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Our First Long-Distance Trip in an EV

The Whitchurches charge their Kia Niro electric vehicle during a long holiday trip. Courtesy photo

Barb and Greg Whitchurch

In January we took our new Kia Niro electric vehicle (EV) from our home in Middlesex, VT to see family in Sackville, New Brunswick. The car is rated at 240 mpc (miles per charge) and the trip is 550 miles, about 12 hours each way. (Spoiler: it went fine.)

Road trips in an EV require finding compatible high-speed DC charging stations and being mindful of how much distance is between them. There are 168,000 gas stations in the U.S. versus about 65,000 individual public chargers at 20,000+ stations as of now, although the increase in charging stations is rapidly accelerating.

Unlike gas mobiles, EVs require a longer refueling stop. Level 3 (DC fast chargers) take 30 – 75 minutes for an 80% charge, depending on your capacity. This gives you the opportunity to stretch, relax, get something to eat, read, explore your surroundings a little bit, and nap. The much more numerous Level 2 chargers are slower, so more suited for shopping destinations, dining out, theaters, or the home.

On the Road

We left just before midnight and stopped three times along the way. There are few EV fast chargers between Montpelier, VT and St. Stephen, NB (on the Canadian border). We stopped at the Hannaford in Skowhegan, ME, at a municipal fast charger in St. Stephen, and finally at a station just outside Moncton, NB. There was a free Level 2 charger in Sackville which we used while there to get started on our return trip. All of the chargers we visited were well within two minutes of our path. Heading home, we left during daylight but got home at 5 a.m. The last five hours were through a snowstorm in ME, the White Mountains of NH, and then halfway across VT. The car did great.

Barb Whitchurch and Remi at the Jolley gas station on Rt. 2 in Montpelier. In the background are the PV panels atop Caledonia Spirits www.caledoniaspirits.com. Courtesy photo.

At Home

EVs typically come with trickle chargers that plug into any 120 VAC grounded outlet, draw about as much current as a toaster oven, and will charge at about 5 mph; we used this for all of our charging for the first year and a half. Then we subscribed to three charging networks but only use them rarely. The average car travel distance per day in the U.S. is about 35 miles. A trickle charger will make that up in about seven hours; a Level 2 charger in just an hour or two. We leave the OEM trickle charger in the car, just in case.

Part of “range anxiety” is the excitement upon approaching a charging station. Will it be working? Will it be occupied? Will I find it? And, if I can’t use it, how far to the next one and will we make it? Bear in mind, more and more charging stations are being built, so day by day this becomes less of a concern. In the four years we’ve been driving EVs, we’ve only been unable to charge twice. But range anxiety persists. The only glitch we encountered on this trip was one charger that didn’t work; it was at a Canadian gas station, and the charger next to it worked fine.

How Charging Works

The website www.PlugShare.com displays charging opportunities and can actually plan your itinerary. Your selected charging services (EVgo, ChargePoint, SemaCharge, Flo in Canada, and ElectrifyAmerica) have their own search apps. EV charge cards operate much like your credit card at a gas pump except you just hold it up to a target symbol; but it’s easier to just swipe on the phone app to start the charger. Our LEAF and Niro both show charging stations on their screens and will guide you to those chargers by voice and screen, as can various apps on your cell phone. The cars also show a map showing how far you can still drive on your current charge. Multiple voice and display alarms warn the driver of a low “fuel” level. It’s not as complicated as you might think, and we love it.

The Whitchurches own two EVs, two battery chainsaws, and a small battery snow thrower.

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