Taking a road trip in an electric vehicle initially seems like an impossible venture. But, with some flexibility and some planning, its not only doable, its enjoyable. The biggest concern though: are there enough charging stations and where do you find them?
Luckily there are more than 17,000 publicly available charging stations throughout the nation’s 50 states, accounting for over 50,000 individual charging outlets. Here are some of the top resources for locating chargers while on the road, especially if you’re planning a road trip like us.
Just like searching for any other location, Google Maps will identify locations of electric vehicle chargers. Enter your start and end addresses and then type “Supercharger” and have Google find superchargers on the map along your route. Pick a good one (or more if needed) as waypoints. This is the most basic of search options available and does not provide route recommendations, time estimates or anything like that.
Go Anywhere is available on Tesla’s website and is intended to mimic its in-car navigation system without all the bells and whistles. This is the tool we used as a starting point for planning our trip. The Tesla Go Anywhere trip planner can tell you where you’ll need to charge and how long you need to drive based on both the route and the particular Tesla you’re driving. This simple tool is simple for a reason – the Tesla navigation system tells you everything you need to know while you’re on the road from where you should go, to how fast you should drive to reach your destination. But the planning ahead side of things falls short because you can’t see alternative chargers, non-Tesla Superchargers or things to do in the area.
PlugShare is currently the leader in charging station locator apps with thousands of stations listed. PlugShare is a third-party app that uses crowdsourcing to identify and report on car charging station use. You can search by specific type of plug, whether a charger is public or private and even specify the network(s) you prefer to use. This can be particularly helpful if you have an access card for one specific network but not for any others. (We’ll be sharing a little more about networks on the blog later this week.) In addition you can zoom in and see what is in the area around your location as well as save your favorite charging stations for easy reference. The only downside to PlugShare is that it doesn’t estimate charging length or account for the range of your car (which means you need to double check the miles between your charging stations and make sure your car can make it.)
The Department of Energy also hosts a charging station locator tool on their website known as the Alternative Fuels Data Center. The up-to-date map also allows you to search by type of fuel, charger type and location. It also includes a map-a-route option and will search for additional chargers within a specific mile radius of your route. You can download a spreadsheet with information on each of the stations along the way to have it all in one place. This is also a pretty simple planner, but the Alternative Fuels Data Center has many other calculators you can use to learn about different types of cars, do cost comparisons with various fuels and calculate the efficiency of your vehicle.
ChargePoint is one of the leading providers of electric charging hubs and offers an online map and app that shows its charging stations in a particular area. As with the other apps, you can find pricing details by clicking on a particular station and you can limit your search based on connector type, charging network or to just free stations.