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Road trips have been a staple in American society since the early 1900s when the world was first introduced to the automobile and given a new opportunity to explore. Initially, only the wealthy were able to enjoy the pleasures of a horseless carriage, but as decades passed and both cars and roads became more accessible, families began to explore the country both near and far.

Today, America has developed a deep love affair with the road trip. There’s a need to see every corner of the land in which we reside. However, one fundamental change in recent years is that this love affair for the road trip is now paired with a mutual love for the land itself. Americans care about the environment and are aware that automobiles are polluting the air and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric cars have become a growing phenomenon throughout the United States, because they allow the opportunity to explore the country in comfort, in safety and without the guilt of creating a large carbon footprint. Not only are electric vehicles environmentally friendly, but many of them are technologically advanced and can make road trips easier to navigate.

can you road trip in an electric vehicle

Can You Road Trip in an Electric Vehicle?

While it has taken time for the electric vehicle industry to pick up momentum, the move from gas to electric is becoming more prominent each year. The biggest hindrance in the electric vehicle market is the cost of the vehicle itself and access to electric charging stations throughout the country. However, both of these issues are being addressed. Initiatives to develop low-cost, fast-charging batteries for electric cars are in the works, and as of September 2018, there were 22,000 public charging stations in the US and Canada that classified as level 2 and fast charging.

While there are about seven times more gas stations than charging stations nationwide, many predict that we are on the cusp of an electric car revolution and that 2019 will see an increase in electric charging infrastructure.

For anyone who owns an electric vehicle or for those who are thinking about renting a car to take for a spin, sites like Plugshare and the U.S. Department of Energy can be helpful in locating charging stations of all types and levels in your area.

Embracing the electric car movement is the first step to healing our environment, and it doesn’t have to make your travel plans any less convenient. With a little planning on the front end, a cross-country road trip in your electric vehicle can be full of adventure, less-expensive and most importantly, guilt-free.

7 Types of Charging Stations

Every electric vehicle requires a different type of plug/charging station to charge the car battery. Some types are more common than others and can be found more frequently when road tripping around the United States. However, most big cities will accommodate all charging types.

  • J-1772: This is a level 2 charging station. Level 2 is the most common charging hub found around the country, and this charge takes approximately 3 to 8 hours. All US/EU make vehicles can use this charging station, and Asian/Tesla vehicles can use it with an adapter.
  • NEMA-14-50: This is a level 2 charging station, which all vehicles can use with an adapter.
  • Tesla: This level 2 charging station is made specifically for Tesla vehicles, and they can be found all over the United States.
  • CHAdeMO: This is a level 3 charging station. Level 3 charging hubs are becoming more prevalent throughout the country because these are DC fast charging hubs, which take only 20 minutes to 1 hour to charge. These are going to be the best option for road tripping! The CHAdeMO works with Asian make vehicles and Tesla vehicles if they have an adapter. It does not work with US/EU makes.
  • CCS/SAE: This level 3 charging station is very common with US/EU vehicles, and you can find these hubs at many stops in the United States. However, this charging station will not work with Asian makes or Tesla vehicles.
  • Tesla Supercharger: This level 3 charging station has the exact same plug as the Tesla level 2 charging station, only it charges faster. Tesla owners can go to any charging station and switch between level 2 and level 3 depending on what is readily available.
  • Tesla Roadster: The Tesla Roadster is a specific model of Tesla, which has a different level 3 charging station. These are found less frequently throughout the US, however, an adapter has come out for the Roaster, which allows it to use the level 2 J-1772 charging station.

Getting familiar with these charging stations and identifying which charging station your electric vehicle requires will help you map out your trip stop by stop. You can see the chart below for a detailed look at what each plug looks like and what vehicle makes are able to use each given charging station.

types of electric vehicle chargers

Route 1: Highway 1/ Route 101 in an Electric Vehicle

START: Astoria, Oregon – END: Dana Point, CA

One of the most scenic routes to take in your electric vehicle is the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Historic U.S. Route 101 or Route 1. This road goes all the way from Oregon down to Southern California and will provide some of the most beautiful coastal and mountain views along the way. Because California is first on the list of states to embrace the electric car movement, this route has an ample amount of charging stations to make your trip as easy as possible.

Not only will you get some great natural scenery while riding along this highway, but you’ll be riding along the path that centuries of people have taken before you. Highway 101, originally called El Camino Real in the early 1700s, was the original north-south route in California for travelers and their wagons. Because Highway 5 has taken over, driving on Route 101 will take you back in time and allow you to enjoy less traffic and a more authentic experience.

