Road Trips in Our Long-Term EVs Have Been … Interesting

Road Trips in Our Long-Term EVs Have Been … Interesting

Broken chargers, full charging stations, single-digit temperatures, and optimistic range estimates have tested our patience.

Ford Lightning LT 134

While winter has seen many travelers stranded at airport check-in counters this year, MotorTrend editors have been braving the open road in our expanding fleet of long-term electric cars, trucks, and SUVs. During road-trips, MT's Slack channels often become a de facto logbook of our exploits, capturing the headaches and small victories of long-distance EV driving in real time. Here's a lightly edited look at how our drivers have fared in the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightningthe 2022 Rivian R1Tthe 2022 Volkswagen ID4the 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance, and the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 when holiday travel peaked, the weather and temperatures turned nasty, or they simply headed to far-flung destinations.

Winter Road Tripping in Our EV Yearlong Test Cars 3

Road-tripped from Los Angeles to Sacramento in the long-term ID4 yesterday. I charged to 100 percent at home and pushed to Harris Ranch [a popular charging spot along the busy I-5 corridor—Ed.], coming in hot with full bladders, 10 percent state of charge, and 24 miles of range. The latter was a bad idea. It basically left me with few options other than the chargers at Harris Ranch, and the Electrify America Level 3 DC fast chargers there were all full. Very busy travel day. I crossed the freeway to check out some ChargePoints, and what luck: The bank of three DC fasts were totally unattended—because they were busted. Next to those was a Level 2 6.5-kW ChargePoint charger that we jumped onto while evaluating options. If I stayed on the Level 2, it would have been 9 hours to get the charge we needed to make it to our destination.

So, I drove back to the Electrify America stations to wait on a charger, and thankfully one freed up immediately. Charged for 45 minutes, snacked, and left. While sitting in the ID4, I saw about six EVs come creeping, waiting to charge. Average wait time was 7 to 10 min (thank goodness for charger-squatting penalties). Saw two Rivian R1S's, two Hyundai Ioniq 5s, one Chevrolet Bolt, and one Kia EV6.

The banks of Tesla Superchargers across the way were about 30 percent occupied and were very enticing. Tesla is still the long-haul charging user-experience king, and it's not close.

Generally, I've had good experience with Electrify America chargers, but I've only done two longish EV road trips this year—to Truck of the Year and this one. I get that there are issues, but EA has outperformed ChargePoint and EVgo for me. And I think Walmart's adoption makes a lot of sense. I was so relieved to pull into the various Walmarts to charge and see open chargers and a place to grab a snack.

Winter Road Tripping in Our EV Yearlong Test Cars 4

2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Limited | Associate Editor Alex Leanse

Taking Highway 101 between Los Angeles and San Francisco instead of I-5 seems like the move for electric vehicle road-trippers. It's less direct but comparatively scenic, and crucially offers more charging options—in nicer places, to boot. Of course, it's not like charging stops in our new Hyundai Ioniq 5 let me venture far beyond the closest convenience store. My longest session took slightly over 30 minutes, during which time a 350-kW plug brought the battery from five to 92 percent. The Ioniq 5's 800-volt fast charging potential is a huge boon on a long drive, not to mention the crossover's comfort, quietness, and adept driver assist features.

Yet our 2023 SUV of the Year came nowhere close to delivering its claimed 266 miles of range. The 101 isn't flat, but the Ioniq 5's battery percentage would fall perilously into the single digits after about 200 miles traveled at the most; one charge started at 90 percent and drained to 2 percent in just under 150 miles. All of this was with cruise control set at 70 mph in the Eco drive mode and minimal climate control for only myself aboard. Next time I hit the highway in the Ioniq 5 I'll explore how different regenerative brake settings might stretch out a charge. Maybe that'll really allow it to stretch its legs.

1 Tennessee border 1

2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance | Technical Director Frank Markus

While Loh and Leanse didn't leave the confines of California in the ID4 or Ioniq 5, Markus had a more difficult go on his journey from Detroit to Memphis. Here are his dispatches from the road.—Ed.

Update 1: Hot tips for anyone road-tripping the Lucid: Bring a book, pack a lunch. The two EVgo locations I charged at were both A) a long way off the highway and B) nowhere near a bathroom or coffee shop. I relied solely on the Lucid nav to guide me, and there just must not be many 350-kW stations along the I-75/I-65 corridor.

When the second(brand-new) charger failed to deliver 350 kW as promised on the tin, peaking instead at 159 and quickly dropping with nary an EV in sight for miles around, I thought, "No problem, I'll bust out the Mi-Fi and edit a story." Nope! Just get going, and all sorts of error messages come up on the crashing laptop resting just 18 inches above a gigantic electromagnetic storm. More research will be forthcoming to find out what exactly happened to the laptop. Meanwhile, I wonder what the precious jewels positioned between said computer and the recharging battery have to say about all the radiation …

3 Winter L1 Charging

Update 2: The Memphis Winterpocalypse cometh: 5 degrees, wind, snow, glare ice, and idiots aplenty in hiked-up 4x4s spinning out. Arrived in town with 188 miles of range, made two 22-mile round trips to my parents' house, range dropped to 39 miles upon arrival the third day (with just 55 miles driven) and I thus entered turtle mode. Had to drive 9 miles heater off and feet freezing. Hooked up to 350-kW charger, nobody else around, and the station recognizes the car instantly and starts charging. At 7 kW. One hour and 45 minutes to full charge was the estimate while a "Charging limited by cold battery" message appeared. Apparently the Air's battery was not warmed by an hour of driving, during 40 minutes of which I had the cabin heat on at 65 degrees. Charge rate eventually maxed at 100 kW.

