Electric cars: a 10-point guide to your first long journey

Tristan Young

08 Oct 2021

If you've bought, or are thinking of buying, an electric car. Sooner or later you'll want to travel beyond the range of your car's battery pack. Here's our guide to everything you need to know before your first long journey in an EV.

Interest in electric cars has soared thanks to the increasing number of EVs available, greater ranges and more recently the petrol and diesel crisis. As that interest converts to sales, more and more people will be driving fully electric cars for the first time. And for those looking to go further afield YesAuto has created a 10-point guide to avoid range anxiety and make that trip go as smoothly as it would in a petrol or diesel car.

1. Planning

The secret to covering long journeys in EVs is lots of planning. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut in this respect. Once drivers know they’re going on a trip that will necessitate on-route charging then they’ll need to factor in a few things to work out the best place to charge.

Knowing the range of the car is obviously essential, plus the journey length, but it’s also worth considering how far from your desired route you’re willing to deviate to charge and how much you’re willing to pay for electricity.

The best way to plan is to use either Zapmap or the app from the car maker – which almost all EVs have. However, it may be worth also using Google Maps as some of its mapping tools – such as traffic conditions – aren’t covered by Zapmap.

2. Different types of charge point

Make sure you know how fast your car will charge.

If the car will only charge at 50kW there’s little point looking at 100kW+ charge points which can be more expensive. However, the opposite is also true. If the car will charge at 100kW or higher, then using these faster charge points will mean significantly shorter stops.

You’ll also need to make sure the charge point you’ve chosen has the correct connector for your car. Again Zapmap can filter for this.

3. Know your maths

Eventually you’ll get to know if your EV’s trip computer provides an accurate range figure. However, it’s also worth memorising a few basic sums to help calculate your real-world range.

All EVs show how efficient they are, usually in the form of miles per kWh. In other words, if a car is running at 3.0 miles per kWh and it has a 60kWh battery, then 3.0 x 60 = 180 miles of range. But if the car’s doing 4.0 miles per kWh, then the range will be 240 miles.

Being able to do these sums on-the-fly is a useful way of checking your range.

4. Have a back-up plan

Always have a ‘plan B’. Until the UK’s charging infrastructure is prolific enough and reliable enough, there’s still a reasonable chance that the charge point you’ve planned to use will be either busy or not working properly.

There’s also the possibility of diversions, traffic and wrong turnings.

If you’ve got a back-up plan then this will reduce range anxiety.

5. Make a phone call

While we’re on the topic of charge points not working, many experienced EV drivers recommend not giving up on a ‘difficult’ charge point, but instead phoning the helpline that’s printed on almost every charge point.

Often charge points can be reset remotely or, if payment systems aren’t working, offer free charging.

6. Install lots of apps

Be prepared to install lots of apps to cover both the journey planning and the ability to charge.

While it’s a legal requirement for all public charge points to take a card payment, this can be out of action or more costly than using the supplier’s app.

However, be aware that some will want pre-payment or an account loaded with an amount before you can use them. Almost all apps also want a large amount of personal data before you can sign up.

It’s also best to install the apps and register before you start your journey in order to save time when trying to connect to charge.

7. Use the spare time well

Once you’ve plugged in and your car is charging, it’s worth using the time constructively. This could be as simple as answering emails and phone calls.

8. Think about the destination and return

Two points that are overlooked is charging at the destination and the return journey.

If you’re travelling for business and have control over your destination location, it’s worth booking meeting venues that have charge points – where possible. As meetings can last for a couple of hours, the charge points don’t need to be that fast to gain a useful amount of top-up charge. If you’re going to visit relatives, this is less of an issue.

When planning journeys it’s easy to overlook the return. And even Zapmap doesn’t make it easy to plan an ‘each way’ route.

9. Beyond charging

Think about the facilities you’ll need – the loo, for instance. This author has carefully planned for fast EV charging, successfully hooked up the car at a charge point based at an otherwise regular petrol forecourt only to find the single filling station loo was out of order. Not great after a two-hour journey.

Apart from toilet facilities, you may want to refreshments. If your charge point is at a motorway services, that’s probably not an issue, but remember not every charge point is attached to 24/7 facilities.

10. Experience

Possibly the biggest help to making long EV journeys with recharging go as smoothly as possible is simply to learn from experience.

Getting over the hurdle of range anxiety for the first journey is much more difficult than the second trip.

Once you really know how far your EV will go on a single charge, then you can fine tune your planning for the next journey.

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Tristan Young

08 Oct 2021