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

By David Herron

Example longer trips with electric cars - putting range confidence into practice

This book has lots of theory about taking trips with an electric car. In this chapter we want to look at some practical examples. These are not simple theoretical trips, but traversing real terrain in the USA. In these examples the car is assumed to have 100 miles electric driving range. We will focus on CHAdeMO and CCS fast charging infrastructure.

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 of range in 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. If needed there are fast charging stations in Chowchilla and Madera along the way.

  • 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.

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. There are fast charging stations available in Selma, Visalia and Tulare, allowing you to reach 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. There are fast charging stations in Lebec and Castaic along the way. 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. There's almost enough CHAdeMO and CCS stations to make the whole trip on fast charging.

There is starting to be a string of fast charging 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, or 212 miles for the route shown, traveling 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. There is a level 2 charging station at a hotel in Seneca, KS which could be used along the way. The driving time is about 1.5 hours.

  • Level 2 station in Seneca, KS
  • 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.

An alternate route is through Marysville, MO, where there are two level 2 charging stations. It's not clear the best way to get from there to Omaha however.

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, and a DC fast charging station, 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 Springfield, IL: Distance 98 miles, which is at the upper-end of the range of the car we've given ourselves. There are both level 2 and fast charging stations on the eastern edge of the St Louis area that could be useful to make it to Springfield. Driving time will be about 1 1/2 hours.

  • eVgo fast charging in Edwardville, IL
  • Level 2 charging in Litchfield, IL
  • Several level 2 stations, and fast charging, in Springfield, IL

Using the fast charging station in Springfield requires 1/2 hour for enough range to reach Normal. It may be useful to hit a level 2 station for a few minutes.

Springfield, IL to Normal, IL: Distance 75 miles, driving time a little over 1 hour.

  • Level 2 station in Atlanta, IL
  • Two fast charging stations, and many level 2 stations, in the Bloomington/Normal area

Normal to Chicago: Distance 130 miles. Driving time is over 2 hours. The distance is longer than the 100 mile range car we've given ourselves. The charging stations become available starting in Joliet, where there are both level 2 and fast charging stations.

  • 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

Because the distance is longer than our 100 mile range budget, we must stop in Dwight for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 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.

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.

The distance for the route shown here is 555 miles, and of course it crosses a significant amount of mountains in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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. There is a fast charging station in Elyria, OH, about 20 miles prior to Cleveland, and there is several level 2 stations along the route. Driving time is 2 hours.

  • Fast charging is plentiful in Cleveland
  • Several level 2 stations in-between, and fast charging in Elyria

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 a Nissan dealer, and at a Sheetz, 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 Bedford, PA: Distance 107 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.

  • Fast charging at turnpike plaza in Hunker, PA
  • Both level 2 and fast charging in Bedford, PA

Bedford to Hagerstown, MD: Distance 71 miles miles. Driving time is a little over 1 hour. If needed there is a fast charging station in Hancock, MD.

  • Several fast charging stations in Hagerstown

Along the route to Hagerstown there are 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.

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.

Circling SF Bay three times in one weekend

We live in Santa Clara, CA, deep in the Southern reaches of the San Francisco Bay Area. My girlfriend needed to attend a conference in Corte Madera, CA, a city north of San Francisco in Marin County. There isn't an easy to get there from here, since the obvious route goes through San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. While the Golden Gate bridge has lots of touristic goodwill, it is a bottleneck especially on a Friday evening when the traffic is not just commuters returning home, but vacationers heading out of town for the weekend.

Our only car is a Kia Soul EV, and we did not want to stay at the hotel during the conference. Instead, we felt our house was close enough to make the drive every day of the conference. The schedule was Friday evening, all day Saturday, with an evening networking meal on Saturday, then half a day on Sunday.

That's approximately the route - Santa Clara University is close enough to the house that I'm using that as the start/end point. My preferred route is along US-101 because of extra energy consumption to drive I-280. While I-280 is an extremely beautiful route through the mountains, driving up and down the mountains takes more energy. In any case you see that taking the route through San Francisco is 63 miles, and the route across the Richmond Bridge is 62.6 miles.

Given that the Kia Soul EV has a certified range of 93 miles, this is easily doable. In theory we'd arrive in Corte Madera from Santa Clara with 30ish miles of remaining range. That's a decent cushion, especially as a look at the PlugShare map reveals a set of charging stations across the highway from the conference location.

Reviewing the schedule

  • Friday evening requires arriving before 7pm, and leaving after 9pm
    • It's expected traffic will be extremely heavy on the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday evening
    • There's a scant 2 hours to almost fully recharge the car
  • All day Saturday requires arriving at 8am, leaving about 8pm
    • It's expected traffic will be light
    • Arriving in time means leaving very very early
  • Sunday morning requires arriving at 8:30am, leaving about 1pm
    • It's expected traffic will be light
    • Arriving in time means leaving not quite as early

A little trick here is to consider the geometry of bridge tolls in the San Francisco Bay Area. Northbound traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge does not pay a toll. For every bridge connecting between the East Bay area and the Peninsula, you pay a toll to leave the East Bay, but do not pay a toll to enter the East Bay area. This means - we were able to drive through San Francisco, using the Golden Gate Bridge to enter Marin County, without paying a toll, then for the return we drove across the Richmond bridge to drive down I-880, again without paying a toll.