Starting in Astoria, Oregon, some key cities of interest along this highway include Cannon Beach, Monterey, Big Sur and Malibu, with others mapped out in the picture below. Ending in Dana Point, California, there are 1,246 total miles driven on this route, which will take around 25 hours and 19 minutes. You’ll find 342 charging stations within two miles of the highway, including the J-1772, CHAdeMO, CCS/SAE,  Tesla Supercharger, Tesla, NEMA-14-50 and Tesla Roadster.

highway 1 electric vehicle road trip

While you may have to do some research on your specific vehicle’s charging range and type to ensure there are charging stations that work in between, these anchor stops will have charging stations that work for every type listed above. These are also great stops to keep in mind when looking for things to do and notable places to see on your trip.

Anchor Stops:

  1. Astoria, OR — You’ll find a lot to do here, such as visiting the Astoria Column or the Maritime Museum.
  2. Cannon Beach, OR — Cannon Beach is a great place to view the rocky coast, check out the lighthouse and try to spot some puffins.
  3. Newport, OR — Newport features The Oregon Coast Aquarium with underwater walkways and a seabird aviary.
  4. Eureka, CA — Eureka has a lot of historic sites, including many old Victorian homes.
  5. Mendocino, CA — The cliffside trails in Mendocino Headlands State Park are a great way to stretch your legs on your road trip.
  6. Santa Cruz, CA  In Santa Cruz, you’ll want to check out the boardwalk filled with vintage carnival rides and the 1911 Looff Carousel.
  7. Monterey, CA — You’ll find great seafood restaurants and an excellent aquarium in Monterey.
  8. Big Sur, CA — Big Sur is great for hiking, camping and picturesque rugged coastlines.
  9. Malibu, CA — Malibu is home to many celebrities and their mansions. You’ll find excellent beaches as well as many surfers riding the waves.
  10. Dana Point, CA — This is a marina town where you can hop on a dolphin or whale watching cruise pretty easily.

Route 2: From Surf to Snow

START: Los Angeles, CA – END: Denver, CO

Traveling from Los Angeles to Denver is one of the best choices for an All-American road trip if you’re looking for variety. The wild west is an area everyone should explore at some point in their lives because the landscape is unlike anywhere else in the country. With incredible points of interest along this route including Zion National Park, the snowy peaks of Colorado, the deserts of Moab and the nightlife of Las Vegas, your trip will be packed full with unforgettable experiences and epic scenery.

This route also includes 250 charging stations for your electric vehicle, all within 2 miles of the designated route, so you shouldn’t have much trouble getting from one stop to the next. These 250 stations also include a range of all types and levels, including the J-1772, CHAdeMO, CCS/SAE, Tesla Supercharger, Tesla, NEMA-14-50 and Tesla Roadster. It’s important to note, however, that these charging stations are not dispersed evenly throughout the route, and you may find fewer stations in Utah when you hit more rural areas. For this reason, you’ll need to use Plugshare and plan out your charging stops ahead of time.

The total miles driven on this route is 1025 miles, which will take approximately 15 hours and 32 minutes. Of course, you’ll want to add in all of the fun stops along the way, so be sure to manage your time accordingly.

electric vehicle road trip to Colorado

Anchor Stops:

  1. Los Angeles, CA  There is an endless number of things to do in Los Angeles. Visit the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. Go to the beach or hike in the hills.
  2. Las Vegas, NV — You’ll find entertainment everywhere you go in Vegas from shows, to nightclubs, to the casinos.
  3. St. George, UT — Zion National Park is just northeast of St. George. You’ll find beautiful sandstone cliffs, hiking trails, and epic landscapes to explore in this area.
  4. Salina, UT — Salina is a tiny town in Utah with not much to do, however, there are charging stations right outside the town, so you’ll be able to sleep here with a full charge before moving on to the next stop.
  5. Green River, UT  This is another small town where you’ll find not much more than a place to rest your head and possibly some good scenery, however, there is a place to charge your electric car, which is a necessity!
  6. Grand Junction, CO — This is the heart of wine country in Colorado. You can enjoy wine tours, but also be sure to see the Colorado National Monument.
  7. Denver, CO — Denver is the capital of Colorado, and you’ll find plenty to do here, such as visiting historic landmarks, going to bars and restaurants, or heading to the nearby Rocky Mountains.

