Road trips w/ electric vehicles

I’ve read that GM intends to make all electric vehicles by 2035. And I recently read an article describing the need to recharge during a relatively short (~200mi) drive. The driver required 1 recharge of (IIRC) approx 20 mins.

I’ve read about people planning trips around the availability of charging stations. What is expected to be involved in long-distance travel w/ all electric vehicles when they are more common/the norm? Will charging stations be as common as gas stations? Will they have many more ports than pumps to prevent long waits?

Today, if I drive 1000mi starting w/ a full tank, I may need to stop 2-3x for gas/restroom - maybe 10 min each Maybe a couple more restroom breaks. Total 30-40 mins.

If I need to recharge for 20 mins every 200 miles, that would add 80 min.

I’m not trying to get into an argument about gas v electric, just trying to envision the logistics. Will we just become accustomed to distance travel becoming a more “leisurely” process? Or is it expected that some battery breakthroughs will drastically increase range and reduce charging time?

I heard someone discussing capacitors and how they could be used in the future with electric cars. Instead of stopping to charge, drivers could swap out the capacitor in their car for a new, charged capacitor which would then recharge your batteries while you drive.

ETA: you would, of course, pay for your “new” capacitor along with trading your old one, which they would then charge and resell.

I’m not sure exactly what to expect, but remember, the demand for fast charging is not the same as the demand for gas stations. When I had a gas car, I stopped at a gas station once a week. With an EV, I only need a charging station when I’m doing a long trip. (for my iPace, that’s one trip in the 19 months I’ve owned it). You start out fully charged every day, so you don’t need charging for routine use.

Not everyone on the road is on a trip of over 200 miles.

Of course, with the increase of EVs on the road, we’ll need more charging stations. Currently, you might see 3, 6, or even 10 chargers at each location. We’ll probably have more stations, more capacity at each, and at least some improvements in technology allowing more range and faster charging.

For those of us who rarely take a long trip, a few longer stops won’t matter much. For those who do it more routinely, it could be a pain in the ass.

No need for capacitors. It’s already possible to swap out the battery in an electric car like a Tesla. They had an automated process for doing so in a couple of minutes but have since abandoned the idea of doing so regularly. The OP talks about a 1000 mile trip with just very short breaks for gas and the toilet. Are they not imagining any breaks for meals? Surely that would be a good time to recharge one’s car?

Good point. An EV would make plenty of sense to me for the vast majority of my driving. I was just wondering about the periodic road trips.

When we travel long distances, we eat in the car. Usu food we bring w/. Occasionally take out. In fact, in our mindset, “eating across the country” is one of many tricks to pass the time during a long roadtrip. It is quite rare that we break up a drive of any distance w/ specific meal breaks - unless we were stopping to visit some attraction along the way.

OK. I expect that as electric vehicles become more common, the charging issue will be addressed one way or another. Perhaps you’re right, and charging breaks will be normal and expected. (I think in decades past, cars needed more frequent service, so a journey of a thousand miles might have required stops when the car overheated, or a tire needed to be replaced or something else.)

I found the discussion, it was specifically about the future of graphene supercapacitors, which could be built into a car’s structure. Over my head, but interesting.

And here is a YouTube video demonstrating a Tesla Model S battery swap in less than two minutes. There was also an earlier EV company called Better Place that planned swappable batteries as part of the process.

It’s easy to forget what a pain ICE engines are because we’re used to them.

Picture that you’ve always been an EV driver. Someone tells you, “hey, you know those two 500-mile trips you take each year? Now instead of having to stop twice for 30 minutes, you’ll only have to stop once for 5 minutes. But the tradeoff is that you can’t fill your car at home anymore. Now you’ll have to take 10 minutes once or twice a week to find a gas station to fill it. Sometimes you’ll get gas on your hands. You’ll also have to get oil changes a few times a year - maybe you’ll get lucky and it will take 20 minutes, but usually you’ll be waiting in line for an hour, or you’ll have to drop off your car.”

No one is going to take that trade unless their long-distance driving greatly outweighs their regular commuting. But since we’re used to the ICE disadvantages, we don’t factor those in and we get stuck on trying to mitigate any delay in that one road-trip.

By then, the infrastructure for EV’s should be much more robust.

It is far easier to put in a charging station than to put in all that is needed for a gas pump. I would assume that most gas stations would end up putting in charging stations, and probably end up with more charging stations than they currently have pumps.

Some other things that can be looked at is inductance charging. I’m not sure exactly how well it would work, but there is the possibility that there would be charging lanes on the interstate that you could drive in and charge yourself up without even stopping. Even mobile charging would be far more practical than trying to fill your gas tank while driving. You could have a truck or van full of batteries that you connect to, and get a charge without having to stop. Self driving or at least computer assisted driving would make sure that the connection is done properly.