Friday evening

We left the house around 3:30 pm with a full charge. I followed the route as shown on the map except for a small deviation. In Daly City, I took Daly Boulevard over to the coast to take the "Great Highway". This route has a more relaxed driving experience, with slower speeds, and more importantly less traffic than the typical recommended route through San Francisco on 19th Ave.

At the north end of The Great Highway, the typical route would take Geary over to Park Presidio, then through the Presidio. But I expected that route to be jammed with traffic, and instead took a route through the Sea Cliff area and the costal-side of the Presidio. That got us to US 101 very near the Golden Gate Bridge while being exposed to very little of the heavy traffic. The crossing was relatively easy.

Immediately north of the Golden Gate Bridge is a rest area where we stopped to eat the snacks/dinner we brought along. That rest area has wonderful views across the SF Bay of San Francisco and all the shipping activity going on in the area.

After that, we drive directly to the hotel with plenty of time to spare to get registered and for my girlfriend to get settled.

The car had about 25 miles remaining range upon arrival.

We had 2 hours at the conference, and the necessity of having 100% charge in order to make it back home with a decent cushion. That meant charging 70+ miles of range in 2 hours.

Across US 101 from the hotel is The Village at Corte Madera, a shopping mall that seems geared to rich people (going by the type of stores). There are two charging facilities at this mall:

I first went to the DC fast chargers, and found a Nissan/Sumitomo CHAdeMO charging station operated by eVgo as well as another that is CCS/CHAdeMO. I used the Nissan unit, and a 30 minute charging session got the car to about 70-80%. 30 minutes is all this station would allow.

I then went to the Volta Charging stations to top off. This took about 1 hour to get to 100% charge, for a total of about 1 1/2 hours charging time.

I then went back to the hotel around the time of the end of the evening session of the conference. We got in the car, and drove directly home.

Because our only charging at home is 120 volts, using our home charging would take 15+ hours to get to 100% charge. Remember that this trip requires 100% charge at the outset in order to arrive with a decent range cushion. We had from about 10pm until 6am which would not be enough time.

Therefore, upon arriving back in the South Bay we drove to a nearby Whole Foods that has eVgo fast charging stations. With that we went from about 25% to 75% charge in about 30 minutes. Then we went home to top off the charge using the 120 volt home charging system, and by morning the car was indeed fully charged.

Saturday

The rest of the weekend was a repeat of the pattern just described.

Instead of taking The Great Highway, I simply drove down 19th Ave and then to Park Presidio. I expected traffic to be light the whole way, and indeed it was.

In San Francisco I made one mistake that cost $73 in parking fines. I grew concerned about the remaining range and thought it would be needed to find a charging station in San Francisco. So, I pulled off Park Presidio Ave onto Geary Ave intending to park for a moment to check the PlugShare map to find a charging station.

Unfortunately what I did not know is that San Francisco prohibits parking on Geary on most mornings. While on the side of Geary Ave, a parking enforcement vehicle came up behind us, and we ended up with a $73 parking ticket. And, I ended up not even stopping at a charging station, and still arriving at the hotel with plenty of range cushion.

In other words it would have been better to stick with the route, and not get alarmed by the range indicator on the dash. Logically I knew we would make it, but ...

For charging I repeated what I had done on Friday evening. There was plenty of time because the conference was to go all day long. By mid-morning I was back at the hotel and pondering how to spend my day.

I could have gone to a nearby park, or maybe there was a park on Mount Tamalpais I could have gone to. Instead - I had some learning to do regarding some software, and sat in the hotel lobby watching YouTube tutorial videos all day long.

The dinner for conference attendees was back at the same Mall across the highway. We had a nice dinner, and then since the car was at 98% charge we stopped for a brief charging session at the Volta charging station. Arriving back in San Jose, we went to the Whole Foods, then back home so the car could be topped off overnight.

Sunday

The trip on Sunday Morning was less stressful. We just drove there, no trouble, and I went back to the mall for charging.

Leaving the conference by 1 or 2 pm meant we could take it easy heading home. We stopped at a shopping mall in Albany CA just to look around at some things, and we drove down San Pablo Ave through Berkeley. All of this was to give my girlfriend a sense of some of the SF Bay Area.

By the time we got to the Fremont area it was time for a late lunch, or else early dinner, and we found the Black Bear Diner in Fremont and shared a yummy full rack of ribs. No charging was available, however.

We then drove straight home, and plugged the car in to the 120 volt outlet at home rather than the Whole Foods fast charger. In this case we did not need the car to be fully charged any time soon, and the 18-20 hour recharge time was perfectly fine.


Range Confidence is Copyright © 2016-17 by David Herron

Example longer trips with electric cars - putting range confidence into practice

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