Miami back to Maine: 4 key lessons from real world EV travel
This article is a follow up to Part 1: "Maine to Miami: Day 1 & 2 of an EV Road Trip with Chargely."
I won't sugarcoat it: the return trip from Miami to Maine was rough. Between a failed Airbnb booking and a few charger mishaps, we only got one night of sleep between the Sunday we left Miami and the Wednesday we returned to Maine.
It took a while to recover, but after the experience, I will absolutely be taking more road trips in my R1T. I just had to learn a few lessons the hard way (some lessons were even nice).
#1 - Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face… by Electrify America
After an awesome Saturday of meeting EV enthusiasts at Electrify Expo in Miami, we started strategizing how we would get to North Carolina in time for our meetings. We would need to hit the road right after the second day of the Expo, so we decided that Nick and I would charge up my Rivian R1T and grab lunch for the team while Carmen and Manuel stayed at our booth.
Using Chargely, we decided to try the Electrify America station at the Miami International Mall. There was a good mix of fast charging and food options for the team.
Electrify America’s own app said that all three fast chargers were operational, but when we pulled up to the station, we found two chargers occupied and two cars waiting in line with the third charger left open. I parked across from the station and went to get a feel for how long we’d have to wait.
One of the best unintended consequences of public charging is the immediate camaraderie that forms when charging goes wrong.
I struck up a conversation with the two drivers who were already waiting and found that they had both tried the “open” charger but couldn’t get the charge to start. Additionally, one of the two working chargers had been occupied by a car that had been plugged in for over 100 minutes! The car had been charged to 98% and the driver was nowhere to be found.
I told them about how we created Chargely to help create transparency for EV drivers to help them avoid situations like the one we were in. While we were talking, another car pulled up. We collectively told the driver that he probably wouldn’t be able to even start his charge for at least another hour.
At this point, Nick and I also decided to look for another alternative. We used Chargely to find an EVgo station a few miles away and managed to charge up to 70% before we heading back to the Expo and rejoin Manuel and Carmen, who were feeling pretty hungry by this point.
#2 - My Rivian is giving me charging anxiety?!
After a great second day at the Electrify Expo, we packed all of our gear into the R1T and started the journey back north. Using Chargely, we found a station that we should have been able to reach based on my 70% charge and a minimum charge of 15% (about 50 miles) that I had set in the app. However, after setting the location in my Rivian navigation system, the car warned us that we wouldn’t make it! It estimated that we would arrive at the station with 0 miles of available range.
Having some experience with my R1T, I felt comfortable pushing the boundaries and overriding my car’s own recommendations, but still felt some anxiety. I asked the team to find a back-up charger in case we felt like we were really going to fall short.
Magically creating range out of thin air
We drove on and the total range left on my car started getting low, and then we noticed the expected range on arrival started going… up?
We ended up at the charging station we had originally selected with over 60 miles of range left, and it was at that point that we realized my Rivian was giving me charging anxiety!
#3 - Take the scenic route
We left at 7:30 am the following morning and the Charlotte rush hour traffic gave us a chance to test out Rivian's Driver+ driving assistance (which worked excellently in stop and go traffic)! Knowing now that using Chargely would let us drive further and find better charging stops than Rivian’s navigation, we made a quick stop at a Circle K charger to fill up before heading to the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.
We found a great series of chargers on Rivian's fast charging network, the Rivian Adventure Network (RAN), using Chargely and stopped at a quiet, idyllic spot with a coffee shop named Primitive Coffee just off the parkway. We were able to charge, grab a coffee and baked goods, and stop by a homey country store for some souvenir shopping.
We continued along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping to take breathtaking photos of the Virginia mountains.
#4 - Charging etiquette is… tricky
Despite our picturesque detour, we were actually making pretty good time until this point. We arrived at the Electrify America station in Allentown, PA, around 7:30pm, where there was an open 150 kW charger and a 350 kW charger occupied by a Volkswagen ID.4.
I felt annoyed — ID.4’s have a max charge speed of 125 kW, and by occupying the 350 kW charger, it was preventing a car with faster charging capabilities like my R1T from being able to take advantage of its full speed.
Giving others the benefit of the doubt
After plugging into the 150 kW charger, I found it was not operational and realized the ID.4 likely tried the same thing before using the 350 kW super-fast charger. Electrify America can sometimes remotely reboot a dysfunctional charger to fix the issue, but the customer service representative on the phone admitted that the charger had already been reported broken earlier and rebooting it was unlikely to fix the issue.
Electrify America’s app, of course, still showed that the charger was open and operational.
I saw that the ID.4 still had 20 minutes of charging to go, and as I was investigating, an electric Hyundai Kona pulled up to wait for the charger. I was lucky that they recognized that I was “next in line” despite being parked at another charger, and when the ID.4 owner finished, I was able to plug in and write a review of the station on Chargely while we waited.
This bad charging stop added at least an half hour to our journey. Being so close to home, we decided to push on.
I’m glad to say that we all made it back in one piece. I arrived at 6:30 am on Wednesday after dropping off my road trip companions in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
The return trip was rough, but I’m not any less enthusiastic about EV road trips. If anything, I now know that:
Rivian is extremely conservative in how it estimates range on arrival. If we had followed Rivian’s recommendations, we would have stopped twice as often and it would’ve taken us at least 50% longer to get back home.
Note: Rivian released a software update 2023.38.0 that includes some tweaks to it's range calcs and charging recommendations, but I haven't had a chance to put it to the test.
Charging etiquette is still being established, but as long as we treat each other with empathy and understanding, we’ll be ok.
Traveling by electric vehicle, though longer overall, reset our expectation for long-haul travel in a way that allowed us to actually enjoy the places that we travel through. By slowing down, we got to experience the wonderful beauty around us and meet the people in the communities we were traveling through.
The Chargely team will be in Austin for Electrify America Nov 11-12!
Come visit us (and reach out for free tickets) if you're in the area!