows charger compatibility for two EV models (the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Porsche Taycan), any EV driver can see how many chargers are available at any public charging point in the US. The Enel X Way App and Apple Maps, and other EV charging apps are constantly improving their user experience to make on-the-go charging easier.
If you’re planning to stay at an Airbnb, they now let you filter by bookings that offer EV charging on site. Even if you’re camping, the National Parks Service offers this EV charging map to help you find campsites where you can top up while you sleep.
If the plan is to crash with friends and family, you’ve got two options: trickle charge from a standard household outlet and take a day off of driving to let your EV recharge or stop at a public charger on your route.
Remember to download offline maps before you head out. Especially in areas with weak or no cell reception, offline maps will give you peace of mind as you navigate to your next charge.
Know how long it takes to charge
Understanding the charging speeds for Level 2 vs. Level 3 DC fast chargers will give you a great sense of charge times for the different public EV chargers out there, and help you make a more realistic route plan.
Even if you’re at a DC fast charger (the top-speed chargers dotting America’s highway offramps), if you pull in with your batteries almost drained, you’ll be parked for at least 20 minutes to get to an 80% charge.
With slower chargers, it could take an hour or more to get you back on the road. So use the Enel X Way App to plan charging breaks that can coincide with meals, shopping or sightseeing.
On the road
Charging station etiquette
Public charging stations—like gas stations—are often partially or completely full, especially during rush hour. Unlike gas stations, you can see how many chargers are available in real time on the Enel X Way App. With that knowledge, head to charging stations where there are multiple open and functioning chargers. Then try to unplug as soon as you’re sufficiently charged. This can be a little harder to time than pulling away from a gas pump when you’re finished pumping, since you’ll likely be eating, shopping or taking in the scenery. If you’ve done your pre-trip homework though, you should know roughly how long it’ll take to charge. You can also check your charging status on the Enel X Way App no matter how far you are from your vehicle, as long as you have cell service.
Regenerative braking acceleration
Almost all EVs are equipped with regenerative braking, a technology that uses the turning wheels to help recharge the car’s batteries by creating friction, thus slowing the car down. If you’ve never driven with regenerative braking, it can take a bit of getting used to. It’s an excellent way to extend your range though, especially when heading down long or steep hills.
The other great way to get the most from your batteries is smooth driving at the speed limit, just like you were taught for conserving fuel. Rapid acceleration—as much fun as it is in an EV—drains the batteries much faster. Rapid deceleration steals potential energy from the regenerative braking system and minimizes how much power gets returned to the batteries. The faster you drive on the highway, the lower your range. Keep it at the speed limit and you’ll find you can go substantially farther on a charge.
Dealing with extremes on your EV roadtrip
Any roadtrip may run into extreme weather and road conditions. Here's how to power your EV through these challenges.
Extreme weather conditions will affect your EV's range, especially extreme cold or hot temperatures. Plan accordingly, and if possible, preheat or precool the vehicle while connected to a charging station to minimize the impact on battery performance.
Climbing steep hills or driving in mountainous areas will significantly impact your EV's range. Take into account the elevation changes along your route and plan your charging stops accordingly to ensure you have enough range to reach the next charging station.
Hit the road
The federal government is spending more than $5B on public DC fast chargers between now and 2030, and businesses of all kinds are installing Level 2 chargers in hopes of attracting road trippers. So hit the road, and charge smart!