Also, running the heat torpedoes the range in town. I have busted out the 110-volt Level 1 charger and am using it to merely maintain charge in the 16-degree weather. When plugged in, the Air just shows 362 miles of range (far from its 446-mile rating) and 1 day, 16 hours to a full charge the whole time; 1 kW of charging just keeps the battery warmish and keeps it from losing range. It's an adventure!

2 Nashville 2

Update 3: Widespread power outages across Memphis! I feel like if I spend another week here with this car I may start writing flaming letters to our own magazine about "these damned coal cars!"

5 Charging at Corvette museum

Update 4: Finally made it home to Detroit. Total door-to-door time was 13 hours on the nose (2 hours more than the trip would take in a gas vehicle), including an extended charging session while the Lucid people talked me through a needed software reset after all the screens went dark in the Air, a 15-minute stop at a Kentucky booze store, and an extended second charging session due to the time it took to get a carry-out dinner. That extended last stop turned out to be a lucky thing, because it gave me enough extra cushion to do what I always do when I cross the Michigan border—drive 85 or 90 mph the remaining 80 miles or so to speed up the arrival time, which really burns down the battery. I rolled in with 37 miles (8 percent) left when the original projection was 130 or so. That EVgo DC fast charger in Cincinnati was the only one on the trip to approach the full 350 kW. Carefree long-distance EV road-tripping in America's heartland isn't a thing yet, in my experience.

It's concerning that so many of these "350-kW" stations maxed out at like 160 kW. Maybe it was the weather, but it was only really cold for a few days. I'd also be bummed if I was following the nav system's recommendations and then felt like I couldn't drive how I wanted without running out of juice. I don't think I'd attempt that 750-ish-mile trip in a day by myself again in an EV, while I don't think twice in an ICE vehicle.

Winter Road Tripping in Our EV Yearlong Test Cars 5

2022 Rivian R1T Launch Edition | Features Editor Scott Evans

Cold-weather range loss has been a real issue for our long-term Rivian R1T, very nearly stranding us on an early spring camping trip in the mountains. With overnight temperatures dropping into the low 30s, the truck was losing more than 30 miles of range per day just sitting there. My wife and I barely had enough at the end to get to the nearest charger 17 miles away. Since then, though, Rivian has updated the R1T's software over the air with Camp mode, a new feature that among other things lets you completely power down the truck (except the keyless entry system) to reduce range loss.

On my holiday trip this past December, we were once again faced with overnight temperatures in the low 30s and daily highs in the 50s, very much like that camping trip that almost went wrong. This time, I engaged Camp mode and only lost 4 miles of range each night. On the camping trip, we lost 121 miles of range over four nights due to phantom drain. This time, we lost only 16 miles of range over four nights. Although our other EVs aren't experiencing phantom drain, the update is a massive improvement for Rivian, and all it took was fresh software sent to our truck for free over the cellular data network.

Ford Lightning LT 1

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Lariat Extended Range | Features Editor Christian Seabaugh

Unlike my fellow EV chaperones, I was fortunate enough to stay local with MT's 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning. I imagine for most this would be an ideal use case for an EV, but for me it was a hassle. For a multitude of reasons (chiefly cost) I haven't been able to install an at-home Level 2 charger for our Lightning, and so I've been relying on Los Angeles' extensive public charging network. Over the past couple months, this hasn't been a major issue. I'll plug into a Level 2 or Level 3 public charger when out and about for a top-up; otherwise, I hit up a local 350-kW Level 3 fast charger every week and a half or so for a 30- to 60-minute jolt of juice.

This all worked fine until I found myself spending the past two weeks running errands and shuttling family around the Southland. Without a regular routine and with L.A. temperatures fluctuating wildly from the high 30s to low 80s, our Lightning's predicted range dropped drastically to about 260 miles per charge (down 60 miles or about 19 percent from the truck's 320-mile EPA rating), while my time spent worrying about fitting charging in around family time grew exponentially.

The issue, I suspect, is my current lack of a home charger. With one, I'd not only be able to start each day with a full charge, but I'd also be able to heat or cool the cabin via the FordPass phone app before setting off, ensuring I wasn't "wasting" range warming the cab. My charging habits support this. I wound up plugging in about a dozen times, covering 655 miles over a week and a half or so. I typically plugged in when the battery hit about 100 miles of range remaining (and with a 42 percent charge), and unplugged at 148 miles, with the battery reading about 62 percent. Considering I averaged 2.45 miles per kWh over the break—which should equate to about 320 miles of range—I'm hoping to see the Lightning's range estimates get smarter as I work to address my at-home charging needs.

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