Range Confidence: Charge Fast, Drive Far, with your Electric Car

By David Herron

Daily Driving and longer trips on electricity - putting range confidence into practice

With a framework to develop Range Confidence in mind, we need to start putting these ideas into practice. One step to truly "own" range confidence is practical knowledge of how electric car charging works, and our options.

In part selling people on Range Anxiety relies on a lack of knowledge of electric vehicle charging practicalities. It's easier to convince someone of a danger when they don't know the truth. But once someone has a clear experience of the truth, then it's much harder (or even impossible) to become afraid.

We collectively have over 100 years of history as a society using gasoline as a vehicle fuel. Over that time our society developed communal knowledge about gasoline and cars. As we collectively switch from gasoline to electricity as the primary fuel, we must collectively educate ourselves about the best ways of using electricity as a fuel.

Maybe that was too heady. The basic fact of driving electric is that we must start relearning what we thought was normal about driving.

Over the next few sections we'll dive into electric car charging knowledge. This will help you better understand what's going on, and how to best use your car and the charging networks.

But first let's put the Range Confidence model to use and examine some trips.

For these trips we won't try to account for mountains, and we'll assume an EV with 100 mile range. It's best to leave 20 miles range or so as a buffer against problems. What if a charging station is broken? How far do you drive to the alternate charging station? Leaving 20 miles in the battery pack both helps battery pack lifetime, and gives you flexibility in case problems crop up.

San Francisco area to Los Angeles area

The shortest route is 380 miles, using I-5. However, for some reason more charging stations exist along California Hwy 99, and along US 101, making either of those routes preferable for an electric car owner. Using Hwy 99 the distance is 406 miles. The route crosses several mountain ranges, and spends a very long time in the Central Valley hopping from one fast charging station to another.

San Francisco to Tracy, CA: Distance 65 miles. Crosses two mountain ranges. Start with 100 miles, arrive with 45 miles remaining. Driving time about 1 hour.

  • NRG eVgo fast charging station in West Valley Mall, Tracy
  • There are several DC Fast charging stations in the Dublin/Pleasanton area

Charging time about 1/2 hour at an eVgo station in Tracy. Raises range to about 80 miles. There are additional level 2 stations that can be used to add more range.

Tracy to Merced, CA: Distance 68 miles. That would leave 12 miles range if you started with 80 miles from Tracy, so it will have been a good idea to charge beyond 80 miles range in Tracy. Driving time about 1 hour.

  • NRG eVgo fast charging station in Applegate Plaza, Atwater, CA
  • Other eVgo stations near Modesto
  • Merced has several Level 2 charging stations

Charging time about 1/2 hour, in Atwater. Raises range to about 80 miles.

Merced to Fresno, CA: Distance 60 miles. Arrive with about 20 miles range. Driving time about 1 hour.

  • Fresno has several fast charging (mostly eVgo) and Level 2 stations

Charging time about 1/2 hour, in Fresno. Raises range to about 80 miles. May require another hour to get the car to 100% because of the range required in the next segment.

Fresno to Bakersfield, CA: Distance 105 miles. This segment is more than the range of our car, and we've left Fresno with 80 miles range. It may be necessary to charge to 100% in Fresno. It is necessary to charge at the fast charging station either in Visalia or Delano. After that, use one of the stations in Bakersfield. Driving time about 1.5 hours.

  • NRG eVgo fast charging station in Visalia
  • NRG eVgo fast charging station in Delano
  • CHAdeMO station at a Nissan dealership in Bakersfield
  • NRG eVgo fast charging station in Bakersfield
  • Several Level 2 stations in-between and in Bakersfield

Mid-way charging time is 1/2 hour. In Bakersfield, one should use either level 2 stations or one of the fast charging stations. Because of the length and terrain of the next segment, it's necessary to charge to 100%. Charging time is about 1/2 hour, plus another hour to get to 100%.

Bakersfield to Santa Clarita, CA: Distance 80 miles. Crosses mountains. Arrives with 20 miles range remaining. Driving time over 1 hour.

  • CHAdeMO Fast charging at Studio 6 Hotel in Lebec, several miles before Santa Clarita
  • NRG eVgo fast charging station in Santa Clarita
  • Several Level 2 stations in-between

If your car supports CHAdeMO fast charging, stop in Lebec. Otherwise, proceed to the eVgo station in Santa Clarita. Charging time is about 1/2 hour.