There is no reason why you couldn’t buy or rent a vehicle with more range. Most people don’t really need much range, so would opt for something that takes care of their daily needs. With an ICE car, making a gas tank twice as big doesn’t increase the cost of the care very much. With electric, batteries will probably always be a significant part of the cost, so you would only get a car that meets your needs. If you do a lot of long distance driving, then something with a longer range may be what you look into.

We also don’t know how fast we could charge batteries as they get better. If it takes less time to charge than it currently takes to fill your tank, then the more frequent stops would not be as annoying. We currently have a ton of unused space in the medians of most interstates, putting charging stations in there, so it is easy to pull in and out, would save a decent amount of time where you currently have to pull off the interstate, look around for a gas station, then get back on.

It’s not that it’s easier but that the challenges are different. No dealing with the hazardous wastes, or the possibility of contaminating the water supply. But you may need to arrange for a high-power electrical circuit, which may not be locally available. Or the utility may need a new substation to supply it.

It doesn’t seem that would be all that difficult.

Besides, they can also put solar panels on the roof over the pumps.

Good point. Both my wife’s and my cars are relatively new/low mileage. I imagine the best option for us would have been 1 small EV and one larger gas/hybrid (minivan?) for roadtrips.

Will be interesting to see how - and how quickly - the tech/infrastructure evolves.

1,000 miles in one day is pretty brutal. That’s 16+ hours on the road maintaining greater than 60mph, which isn’t that easy unless you’re flooring it through Montana in good weather without stopping. Nevertheless, if you could hit up a supercharger every 200 miles, it wouldn’t add 80 minutes, it would total 80 minutes, so it would add only 40 minutes to the trip. You’d only need to do a specific stop to charge four times, at 200, 400, 600, and 800 miles. When you get to your hotel at 1,000 miles, you’d plug in there to be full for the next day. Still, like I said, 1,000 a day is really pushing it, and not something you’d want to do in an electric car with only a 200 mile range anyway (250 or 300 would make quite a difference there).

So to make that all work, hotels and restaurants need to have more charging infrastructure. YouTuber CGP Grey drove a Tesla across the Nevada desert and it worked out fine with some charging adapters so he could also hit up RV parks with 240v hookups. The road trip and charging station arguments are interesting thought experiments, but they’re kind of a red herring due to home/work charging as others have mentioned already. If long road trips are something you do on a regular basis, electric is not for you, at least not yet. It’s kind of like worrying about taking your bulldozer out on the highway, even though it’s rarely necessary and there’s other ways to deal with it.

I’m very pro EV and you bring up good points but I live in the city and park on the street so it wouldn’t be quite as convenient for me. I’m still hoping my next car will be electric but the city needs to add a lot of chargers.

You’re absolutely right and I should have included that caveat. If you don’t have access to home charging, it changes things significantly.

IMO, that’s where the focus should be to increase EV usage: worry first about charging infrastructure at apartments, workplaces, and parking lots. We focus too much on the highway use case.

A problem there is security/vandalism risk.

From a New York Times article on electric chargers, “According to a Rocky Mountain Institute study, station installers face daunting “soft costs,” including permitting delays, balkanized regulations and outdated utility models. The fastest DC-charging hardware costs a sobering $100,000 to $150,000, but that station can cost $1 million after siting, permits and construction.”

Well, these are all lofty goals but I wonder whether those people promoting all electric, all the time, have ever been west of the Mississippi River. It’s a big country. Big.

The charging infrastructure will come, in time, for most of the frequently traveled routes, but what about the rest of the west? Vast areas are without the amenities that most people are used to. I live in Oregon and about 3/4 of the state is not conducive to electric powered vehicles. Areas in eastern and southeastern Oregon require a sensible person to plan ahead and carry extra gas or diesel fuel already. The Steens Mountains, the Alvord desert. It is laughable to think that ranchers and others who need to get in these remote areas will accept electric vehicles. And the winter adds another hazard to this thinking. Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Arizona, I guess we will just forget that they are there.

Parts of most of the western states have the same issue. No company is going to put charging stations out in the middle of nowhere. This is lost on those people in the planning. Can you bring me a container of electricity when I run out and get stranded?

GM and Ford going all electric at some future date is a nice PR move, but that is all that it is. There will always be exceptions, probably farther into the future than anyone can see now. Lofty goals are usually followed by practical solutions, once those goals are implemented.

Wake me up in 300 years and there will still be gas and diesel vehicles, if there are still vehicles. If you want to get stranded, if you want to continually monitor your remaining charge, you are going to have to stick to established routes with good electric infrastructure for a long, long time.

I saw a lot of street chargers in Amsterdam. More civilized there, perhaps.