Mythbusting: EVs Can’t Do Weekend Road Trips
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MYTHBUSTING

Mythbusting: EVs Can’t Do Weekend Road Trips

rearview mirror with reflection of feet hanging out rear window on a weekend road trip
  • Use the Chargeway app to find the fastest charging spots en route to your destination while taking a road trip in an EV.
  • Pay attention to the weather, as it can slow down charging speeds and speed up battery use. 
  • Many of the best EV charging spots are near restaurants, grocery stores, or car dealerships. 

As the parent of a college baseball player and an EV driver, I’ve had the opportunity to take four EV road trips in February and March of 2024. My experience has been mostly positive, depending on the weather. At the close of our fourth trip, which was to Chicago and back, my husband announced that we’ve got it all figured out. I have to agree. 


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This is our son’s third year on the team, and for his first two years, we took our weekend road trips to his games in a 2022 Lexus ES300h. This past July, a driver ran a red light and totaled our Lexus. So, we replaced it with a 2023 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD, making it our new road trip vehicle.

Over the past five weeks, we’ve taken our Kia EV6 on four road trips, proving that an EV road trip is very possible — even in the frigid Midwestern winter weather. Our home is in West Michigan, and we’ve driven the EV6 to ballparks outside of Memphis, Tennessee; Charleston, West Virginia; Dayton, Ohio; and Chicago, Illinois. We currently have 15,500 miles on the EV6.

Our other vehicle is a plug-in hybrid 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe. My husband drives the Jeep to and from work, and we take it on longer trips (it’s been to Florida and back several times) when we want to get somewhere quickly using the gasoline engine. We love our Jeep Wrangler PHEV, but it gets mediocre gas mileage on the highway when the battery gets below 1%, so we’d rather use the zero-emissions EV6 for our shorter weekend road trips. 

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are excellent choices for drivers who want the best of both worlds, as they offer the convenience of a gas-powered engine and the efficiency of an electric motor. Like our EV6, the Wrangler EV battery range drops slightly when the temperatures drop. 


Keys to Successful EV Road Trip Planning

person holding a phone with the chargeway 2.0 app with a map loaded to find Tesla EV charging stations for a road trip
Image care of Chargeway

When you’re looking to plan a road trip in an EV, it’s crucial to know your EV range and the locations of fast charging stations. I’m a big fan of the Chargeway app — so I look for green 6s and 7s on my route. I’ve used a different EV charger road trip planner in the past, but Chargeway is the best for its simple graphics, real-time charging information, and photos of stops. I’ve used other apps, and I appreciate the design of Chargeway over the rest.

Another key to a successful EV road trip is to adjust your mindset, as weekend road trips in an EV are slightly different from those in a gas-powered car. 

Because two of our road trips were in cold weather, we brought our V2L adapter and a small space heater, but the parking lots were too far from the fields to enjoy the heater and V2L power from our EV6. As the baseball season runs through April, I’m hoping to use the V2L to power a space heater or run a fan someday soon.


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How EV Charging Works

All electric vehicles have a charging architecture that controls how quickly the battery charges. It cannot charge faster than the architecture allows. The Kia EV6 has a speedier charging architecture than other popular EVs like the Chevy Bolt, VW ID.4, Ford Mach-E, and Ford F-150 Lightning. 


Understanding the Labels on Public Fast Charging Stations

While on road trips, the fastest way to charge is using a Level 3 DC fast-charging station. They are often labeled by the maximum kilowatts they can deliver. They are usually labeled with 62 kW, 150 kW, or 350 kW. The higher the number, the faster it should charge — depending on your car’s charging architecture.

If you use the Chargeway app, the CCS 350-kW DC fast chargers are green 7s, while the 150-kW chargers are green 6s. Tesla Superchargers are labeled with red 6s and 7s. 


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The Charging Bell Curve

Image care of Kristen Bentley.

When you plug in, the chargers start slowly. After a few minutes, they speed up. As soon as an EV gets to an 80% charge, the charging speed slows significantly. 

If you use an EV charging time calculator, it considers that charging time resembles a bell curve, with the fastest times only lasting for several minutes. So, when I say that an EV charger reached a maximum charging speed of 150 kW, that doesn’t mean it charged that fast the entire time. It might only reach max speed for a few seconds or a few minutes.

Also, the charging speeds get faster and last longer when the temperatures are warmer, and when temps drop, the opposite happens. 


Knowing Your EV’s Maximum Charging Speed

A major problem with the EV industry is that most dealerships do not teach new EV owners about charging speeds and charging times.

For example, the Chevy Bolt has a charging architecture that accepts up to 55 kW of maximum speed. This means the Bolt gets zero benefit from plugging into a 350-kW DC fast charger, as the Bolt can accept only 55 kW of electricity.

I wish more Bolt drivers knew this and stopped using 350-kW chargers when 150-kW chargers are available. On a warm day at a 350-kW DC fast charger, I could charge my Kia EV6 four times from 20% to 80% before a Chevy Bolt charges once at a 350-kW charger. (No offense to Bolt drivers, as the Bolt is a great around-town EV).