Santa Clarita to Los Angeles, CA: Distance 35 miles. Crosses mountains. Driving time is about 1/2 hour.

  • Plentiful charging of all kinds

This gets you into the northern reaches of the Los Angeles area. That area has plentiful charging stations of all kinds. Anywhere you need to go, just drive and charge as needed along the way.

The eVgo network standardizes on deploying a combination of Level 2 and dual-protocol (CHAdeMO and CCS) fast charging. Hence, this trip is almost completely covered by fast charging.

A 200+ mile range EV can easily make this trip solely on fast charging, using 2 fast charging stops along the way.

FYI, those who frequently make long distance EV trips in California say the charging support is better along US-101 than along Hwy 99. This route does not have a long gap with few charging, and there's almost enough CHAdeMO and CCS stations to make the whole trip on fast charging.

There's now a string of CHAdeMO stations along I-5 which may be more convenient than the route shown above. That route also ends up in the Bakersfield area.

With a CCS car, the route along US-101 is straightforward with a 25 kW station every 50-70 miles.

Kansas City, MO to Omaha NE

This is 189 miles along I-29, through terrain that's primarily flat. (It's the Midwest) Electric car ownership is not as advanced here as California, but there has been a significant fast charging deployment in the Kansas City area.

Kansas City to St. Joseph, MO: Distance 55 miles. Arrive with 45 miles remaining. Driving time about 1 hour.

  • Dual protocol fast charging at Hy-Vee store, and another at Speedy's, in St. Joseph
  • Several level 2 stations in St. Joseph

Charging time is about 1/2 hour. It's also necessary to charge to 100% because of the length of the next segment, requiring another hour or so.

St. Joseph to Nebraska City, NE: Distance 90 miles. Requires crossing the Missouri River, then taking US 34 to Omaha. Arriving with 10 miles remaining is cutting it close. The driving time is about 1.5 hours.

  • Level 2 station at a Chevy dealership in Savanna, MO
  • Several level 2 stations in Nebraska City.

Because it is level 2 charging, the charging time is about 2.5 hours to have enough range to reach Omaha with sufficient range remaining.

Nebraska City to Omaha: Distance 45 miles, staying on US 34. Driving time about 45 minutes. Remaining range depends on how much charging you take in Nebraska City.

  • Several level 2 stations in Omaha

This trip is a little dicey because of the distance between St. Joseph and Nebraska City. The Chevy dealer in Savannah has a charging station, but using it means a small detour.

With a 200+ mile range EV, this trip is very easy. Theoretically one could make it without stopping, if leaving KCMO with a full charge. Stopping in St. Joseph for a fast charge is recommended, however.

St. Louis, MO to Chicago, IL

This is a 300 mile trip across flat Midwestern terrain. Significant fast charging deployment exists in both St. Louis and Chicago.

St. Louis to Normal, IL: Distance 170 miles, which is obviously much more than the range of the car we've given ourselves. Therefore stopping for charging in Springfield and Bloomington is necessary. Driving time will be about 3 hours.

  • eVgo fast charging in Edwardville, IL
  • Fast charging in Normal
  • Several level 2 stations in Springfield, IL
  • Many level 2 stations in Bloomington and Normal

Charging time for this is about 2 hours, because it is level 2 charging. It may be best to fast charge in Edwardsville, since it is the last fast charging in the St. Louis area. From there to Springfield is 75 miles, making it a good idea to use a level 2 station for more charging. That's perhaps an hour of charging.

In Springfield, it's necessary to charge to 100% because of the distance to Normal. At level 2 rates, that's almost 4 hours.

There is a fast charging station in Normal, which will require 1/2 hour.

Normal to Chicago: Distance 130 miles. Driving time is over 2 hours.

  • Level 2 charging at Route 66 visitor center in Dwight
  • Chicago area has a ton of level 2 and fast charging, the first of which is in Joliet

This segment requires a charging stop in Dwight, for 55 miles. From Dwight to Joliet is 39 miles. The charging time required in Dwight is about 2 hours, and then you're in the outer reaches of Chicagoland. Unfortunately the stations available in that edge of Chicago are all level 2. You'll require 2 hours charging in Joliet to have enough range to comfortably reach fast charging stations elsewhere in the Chicago area.

