We just finished a 270 mile weekend road trip to Lancaster and Philadelphia to cap off 400 electric miles driven during National Drive Electric Week.
An electric road trip in our THINK City, which has a 70-80 mile range and recharges at about 10 miles per hour, requires a fair amount of preparation, a healthy sense of adventure and a bit of luck.
We were happy that our friend @vdivanov joined us on our trip driving his Chevy Volt. The Volt has an electric range of between 40 and 50 miles which meant that we would space our charging stops within that range. Beginning in Columbia, MD, I mapped out a route that would take us to six charging sites. I made sure each stop had two or more charging stations so that we could stay together while traveling.
I called ahead to the Nissan dealer in Exton, PA to make sure their two units were working and that we had permission to use them on Sunday while they were closed. I also called the AAA office in Wayne, PA who had two Blink stations on their property to confirm that both were working and wouldn’t be blocked by ICE cars as we’ve seen before. I also took note of alternate charging stations near each site in case our first choices were broken or being used by someone else.
The Open Road
Early Saturday morning we headed north on I-95 after Vladi topped off his Volt in Columbia. We had about 100 miles to travel to Lancaster before late afternoon. We reached the first charging stop at the White Marsh Park and Ride after 36 miles. With five Level 2 charging stations at this MTA lot, I wasn’t worried about being able to charge here. There is an Ikea, White Marsh Mall, movie theaters and restaurants all within walking distance to entertain you while your car charges.
After topping off at White Marsh, we headed to another Park and Ride with two SemaConnect stations about 15 miles north at Belcamp, MD. These stations, operated by the State Highway Administration, are not reporting their status so we were unsure if they were available. We passed a red Nissan Leaf on the Interstate shortly before the exit. As we arrived at the charging stations, the Leaf was right behind us. They also wanted to charge. We happened to know the driver and it worked out because he was leaving his car there until evening and we agreed to plug in his car when we finished and he would be fully charged when he retrieved the car that night.
We ate lunch at Ruby Tuesday and headed north on full stomachs and full batteries.
Smell the Roses
The road we took between Belcamp and Lancaster was through scenic farmland and Amish country. We crossed the Susquehanna River at the Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station which produces 500 MW of emissions-free power. Due to careful driving and maybe a slight tailwind, Vladi was able to make the 49 mile leg to the hotel all-electric in his Volt. We plugged his car in and relaxed for an hour or two before we all got into the Volt (the THINK only holds two people) and headed into town for dinner.
We had arranged to meet Brandon who offers his home charging station on Plugshare. He rolled up in a 1968 SAAB EV conversion with lithium batteries and a range of 120 miles. We plugged in the Volt and walked to a nearby restaurant and dined al fresco, relaxing as the Volt charged. One aspect of long distance travel by EV is that it forces you to slow down and smell the roses. And in this case we met a fellow electric vehicle enthusiast who was so kind to let us use his charging station and explored the city of Lancaster.
When we arrived back at the hotel, our THINK City was still charging on the ChargePoint station in the rear of the hotel and a Signature Red Tesla Model S with Virginia plates was parked next to it. I had placed an EV charging “courtesy card” on my dash with my cell phone number but nobody had called. I didn’t see any notes on either my car or the Model S seeking to be contacted when I was finished. We asked at the hotel front desk if the Tesla owner had spoken to them about using the charging station and they said no.
We had topped off the Volt at another nearby station. Since I was almost full, I unplugged my car and moved it to show that I was finished and that the station was available for the Tesla if the driver wanted to use it.
National Drive Electric Week in Devon, PA
The next morning we left the hotel around 6:30 a.m. to get an early start on the 170 mile drive home including a stop at the National Drive Electric Week event at the Tesla store in Devon, PA. We drove through fog on the old Lincoln Highway seeing some Amish horse and buggies along the road.
We were relieved to find the two charging stations at Exton Nissan available and we plugged in and walked almost a mile to a Panera Bread for breakfast. Vladi was met by a friend who lives in the area and we probably talked his ear off about electric cars.
We arrived at the NDEW event as it was getting started. We ran into some friends we know from the EV community including some of the guys we went across the country with in the @TeslaRoadTrip Supercharging Across America drive this summer.
We left there and plugged in at the two Blink stations at AAA in Wayne, NJ. It cost $2.50 an hour to charge on Blink, so we only stayed connected until we had just enough to get to the next stop which was the Delaware Welcome Center.
There are two high-amp Level 2 charging stations that were recently installed in the truck parking area about 100 yards from the Tesla Superchargers at this rest stop in Newark, DE. We plugged in and our friend @delanman drove us in his red Model S P85+ to a restaurant at the next exit. His car had no trouble merging at the on ramp. What a rocket!
The next leg was 49 miles to White Marsh, to top off enough to get back to Columbia. We charged there until shortly after midnight waiting outside in the soft breeze on an unusually warm night for the end of September. By the end, we had driven 270 miles in our THINK in two days. Vladi had driven over 360 electric miles in his Volt since his round trip began and ended in Virginia.
Taking a road trip in an electric vehicle, other than a Tesla, using the public charging infrastructure is a fun challenge. There are enough charging stations in place now to hop up I-95 to Philadelphia and back. It still requires planning and you risk coming upon a broken station or ones that are already in use. But the adventure and reward of making the journey on electricity is worth it.
Now it is your turn. Where will you go on your electric road trip? Tweet me – @Lanny