A century ago, cars were still something of a novelty, and many early automobiles started with a hand crank. Who could have imagined that, one hundred years on, we’d simply plug in a car as we would a hair dryer in order to power it up?
Electrical outlets for hair dryers are still a lot easier to find than electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, however. Unless you live in a remote forest cabin—and possibly even there—every home, apartment, school, or other dwelling has electrical outlets for plugging in all manner of appliances, from said hair dryers to blenders, toasters to foot massagers.
But the EV economy is changing, says entrepreneur and philanthropist Cyrus Nikou. Not only are prices dropping as electric cars become a more accepted alternative to the internal combustion engine, but charging them is also becoming less problematic. And that’s good news, since it’s summer, the pandemic is mostly a memory, and people are rarin’ to get back on the open road.
However, gas prices hurt the pocketbook. All the more reason to go electric. Where are you going to recharge on a long trip? It might be simpler than you think.
Plug ‘n’ play driving
Driving coast to coast used to mean pedal to the metal if you wanted to get there fast (and exhausted), or it would take at least a week if you drove at a more leisurely pace. It also meant spending hundreds of dollars on gasoline and planning your route to make sure you could always find fuel if you weren’t traveling on major highways.
How could you possibly plan a cross-country adventure in an electric car? Easily, according to Electrify America, which completed its first cross-country route with fast-charging stations in June 2020. Every 70 miles on a 2700-mile journey, you can find a charger. Electrify America must have known that post-pandemic travel fever would hit after three years of sheltering in place.
And when you do stop to recharge, you won’t have time for a long snooze while you wait. On major highways such as Routes 15 and 70, the super-fast chargers get your EV juiced up and ready to roll in about 20 minutes, just long enough for a bathroom break and snack. The best part? EV owners who purchase a new electric vehicle typically get two years of free charging at Electrify America charging stations, which you can locate via their app.
But Electrify America isn’t your only resource for EV charging stations. This is the era of the sharing economy, and PlugShare does just that: gives you access to a database of 250,000+ charging stations throughout the USA and Canada, regardless of brand, with global coverage of an additional 450,000+ charging stations. You’ll even get turn-by-turn directions to the specific station you’re seeking. Better than Google or Siri! (But don’t tell them; most of us rely on such digital assistance daily.)
No braking away from the energy
You probably know that gas-powered cars waste energy every time you apply the brakes, which may be some people’s excuse for driving like Mario Andretti. Not so safe.
EVs are different. Electric vehicles take a leaf from regenerative agriculture, with regenerative braking. Instead of generating friction when you step on the brake pedal, the EV essentially reverses the vehicle’s motor, causing it to run backward, which slows the wheels.
While running in reverse motion, the car’s motor produces electricity that’s banked by the EV batteries. This regenerative braking system means your EV actually makes energy while slowing you down, which gives you more miles per charge. A pretty smart design feature.
Charging with Yogi Bear
So you want to try car camping in your EV? No sweat. Teslas even come equipped with “Camp” mode as a climate control feature. How cool is this? And it uses just a small amount of energy, so you can charge all your devices overnight, without worrying you’ll wake up to a dead battery. That’s sleep mode squared.
To be safe, though, start smart: fully charge your EV before you get to the campground. While EV charging stations are increasing in popularity everywhere, and most RV campgrounds offer electrical hookups, it might be difficult to secure an RV site if you’re driving a car and the campground is almost full.
That said, many national parks and public lands, such as Yosemite, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, and Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California, already provide EV chargers, enabling visitors to recharge while they hike or otherwise explore the area.
National Drive Electric Week is coming up in late September 2023. This might be the perfect time to explore EVs and see how they can make a dramatic difference in your time behind the wheel.