With high gas prices and exciting new EV models on the market, you may be looking for an electric car that scratches your road trip itch. We've got you. We suggest some road trip selection criteria if you're looking for a new EV, and follow up with some best practices for your next journey.
Road Trip Worthy EV Criteria
Recurrent supports over 45 different EV models in the US and hopes to onboard an additional 20 models that carmakers plan to launch this year. If you’re looking for an EV good for road trips, the most important thing to consider before hitting the road are range and charging speed.
As with any road trip car, it's also good to think about cargo space. Since many early EVs were compact, our recommendations are mostly roomy cars for this reason.
It’s critical to familiarize yourself with the EV prior to a long drive to avoid being blindsided by any variance in range that accompanies extreme temperature or terrain. We recommend underestimating the expected range and choosing an EV that has a range of over 300 miles. At highway speeds, you will get less range than when running around town, so it’s important to choose an EV that will set you up for success. Charging stations may be far apart on your journey, so in addition to a strong range, you should map out your charging plans.
Please keep in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends stopping every 2-3 hours and avoiding driving more than 8 hours per day. Frequent stops dramatically improves safety by reducing driver fatigue and distraction. They also mean that your range may not matter as much as your charging speed.
As you make your charging plan, we highly suggest creating back-up or contingency plans to prepare for unexpectedly closed or failed charging stations. Your car may also be equipped with on-board route planners that include chargers. The US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center website hosts a map pinpointing electric vehicle charging stations across the country. Apps like Plugshare or A Better Route Planner are also great to have on your phone. You can filter results by charger types, connectors, and can search by location.
Be sure to know your car’s voltage charging capacity, and if you have a high charge speed, look for high voltage chargers along the way. For example, if your car has a capacity for 150 kW, you won’t be able to take advantage of that speed if you can only find 50 kW chargers. Remember that the length of your charging stops depends on the charging speed, so if you only have access to Level 2 or 50 kW chargers, you’ll need to plan for longer stops.
We’ve written here all about how fast you can charge EVs in 2022.
Of note, DC Fast Chargers can stress EV batteries. Of course you'll need to fast charge on your road trip, but to help keep your battery healthy and promote a long battery life, stop fast charging at 80% capacity. A lot of charging stations have Level 2 chargers where you can “top off” your car’s battery past 80%. Since most cars throttle fast charge speeds above 80%, it is often faster to switch to a Level 2 charger once you hit that point.
Pro tip: Try to make the most of your charging times. If there are no errands to run or sights to see near a charger, bring a book, portable speaker, or yoga mat for stretching. Making the most of your charging time can enhance being present on the journey!
Here are some popular roadtrip models with data you need to know:
Tesla Model Y
The Tesla Model Y is like a Model 3 hatchback with an option for a ‘child-sized’ third row. Considered a crossover SUV, the Model Y holds more cargo and has some extra interior space than its sedan counterpart – perfect for a road trip. Some reviewers have been disappointed by its handling, and critics propose that the Model Y doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the 3, other than its roomier cargo space. Nonetheless, it has taken the spot of top selling EV.
Much like other models, the Model Y hosts nearly every function through the large, slim, infotainment display in the middle of the dashboard – everything from climate control to the speedometer is shown on this display. Additionally, the Model Y offers Tesla’s advanced autopilot driving system with safety and assistance features to help you on a long trip. One team member also notes that Teslas come equipped with “caraoke” which is a great perk for longer trips and really helps get into the road trip spirit.
The estimated driving range of a Model Y depends on the year and trim but generally falls between 240 and 330 miles. All trims of the Model Y come with a single battery size of 75 kWh. The Model Y can go from 0-80% charge in 20 mins with a 210kW charger, 30 mins with a 120kW, and 1.2 hours with a 50kW. As always, all these speeds are under ideal conditions, so if you’re in a rush, pad your charge breaks.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
The Hyundai IONIQ 5 is Hyundai’s newest electric car, built ground up on a new platform shared by the Kia EV6. It has won design awards around the world, has lightning fast charging, and has helped bring EVs into a more mainstream conversation. Like Tesla, Hyundai built out its own highway assist software, which the Ioniq Guy tests out.
The IONIQ 5 comes with a 58 or 77.4 kWh battery and an estimated range of 220 or 303 miles. The Hyundai IONIQ 5 starts under $40K for the Standard Range version, and $44 for the Extended Range. It qualifies for the $7500 federal tax credit when purchased new, and is a great value EV with generous cargo space, efficient use of electricity, and advanced driving aids and technology.
The IONIQ 5 has the ability to recharge from 10% to 80% in only 18 minutes when charging from a 350 kW DC fast charger, and also when the battery is warm. While this is an impressive, industry-leading charge speed, drivers should note that it’s hard to find 350 kW chargers. A quick search on Charge Finder shows that the maximum charge speed near Brooklyn, New York, is a single 250 kW Tesla charger at the airport. The maximum charge speed for other companies in the area is 150 kW.
The 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E is a handsome and sporty all-electric SUV crossover, offering both performance and range, as well as a well-appointed cabin and loads of in-car tech. Zipping from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.2 seconds, this wagon-like hatchback/SUV crossover is pleasingly quick. The Mach-E now offers all-wheel-drive options, plenty of range with a larger battery pack, a big center touchscreen that is easy to use, and a substantial amount of cargo space.