The VW ID.4 and Ford EVs can accept a maximum of only 125 kW of electricity, so they also do not get any benefit from the 350-kW chargers. The EV6, along with the Hyundai IONIQs, Rivians, Audi EVs, and BMW EVs, can take 235 to 250 kW max speeds, so they can charge faster when using a 350-kW charger rather than a 150-kW charger.

The new Porsche Taycan has a maximum charging speed of 270 kW, so it can get in and out of a properly working 350-kW charger in about 15 minutes! 


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EV Road Trip #1: Frigid Weekend Road Trip With Several Charging Stops

Our first road trip in the EV was to Memphis, and it happened to be during a winter storm that rolled through Indiana, Illinois, and Tennessee over the weekend of Feb. 16. This storm tested our patience and our winter driving skills — we passed, unlike the plethora of semi trucks in the highway ditches!

The frigid 16°F wreaked havoc on the battery range, though, dropping it to about 180 miles on a full charge. It also slowed DC fast-charging speeds to a snail’s pace. 


Image care of Meijer

After leaving our home near Grand Rapids, Michigan, we stopped to charge at a Meijer in Michigan City, Indiana, where we added 40.678 kWh of electricity. To guarantee that we could get to our hotel in Mount Vernon, Illinois, we stopped at these locations: 

  • Meijer in Bradley, Illinois, for 15.357 kWh
  • Meijer in Champaign, Illinois, for 60.311 kWh
  • Firefly Grill in Effingham, Illinois, for 47.096 kWh
  • Walmart in Mount Vernon, Illinois, for 26.88 kWh

Because the temperatures were so cold, we did not let the battery drop too low, and we had the heat running for most of the ride. Fortunately, Illinois has plenty of Level 3 DC fast-charging stations in convenient locations along I-57. 

On a warm day, the EV6 can charge from 20% to 80% in about 18 minutes. I’ve seen maximum charging speeds of 243 kW from Electrify America chargers. But, when the temperatures drop, the Kia EV6 charge time slows significantly.


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On Feb. 16, the highest maximum charging speed we saw at a CCS 350-kW charger was 152 kW at the station in Champaign, Illinois. We passed the slow charging time by walking laps around the inside of the big grocery stores. We also enjoyed a delicious meal at Firefly Grill — which conveniently has a bank of CCS 150 Electrify America charging stations.  

On Feb. 17 — another frigid day — we used our first Tesla Supercharger with a Magic Dock. I was not impressed. The 250-kW DC charger was slower than any of the Electrify America stations, and the charging speed never got above 50 kW. 

After adding 15 kWh to the EV6, we continued down the road to Paducah, Kentucky, to an Electrify America station at a Walmart. We had to use a CCS 150-kW station, and the speed topped out at 61 kW. After the Ford Lightning in the CCS 350 station left, we moved to it and added electricity that topped out at 134 kW. 


Disappointing Charging Architecture in Memphis, Tennessee

After disappointingly slow charges on the way to Memphis, we were thoroughly disappointed with the charging infrastructure in the big city. We chose our hotel because it was near the only CCS 350-kW charger in the entire Memphis metropolitan area. Our hotel was also near a few car dealerships with Level 2 chargers, but one gated off the entrances at night! The Commons of Wolf Creek has two CCS 350-kW plugs and two CCS 150-kW plugs. 

On Feb. 17, it took 50 minutes to charge my EV6 thanks to the maximum charging speed that topped out at 81 kW. I went late at night to charge, and I stopped charging when my battery hit 90%. I added 58.688 kWh of energy. 


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Fortunately, on the way home, the temperatures got above freezing, so the EV6 battery lasted a bit longer. We dropped one charging stop on Feb. 19 on our trip home. Our top takeaways for a cold-weather weekend EV road trip:

  • Plan for at least double the charging time.
  • Expect your EV battery to drain quickly.
  • Be prepared by charging more frequently.
  • Plan your meals around your charging stops.
  • Wear comfortable shoes to walk laps inside grocery stores.

EV Road Trip #2: The Charger That Wouldn’t Work

Image care of Kristen Bentley

Our second road trip was to Charleston, West Virginia, so we traveled the width of Michigan along I-96 to US-23 with an overnight stay south of Columbus, Ohio. Our first charge was at a CCS 125-kW Chargepoint at a gas station in Dundee, Ohio. Our next planned stop was in Delaware, Ohio, at a Meijer, but the EVgo plugs would not power up to charge the EV6. I tried every plug in the dark parking lot (it was after 10 p.m.), and nothing worked. 

With 13% left on the battery, we scoured the Chargeway app for a solution that was faster than a Level 2. We found a CCS 150 about 12 miles away and headed out to a Shell Recharge station at a gas station in Lewis Center, Ohio. When we arrived, the EV6 battery was at 9%, our range anxiety was high, and the time was after 11 p.m. The charger worked, so we filled up to get to our hotel on the south side of Columbus with enough juice to get to the Ohio River.

