Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Watching the changing landscape, eating gas station snacks, and visiting iconic landmarks are just a few of the reasons why people love taking road trips — the cost of all that fuel, not so much. An electric vehicle (EV) can effortlessly tackle the same miles without the added fuel cost associated with gas vehicles.
Still, the convenience of using electricity over gas begs the question: which type of vehicle would be better for a road trip? How much could an EV save you in cash, and at what expense to your travel time?
To get to the truth, we examined the trade-off between time and fuel cost if you were to travel on some of America’s most famous highways, such as Route 66 or California 1, with an EV compared to a gas car. Keep reading to see how an EV fares on some of America’s most iconic road trips.
Trade-offs: Comparing Gas Cars vs. Electric Vehicles on Road Trips
According to our analysis of 5 iconic U.S. road trips, EV drivers save $0.11 for every mile driven but add 15 seconds to their total journey to account for charging. That may not seem like a lot, but as the distance grows, so does the extra time you need to add to your EV road trip.
For example, for every 10 miles you drive in an EV across these 5 famous road trips, you add 2.44 minutes to your journey, but save $1.09 per mile on average. Since most road trips may take hours or even weeks, for every 100 miles driven in an EV across these 5 iconic road trips, you add 24.44 minutes to your journey, but save $10.93. This give-and-take between time and money could be enough to pull you in one direction over the other.
The Pacific Coast Highway (California 1)
The Pacific Coast Highway road trip hugs California’s coastline starting from Dana Point and ending in San Francisco. The drive overlooks stunning hillside cliffs and sparkling ocean views.
If you embarked on this 523-mile journey in a gas car, it would take you 11 hours and 37 minutes. The total fuel cost would be $95.74, with just 2 minutes and 59 seconds spent filling up your tank.
If you’re okay with a lazy drive up the California 1 in an EV, you’d need to budget 13 hours and 45 minutes — that’s over 2 hours of additional time devoted to charging (2 hours and 11 minutes, to be exact), which could mean skipping out on a leisurely stop at LA’s Getty Museum. In exchange, you’ve cut your fuel budget by more than half, spending just $29.95 on charging up.
Overall, in an EV you would save $65.79 but increase your trip by 2 hours and 8 minutes.
The Longest U.S. Road Trip (Route 20)
Route 20 begins in Boston and ends in Newport, Oregon. It passes through several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Nebraska, among others. It spans 3,305 miles but allows you to see some noteworthy landmarks, such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and Michael Jackson’s childhood home in Gary, Indiana.
If you’re inclined to take an electric car road trip, you would save roughly $356.50 at a time cost of 13 hours and 28 minutes. The charging time is the biggest factor for the added time, as a gas car would require an estimated 18 minutes and 50 seconds to fuel up throughout the trip, while the EV requires 13 hours and 46 minutes to charge.
The Mother Road (Route 66)
Route 66 follows Highway 66, spanning from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. Route 66 offers an endless amount of attractions, such as the Painted Desert in Indiana Wells, Arizona, or the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
An EV would extend your trip by nearly 10 hours, but you’d save $257.58, leaving you with plenty of extra cash to stay in one of the iconic motels along Route 66!
The 2,451-mile road trip would need to be broken up into several days, as it’d take the average gas car owner 41 hours and 9 minutes to complete and an EV owner 51 hours and 8 minutes.
Gas car owners would need to make nearly 7 pitstops to fuel up while EV owners would need more than 10.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway spans from Cherokee, North Carolina to Afton, Virginia. It’s 470 miles and offers plenty of campgrounds to sleep under the North Carolina stars. Along the way, you’ll pass by cities like Roanoke, Virginia, and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
An electric vehicle road trip will extend your drive time by roughly 2 hours but save you nearly $50 at the pump.
Taking a road trip with a gas car requires 2 minutes and 41 seconds of fuel time while an EV needs 1 hour and 57 minutes of charge time, which just gives you plenty of time to take a break and stretch your legs!
