People are increasingly curious about electric cars. Before they buy, though, most want to know whether they can drive one on a long road trip.

If Americans are going to switch to electric cars, they want charging to be as convenient and seamless as filling up the gas tank.

I found out. My husband and I just completed a trip from Michigan to Florida and back — 2,500 miles or so — in a Kia EV6 on loan from the automaker's press fleet.

We took our time, with a number of planned stops to see friends or do sight-seeing. Along the way, we learned a lot about the EV lifestyle and about the state of America's charging infrastructure.

I'm ready to answer your questions about my trip, EVs and the future of transportation.

Proof: Here's my proof!

UPDATE: Thanks so much for asking questions and chatting today. Sign up for Axios' What's Next newsletter to hear more from me:

Comments: 545 • Responses: 15  • Date: 

k_dubious280 karma

I hear lots of people focusing on the availability of EV charging infrastructure, but according to your article you spent an extra 4 hours waiting at charging stations to save just $22 over what you would've paid in gas. Is there anything on the horizon that will impact either side of this equation to make the trade-off more palatable to the average driver?

axios266 karma

It’s an excellent point - I was surprised at how expensive it was to charge on the road. In fact, Electrify America jacked up its prices during our trip, so I opted for their monthly $4 membership fee, which knocked the price to 36 cents per kw (from the new rate of 48 cents). I think that membership pricing is worth it if you are a frequent fast-charger. But don’t forget that most of the time, hopefully, you will be able to charge at home, and in that regard, you’ll save a lot of money that you’re not spending at the gas station. Electricity prices vary, though, I learned - I can’t believe how expensive it is in the Northeast. In Michigan, where I live, I think off-peak pricing is 11 or 12 cents a kw.

Early-Adapter-129842 karma

If you were poised to acquire a new EV would you buy or lease the vehicle? One argument for leasing is that new, lower cost models are due to enter the market which could bring down the price of future purchases. Agreed?

axios67 karma

Good question - I haven’t done the math, but you are thinking about it in the right way. When you lease, you know your car has a guaranteed value at the end of the term. It’s true that lower-priced models are coming, but there are so many variables right now with supply chains, that I think we have to wait and see how much future models cost. Leasing might still be the “safe” choice when it comes to an electric car. I would point you to a company called Recurrent, which is becoming the authority on used EV values.

ClydeenMarland40 karma

How much planning and how many detours did you need to hit charge points on your journey?

axios123 karma

I was really anxious before the trip - I won’t lie! I had all these route-planning apps to consult, and I was wishing that it was all integrated into the car (Tesla does that, along with Mercedes-Benz and some others). I was especially nervous because my husband was doing the first leg alone and meeting me with Washington, D.C. I frankly worried he would have a meltdown! But the apps are remarkably helpful, once you figure out how to use them. I liked A Better Route Planner (ABRP) and Plugshare the most.

Each day we would figure out where we were going, and where to stop along the way. We did not have to take any big detours - unless you say driving 3-5 miles off the highway is a detour. That was not exactly convenient. Under the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the federal government is spending $5 billion to put chargers all along the major highway corridors. They must be no more than 50 miles apart, and no more than 1 mile from the highway. That’s starting to happen now, and within a year or two, I think there will be no sweat for these types of road trips.

fasttrackxf30 karma

Considering that certain states are beginning to show outright hostility to EVs, did you get any hostile responses for driving an EV?

axios84 karma

I did not encounter any hostile reactions, just curiosity. People want to know: how long did it take to charge? Could you find a charger? Things like that.
Some people asked why I just didn’t drive a Tesla, since Tesla’s Supercharger network is pretty much nationwide, and their chargers are generally reliable and the process is smooth. My answer is that not everyone wants a Tesla, or can afford one. I think Tesla owners are early adopters who are comfortable with new technology. They fail to understand that the vast majority of folks are still very unsure about EVs and need more time to explore it.