Not to be outdone by its competitors, Ford launched a competitor to Tesla’s autopilot in mid-2021 called BlueCruise. This is an add-on to the preexisting Ford Co-Pilot360 software that includes lane assist, collision warning and braking, and blind spot monitoring.
The Mach-E was released in 2021 with a standard 68 kWh battery and an optional 88 kWh extended pack before being upgraded to either 70 kWh or 91 kWh of usable battery. It boasts between 211 and 315 miles range at full charge, depending on configuration. The higher performance, all-wheel drive trims generally get lower range because they are less efficient. Ford says the standard-range pack can charge from 10 to 80 percent in 38 minutes, while the extended-range pack can charge from 10 to 80 percent in 45 minutes.
For completeness, we're including the impressive Rivian R1T on this list, even though deliveries have been off to a slow start. This electric truck is billed as an "electric adventure vehicle" and gets between 260 and 400 miles of range. While the Rivian is too new for us to have observational data on real world range, the estimated range numbers leave plenty of room for long trips. The real road trip perks, however, are the 11,000 lb. towing capacity, the ability to wade in up to 3 feet of water, a panoramic roof, and 62 cubic feet of storage. Add in the optional camping kitchen , rooftop crossbars, and tent and you're ready for more rugged road tripping than the standard hotels and roadside diners.
Despite its adventure focus, Rivian comes standard with safety features such as lane assist, collision prevention, and blind spot monitoring. The company promises additional safety and software updates over-the-air, as well. Finally, the R1T can charge at up to 200 kW, meaning that you can add 140 miles in 20 minutes. Rivian is also building out its own proprietary charging network called the "Adventure Network," which will be 100% powered by renewable energy. It is also CCS compatible, so you can use other chargers along your route.
Road trips with other cars are doable, but come with some compromises
The Nissan LEAF, released in 2011, is generally considered the first widely available EV. Although the original range was only around 70 miles, it has come a long way. Starting in 2018, the LEAF was revamped to include a larger, 40 kWh battery, and the option to upgrade to the Plus version, which has a 62 kWh battery. The LEAF may be great if you don’t expect 100% highway driving, as it can exceed rated efficiency when driven conservatively.
The compromise: On a road trip with a LEAF, you may have to stop more frequently, even with the 226 EPA mile Plus version. However, the smaller battery means that recharging takes only around 30 minutes.
The Chevy Bolt may be another good option. The Bolt has great range (238-259 EPA rated) but limited DC fast charging (only around 50-55 kW speed). It is offered both in the traditional hatchback, as well as a crossover “EUV” option with extra space for snacks and suitcases.
The compromise: The Bolt has limited DC fast charge speeds, so expect only about 100 miles per 30 minutes. If you’re doing shorter legs for your road trip and can charge overnight or during tourist excursions, this shouldn’t be a problem.
We already listed the Hyundai Ioniq 5 as a road trip superstar, but they are still hard to find. A more common option is the Hyundai Kona, which has a lot of similarities to the Bolt in terms of range and size. Plus, drivers who got a new 2021+ Kona benefit from Hyundai’s partnership with Electrify America. This included 250 kWh of free charging - enough for around 1,000 miles of driving.
The compromise: The Kona makes the same compromise as the Bolt. If you plan for an hour of recharge time, you won’t be disappointed when the Kona doesn’t maintain its 70 kW peak charge time for very long.
EV Road Trip Tips
Once you have the perfect EV, we have some tips to get the most from your road trip.
- Be strategic about charging breaks. As you’re planning your charging breaks, make sure to maximize the time for additional needs including food, bathroom breaks, and local scenery or activities.
- Call ahead to make sure the charging stations advertised by hotels and accommodations actually exist. We’ve heard reports of hotels listing chargers when they are still being built.
- Don’t schedule too tightly. When it comes to EV driving, it’s best to plan ahead and be flexible about your arrival times. If you do have a tight schedule, pad your estimates.
- Plan ahead for payment. Make accounts and figure out payment with different charging companies before you leave in case you don’t have cell service on the road.
- Check your tires. EV or not, it’s always best practice to check your tire pressure before driving long distances.
- Plan for the worst case scenario. Make a backup charging plan. Perhaps consider investing in a backup generator if you’re going far afield from civilization, and bring extra snacks, a camping light, and spare tires.
- Consider your load and how it will impact your range.
- In hot weather, park in the shade. Help keep your battery cool by parking in the shade or in a garage. Keep cool with your air conditioner (the AC won’t hurt your range nearly as much as the heat in the winter, so feel free to stay cool).
- Precondition. Adjusting your cabin temperature while your car is still plugged in is a great way to maximize range and be more comfortable on the long drive.
- Have fun! There’s nothing like a good road trip – go get ‘em! And make sure to pre-download your favorite tunes and route in case you lose cell service on the open road.
Planning a Winter Road Trip?
Most of our top choices remain the same, but it should be stated that some electric cars handle the cold weather better than others. If you think you’ll be hitting some cold climates on an upcoming road trip, be sure to review our winter range study.