Driving the Florida Coast (Route 1)
Our Route 1 road trip spans Florida from Jacksonville to Key West. It’s perfect for visiting beach towns up and down the Florida coast. You can hit up cities like Daytona, West Palm Beach, Miami, and more. The road trip is 505 miles long and you can catch a race at the Daytona International Speedway or go for a swim at Pompano Beach outside of Fort Lauderdale.
Taking a road trip with an EV will save you $52.52, but add 2 hours and 4 minutes to your itinerary, adding up to a total trip time of 15 hours and 46 minutes. If you decided to drive a gas car, you’d spend 13 hours and 43 minutes on the highway.
A gas vehicle requires a 2-minute and 53-second pit stop for fuel while you’d need to commit to 2 hours and 6 minutes for charging an EV.
Electrical Vehicle Usage by State
Having access to a charging station is key to a successful electric vehicle road trip if you intend to take one. The last thing you’d want is to end up stranded somewhere. Broken charging stations or lack thereof can throw a snag in your road trip fun.
EVSE Ports are the ports that provide power and charge 1 EV at a time. There are typically several ports per EV charging station and they can be found at grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, etc. all across the U.S. map, but are an important consideration if you’re planning an electric car road trip.
Most newer EVs can travel 250 miles on a single charge while some Tesla models can drive 350 miles. Those who own an EV need to plan ahead of time and ensure they can find charging stations along their route.
Some states are taking the initiative when it comes to EV-friendliness. California, for example, is going so far as to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, catering to consumers who prefer EVs. When it comes to EV registrations per 1,000 drivers states like California (20.85 EVs), Hawaii (15.43), Washington (11.49), Oregon (10.29), and Colorado (8.61) stand out from the rest.
While certain states are familiar with waiting hours to fill up their tank at a busy gas station, other states are creating better EV-to-port ratios so EV owners can charge their cars and be on their merry way.
States with the fewest electric vehicles per charging port include places like North Dakota (2.29), Wyoming (2.52), West Virginia (2.89), Maine (3.68), and Rhode Island (3.80). In other words, these are the states where EV owners would have the easiest time finding a port to use at chargings station.
There’s nothing worse than watching your fuel light flicker on with no gas station in view. To prevent electric vehicle owners from succumbing to the same fate, certain states are making sure to strategically have an abundance of ports within a short distance of one another.
States like Washington, D.C. (4.16 road miles per port), California (10.49 road miles per port), Hawaii (11.56 road miles per port), and Massachusetts (14.34 road miles per port) all have a short distance to travel to find their next charging station.
To map out some iconic American road trips, as traveled by an electric vehicle, we started with 5 of the most recognizable U.S. road trips that vary in length to show how different the voyages would look in an EV compared to a gas vehicle.
First, we mapped out the 5 road trips using Google Maps to get as exact of a mile count and travel time estimation as possible. To avoid up-to-the-minute traffic delays and road closures, we set the travel date for a weekend in April for all road trips. This method also allowed us to ensure we were staying on the same road throughout the voyage. Once that data was collected, we were able to determine the cost of fueling the trip in both gas and electric vehicles based on average gas prices and electricity costs from states along each route.
Using time estimations from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Petroleum Institute, we calculated how long people would spend fueling up their vehicles on these trips. Finally, we compared the 2 methods and figured out the cost and time differences between EVs and gas cars as they relate to iconic American road trips.
To add an additional layer to this study, we used data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center and Electrek to find the states with the best access to EV charging locations by comparing EV ownership to charging ports in each state and charging ports to total roadway miles. These figures show us EV access to public charging and public charging density in each state.
No matter the length of your road trip — whether it’s 500 or 5,000 miles — it’s clear that an EV is going to save you money while adding some extra time to your road trip. Since road trips are meant to be enjoyed, you can always plan ahead and find places to visit or things to enjoy while your car charges. For more classic road trips, check out our list of the 10 best road trips in the U.S. and start packing!
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