Route 3: Historic Route 66

START: Santa Monica, CA – END: Chicago, Illinois

When most people think about the All-American road trip, the first thing that comes to mind is Route 66. Historic Route 66, which runs from Santa Monica, California all the way to Chicago, Illinois is by far the most iconic route in the United States, because it was one of the original US highways. It passes through eight states, covers over 2,000 miles of the country and is known as the “Mother Road of America.” Driving this road is on many people’s bucket lists, and if you want to relish in the history of our culture and our land, there’s no better way to do it than by celebrating our future at the same time in your electric car.

On the Mother Road, you’ll witness vintage roadside treasures from decades past, including diners, motels and other historic sites. Route 66 is more than just a highway, it’s an experience. This route totals 2220 miles and 34 hours and 5 minutes of driving time. There are 250 charging stations within 2 miles of the route, including types such as J-1772, CHAdeMO, CCS/SAE, Tesla Supercharger, Tesla, NEMA-14-50 and the Tesla Roadster.

electric vehicle road trip to Chicago

Anchor Stops:

  1. Santa Monica, CA There are an endless number of things to do in Los Angeles. Visit the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. Go to the beach or hike in the hills.
  2. Flagstaff, AZ  Flagstaff is just south of the Grand Canyon, so this is a great place to rest your head before heading to the national park!
  3. Albuquerque, NM  This city is home to many Route 66 vintage sites, including the Blue Swallow Motel.
  4. Santa Fe, NM  Near Santa Fe, you’ll find the Santo Domingo Trading Post and the historic pueblo of Santo Domingo.
  5. Amarillo, TX  Amarillo is home to Cadillac Ranch and the US Route 66 Sixth Street Historic District.
  6. Oklahoma City, OK  In Oklahoma City, you’ll find the famous Route 66 milk bottle grocery as well as many museums and other restaurants.
  7. Tulsa, OK  Tulsa has a lot of great Route 66 sites, such as a teepee motel and an old Phillips 66 gas station.
  8. Galena, KS — Galena is a small town, but it has a Route 66 historic district to explore.
  9. Springfield, MO — In Springfield, you can check out The Discovery Center of Springfield, which has interactive science exhibits. You can also go to nearby Fantastic Caverns, which is a cave filled with stalagmites.
  10. St. Louis, MO  This is another big metropolitan area where you can visit the famous Gateway Arch or check out incredible views of the Mississippi River.
  11. Springfield, IL  This is the state capital of Illinois, so there’s a lot of history and monuments for you to visit.
  12. Chicago, IL  In the Windy City, you can visit many museums, check out the Sears Tower, ride the canal, or explore the nightlife.

Route 4: The Ultimate Road Trip in an Electric Vehicle

START: Los Angeles, CA – END: Los Angeles, CA

If you want to take a road trip around the entire country in an electric vehicle, it’s totally possible. In fact, driving electric is one of the most cost-effective ways to get around. Gas prices are unpredictable and can fluctuate drastically between cities, but electric charging remains constant no matter where you are. All it takes is locating the stations and plotting them along your route.

The ultimate road trip will take you through the country’s major cities, past notable historic monuments and through some of the most incredible national parks. In this specific route, you’ll start in Los Angeles, and hit Portland, Seattle, Boise, Jackson Hole, Bozeman, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, NYC, Washington DC, Nashville, New Orleans, Dallas, Santa Fe, Flagstaff and Las Vegas. While those are the anchor stops, there are hundreds of things to see in between each city, including Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and the Appalachian Mountains, to name a few.

This route is 8279 miles long and will take 126 hours and 14 minutes to complete. There are 189 charging stations along the route, including types such as J-1772, CHAdeMO, CCS/SAE, Tesla Supercharger, Tesla, NEMA-14-50 and the Tesla Roadster. You’ll want to plan ahead to make sure there are stations for your type of vehicle within the correct driving range of one another to make this trip possible. However, you can always adjust your anchor stops to make it work in your favor.

cross country electric vehicle road trip

Anchor Stops:

  1. Los Angeles, CA  There is an endless number of things to do in Los Angeles. Visit the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Observatory. Go to the beach or hike in the hills.
  2. Portland, OR  There is so much to see and do in Portland, including many bridges to view, breweries to taste, and outdoor activities to try.
  3. Seattle, WA  In Seattle, you’ll want to visit the famous Space Needle as well as the original Starbucks store and Pike Place Fish Market.
  4. Boise, ID  In Boise, you can check out the Boise River Greenbelt, which is a great place to walk, bike, or hike.
  5. Jackson Hole, WY  If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure of any kind, Jackson Hole is where you’ll find it.
  6. Bozeman, MT You’ll get amazing views of the Rockies in Bozeman, so this is a great place for outdoor adventures.
  7. Denver, CO — Denver is the capital of Colorado, and you’ll find plenty to do here, such as visiting historic landmarks, going to bars and restaurants, or heading to the nearby Rocky Mountains.
  8. Omaha, NE — Omaha sits right along the Missouri River, and if you want to learn about Lewis and Clark’s Historic trail, this is a great place for that.
  9. Chicago, IL  In the Windy City, you can visit many museums, check out the Sears Tower, ride the canal, or explore the nightlife.
  10. New York City, NY  NYC has endless things to do and sites to see. The Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center, and the Empire State Building are just a few we can name.
  11. Washington DC  Our nation’s capital is full of museums, monuments, and history.
  12. Nashville, TN  Home to country music, this is a great place to see some live shows and get some dancing in.
  13. New Orleans, LA  This city is all about food and culture, so be ready to have fun and relax when you’re here.
  14. Dallas, TX — This is a big metropolitan city with a lively nightlife, plenty of museums, and big art scene as well.
  15. Santa Fe, NM — This town will let you explore pueblo-style architecture and the history of Spanish-colonies.
  16. Flagstaff, NM — Flagstaff is just south of the Grand Canyon, so this is a great place to rest your head before heading to the national park!
  17. Las Vegas, NV  You’ll find entertainment everywhere you go in Vegas from shows to nightclubs to the casinos.

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Why You Should Road Trip in an EV

If you want to plan a road trip, driving an electric vehicle is a cost-effective option, and it’s also the best option for the environment. When it comes to efficiency, electric cars also beat out gas and diesel vehicles in every way. Plus, because of the electric power, electric vehicles perform better on the road. The Tesla Model S, for instance, is the second fastest production vehicle, and it can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.28 seconds.

Electric vehicles are also much quieter than gas and diesel vehicles because they don’t have an internal combustion engine. This also means they require a lot less maintenance. When taking a long road trip across the country, driving an electric vehicle means you won’t have to stop for oil changes or worry about as many mechanical parts breaking down.

The EPA explains that gas and diesel vehicles cause 75 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in the United States, while electric vehicles produce no pollution at the driving level. What an amazing feeling to drive across the country in appreciation without polluting it at the same time!

Which Electric Vehicles Will Get You the Farthest?

There are many electric vehicles on the market, and knowing which ones are best for long distances will be key in making a knowledgeable purchase and planning your road trip accordingly. We’ve highlighted the top electric cars with a range of at least 100 miles. One great thing to know about electric vehicles right now is that when purchasing an EV, you’ll receive a $7,500 federal tax credit.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric ($35,000)

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric is an affordable electric car option with a starting price of $35,000. This crossover is estimated to hold a whopping 258 miles on a single charge, and it has plenty of room for your friends and suitcases on a long road trip. The charging system on the car is CCS/SAE, which is common at charging stations nationwide. The car supports DC fast charging, which is a necessity when traveling.

Tesla Model 3 ($35,000)

The Tesla Model 3 is an excellent new addition to Tesla’s collection because it’s nearly half the price of other models. This model can hold a single charge for up to 220 miles, and it charges with either a Tesla specific charger or a NEMA-14-50. With Tesla being one of the most reputable brands in the electric market, this is a great choice for your cross-country road trip.

Chevy Bolt ($37,495)

The Chevy Bolt has become one of the most popular electric vehicles on the market because it’s affordable and has a single charge range of 238 miles. The Chevy Bolt has been around for a while, and it was one of the first affordable electric cars out there. It uses the CCS/SAE charging system for DC fast charging, which makes it a convenient option for traveling near and far.

2018 Jaguar I-Pace (starting a $69,500)

If you’re looking for a nicer electric vehicle that has all of the bells and whistles, but you don’t want to drop a pretty penny on the Tesla Model S, consider the 2018 Jaguar I-Pace, which is Jaguar’s first all-electric vehicle. This model starts at $69,500 and has a single charge range of 240 miles. It uses the CCS/SAE charging system for DC fast charging and for this price, you’ll get fast acceleration as well as top of the line technology on the interior as well.

The American love for road trips is not waning, but combining this love for the road with a love for the environment allows us to explore the land without simultaneously destroying it. The electric car revolution is more than just a fascination with new technology. It’s a push for a cleaner world where historic routes such as Route 66 and Route 101 can continue to be driven and enjoyed for centuries. If you’re not ready to go all out and purchase your own electric vehicle, rent one today and take it for a spin.

Forbes 1,| Frost | The Verge | American Progress | U.S. Department of Energy | Industry Week | CBT Automotive Network | Time | Matador Network | Plugshare | | Trip Savvy | The Zebra | Tom’s Guide | ChargeHub