Apps can help you keep your EV charged on a long road trip
In 2021, 52% of all car trips in the U.S. ventured no farther than three miles from home, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s well within the range of every electric vehicle on the road today. But what if you want to go the distance on an epic road trip in your EV? Mobile apps can help you find charging stations and other useful information that can make a long-distance electric journey (almost) routine.
Tesla, which represents some two-thirds of the EV market in the U.S., has a network of 4,500 Destination Charging stations with 35,000 charging plugs across the country offering free charges to Tesla-owning patrons at participating hotels and restaurants. Tesla also has about 1,600 Supercharger stations, which, at 250 kilowatt-hours, deliver a full battery charge in about an hour. Both can be found right on the vehicle’s touch screen.
In mid-February, Tesla announced that it would open a portion of its chargers, including superchargers, to non-Tesla vehicles by the end of 2024. Currently, the chargers are compatible only with Teslas.
Until that happens, there remains a wide variety of choices for charging on the go, thanks to an increase in the number of U.S. charging stations, up from some 20,000 in 2017 to 53,000 plus in 2022, according to the federal Alternative Fuels Data Center. The speed at which these stations charge your EV can vary dramatically, however, as can the price you pay for electricity.
Reliability, too, has been an issue with third-party charging stations, with some not always in working order, says Marc Gellar, co-founder of Plug In America, a nonprofit advocacy group for plug-in vehicle drivers.
Fortunately, a crowdsourced app called PlugShare can tell you the location of nearly every EV charging station in the U.S., along with information on their hours, charging speeds and costs. Of course, the app is only as reliable as the users who do – or don’t – update the information.
Companies that maintain networks of charging stations, such as ChargePoint, EVGo, Electrify America, Blink and EVConnect, have comprehensive apps. You also can find electric charging stations in the AAA app and AAA’s digital TripTiks.
There’s no denying that longer EV road trips and their attendant multiple recharges take longer than those powered by gasoline, but there are some upsides to that.
“Charging stations tend to be located in the centers of towns,” Gellar points out. “And (in seeking them out), I’ve seen all kinds of places across the country that I never would have seen.”