Early-Adapter-129824 karma

Joann, based on your recent experience, do you believe the charging station deployment for non-Tesla EVs (e.g., Hyundai) is ready for prime time. What were your pleasant surprises and disappointments concerning charging on your recent road trip?

axios51 karma

Honestly, I expected the charging experience to be a lot worse than it is. There was only one stretch of highway where I felt the network was too thin (I-75 in Ohio). And despite lots of complaints about broken, inoperable stations, we didn’t run into too much of that. Once we got the hang of using each operators’ apps, it went pretty smoothly.

That said - with Tesla’s network, you just plug in the car and it automatically bills you. Tesla has mastered the simplicity of charging. One thing that really disappointed me is that while we were on our trip, Tesla announced (well, really, President Biden announced!) that it was opening up a portion of its network to non-Tesla vehicles. I was excited to try that experience. But it turns out that very few of its Superchargers are available to non-Teslas (more to come by 2024) but it was definitely hyped up beyond reality.

DBK30518 karma

What was your biggest surprise on your EV road trip?

axios50 karma

There were so many lessons, and I wrote about some of the takeaways here. But I think the thing that many people don’t understand is the different levels of “fast-charging” and how even the fastest charger doesn’t deliver electricity as fast as advertised.

The upshot is that you don’t really know when you arrive at a charging station how fast the energy will be delivered, and therefore how fast you’re going to have to wait. Overall, I was fairly satisfied with a 20-25 minute recharge to 80%, but sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you could be there an hour!

cat_tastic72014 karma

How'd it drive? I mean, does it hold its speed constant using cruise control, road noise, handling bumps, etc.

I'd guess that passing is incredibly easy vs an ICE vehicle due to the instant torque available, same for merging onto the highway, getting up to speed.

How about deceleration/regen on the highway- when you let your foot off the gas, is the slowdown more pronounced?

Would love to hear overall driving impressions, car related.

axios56 karma

Thanks for this question. The Kia EV6 is a great car. In fact, it won top honors in this year’s North American Car & Truck of the Year awards (full disclosure: I am a juror). Adaptive cruise control works great — and is recommended on a road trip, in fact, because you want to drive as efficiently as possible. You can control the regenerative braking, and we did not have it set aggressively so deceleration truly felt like any other car. It’s not the fastest EV on the market, for sure, but it had plenty of get-up-and-go for merging or passing. I really like the car, but it has this one feature that drives me NUTs. It has this goofy system on the dash that toggles between radio/nav controls or climate controls. So if you want to change the temperature, you might accidentally increase the volume, or zoom out on the map, because you were in the wrong mode. On top of that, the controls for heated seats and steering wheel are on the center console, and so when you’re fiddling to change the mode on the dash, your hand almost always activates the heated seats by accident. That was uncomfortable in Florida! I noticed it happened at least a dozen times!

Sundburnt6 karma

Hi Joann,

I live in San Diego and there have been a lot of changes recently here that seam to be anti-car. They are getting rid of traffic lanes, and parking spots and adding bicycle lanes in what seams to be an effot to get more people to use pulbic transportation, or bicycle. How will cities making shifts like this effect the future of the EV market, if they succeed in getting people to forgo personal vehicle ownership?

axios22 karma

A lot of our climate and congestion problems could be solved if people took public transportation, like electric trains and buses. It’s just more efficient to move large groups of people that way. Cities that want to change behavior will have to make it more palatable (i.e., cheaper, faster, safer and more comfortable) to ride public transportation. Even car-sharing could help, potentially. But I don’t think Americans will ever give up their personal transportation.

PeanutSalsa5 karma

What are the biggest obstacles electric vehicles currently face?

axios13 karma

What are the biggest obstacles electric vehicles currently face?

There are a lot of obstacles — they’re still too expensive, there’s a likely shortage of battery materials in the coming years, and the charging infrastructure is insufficient. The industry, and the government, are working on all of these hurdles. And they’re making progress. But a lot of things have to go right for this transition away from gasoline to go smoothly, and I’m fairly certain it will not! There will undoubtedly be bottlenecks and bumps in the road, and a lot of money wasted.
Still, I personally am getting to the point where I would be comfortable buying an electric car. A lot will depend on individual consumers’ use case. If you’re doing routine driving on a weekly basis, it’s really very convenient (and pretty cheap!) to charge at home. And as I learned on my road trip to Florida recently, you can find fast-chargers along the highways. You just have to plan ahead and remain flexible.

