I recently took a road trip to visit family who live far away, as many Americans do each year in their cars. The difference being, my car is all-electric, meaning at some point it will need to be charged on such a long journey. This is best done at Direct Current Fast Charging stations, or DCFC for short.

I drive a Chevy Bolt EV, and with recent price cuts and incentives, some buyers can get one for as little as $15k net consumer cost. This is more affordable than practically any new gasoline vehicle, and makes an EV an ideal choice as a daily driver for anyone with access to charge at home, work or another convenient local place. But how does it fair for use on a long trip, particularly in the cold and inclement weather we see in the Northeast? Where will I charge it and how will it go? I set out to find out.

My Bolt EV is EPA rated at 259 miles per full charge. Before any long trip, I make sure to schedule it to fully charge (100%) for departure time. As you can see, in winter the range estimated is less (239 miles for me) while in summer for me it is generally more (around 300 miles; YRMV). At 28 degrees F when I left home, I expected to get a bit lower efficiency, so planned where to make my first stop accordingly.

The key difference in planning a trip in an EV is to put a little thought in advance (such as the day before) about where best to stop and charge, if needed. Since my trip was around 400 miles total, I knew I would have to stop to charge once or twice. I decided it made sense to drive no more that 200 miles before the first stop, so that the battery would be a little low and charge more quickly, but not so low that there would be any cause for range concern. Just like a gas car, the range gauge turns orange or red when it’s low, provides warnings if very low, and some extra reserve miles just in case.

An important point about climate control use in winter: The use of heat is what often has the greatest impact on driving efficiency and therefore range. That said, there’s no need to trade comfort for convenience. I made sure to keep the heated seats and steering wheel on as they use very little energy. Then I set the regular heat to 72 F with all vents on and the blower on a medium low setting. I was very comfortable and the energy use was relatively low. I was still getting close to the EPA rated efficiency.

I had looked on the PlugShare app and found EVgo stations around 180 miles enroute at Menlo Park Mall in Edison New Jersey. I think Mr. Thomas Edison would have approved!

After 3 ½ hours of driving I arrived to the mall on schedule and also in much need of a bio break.

I then used the EVgo app to start charging and walked to a nearby department store to use their restroom. I stretched my legs around the mall for a few minutes more. (A good time to grab another coffee?)

Upon returning to the car 25 minutes later, I already had plenty of range to get to my next planned stop.

The next stop was after 2 more hours of driving where I planned to stay overnight. Some light snow and freezing rain were falling and the temperature was in the mid-30s F. I arrived with still 67 miles range.

Although I was staying overnight, I thought it useful as a practical matter to charge up my car during lunch so that it would be ready for the rest of the trip in the morning. Note that an alternative option when staying overnight at a hotel is to choose one with a Level 2 charging station for guest use. FYI to more robust road-trippers than me: I could have easily continued on to my destination the same day.

This second and final stop was at the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. A next generation DCFC site operated by Electrify America, these stations can charge certain vehicles at up to 350 kW of power! My Bolt EV is only capable of charging at up to 55 kW, but that was still fast enough to get the range I needed in around 30 minutes charging time to easily complete this New England to Maryland winter roadtrip.

Because I was eating lunch and there was much to do at the mall, I charged an extra 15 minutes. This brought my battery up to 80% and over 200 miles range, far more than enough for the next day’s ~135 mile journey to the Maryland destination. So I parked with the extra confidence of knowing I would get there easily and conveniently without having to make any “fueling” stop the next morning.

In summary, my winter EV road trip went off without a hitch. Charging does add some minutes to the journey, but when combined with needed breaks and snack/meal stops, it doesn’t need to stretch into hours. And key to a successful trip is to put in at least a little planning in advance and thought into where and when it makes sense to stop – that’s a little bit sooner in winter and bit later in summer.

Where would you take your first EV road trip to and from? Let us know in the comments. Have questions about EVs? Contact us!

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