This trip would be easy with a 200+ mile range EV, but difficult with the 80 mile range EV's. The trip relies mostly on level 2 charging. With a 200 mile range EV you could theoretically go straight from St. Louis to Normal, fast charge there, then straight to Chicago for a 300 mile trip with one charging stop.

The charging station maps indicate it's similarly possible to travel from St. Louis to Indianapolis, from there to Columbus OH, from there to Pittsburgh, and so on.

Detroit to Washington DC

In the middle of the Great Recession of 2008 the car companies were on the verge of bankruptcy. Their CEO's first flew to Washington on corporate jets to ask for a bailout, but the bad optics caused Congress to scream at the CEO's and deny the request. The CEO's then went back to Detroit, mulled it over, and realized they needed to road trip their way to Washington to make a cleaner presentation. That happened before President Obama was inaugurated. The automotive industry did get their bailout.

Let's replicate their trip with an electric car.

Detroit to Toledo: Distance 60 miles. Arrives with 40 miles remaining, and a 1 hour driving time.

  • Fast charging at Univ of Toledo

Charging time is 1/2 hour.

Toledo to Cleveland: Distance 117 miles, which is beyond the range of the car we've given ourselves. Driving time is 2 hours.

  • Fast charging is plentiful in Cleveland
  • Several level 2 stations in-between

Making it to Cleveland, specifically the eVgo station near Elyria, will require a level 2 charging stop half-way. There's several stations to choose from. Charging time at the half-way point is about 1.5 hours, and then 1/2 hour in Cleveland.

Cleveland to Youngstown: Distance 75 miles. Driving time is about 1 1/4 hours.

  • Fast charging at Nissan dealer in Youngstown
  • Several level 2 stations in Youngstown and in-between

That the Youngstown fast charging is at a dealership is a potential problem. Not all dealerships are accepting of cars using their stations, so call ahead to verify access. There is fast charging in Akron, and the northern edge of Pittsburge has several fast charging stations. It may be possible to drive from Akron to North Pittsburgh without stopping in Youngstown.

Youngstown to Pittsburgh, PA: Distance 70 miles. Driving time is about 1 1/4 hours.

  • Many level 2 and fast charging stations in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh to Altoona, PA: Distance 100 miles. This is beyond the capability of the car we've given ourselves, so make a charging stop half-way. Driving time is nearly 2 hours.

  • Two fast charging stations, one in Altoona, the other in Blairsville

Fast charge in Blairsville (1/2 hour) then in Altoona (1/2 hour).

Altoona to Hagerstown, MD: Distance 110 miles. This is beyond the capability of the car we've given ourselves, but we have a charging stop halfway. Driving time is nearly 2 hours.

  • NRG eVgo station at Hagerstown Premium Outlets
  • Friendship Village Campground, Bedford PA - NEMA 14-50 outlet

This leg is tricky since there is no official charging stations in-between these two cities. There's a possible circuitous route through State College, then Harrisburg, then York PA, then Baltimore, then Washington DC, which is fast charging all the way.

Along the route from Altoona to Hagerstown are a couple RV parks that are known to be friendly to EV drivers. This will require carrying a 6 kiloWatt EVSE, and plugging into the 14-50 outlet. This will require a 3+ hour charging time in order to reach Hagerstown.

Hagerstown to Washington DC: Distance 70 miles. Once you reach Hagerstown, it's smooth sailing. Driving time is about 1 hour.

  • Plentiful charging of all kinds around Washington and its suburbs

This is another trip which is difficult with an 80 mile range BEV, but will be easy with a 200+ mile range car. The route chosen is a little circuitous because of the charging station locations. One would normally take the Pennsylvania Turnpike, then switch over to I-70, but the detour to Altoona is necessary because of fast charging stations. There are no charging stations of any kind on the Turnpike.

Going straight from Pittsburgh to Hagerstown is 170 miles, which is feasible with a 200+ mile range BEV. The mountains may decrease the available range, unfortunately.

While charging stations are scarce in some parts of Pennsylvania, there are plenty of campgrounds with available NEMA 14-50 outlets. Simply carrying a portable 6 kiloWatt charging station can make this trip feasible.


Range Confidence is Copyright © 2016-17 by David Herron

Daily Driving and longer trips on electricity - putting range confidence into practice

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