DBK3053 karma

Did you experience any negative EV sentiments/actions during your road trip (e.g., ICE Vehicles parked in EV charging spots)?

axios17 karma

I did not! Perhaps it’s because the EV fast-chargers are often placed far away from stores or restaurants (not in the most desirable parking spots!) What I loved was the camaraderie of the EV owners we met while charging. Everybody is new at this, and they were eager to share tips and insights. It was my favorite part of the trip!

sgrimw2 karma

Hi Joanne,

How much time has vehicle charging added to your travel on this trip versus a gasoline powered vehicle?


axios8 karma

Hi Scott - We figure the 1,500 mile trip south — Michigan to D.C. to Wake Forest to Charleston to Orlando — added about 4 hours to our travels. We charged 12 times (sometimes just to top off) which took anywhere from 20 minutes to 55 minutes. The 20-minute breaks were just right: we had time to use the bathroom and grab a snack, or talk to another EV driver. If we were in a gasoline car, we’d probably spend about 15 minutes getting gas, using the bathroom and getting a snack. We might not have stopped as often, though. And we would have gassed up at highway rest stops when we could, rather than getting off the highway and driving a mile or two to Walmart’s parking lot to find the EV charger. So, my guess is that refueling a gas car might take about 90 minutes on a trip that long. But it’s just a guess!

sgrimw2 karma

Thank you. A follow up question; I am assuming that the vehicle batteries drained quicker on roads with step grades, is that correct?

axios11 karma

Yes, it's crazy how many things can affect your driving range: hilly terrain, weather, speed, driving style, whether you're towing something. I guess the same is true of gasoline vehicles, but that's considered normal. It will be a while before EV driving is "normalized."

RenanPMira1 karma

Hello! How many times did you have to recharge the car's batteries in the whole trip?

axios2 karma

I think we charged 22 times over 2,500 miles. But keep in mind that sometimes we were just topping off because we had spent the night somewhere - we didn’t “have” to stop then - but it was convenient so we didn’t have to stop later. Generally speaking, we felt comfortable going about 200 miles between charges. The all-wheel-drive Kia EV6 G-Line we drove has an EPA-estimated range of 274 miles.

aje02001 karma

What do you think will be the future of heavy transportation such as planes and ships? Hydrogen seems to be the main contender but it has flaws, such as taking a lot of electricity to make.

axios3 karma

There’s a lot to consider with electrifying heavy transportation. You can certainly electrify small planes for short- and medium-routes both for passengers and cargo. (Axios just wrote about Beta Technologies, which has an electric plane coming and is working on electric vertical takeoff and landing planes too.) There are some hybrid-electric planes coming too. It’s a lot harder to decarbonize large planes and maritime ships. Here’s a story I wrote about the challenge for the maritime industry. And I think airlines and aviation companies are going to have to find a way to make sustainable aviation fuel (SAFs) more efficiently. That’s a 20-30-year challenge.

zuzubear1 karma

So didn't Tesla like open up all its chargers to non-Teslas? Did that help you at all? Or is it still just a crap shoot for long distance charging?

axios5 karma

I was looking forward to charging a Kia at a Tesla Supercharger. But the more I dug into it, I learned that many of these are slow Level 2 Tesla destination chargers (the kind you find at a mall or a hotel). There are only 8 Supercharger stations available to non-Teslas (6 in upstate New York, and 2 in California.) So I was out of luck on this particular trip. Tesla is supposed to open up at least 3,500 plugs at new and existing 250-kW Superchargers by the end of 2024. I hear that Tesla owners aren’t too happy about this development, because they’re worried about overcrowding. Tesla does have plans to double the size of its Supercharger network in the coming years.