The next morning, we headed south toward West Virginia, worrying about what the rest of our Ohio charging adventure would be. We knew the Charleston area had a sprinkling of mid-level DC fast chargers, so we stopped in Gallipolis, Ohio, to top off at a 62-kWh Chargepoint charger. This was a pleasant stop near the Ohio River. We wandered around the small town while the EV6 filled up then headed to our son’s baseball games in Dunbar, West Virginia. 

Before we headed back home from West Virginia, we filled up at Joe Holland Hyundai in South Charleston, then stopped again in Gallipolis for a quick bite and more juice. We stopped at the same Shell Recharge in Columbus and the Chargepoint in Dundee.

We found that the way back was less stressful.


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EV Road Trip #3: Changing How We Use the Chargeway App

After three road trips with the Chargeway app, we realized that the app suggests more charge stops than we actually need. It will suggest slow Level 2 stops when a faster option is available on a different route. So, we use the Chargeway app to find the fastest stops and then gauge the distance. We found that the EV6’s onboard computer and the Chargeway app warn us that the stops are too far away, but we always end up with at least 30 miles of range between every charge.

Our third EV road trip was to Dayton, Ohio, on March 1. We planned to drive through Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a quick stop, then realized that the city doesn’t have anything faster than a Level 2 charger. In the ENTIRE CITY! There was no way in this world that we were going to spend the night in Fort Wayne, so I looked for an alternative route with fast chargers. 

I found a fast charger along I-80 in Ohio at an eastbound tollway oasis called Tiffin River Service Plaza. The CCS 350-kW station had a max charging speed of 180 kW, so it wasn’t the fastest charging stop, but it did the job — especially as we enjoyed a slice of Sbarro pizza inside the oasis. This stop got us enough charge to get to Huber Heights, Ohio, where we filled at a Walmart to get us through the weekend. I enjoyed this stop, as I got to chat with a fellow EV owner who had just purchased her new BMW iX. 


Image care of Electrify America

Then on March 3, we filled back up at the Walmart with enough electricity to get to the Indian Meadow Service Plaza (the oasis on the westbound side of I-80).

We were getting the hang of this EV road trip thing.


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EV Road Trip #4: Southside of Chicago Filled with Charging Spots

Our latest road trip in the EV was to the suburbs on the south side of Chicago. We had zero range anxiety on this trip, as the weather was above 45°F the entire time. After filling the battery to 100% at home the night before, we headed to our destination in Oak Lawn, Illinois. 

Image care of Electrify America

Because our destination was only 160 miles from our home, no charging stops were needed. We ended up with 20% battery at the baseball field, so we needed to charge it to get back to our hotel in Hammond, Indiana. Fortunately, there was a Meijer with four Electrify America ports a few miles from the ballpark. Unfortunately, two were broken, and two were occupied with Chevy Bolt EVs.

Rather than wait, we drove two miles down the road to Happy Hyundai to use their unoccupied 62-kW Chargepoint system — I could see they were available on the Chargeway app. That Chargepoint pushed out the kWs quickly, and after getting to 35% we were off to our hotel. I’ve noticed that Illinois is well-stocked with convenient EV chargers

The next morning, we filled up at the Indiana Welcome Center’s CCS 150 Shell Recharge station. Fortunately, the charging station was near the Erie Lackawanna Trail, so we took the opportunity to get in a 2-mile walk. After filling up the EV6, we headed to the Albanese Candy Factory to buy some gummy bears, then made our way to the ballpark in Oak Lawn. On the way home, we stopped at the DC fast chargers at the Meijer in Michigan City, Indiana, to get back to 80% — giving us enough juice to make it back to our house. 


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Takeaways From Four Weekend EV Road Trips

One of the major EV myths — that you can’t take one on a weekend road trip — is broken. With a well-crafted charging app like Chargeway, some planning, and a good pair of shoes, it’s easy to get away for a weekend — even when temperatures drop! 


Cars parked and charging at Electrify America Indoor Charging Station
Image care of Electrify America

Despite fast-charging deserts in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Memphis, Tennessee, new charging stations are popping up all over the country. It would be nice to see some indoor charging stations in parts of the country where temperatures drop. San Francisco has an indoor Electrify America charging station, and adding some to stops along highways in the Midwest and other points north could make public charging faster and more comfortable. I’d pay extra to charge inside a warm building on a frigid winter day. 

I truly appreciate when EV charging stops are near restaurants, walking trails, or shopping centers like Walmarts and Meijer. Car dealerships are nice spots to charge, especially when they have fast chargers like Happy Hyundai and Joe Holland Hyundai. I don’t mind paying to use a fast charger, especially if I get to use free Wi-Fi.


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FEATURE IMAGE: ANJA

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AUTHOR: 

KRISTEN BENTLEY

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